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Donald Trump and the uniqueness of the obama presidency in American history

Filed under: International News,Special Comments |

495px-Donald_Trump_by_Gage_SkidmoreBy Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, Ph.D

Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president of the United States last night, July 21, 2016 .If he becomes the eventual winner to be President of the United States, though I bet on Hillary Clinton, Trump would be bring about insane disruption in international relations. He will also bring about severe racial tensions in domestic relations. Domestically Trump had no clue as to why African-Americans agitate for equal treatment and against police racial profiling. Trump doesn’t seem to realize that there was once slavery in the United States whose racial divides continue to reverberate into the modern day. Police continue to kill Blacks. For the first time in history, a few African-Americans have started hitting back in retaliation. Trump doesn’t understand the origins of this retaliatory self-defence and regards it as purely African-American bloody-thirstness. His acceptance speech was belligerent.

Obama seemed to understand both sides though as President, he has to be careful and not tip his balance too far on one side. Trump has no finesse.

It is on the international front that Trump’s in-diplomacy will obviously be felt by the whole world. Obama was trying to heal the world and I think he succeeded. Obama’s positive role in this world will be solely missed. This article discusses how unique Obama was in this time in this world and how we will not see the likes of him in generations. He was the Muhammad Ali of American foreign policy. A future article will deal with Obama’s domestic successes.

President Barrack Obama continued to trail-blaze in American foreign policy where other presidents never even dreamt of venturing into, making him the most courageous president in foreign policy affairs in American history, rivalled only by his gigantic successes in domestic policies. His latest and unprecedented ones were visits to Vietnam and Hiroshima, Japan. These were just the latest in his foreign policy forays.

Remember that when he was running for President, Obama’s most emphasized weakness by his opponents was that he had no Foreign Policy experience, let alone domestic experience. He was a first term Senator.  Now look at what summits he has climbed!

The background of why I am positing that Obama is the most courageous president in foreign affairs matters in American history is the following. No sitting American president had ever visited a country on which the Americans had ongoing active economic or other sanctions. Only Obama could do that with his visits to Cuba and Vietnam.  He also broke the American embargo on Iran when the nuclear deal was done with Iran last year.

Further no sitting president had ever visited Hiroshima which was one of the only two sites in history ever hit by nuclear weapons unleashed by another country, this time by the USA. The other site was Nagasaki also in Japan at the same time as Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Many presidents have come and gone since the bombs were dropped by the Americans, killing over 200,000 people instantly with thousands injured, but not one sitting American president ever went to see and learn about that tragedy: not Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson,  Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, or Bush no. 2.

From Kennedy to Bush no. 2, no president ever dared visit Cuba. From Nixon to Bush no. 2, no president ever dared visit Vietnam, a scene of America’s greatest defeat and embarrassment in history. An American president could not visit Cuba, a country that also defeated America at the Bay of Pigs. Americans as declassified intelligence reports disclosed, tried but failed to kill Fidel Castro over 70 times using various means. Americans don’t cohort with people like Cubans who have embarrassed them.

Obama has been the only American President in history to call and host  an American-African summit with most African presidents attending in August 2014 and given an opportunity to solicit and access American economic resources. This has never happened before.

Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1970 was regarded as revolutionary, which indeed it was but it was in the context of the Cold War where these two countries were teaming up to isolate the Soviet Union. Besides the two countries had never fought or dropped bombs on each other, so the enmity was not that deep. Vietnam and Cuba had fought with the USA and defeated the USA. As Obama said when he killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011, after ten years of hunting for him, the USA has a long memory and never forgets. It seeks revenge in foreign affairs. This has been its history from inception.

None of the previous presidents had the temperament to be different, to break out of the historical-national psych,  and to be fore and far-sighted, to be audacious and to be un-afraid to try something different. The explanations for Obama’s courage reside in the fact that he was the first non-white President in  American history and therefore did not have the baggage and entitlement and cheekiness and racial superiority that envelope white  people historically. He did not have the burdens that white presidents have. He was not entombed and cocooned into white slavery. The American national psych did not destroy him. He was free, liberated and a free thinker.

The lesson here is simple. Diversity in every endeavour of human experience is of singular importance. We must strive to put different people of all races, tribes, genders, religions, ages etc in leadership positions as this change and diversity has the genes to bring out the best possibilities and realities  in human nature. Without Obama, there would have been no break-through in American foreign policy and practice regarding Cuba, Iran, Vietnam, Hiroshima, American-Africa Economic Summit of 2014 and so on. This is just a tiny sampling of what Obama has done in world politics.

I have written widely about the value of diversity in my 589-page book, The Politics of Judicial Diversity and Transformation. Obama represents clearest the value of diversity, of trying something different.

Obama also as an individual has unique qualities which one can glean from his book, Dreams from My Father where he talks about his discovery and rediscovery of himself, his community, his race and America and the world. No American president so reexamined  himself, because for them, everything was normal. Nothing needed to be examined or reexamined. He is also animated by his disdain for the politics of fear that enslaves presidents and nations, fear of what is different from us. In his book, The Audacity of Hope, he unleashes his intellect to talk among other things about the need to emphasize what commonalities bind human beings and not emphasizing the differences which divide human beings. Do you think Donald Trump is similarly predisposed?

Obama has healed this world, no other Black leader in history, perhaps with the exception of the Giant of the Giants, Nelson Mandela has so lit this world with hope and pride, with the ideal that there is nothing negative to display idealism in this world. In idealism about the goodness of human nature, lie the possibilities of liberation and freedom, of being . When Obama steps down on January 20th, 2017, he will leave a trail of hope into eternity, hopefully there will be others to carry it forward.

Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches law at Zambian Open University School of Law.


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