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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

What will make America great again?

Updated: Dec 12, 2018

US incumbent president Donald Trump’s pre and post election slogan of ‘make America great again’ is indicative of presumptions on two counts: one, America was great earlier; two, it lost its greatness that Trump promised to regain. Let’s first examine the American rise to greatness both on internal as well as on international fronts. On April 19, 1775, a shot rang out. It became known as the ‘shot heard round the world’ because it ignited the Revolutionary War. This small act set in motion events that would lead to the emergence of the United States as a world power.

They had everything needed to become a world power. They had vast natural resources, an industrious and hard-working population, and a government established on principles of liberty and equality. That said, it is important to understand that the emergence of the United States as a world power was a process; it didn’t happen overnight. It took place over the course of decades throughout the late 19th century. Not all historians chart the growth of the United States in the same way. Because of this, not everyone agrees on when exactly the US became a world power. Furthermore, the term ‘world power’ is somewhat subjective, depending on how that term is defined. After all, what exactly does it mean to be a ‘world power’? Does it depend on the size of a country’s military? Economy? Global expansion? Achievements? It’s a complex issue that is being addressed briefly in succeeding paragraphs.

The Civil War is the central event in America’s historical consciousness. While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determined what kind of nation it would be. Northern victory in the war preserved the United States as one nation and ended the institution of slavery that had divided the country from its beginning. Then as a result of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), Mexico was forced to give up what is now the American Southwest. In 1898, the US annexed Hawaii. That same year, the Spanish-American War broke out, through which the US gained control over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The late 19th century can be considered the Age of American Imperialism.

Former CIA Director John Brennan is an ardent Trump critic, who recently accused the Republican leader of failing "to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, and probity"

The US made its major contributions in terms of supplies, raw material and money, in WW-I starting in 1917. The US mobilised over 4 million military personnel and suffered 110,000 deaths. The war saw a dramatic expansion of the United States government in an effort to harness the war effort and a significant increase in the size of the US Armed Forces. The war represented the climax of the Progressive Era as it sought to bring reform and democracy to the world, although there was substantial public opposition to US entry into the war.

The United States and the Soviet Union were allies during WW II. When the war ended, the two super powers had very different ideas of how Europe should be restructured, which became the root cause of the Cold War. The period after the end of the Second World War saw the emergence of the United States as the pre-eminent military and economic power. Every part of the world came under the purview of US interests. The US also viewed herself as a great “moral force” in the world. The Second World War had done no damage to the US economy. In fact, the problems created by the Great Depression had been overcome during the war. From 1940 to 1987, the GNP rose from about $ 100 billion to about $ 5,200 billion while the population rose from about 132 million to about 240 million.

Moreover, the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), which today is part of the World Bank Group, helped America to consolidate her economic hold on most part of the world. While NATO helped it to maintain military balance and even ascendency, despite US misadventures in the Korean peninsula, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and covert wars in Latin America. The former Soviet Union’s demise as a result of defeat in Afghanistan (1979-1989) resulted in the emergence of US as an unchallenged singular super power. Until recently when US after decimating and plundering Muslim countries since 1990, once again started seeing resurgent Russia and rising China as global competitor with nuclear Pakistan, potential nuclear Iran and North Korea as manageable military threats to herself and more so to her pet ally Israel and few others.

Now coming to the second pronouncement by POTUS Trump whether real or imaginary; nonetheless an embarrassing acknowledgment of the fact that America is no more great power and it needs to be made great again. Although America is still the mightiest military power and the biggest economy globally, yet its loss of greatness lies in the slaughter of moral values that her people and Government claimed to have once stood for ie peaceful co-existence, human rights, care and responsibility, fairness and equality, freedom etc.

The moral decay on the internal front is marked personally by the personality of idiosyncratic and maverick Mr. Trump and then by his picked up hawkish administration that is responsible for the rise of incidents involving frequent school and street shootings, killing of innocent civilians, women harassment, racism, religious intolerance or Islamophobia, economic deprivation of minorities, resurfacing KKK and discriminatory anti-immigration. On the external front, Trump walking away from lead role on the global scene and trying to lead from the rear is not only resulting in regional and global polarisation but also providing space to its competitors in the political, economic and military domain. Trump’s rejection of global issues, Trans-Pacific, Trans-Atlantic partnership and NAFTA with preference on bilateralism and pressure on NATO to contribute more money to sustain the military alliance, disdain to climate change global efforts and discriminatory attitude on nuclear-proliferation are some of the major steps that may sound sweet to an ultra nationalist, but doesn’t behove well for claimant of global leadership.

Former CIA Director John Brennan is an ardent Trump critic, who recently accused the Republican leader of failing “to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, and probity.” Therefore, Mr. Trump’s slogan of ‘make America great again’ needs to take stock of the above indicated shortcomings that are making her own people feel small and embarrassed both on internal as well as on external fronts. The utmost missing link in the greatness sought by Trump is moral high grounds, which cannot be compensated by deceit, propaganda, bullying and blame games. Alongside letting down old friends, inducing conflicts and polarisation, covert wars, running proxies, military and economic coercion. In a nutshell, the present world being more aware and better prepared to renounce and fight back neo-imperialism, well intended promotion of peace and friendship under UN umbrella and above all ‘no more adherence to economic hit man policies’ may allow America to regain lost glory and high global stature.

The writer is a retired Army officer who is experienced in international relations, defence and warfare studies with proficiency in military & intelligence diplomacy, strategic analysis & forecast and executive management. E-mail:

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