By Robin Arthur in Halifax, NS
An ill-defined foreign policy, an impetuous and irascible character and a strong nationalist agenda mark the presidency of Donald Trump. The decisions taken by his administration in the early months of this year reflect that mood. It’s agonizing to wonder how the president will act in a challenging moment, and that is extremely worrisome.
A couple of days ago, Trump dismissed any talk of war with Iran. But on Sunday he tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, dismissed Trump’s “genocidal taunts” and warned him not to threaten Iran. He said in a tweet: “Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors (have) all gone… Try respect – it works!” The US deployed additional warships and planes to the Persian Gulf in recent days and there’s already reason to worry. The recent sabotage against a few oil tankers and the rocket attack near the US compound in Baghdad.
If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
The stock markets don’t appear too rattled by the deflated sentiment, which suggests that most don’t know what to make of these trapeze acts. We saw this see-saw of diplomacy with North Korea a couple of months ago, and most dismissed the swings in political rhetoric as drab theatricals. This restraint and bluster game is old hat. The president’s ambivalence and impetuousness in international diplomacy are worrying and destabilizing. In April, a statement from Pyongyang said the military had tested a new “tactical guided weapon.” The provocation was a mercurial response from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose chagrin has been simmering since the Vietnam summit in February with Trump, ended without agreement. What is this “Art of the Deal” really all about?
The trade war with China has been escalating for months, and how China will respond is anybody’s guess. China is reportedly the biggest foreign holder of US government bonds, and analysts believe Beijing could step up its sale of these bonds, halt the purchase of US agricultural products and energy and reduce Boeing orders. These measures would hurt both sides.
Google banned Chinese telecom giant, Huawei, from some updates to the Android operating system, dealing the company a massive blow. New Huawei smartphones will also lose access to some Google apps. The move was obviously influenced by the Trump administration’s decision to add Huawei to the list of companies that American firms cannot trade with. How this morass plays out on the world scene, only time will tell.
Almost in tandem with a nebulous foreign policy, Trump is forging ahead with immigration reform that reportedly will favour younger, well-educated, English-speaking workers. In an insouciant address at the White House, he argued for moving away from an immigration system that works to unite families. It’s just as well that senior Democrats dismissed Trump’s ideas as “dead-on-arrival.” The proposals, anyway, would have to be reviewed and approved by Congress where Democrats call the shots.
(Doug Mills/Pool via Reuters) pic.twitter.com/D8dmT5Z95A
— Colin Campbell (@colincampbell) February 6, 2019
Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, dismissed the plan as “not a remotely serious proposal.” My sense is that America is forgetting those hardworking people who flocked to America back in the day and made it one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Could that have happened with people without merit? These were not people with engineering degrees, these were largely farmers and cotton pickers, people of the trades and of the arts, men of science and literature. It takes the merit of all to make a country great! Did English speaking workers make Japan, or China or India what they are today in the global marketplace?
Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal reportedly said the proposals undermined America’s family-based admissions system. She described the current system as “the cornerstone of our country’s immigration policy.” Of course, she is right. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Do engineering or law degrees alone change a nation’s fortunes?
The social capital theory provides a robust answer to that niggling question. The theory states that strong relationships between societies and their institutions produce vibrant economies and a well-functioning society. No man is an island. Social capital—and therefore social inclusion—is the basis of a society’s prosperity and well-being. If you’re looking for people with merit, they come with the people they love, their worship mats, the spices they’re accustomed to, their native languages and customs. You either take it all together or you throw away the baby with the bathwater.
Robin Arthur is a newspaper editor, columnist and author of several books including “Can the Poor Inherit the Earth”, an opinion on Third World development paradigms, acclaimed by UNICEF and UNDP. In Canada, he has worked to develop an appreciation for interfaith dialogue and from 2011 to 2016 has staged three very successful spiritual diversity conferences that paved the way for the formation of an Interfaith council in the city of Halifax.