Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, left the White House having fulfilling most of his 2008 campaign promises – 70 percent of them, to be precise, according to the PolitiFact website.
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The campaign promises of No. 45, President Donald Trump, which he summarized in his short, direct inaugural address, will be harder to fulfill. In fact, the new president’s relationship with the truth shows that he is far from caring about whether or not he makes good on his promises.
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But assuming that Trump’s declarations can be taken as an indication of the actions he intends to take, what if he’s right? Could the pivots he has promised in U.S. domestic and foreign policy have positive results?
The principle underlying the inaugural address is quite simple: The interests of U.S. citizens come first. This idea might sound troubling to cosmopolitan leftists, but there is also something refreshing about it. After all, with all due respect to the liberal rhetoric that has enveloped U.S. foreign policy, the bottom line is that American interests were always supreme, as Obama admitted in explaining his failure to prevent the violence in Syria.
And it’s hard not to agree with Trump that about the dysfunctional way, to put it mildly, that globalization operates. The new relationships that Trump promises to create in the international arena can, in theory, right some of this imbalance. For example, if the confrontation with China does not escalate into a trade war, and from there to a military conflict, Trump’s uncompromising approach could force Beijing to compromise on its own economic policies, which are intended to guarantee high economic growth at the expense of other nations’ economies. Trump’s idea of bringing back lost manufacturing jobs to America is a joke, but maybe by applying pressure in the right places he could lead to the creation of new jobs and make American industry great again.
To this end, Trump has promised to cut the billions that Washington spends overseas every year. Civilian foreign aid makes possible the holy work carried out by countless organizations throughout the world, but the international aid industry suffers from many ills: waste, corruption and, above all, dependence on aid money that in many cases impedes sustainable local development. In addition, U.S. monetary aid is used not only to purchase food and medicine, but also to buying enormous quantities of weapons. Who knows, maybe Trump will discover that the easiest cuts will be from the $10 billion the United States distributes in foreign military aid every year.
Trump did not mention Russia in his inaugural address, but he has continued to promise improved relations with the Kremlin. Assuming that the conspiracy theories about Trump being a mole for Vladimir Putin are false, then perhaps non-ideological realpolitik (let’s call it Russian-style diplomacy) can stabilize the international arena.
For example, a colder, more utilitarian U.S. approach, including the reaching of understandings with Russia, could help stabilize the situation in Syria. If the Trump administration were to abandon its flaunting of high-minded principles, the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad would gain legitimacy, the territory held by the Islamic State organization could be liberated quickly and the other rebels would be forced to lay down their arms. This would not end the terror attacks (and could actually be expected to increase them), but at least the open warfare would end.
Finally, even if all this optimism turns out to be excessive, and Trump turns out to be the unqualified populist suggested by his campaign and his inaugural speech; even if the only thing left for him to do, after it becomes clear that he can only meet a fraction of his ambitious promises, is to incite against the “enemies” that he has railed against since the start of his campaign; even then we can remain optimistic and hope that Obama’s faith in the power of Americans of all colors and races to overcome every obstacle, which he repeated in his farewell address, was warranted.