America on The Brink!

Published February 2nd, 2021 - 08:32 GMT
(AFP File Photo)
(AFP File Photo)

Who would have imagined the US homeland security would issue a bulletin warning against potential acts of violence, and warn against potential domestic violence by right-wing extremists and angry supporters of former President Donald Trump. Sharp divisions are still there and threatening the foundation of American democracy and are expected to dominate America’s politics for quite some time.

“Ideologically motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence," the homeland bulletin said.

Descriptions such as lone wolf, and self-radicalized extremists were all traits of Al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIS), and Islamic extremists. Experts started to draw parallels between tactics used by terrorists such as being emboldened following every attack regardless of the results, and sympathizers posting comments on social media and exchanging threats on chat rooms.

Heated political debate and protests are nothing new in American history, but they never reached this level of polarization and violence in more than a century. After a presidential transition, the tradition is that the outgoing president leaves the scene and the new president enjoys a 100-day honeymoon. This time it is different, the nation is divided and the opposition party, the Republicans, immediately started to oppose the domestic agenda of the new president too early.

Also this time we have a new phenomenon. The Republican Party now has a leading figure. Trump is leading the party and his support base is ready to punish any voice of dissent within the party. Having an opposition leading figure outside the US Congress is a new occurrence in American politics. Now, outside the White House, Trump is poised to be the absolute opposition leader.

He is expected to assume the king-maker stature of Republicans candidates in the midterm elections in 2022 and all signs indicate that some of his family members are entertaining the idea of running for office, building on the prevailing popularity of Trump within the Republican base, which still believes the election was stolen by Democrats despite lack of credible evidence.

With the COVID-19 pandemic out of control in the US, sharp divisions and an evenly split Senate, the world will be watching how Biden would be able to advance his ambitious agenda and US adversaries would be looking for vulnerabilities and will be testing and challenging the new administration.

Russia, China, North Korea and Iran would be watching American local politics closely and prepare for a possible return of a Trump-like administration in 4 years or even the possibility of Republicans with Trump support regaining majority in Congress in 2022.

The world is still overly dependent on the US leadership. The new world order created and cemented by the US is not sustainable if the US decides to take the back seat. Former President Barack Obama’s “leading from behind” or Trump’s “America First” appeal to the same local constituents. American retreat from world and regional crises had catastrophic implications on the world.

Following the costly war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American public opinion lost appetite and is not receptive to any new global adventure which led American leaders to retreat from tackling global conflicts.

The Middle East was the vacuum left by a reluctant policy to intervene is mainly felt. From Syria to Yemen and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as Lebanon, American leadership is still needed. The Trump administration tried to accommodate its America First agenda with its foreign policy, which has become known as the “transactional policy.” Most initiatives pursued by the outgoing administration were justified by a policy built on the principle of creating jobs and generating revenues to American companies.

American leadership, not only in politics but also in other fields, is still a global necessity. The US’ earlier failure in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic led to global anxiety. And the world didn’t get a glimpse of hope in containing the virus until American pharmaceutical companies started showing positive results in finding effective vaccines as a result of political pressure from the US government to speed up the process. The decision by President Joe Biden to rejoin the Paris climate accord and return to the WHO cast a positive environment around the world. But the American system is based on checks and balances and the president cannot govern by executive orders all the time and bypass both houses of Congress.

As a superpower, the US can pursue and tackle several challenges simultaneously but the unprecedented current challenges would certainly force US allies to consider a long-term plan B and would encourage US adversaries to adapt a more assertive role in the world. In the Middle East, US leadership is badly needed and from past experience American retreat had caused a lot of miseries. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq and ousted Saddam Hussein forcing a change in the Arab political order. This surgical operation opened the region to a wave of political transformations, but the US left the operating room before the patient was fully recovered.

Leading from behind or managing crisis, would not be enough to maintain regional stability and Washington may find itself extinguishing fires if it didn’t engage early in tackling imminent threats in the Middle East and around the world.

Mouafac Harb is a veteran American-Lebanese journalist. He contributes a weekly column for The Daily Star.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

 


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