Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#415】U.S. Status May Decline Further Under Trump

Tadae Takubo / 2016.12.27 (Tue)

December 26, 2016

     The biggest news in 2016 might have been the “Trump Phenomenon.” How will this extraordinary change in the U.S. history of 71 years after World War II influence areas such as international politics, diplomacy, economy, military, intelligence and technology?

Concern over “absolute” U.S. decline
     Shortly before the end of the Cold War, Paul M. Kennedy, professor of history at Yale University, authored “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” which became a global bestseller. Maybe because of having seen the decline of the British Empire, Americans including Kennedy have willingly attempted from time to time to look into the survivability of their own country. Kennedy’s book was part of the attempt.
     I think that the postwar U.S. history has followed three steps. At first, the U.S. was one of the two leaders in the Cold War. Then it enjoyed a dominant presence as the sole superpower, and now it faces “relative” decline accompanying the rise of China, India, Brazil and others. No matter why the Trump Phenomenon came out, a matter of concern regarding a Trump administration that will inaugurate on January 20 is whether the United States will go in the direction of “absolute” decline as its fourth step. If America First, isolationist and protectionist policies as advocated by Donald Trump are implemented furiously, anyone may predict that the United States will go in the direction of decline.
     After observing presidential election campaigns filled with ugly personal attacks, I even deplore that the U.S. may have lost the moral that people should respect and the beacon of values such as democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights that had been held out by the successive U.S. presidents.

3G administration implying policy discord
     Some people describe the Trump team as a 3G administration featuring three retired generals, three from Goldman Sachs and three gazillionaires. The retired generals are Michael Flynn picked as National Security Adviser, James Mattis as Secretary of Defense and John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security. The members from Goldman Sachs are Steven Mnuchin nominated as Secretary of Treasury, Gary Cohn as Director of the National Economic Council and Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist to the President. The gazillionaires are Rex Tillerson named as Secretary of State, Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.
     Over trade policy, President-elect Trump stands squarely against Secretary of State nominee Tillerson known as free trader. On the position towards Russia, Tillerson is pro-Russia, while Defense Secretary nominee Mattis is anti-Russia. It is doubtful if National Security Adviser nominee Flynn is fit for coordinating various agencies and people.
     A matter of particular concern is alleged Russian hacking of email accounts for the Democratic National Committee. A Russian military intelligence agency is said to have stolen and leaked information to American media through WikiLeaks to manipulate presidential election to the advantage of Trump and to the disadvantage of Hillary Clinton.
     Russian manipulation might have spilled over to many of the European far-right populist parties. American media organizations have already launched campaigns to discredit Trump they hate. Will the U.S. status in the world decline further and go in the direction of absolute decline under a Trump administration?

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.