Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Editorial | Hurtling towards more dangerous world order

Published:Tuesday | January 31, 2017 | 1:00 AM

We know that there are some of us who believe that when it comes to geopolitics and international relations, Jamaica, cringing quietly in a corner, should neither be seen nor heard, while defining national interest only in terms of how much investment and aid might flow by eschewing principle and morality.

In that context, the Jamaican Government would not be expected to express a view - and certainly not one in opposition - to Donald Trump's project of upending the principle of multilateralism, including his ban, for the next several months, on travel to the United States of citizens of seven countries - Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen - with primarily Muslim populations.

According to Mr Trump, his executive order is merely in keeping with his campaign promise of "extreme vetting" of visitors and immigrants from countries where terrorists are more likely to try to enter the United States. Rational people are likely to see the move as a soft launch of Mr Trump's original idea of a ban on all Muslims.

But even at the most benign interpretation of Donald Trump's agenda, Jamaica has a clear stake in it and the world has cause to worry. According to Kamina Johnson Smith, the foreign minister, insofar as she is aware, Jamaica is not affected by the order. But she isn't certain. For it is not impossible that someone with dual nationality, including Jamaican, or is residing in this country, might be affected by the ban.

The more invidious factor of Trump's inward-looking nativism, which he blithely branded as 'America first' in his inauguration address, is its retreat to a 19th-century conception of a world of Great Power politics; the arrangements of fleeting alliances and spheres of influence, driven by shifts of military muscle and an exigent confluence of interests.

It is a global arrangement that produced the grab for Africa and the carving up of the Middle East, among whose consequences was the Great War, the 100th anniversary of whose end is being marked next year. But that war shepherded new ideas of global relationships and placed the United States firmly on the path to its greatness.

 

AMERICAN DREAM

 

America opened itself up to refugees and economic migrants from Europe, and Woodrow Wilson helped give shape to the idea of multilateralism with the League of Nations, the forerunner to the United Nations. The system was not without its flaws. The United States, with its economic and military might, has maintained an outsize role in the arrangement. But it also brought something else to the table: a moral authority founded in its democracy and the idealism of the American dream that it held out to the world.

That's the version of America that Mr Trump seeks to reconfigure; he pulls dangerously at standards which, despite the best efforts of extremists and jihadist, have kept the world tethered to sanity and away from the excesses of the past. It is action that pushes the hand of the doomsday clock closer to midnight.

Rather than cower, it is the responsibility of the friends of the United States, like Jamaica, to warn of the danger. None of this suggests an abrogation by Jamaica of its national interests, which is strengthened by fixing its macroeconomy and, thereby, its ability for independent action.