A country-club bore

“Those who want to resist Mr Trump should accept that America is being governed by a country-club bore, backed up by other members of the club — a class that doesn’t worry that it will suffer if he makes a mistake,” writes Michael Goldfarb, The New York Times’ opinion writer. Exactly! Take Trump’s fulsome garbage on Pakistan via a tweet. That’s not how you talk down to an old ally. The man needs a course in diplomacy 101 to learn the basic rules and practices which every participant in an activity is expected to know and follow. But Trump, apart from being a nouveau riche country-club yokel, is the most ignorant president the Americans have been cursed with.

Back home, why is Imran Khan collecting a bunch of foreign press corps in Islamabad at his home and sharing his dream of becoming the next prime minister? Sounds rather premature? Imran then expresses his fear of meeting Donald Trump when he visits the White House as the prime minister of Pakistan! Really? What’s this wishful reverie Imran is indulging in. “I will dread it, but I will have to swallow the bitter pill and meet him,” says Imran, adding, “whether we would be able to communicate, I am not so sure, but of course we, countries, have to work with the United States.”

Unlike Imran Khan, Trump prefers to tweet rather than gather the press. It boggles the mind to think that the most powerful man of the most powerful country in the world lies in bed eating McDonald’s cheese sandwiches and guzzling down diet cokes while conducting the affairs of the state on twitter. When New Year dawned, exactly at 7:12am, Trump chose Pakistan for a beating. It was his first tweet of 2018! He continued for a week to rebuke Islamabad saying that Pakistan gave “nothing but lies & deceit” to the US in return for $33 billion in aid since 2001, and for providing “safe havens for the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.” He added, “No more!”

Four days later at 11:19pm, Trump ended the week with a retweet of a proposal by Senator Rand Paul, calling on the United States to cut off all aid to Pakistan and instead use this money to build infrastructure at home. “Good idea Rand!” Trump praised Senator Rand. Trump administration obediently follows each and every order that their great leader barks out on his twitter. The administration officials quickly put together ‘elements of a new get-tough approach to Pakistan’. These included a “$250 million cut in military aid, placing the country on a ‘special watch list’ of nations that violate religious freedom, and suspending reimbursement payments to the Pakistani military for operations that it conducts to confront militants.”

How much of Trump’s get-tough with Pakistan has been implemented, we still don’t know. While many Pakistan-centric analysts agree that Trump is right to ‘assail Pakistan for its long history of backing the Taliban and other militant groups,’ most share the worry David Rhode has stated in his column ‘A More Radical Way for Trump to Confront Pakistan’ published recently in The New Yorker, “The question is whether his ever-shifting policy positions, clumsy statecraft and disdain for diplomacy will doom his effort. More than likely, they will.” Rhode reminds us how Trump in a tweet boasted “I alone can solve,” after a 2016 terrorist attack on Christians in Pakistan. But now, many former diplomats who worked in Pakistan say that Trump’s ‘public shaming of Pakistan’ will not work. ‘Conducting this in public is the least effective way of exerting leverage.’ According to them, diplomacy is the only route. ‘Delivering hard messages in private, in a coordinated manner, is much more likely to bear fruit than public bullying or humiliation’.

America will be the loser for alienating Pakistan by humiliating tweets that are so unbecoming of its president. Meet, don’t tweet!

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2018.

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