Looking Forward and Backward With the New Year
The two-faced Roman god Janus provides the derivation for “January”—a point in the calendar when we are challenged to take stock of the past year and think ahead for the coming one.
And 2016 was certainly a memorable year; however, are we to cite Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities, experiencing “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”? Or was 2016 more akin to the human tendency to describe every twist in the road of history as a major turning point?
Although we think that we can observe the past year with precision, it is more akin to viewing through a clouded window with myopic eyes and with our nose pressed against the glass.
We can certainly say that a lot of prominent people died. These included some from our historical, cultural past (Zsa Zsa Gabor, Nancy Reagan, and Elie Wiesel); a vicious dictator (Fidel Castro); sports icons (Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, and Arnold Palmer); a national space hero (John Glenn); a dominant Supreme Court judge (Anthony Scalia); and a gaggle of singers/composers, (David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, and George Michael). And within a day of each other, we lost “Tammy” (aka Debbie Reynolds) and the iconic Star Wars “Princess Leia” (aka Carrie Fisher).
And the thought of “Peace on Earth” was honored only in the breach. The reality of Syrian President Assad’s civil war victory became blatantly obvious with the fall of rebel-held Aleppo. Separately, the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and its penchant for Islamic terrorist atrocities is cornered in almost its last bastion (Mosul) by an Iraqi/Kurdish Army (once more rebuilt by U.S. trainers) that seems to have learned to fight.
We can also note that two impossible things happened: The Chicago Cubs (after more than a century of futility) won the World Series. And Donald Trump is the 45th president-elect of the United States.
The latter has generated the most angst. Democrats anticipating the equivalent of four-year’s banqueting presided over by the first woman president now must anticipate four-years of consuming crow. And the cause? Defeat has a thousand finger-pointers: the constitutional strait-jacket of the Electoral College; the inadequacies of the Hillary Clinton candidacy; Russian “hackers”; FBI machinations; etc. Essentially, however, the Republican-oriented “mad as hell…” “deplorables” outmaneuvered the Democrat’s effort to construct a majority from minorities.
But what does this auger for 2017?
The worst-case scenario depicts President Trump as a bull carrying his own china shop, ricocheting from disaster to disaster.
One can hope (and pray) that Trump’s plethora of tweets/outrages will morph into some rational restructuring of U.S. foreign and domestic policy.
In the dying days of his presidency, Obama has acted like a man with all his teeth knocked out trying to eat steak. He has issued a blizzard of executive orders and authorized regulations restricting a wide range of environmental actions, immigration deportations, business activities, and attempting to reinforce his administration’s “legacy” actions.
His dramatic foreign policy climactic was refusing to veto a UN resolution condemning Israeli West Bank settlement construction. No longer needing Jewish votes for elections, Obama’s expression of profound irritation at Israeli PM Netanyahu’s inflexibility seemed to reflect anti-Semitism as much as personal pique.
And sanctions/expulsions against Russian diplomats for Moscow’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential elections were met by President Putin’s refusal to play tit-for-tat expulsions, but rather to invite U.S. embassy children to a holiday party. Point—Putin.
Thus one can expect Trump and his team to spend considerable time reversing Obama’s last gasp flailing as well as acting on its own agenda. Such would include inter alia a repeal/rewrite “Obamacare”; strengthen border controls against illegal immigrants (and expel criminal illegals); approve the Keystone Pipeline; redraft the tax code; and fill the 107 vacant federal judgeships (including a replacement for Supreme Court justice Scalia).
In foreign policy, one can imagine cancelling U.S. endorsement of the Paris Agreement on climate change and returning to sanctions against Iran. With Israel, we may have reached the conclusion that there will never be a “two state” solution to the deadlock with Palestinians.
And, so far as any “bromance” with Putin is concerned, it will be based on tough-minded national interest.
David T. Jones is a retired U.S. State Department senior foreign service career officer who has published several hundred books, articles, columns, and reviews on U.S.–Canadian bilateral issues and general foreign policy. During a career that spanned over 30 years, he concentrated on politico-military issues, serving as adviser for two Army chiefs of staff. Among his books is “Alternative North Americas: What Canada and the United States Can Learn from Each Other.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.