Political analyst Finian Cunningham says while US bad faith is already extant regardless of Trump, if Trump shows his pragmatism and learns from wiser counsel, his views on Iran could temper for better relations.
The US election of 2016 was already a heated presidential race which culminated spectacularly in the election of the Republican candidate Donald Trump whose election campaign was marred by controversial remarks, and was thought by many mainstream media to be the least likely to win. Yet, while Democratic party nominee Hilary Clinton had a wider popular vote (47.8% to 47.3%), it was the businessman Trump who won the electoral college (56.88% to 43.12%) that determines the next president to sit in the White House.
To shed light on various aspects of the election results, Mehr News Agency reached out to Finian Cunningham, an expert on international affairs, who believes that the election of ‘outsider’ Trump is “a popular protest to the fundamentally undemocratic” US which could then “permit better international relations between the US and the rest of the world.”
Cunningham argues that the “exit polls from the US election indicate that many people who voted for Trump did so not so much because they positively endorsed Trump, but more because it was a protest vote against the American oligarchy and to keep Clinton out of power”.
He views Trump presidency in a positive light, saying it will “increase tendencies within the EU for more independence from Washington’s foreign policies, such as on NATO and hostility towards Moscow.”
He then goes on to call Trump’s controversial remarks against minorities and Iran’s nuclear deal an area of concern, attesting that while “Trump does not appear to be in the warmongering category”, the US system is “always prone to militarism and conflict in the world to project its imperialist hegemony.”
The following is Mehr News Agency’s interview with Finian Cunningham, an Irish political commentator who is currently based in East Africa:
What is your evaluation of the US election results? How come all the predictions by many media were proven wrong?
I see the election of Donald Trump as a popular revolt by the American people against many years of political and economic disenfranchisement by the US ruling class. The US political class of Washington-based elites, in both main parties, function more like an oligarchy than a representative government. The majority of ordinary Americans have seen their livelihoods and communities deteriorate over many years while the Washington “Beltway Bubble” has grown ever richer through cronyism with Wall Street financial elites and corporate America. So, the election of Trump who is seen as an outsider to the Washington system is a popular protest to the fundamentally undemocratic character which US politics has become. That undemocratic character is also expressed in relentless war-making by the US ruling class. The media predictions got the result so wrong because the US dominant media are embedded with the oligarchy. The media wanted Hillary Clinton to win because she is a willing puppet of the oligarchy. Part of the prediction-error was due to blind media bias against Trump and his supporters and also partly due to willing propaganda to sway the election in her favor. As it turned out, the majority of ordinary Americans weren’t hoodwinked by the Washington elite and their servile media. That is phenomenal. Because it shows that the US elite and their propaganda control over the populace are rejected. Without this hegemonic control over the people, the elites and their warmongering agenda have been abruptly checked. That could then permit better international relations between the US and the rest of the world.
What do you think was the main factor that diminished Clinton’s chances at presidency?
Clinton was rightly seen by most American citizens as a corrupt tool of Wall Street, the corporate elite and the military-industrial complex. Her fraudulent “liberalism” and “humanitarianism” have been responsible for prosecuting wars and conflicts in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe (Ukraine) and the grave deterioration in US relations with Russia. Clinton as Secretary of State in the Obama administration was a key driver for the rise of Takfiri terrorism afflicting many countries. American people realized that Clinton’s conduct and her abuse of political office to enrich her own family is tantamount to very serious crimes of corruption and treason. American people understood that if she were to be elected president the upshot would be even more corruption and international conflict, especially towards Russia. Exit polls from the US election indicate that many people who voted for Trump did so not so much because they positively endorsed Trump, but more because it was a protest vote against the American oligarchy and to keep Clinton out of power for the sake of creating a more peaceful world. She was seen as criminal and dangerous.
Republicans not only won the White House on Election Day, but they also maintained their majorities both in the House and the Senate. What would a Republican-controlled America mean to the country itself and the world?
