Trump: The protection racket model of world leadership

Hassan Abu-Taleb
Tuesday 15 May 2018

President Trump appears to believe that other countries should pay for protection, whether requested or not. His policies will isolate America and undermine its hegemony

In the press conference with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron held in the White House, US President Donald Trump said his country spent more than seven trillion dollars in the last few decades and got nothing in return.

The question that comes to mind: Is it true, that whatever the US has spent, big or small, it received nothing for it, politically or economically? And were former American presidents and Congress members so stupid so as to spend all these enormous sums without any return? Was the US too generous with the world, or even with a limited number of countries, so as to protect or defend for the sake of humanity?

There is a popular proverb that can simply answer these questions, which goes “The buzzard doesn’t give away chicks", (i.e. don't expect people to act generously against their nature). The same goes for America, which hasn’t spent a dollar on anything that concerns the world or a certain region or specific country unless it gained hundreds or even thousands of dollars in return. The official American numbers are enough to prove this matter.

Almost the whole world protects the American economy through the mechanism of buying US Treasury bonds, which are deferred payment debt. The Arabs alone, represented in 11 countries, invested $284 billion in these bonds until November 2017, including $149 billion from Saudi Arabia, $59 billion from the United Arab Emirates and $37 billion from Kuwait.

Egypt has also invested in American bonds, equal to $2.3 billion. Even Mauritania, which is an Arab country with an extremely weak economy, has investments in US Treasury bonds of $1.5 billion.

There is also the Kuwait sovereign fund which has investments in the US amounting to nearly $260 billion in the fields of oil, real estate and high technology. 

Correspondingly, American investments in Arab markets surpassed $200 billion by February 2018, including $58 billion in American investments in the Saudi economy in the form of 373 companies, and $32 billion in the UAE and around $7 billion in Oman.

In Egypt, total investment is around $2.4 billion in 1,222 enterprises in the fields of industry, services, construction, finance, agriculture, and communication and information technology.

As for trade exchange between America and the Arab world, the numbers reveal many benefits for the American economy. Trade exchange jumped from $120 billion in 2015 to $210 billion in 2017. With the Arab Gulf countries, it jumped from $41 billion in 2015 to $58 billion at the end of 2017.

The volume of trade exchange between Egypt and the US reached $5.6 billion last year, achieving an increase of 13 percent in comparison with 2016, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry.   

There are many American arms deals with several Arab countries that surpass $300 billion in the last 10 years. In other words, the Arab world alone has provided a lot of economic revenues and job opportunities for Americans as well as opening markets before them without restrictions.

Thus, to say America has spent and has taken nothing in exchange is a totally false statement. Besides economic returns, there are huge strategic gains to be accounted for that Washington wouldn’t have obtained without much Arab assistance. For instance, the role played by some Arab countries in backing American policy against the former Soviet Union, whether before or after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, was one of the main factors that helped Washington in achieving strategic victory.

This represented itself in the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union. This allowed America to become the world’s only superpower for the next two decades. How can this historical victory be estimated in the terms of money? Is it worth $7 trillion or more?

President Trump’s vision that his country regain world leadership within the realities of globalisation doesn’t go in line with his policies that will practically lead to America’s isolation and will hit allies, including NATO members. What they have to do, according to Trump, is offer money for the American army to protect them.

The strategy of collecting protection money is void of human values related to freedom, democracy and human rights, which the US traditionally used to sugarcoat its policies towards the world, whether the administration was Republican or Democrat.

What’s more is that it is considered a blow to the values upon which the American army is built to be transformed from an army of a state that is a world leader into a mercenary army engaged in other countries’ crises and conflicts.

In addition, there is inciting trade wars, abandoning the responsibility of protecting the Earth’s environment, going too far in imposing sanctions, oppressing anyone who has a different policy and conception towards life and refuses American extortion and succumbing to its threats.

President Trump’s latest tweet symbolises all this, where he threatened whoever votes for Morocco’s bid to host the football World Cup in 2026 instead of voting for the American bid. 

It is true that it is America’s right to maintain its supremacy and it is also true that all the world’s countries have the right to uphold their way of life, seek to better their conditions and present different policies and stances towards the world and its problems.

If President Trump’s administration aims at isolating itself from the world and forsaking its obligations, so be it. But it has no right to brush aside international conventions and the UN system and impose on others what to do.

What President Trump wants and does militates against America continuing to be the world’s leader. The loss of values withdraws credibility from what Washington does.

Extortion and collecting protection money was prevalent in ancient times under empires that knew nothing but despotism and oppression. Whatever the capabilities of an indebted America are, it can’t restore the times of the Roman Empire, no matter what it does.

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