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Geopolitics

America And Us, Trump’s Victory Is Very Bad News For The World

With Donald Trump's arrival at the White House, America will enter the fifth phase in its relationship with the rest of the world. Despots have reason to cheer.

U.S. flag during a Marines parade in Westwood, NJ
U.S. flag during a Marines parade in Westwood, NJ
Alexenia Dimitrova

PARIS — America, since its birth, has embodied democracy. Democracy against the monarchy, against the old colonial world, against the ambitions of central powers during World War I, then against the totalitarianism of the Nazis and their Japanese allies, finally against the Soviet and Communist totalitarianism during the Cold War.

For a re-emerging but still fragile Europe, America has continued to stand as a form of life insurance in an ever more dangerous and complicated world. Global terrorism has been hitting us hard, Russia was becoming a threat again, China's ambitions were growing — but America was still there. It was sometimes incoherent, even occasionally brutal, but in the end it was our ally, if not our moral compass.

The fusing of populism and nationalism that just carried Donald Trump to the White House unhinges our convictions and reinforces our uncertainties. On Nov. 8, 2016, America barged into a new phase — perhaps its fifth — in its relation to the world.

The first and longest phase began with George Washington's first term in 1789 and ended with the opening of the Spanish-American War of 1898. During that first era, America focused first and foremost on itself, starting with the conquest of its continental territory and then, painfully, of its national identity through the Civil War.

The second phase went from 1898 to 1945, during which America behaved as one great power among others, acquiring imperial possession — very trendy at the time — and took part in the two world wars. There was, of course, a period of isolationism between the Treaty of Versailles and 1941, a break that had tragic consequences for Europe and the world.

Rise and fade of a superpower

The third phase, 1945-1991, saw America become one of the two superpowers in a bipolar world. Through international institutions like NATO, it was the protector of the Western bloc's security. The collapse of the Soviet Union, victim of its internal contradictions, translated into a victory for an America that had repeatedly seen its power (both soft and hard) grow during the three previous phases.

A fourth era started with the end of the Cold War, and ended before our eyes last week with Donald Trump's victory. The 9/11 attacks was a clear marker in the middle of this quarter-century period but, during these years, America probably held more power than ever before in its history. But it also multiplied its failures, including unsuccessful and inconclusive military campaigns, costly as much for its image as its budget — and of course, for the damage inflicted on the peoples that America aimed to save.

U.S. Marines in Afghanistan in 2003 — Photo: U.S. Army

Washington in recent years simply lost its touch and, given how nature abhors a vacuum, this left enough room for a humiliated power like Russia or a re-emerging civilization like China.

This putting into perspective was essential to understand the meaning of last Tuesday for the international order. By voting "America First" in a double fit of populism and nationalism, Trump's America would almost seem nostalgic for the first period of its relation to the world, the one that spanned from 1789 to 1898.

But of course, this is a perfectly anachronistic reaction, which is dangerous to the stability of a Western world that is now at risk of losing its singular protector, and model, despite its many misguided ways and failures, from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

For all those who, like me, have always felt closer to Barack Obama than to Vladimir Putin, for all those who favor the geography of values over the value of geography, this election is a great shock. Just like that, more than 70 years of history were brutally called into question.

The question, indeed, isn't just whether President Trump will implement candidate Trump's program. Beyond the reality of who he is and what he does is also the important matter of how it all gets perceived around the world. Our image of America and the dream it embodied for an important part of the world were shattered before our eyes. This is no longer about "fixing" America, but about how to avoid it from disintegrating entirely.

Beyond America's crisis of legitimacy, through the citizens' choice for their next president, there is, of course, the weakening of democracy in general. How can we express outrage at the evolution of Central Europe or worry about the rise of the National Front in France after Donald Trump's victory? And how can we condemn the course of events in the Philippines, which under their new president seem to have chosen China over the United States?

On a pure realpolitik level, for China, Donald Trump's arrival at the White House can only be perceived as the confirmation that the democratic West has passed the torch of History on to Asia and its authoritarian models. Putin's Russia can therefore feel like it was not only right in choosing despotism, but that it also now has a clear path to the Middle East and Eastern Europe. If you aren't worried, you don't understand.

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Ideas

Making It Political Already? Why Turkey's Earthquake Is Not Just A Natural Disaster

The government in Ankara doesn't want to question the cause of the high death toll in the earthquake that struck along the Turkey-Syria border. But one Turkish writer says it's time to assign responsibility right now.

photo of Erdogan at the earthquake site

President Erdogan surveys the damage on Wednesday

Office of the Turkish Presidency
Dağhan Irak

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL — We have a saying in Turkey: “don’t make it political” and I am having a hard time finding the right words to describe how evil that mindset is. It's as if politics is isolated from society, somehow not connected to how we live and the consequences of choices taken.

Allow me to translate for you the “don’t make it political” saying's real meaning: “we don’t want to be held accountable, hands off.”

It means preventing the public from looking after their interests and preserving the superiority of a certain type of individual, group and social class.

In order to understand the extent of the worst disaster in more than 20 years, we need to look back at that disaster: the İzmit-Düzce earthquakes of 1999.

Because we have before us a regime that does not care about anything but its own interests; has no plan but to save itself in times of danger; does not believe such planning is even necessary (even as it may tinker with the concept in case there is something to gain from it); gets more mafioso as it grows more partisan — and more deadly as it gets more mafioso.

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