By: Farooq Yousaf
Donald Trump, who was recently inaugurated as the US president, had made headlines long before his election victory over Hillary Clinton last year. His right leaning and anti-immigration narrative – which helped him to his victory – was coupled with ill-informed policy statements not only against major global corporations but also America’s biggest trading partners and allies.
One such ally, targeted by Trump, was Germany and its car manufacturing industry. Trump did not only criticise Germany and its Chancellor Merkel’s refugee intake policy, but also threatened to impose a mammoth 35% tariff on the German carmaker BMW. Soon after, the shares for BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen went down 0.855, 1.54% and 1.07% respectively.
This was not the first time Trump’s statements against a manufacturer caused inflicted a share slump a multinational corporation. Shares of both Lockheed Martin and Boeing went down in December merely after a tweet by Trump, asking the companies to offer lower priced aircrafts to the US.
Trump’ comments did not go well with Berlin. Soon after Trump’s statement, German Vice Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, in an interview threatened that Trump’s proposed Tariffs could provide a bad awakening for the Americans as a number of US car manufacturers rely on transatlantic imports for production of their cars. But Gabriel didn’t stop here.
Providing a rebuttal to Trump’s critique of Chancellor Merkel’s refugee policy, Gabriel tried showing mirror to the US holding America’s flawed ‘interventionist’ policy responsible for the current global refugee crisis in the Middle East.
Gabriel said that the increase in the number of refugees over the past two years fleeing the Middle East was down to US led wars that had only destabilised the region. He also advised the US president to stop playing blame game, and find ways to establish peace and security in the region which would allow the refugees a safe return back to their homes.
Statements of such magnitude coming from Berlin, one of USA’s strongest allies, were rather surprising. But more importantly, why did it take so long for Germany to call out these ‘flawed’ policies that have resulted in never-ending wars since 2001?
President Obama, in 2008, inherited a long of list of war obligations from his predecessor George W. Bush. The list included operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with an active Drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It was during Obama’s tenure that the US-CIA drone campaign witnessed a surge in attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, and Mali.
With Obama in power, many had hoped that a Democrat President in power could undo the damage done by Bush, whose war rhetoric laid solid foundation for militant groups both in South Asia and the Middle East to flourish on Anti-American and Anti-West sentiment. Yet, not only did Obama fail to curtail US interventions, but also ordered intervention in Libya, and indirect support of armed groups in Syria.
The Cost of War project reported last year that the US government has spent almost 5 trillion US dollars on its War on Terror since 2001 in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and beyond. The number could go up to 8 trillion if the US government continues its activities in the aforementioned countries.
The War in Iraq, started on the premise of weapons of mass destruction, has alone cost close to 1 trillion US dollars, with 4,448 US soldiers losing their lives. The Iraq war alone has cost more in time, money, and loss of life than the Vietnam War.
With Trump’s apparent ‘resolve’ to fight the ISIS, and bombing the s*** out of them, it seems that the Iraq and Syrian crises are still far from over. A silver lining for improvement in Syrian situation is presented by the pro-Putin leaning of Trump, with security experts optimistic of US-Russian cooperation in Syria against ISIS.
Even though Trump supporters have called for patience in terms of policy implementation, the new President’s lack of political understanding and vision presents a policy dilemma for the United States. This also means that the overseas expeditions of the US military and security agencies would continue irrespective of Trump’s pre-election campaign narrative.
If Trump is serious in establishing peace in the Middle, he first needs to acknowledge the mistakes successive US governments under his predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have made. These mistakes did not only lead to the current refugee crises but also gave birth to a monster like ISIS.
Demonizing the refugees, who are mere victims of US interventions, would only provide further fuel to the militant organizations to thrive on sentiment of anti-Americanism and do little for the peace process in the region. Also, US allies such as Germany should play their part in opposing such interventions in future, rather than merely providing statements in rebuttal.
The author, Farooq Yousaf, is a Research Fellow and a Programme Consultant at CRSS. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Australia.