First Published: 2017-12-25

Trumps Security Plan Sees Middle East as Dark, Dangerous Place
Ultimately, Trumps NSS closed out a year that was much like the document he released chaotic, churlish, callous and conceited, observes Rashmee Roshan Lall.
Middle East Online

The starkest of the many surprises in US President Donald Trumps National Security Strategy (NSS) is its unremittingly bleak, unseeing view of the Middle East. Its a surprise only because one might have thought nearly a year as US president might have recalibrated Trumps worldview. It hasnt.

Throughout the 55-page document, the Middle East is depicted as a safe haven or breeding ground for jihadist terrorists, an area rife with problems about which the United States must be realistic in its expectations.

The Middle Easts only importance to Trumps America is its continued and future contribution to a stable global energy market.

The United States, the document noted, has learnt from experience that neither aspirations for democratic transformation nor disengagement can inoculate against the many viruses violence, jihadism, illiberalism that spread from the Middle East. Israel is not the cause of the regions problems, it blithely asserted but Iran is a malign influence and must be neutralised.

It says something about Trumps transactional, zero-sum view of the world and of the Middle East that he sees everything only in terms of US interests. For all that it repeats the America First mantra over and over, the NSS is really about Only America, an ugly, fractious fight to the finish between countries and peoples. A fight that militarily powerful America must win, Trump claims.

Going by Trumps NSS, there is nothing generous, open-spirited nor uplifting about America in 2017 and on the cusp of a new year. There is nothing admirable either about the America that Trump grandly vows to protect. He portrays the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave as a country that fears almost everyone and everything in an extraordinarily dangerous world but especially China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, radical Islamic terror groups, US-based students of science and engineering from designated countries and the problem-ridden Middle East.

The tone of overweening arrogance would be upsetting if it werent so absurd. Trumps NSS declares the whole world is lifted by Americas renewal and the re-emergence of American leadership. The NSS was published on December 18, the same day as the entire UN Security Council except for the United States backed a resolution calling for withdrawal of Trumps unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israels capital. It was a stark rebuke to Trumps America and his envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, recognised it as such with a furious, undiplomatic denunciation of world opinion.

Then again, the day after the NSS, China announced the launch of the worlds largest carbon market. Bigger than Europes, the Chinese marketplace for the trading of carbon emissions would allow Beijing to take leadership that might have been American.

That said, there are two marginally hopeful acknowledgements in Trumps NSS. The recognition that jihadists use various means to radicalise isolated individuals and the pious hope for a strong and integrated Gulf Cooperation Council.

The first suggests the Trump administration is at least aware of the lone-wolf phenomenon even as it more generally demonises people of the Muslim faith. The second indicates that even so polarising a US presidency recognises there are limits to playing divisive politics among the Gulf countries.

Ultimately though, Trumps NSS closed out a year that was much like the document he released chaotic, churlish, callous and conceited. It almost exactly reversed his Republican predecessor George W. Bushs 54-page NSS, which linked Americas security to the global spread of democracy and economic freedoms. It cast the United States in the image of Trump angry, crass and offensive. Unfortunately, in the very worst summing up of a security plan, it may make America less, not more secure.

Rashmee Roshan Lall is a regular columnist for The Arab Weekly. She blogs at and is on Twitter @rashmeerl

Copyright 2017 The Arab Weekly


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