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Trump & Sanders

Trump vs Sanders? Populism vs Populism

Trump vs Sanders?

Civilisationalism’s train may well have left the station. That may also be true for a fundamental re-definition of US foreign policy. To what degree, civilisationalism continues its march and how US foreign policy will be re-defined is likely to be determined by who wins this year’s US presidential election. With Donald J. Trump the undisputed Republican candidate and Bernie Sanders the Democratic frontrunner, the fight for the highest office in the land could be one between two very different but no less radical visions of America’s role in the world. For civilizationalist illiberals, authoritarians and autocrats in the Middle East and North Africa and beyond, the stakes could not be higher. In The Economist’s words, a race between Messrs. Trump and Sanders would be between, "a corrupt, divisive right-wing populist" with an empathy for autocrats, like his favourite, Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and "a sanctimonious left-wing populist, " who, despite emphasizing human rights, democracy, diplomacy and re-committing the United States to the trans-Atlantic alliance, “has a dangerous tendency to put ends before means” and “displays the intolerance of a Righteous Man.” The obvious differences notwithstanding, Messrs. Trump and Sanders share scepticism about America wielding power overseas and a reluctance to use military force. On the surface of it, Mr. Sanders would likely agree that Mr. Trump wasn’t wrong when he took aim at a post-Cold War US foreign policy that had primarily produced disastrous failures since the demise of Communism by declaring “our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster.” Mr. Trump was referring to what political scientist Stephen M. Walt described as an era in which the United States as the world’s only superpower could rule supreme but had no need to do so. “Instead of building an ever-expanding zone of peace united by a shared commitment to liberal ideas, America’s pursuit of liberal hegemony poisoned relations with Russia, led to costly quagmires in Afghanistan, Iraq and several other countries, squandered trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, and encouraged both states and non-state actors to resist American efforts or to exploit them for their own benefit,” Mr. Walt argued. From a civilisationalist’s point of view, Mr. Trump was the right person at the right time.

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