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Can President Trump Make America Great Again?

18 Nov 2016

Expert Panel-Fellows of the AIIA

HilaryCharlesworthHilary Charlesworth FAIIA-Professor, ANU; Director of Centre for International Governance and JusticeProfessorJocelynCheyAMJocelyn Chey AM FAIIA-Visiting Professor, University of Sydney; former Consul-General in Hong KongJamesCottonJames Cotton FAIIA-Emeritus Professor at the University of NSWRawdonDalrympleRawdon Dalrymple AO FAIIA-Former Visiting Professor, University of Sydney; Chairman of ASEAN Focus Group LtdGraemeDobellGraeme Dobell FAIIA-Journalist Fellow, Australian Strategic Policy InstituteErikaFellerErika Feller FAIIA-Former UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for ProtectionJanet_HuntJanet Hunt FAIIA-Former Head of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid
JamesIngramAOJames Ingram AO FAIIA-Former Diplomat and Head of the UN World Food ProgramJohnMcCarthyAOJohn McCarthy AO FAIIA-Former Ambassador to Japan, Indonesia, the United States, Thailand, Mexico and VietnamJohnMcCarthyAOGeoffrey Miller AO FAIIA-Former Australian Ambassador to Japan; former Director-General of the Office of National AssessmentsRobertO’NeillRobert O’Neill FAIIA– Former Chichele Professor of the History of War, Oxford UniversityGarryWoodardGarry Woodard FAIIA-Former Diplomat and Senior Fellow, University of MelbourneRichardWoolcottACRichard Woolcott AC FAIIA-Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and TradeRichardWoolcottACSamina Yasmeen AM FAIIA-Professor of Political Science and International Relations, University of Western Australia


Question: Can President Donald Trump Make America Great Again?


JohnMcCarthyAO John McCarthy AO FAIIA

A Trump government’s external outlook will be so different to that of its predecessor as to constitute radical change—and of course it can affect relations between peoples and countries.

However, If there is one message that comes from people who have met Trump, it is that they come away simply not knowing what his policies will be.

As many have argued, the system of checks and balances will come into play. Even where Congress does not have direct control of issues, it will have its say. Perhaps more than any other country, American politics relies on trade-offs.

And while many of the people Trump will bring into his cabinet will be too old and more of a bent to the right than we saw under Reagan or the Bushes, most will not be inept.

The Hon Kim Beazley AC FAIIA

With Trump we have the distinction of being part of the only alliance his team truly loves. His policies on allied responsibilities (totally miscast in the case of the South Koreans and Japanese) don’t apply to us. His attacks on his other allies threaten stability in the region. His attacks on trading arrangements, if carried through, would immensely damage our region’s economy and us. What we cannot tell is how far he will push all this. His agenda requires a deeply knowledgeable person to handle the tactical nuance. He has none of this capability himself nor to comprehend a subordinate who has.

This will be a wild ride for Australia. Noticing our exclusive status, our neighbourhood may demand that we intercede. It will be a test of our maturity and a task in which we have to succeed. Running away is not an option. Our economy and our long-term military/intelligence capacity is deeply embedded in our alliance relationship.

RawdonDalrympleRawdon Dalrymple AO FAIIA

President Trump can’t make America great again if that means making it again the unchallenged No.1 superpower, but the nation has a hugely powerful array of deployable defence assets which he should preserve if only to maintain the US’ prestige and influence. He will want to reduce defence expenditure and force the Europeans to do a lot more. They would be wise to agree. He has mentioned some ideas which, if he can implement them, might enhance the country’s comfort and capacity to exert soft power and influence.

An important element in what he has said so far and which appears to have resonated with voters is his opposition to trade agreements including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But down that road lies a loss of external influence. On the other hand a reduction of the US’ deep engagement in the Middle East would make sense if he could carry it off domestically.

His infrastructure promise is a potential winner if properly crafted and implemented. A new network of toll roads and new bridges would be the core of that. New and improved city subways and high-speed inter-city rail is needed to bring the US up to China/Japan standards (also French and Spanish). And he has promised a big push on all that.

He may well talk about making America “Great Again” while recognising the great difficulty and complexity of the above, but he will have to prioritise. He should relegate a wall against Mexico to the bottom of the list and put some welfare items like assisted healthcare high on the list—but he has not even taken office yet so it is idle to make a long list.

We must all hope that he gathers a top team of influential, experienced, very able people. In that, his role model should be Ronald Reagan. And we don’t even know whether he has the huge capacity for concentrated hard work that he will require if he is to be successful.

GarryWoodardGarry Woodard FAIIA

No. President Trump will preside, without making much of a dent, over America’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, marked by internecine strife and destruction at home and abroad.