Saturday 10 December 2016

Clinton holds sway on the international stage

Published 05/11/2016 | 02:30

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, and performer Pharrell Williams, right, greets members of the audience after speaking at a rally at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, N.C
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, and performer Pharrell Williams, right, greets members of the audience after speaking at a rally at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, N.C
President Barack Obama greets supporters following his speech while campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo: AP
US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Reuters
A supporter holds a sign aloft as she waits for U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to arrive at a campaign rally in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Reuters
US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Reuters
US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton visits Miller's Bar in Dearborn, Michigan. Photo: Reuters
Protest signs urging more civility in American politics flank a long row of signs supporting Republican President candidate Donald Trump in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Photo: Reuters
A man that went by the name "Pocket", a member of the Patriots Guard Riders (PGR), poses outside a rally for US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Toledo, Ohio. Photo: Reuters
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio. Photo: Reuters
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio. Photo: Reuters
A child watches as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio. Photo: Reuters

The FBI announcement that it is investigating newly-discovered emails in relation to Hillary Clinton's personal server has sent shockwaves not just across the United States, but also the rest of the globe. Previously, the Clinton campaign had been closing in on what looked like a comfortable victory against Donald Trump.

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Now, however, the final days of the campaign could be reshaped by the FBI's 'October surprise' which is a political gift to Trump who has, self-interestedly, described the email scandal as "worse than Watergate". October surprises are key developments that sometimes occur in the final lap of the US election season with capacity to significantly recalibrate the race.

So while Clinton retains a lead in numerous recent national polls over Trump, the outcome of the presidential race is far from certain. However, the world wants her to win, and if foreigners were also allowed to vote in the election, she would prevail by a landslide, despite the reservations held about her by some.

Clinton was the stand-out winner, for instance, in a massive poll earlier this month of nearly 50,000 people in 45 countries, covering 75pc of the world, by WIN/Gallup International Association. The survey found Clinton prevailing in all but one country, Russia, with the biggest margins in Europe, where Ireland gave Clinton a huge 74pc.

The WIN/Gallup poll results were very similar to those taken by Handelsblatt earlier this year with some 20,000 people in the G20 countries. Once again, Russia was the only state where Trump bested Clinton.

The fact that Clinton would win hands-down in a global contest against Trump, despite the reservations some hold about her, partially reflects bigger concerns that many foreigners have about the billionaire businessman's fiery rhetoric and often controversial policy positions. It is no coincidence, for instance, that the G20 country where Clinton received most support in the Handelsblatt survey is Mexico which Trump has assailed as part of his incredible proposals to build a nearly 2000-mile border wall.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Quite aside from this anti-Trump effect, however, many international audiences want Hillary as president given the strong role she played as secretary of state in the Obama administration in helping to restore US reputation in the world following George W Bush's presidency. Coming into office in 2009, Barack Obama and Clinton confronted a situation in which anti-US sentiment was at about its highest levels since at least the Vietnam War, a situation that could easily be repeated if Trump is elected in November.

The key factor driving this international tsunami of opinion was the unpopularity of the Bush administration's foreign, security and military policies in the so-called 'war on terror'. Led by Obama, and his two secretaries of state Clinton and John Kerry, significant efforts have been made to turn around this climate of perception.

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Even within a year of Obama and Clinton assuming office, for instance, several opinion surveys showed that anti-American sentiment was generally on the decline again, with favourable perceptions of the United States having increased by about 30 percentage points in some countries in 2009 over 2008, according to the Pew Global Attitude Projects. Clinton was particularly instrumental by championing a smart power strategy that sought to rebalance the overwhelming emphasis on hard power (especially military might) during Bush's presidency towards a softer type of power (including enhanced diplomacy).

A Donald Trump supporter disrupts remarks by US President Barack Obama at a Hillary for America campaign event at the Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo: Reuters
A Donald Trump supporter disrupts remarks by US President Barack Obama at a Hillary for America campaign event at the Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo: Reuters

Kerry has picked up on this smart power roadmap since taking over from Clinton by continuing to put emphasis on priorities like championing a new global climate change deal in Paris last November; the US opening up initiative to Cuba; and also the nuclear deal with Iran.

Unsurprisingly, these key moves, which are broadly popular with much of the rest of the world, have been lambasted by Trump.

To be sure, America's global public diplomacy has not been without setback during the Obama administration - perhaps the biggest failure has been toward what the president has called the "Islamic world".

Despite the early promise of Obama's Cairo speech in 2009 in which he sought to reset US relations with Muslim-majority countries, there remain pockets of very high anti-Americanism in several key states, including Pakistan and Egypt, which have not been substantially addressed.

However, this is precisely one of the reasons why the world wants Clinton, rather than Trump, in the White House.

At a time when the United States should be ready to redouble its efforts to win the battle for 'hearts and minds' in Muslim-majority countries, the controversial businessman has all the makings of a diplomatic disaster.

Many internationally are concerned, for instance, about Trump's sabre-rattling call for a fundamentally different military strategy, in the campaign against terrorism.

Trump has spoken out in support of carpet bombing, which appears to involve intensification of US military commitments in the Middle East.

The billionaire's indiscriminate plan to "shut down" US immigration from Muslims has also been widely condemned.

Taken overall, while a Trump victory cannot be ruled out completely, Clinton would win the election by a landslide if foreigners were allowed to vote.

The world wants her to win not just to avoid the diplomatic disaster of a Trump presidency, but also because her vision for US foreign policy is shared by many across the globe.

Irish Independent

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