The Republican Congress that prevailed under Democrat president Barack Obama was generally seen to be “hawkish” with regard to Russia, Iran and other issues. So, the prospect of a Republican presidency under Trump and a Republican legislature might make some people feel apprehensive with regard to US foreign policy being more aggressive and hostile. However, Trump has positioned himself as being more of a pragmatic leader, seeking more cooperative international relations, less military interventionism and concentrating his efforts on “fixing American society”. If he can assert his more pragmatic, less hostile foreign agenda then the Republican-dominated Congress might make his policies more achievable. I also think the Republican hawks in Congress would have to be more mindful that the American people have clearly demonstrated that they are averse to war and conflict and that they are now demanding that politicians abandon military adventurism overseas, and instead concentrate on rebuilding America at home after decades of economic decay and looting by the elite.
With many endorsements for Hillary Clinton by some European leaders, what countries would now find the US a closer ally with Trump as president?
The reaction from European governments seems to be split between the likes of Germany and France which are strongly “atlanticist” and those such as Hungary, Czech Republic and others who are more critical of what they see as the EU being too subservient to the US. Germany and France were firmly for Clinton to become next president. Whereas eastern European countries facing problems of immigration are inclined to agree with Trump’s rhetoric about tighter immigration controls. Within the EU, there is also much discord over US-led sanctions against Russia and the expansion of the NATO military alliance. Trump’s call for better relations with Russia and his stated agnosticism towards NATO will boost Europeans who also share these views. It is notable that unlike the incumbent governments, opposition parties in France and Germany are welcoming Trump’s victory. Parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Front are critical of the way EU governments have toed the line from Washington. The Brexit vote in Britain shared this more skeptical sentiment towards Washington. That is why the German and French governments are particularly unnerved by Trump’s election. They fear that it will add fuel to the rise of anti-EU parties within their own countries. Merkel and Hollande are facing elections next year and could be thrown out of office. Overall, I think a Trump presidency will increase tendencies within the EU for more independence from Washington’s foreign policies, such as on NATO and hostility towards Moscow. That is bound to be a good outcome.
How will Trump’s presidency affect the conditions of minorities in the US? And what about the Muslim visitors, seeing as he had once called for a total shutdown of Muslims entering the US?
This is certainly an area of concern. Trump has inflamed certain circles of white racism with his rhetoric. However, I don’t anticipate a surge in racial tensions under Trump. I don’t detect him as being a racist bigot. A lot of his rhetoric was probably electioneering to mobilize the disenfranchised demographic of poor working class Americans worried about excessive immigration. I think Trump will tamp down this potentially nefarious aspect of his presidency. Interestingly, voting results show that he received substantial support from African-Americans and Latinos. That suggests that people were more motivated by what they discern as his more important, realistic policies of economic revival for the masses and withdrawing from overseas conflicts.
How do you predict Trump’s administration’s policies in regard to Iran and the nuclear deal which he had threatened to tear up?
This is another area of concern. Trump is of course wrong on opposing the deal. He said some very disappointing things about how Iran would use the accord to fund “terrorism” and that he would tear up the deal when he takes office. Another foreign policy area of concern is his apparent fervent support for the Israeli regime, saying that he would make Jerusalem the sole capital of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. On the Iran nuclear deal, it is hard to see how Trump could simply rescind it because it is an internationally binding accord. So we will have to wait and see how this pans out. Anyway, under Obama, and presumably his would-be successor Clinton, the nuclear deal was being abused by Washington balking at implementing the lifting of sanctions. So it’s not as if Clinton would have been much better. Washington’s bad faith is already extant regardless of Trump. However, maybe if Trump shows his pragmatism and is open to learning from wiser counsel, his views on Iran could temper for better relations. Overall, Trump does not appear to be in the warmongering category that has so dominated Washington for too long. That makes him potentially more reasonable as an American president. But we are talking in relative terms here. The US political-economic system is always prone to militarism and conflict in the world to project its imperialist hegemony. One person in the White House cannot change that fundamental structure and tendency. The best one can hope for at this stage in history is a slightly more civilized, cooperative US president.
Originally from Belfast, Ireland, Finian Cunningham (born 1963) is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. For over 20 years, Cunningham worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.