The challenge of Trump

I spent 30 years in the Barbados diplomatic service and when it came to relations with the United States, my realistic view, from the perspective of a small state in the Caribbean, was that from the best and worst, you could expect from Washington benign neglect or malign attention. I always opted for benign neglect.

The Trump administration represents a radical departure from longstanding American relations with the world. Indeed, if more neo-fascists like Trump and Brexit hardliners come to power all over Europe, joining such jingoistic dictators like Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan, then we can expect to see the most dangerous period in international affairs since the 1930s, with xenophobic hysteria and mindless nationalism ruling. 

For sure, Trump and Bannon, his chief neo-fascist strategist, seem intent on destroying the international order that was so painstakingly crafted after the Second World War. We seem headed back to a dog-eat-dog world in which might is always right.

Having said that, I’m not an idealist when it comes to international relations. Both my studies and my career have taught me that there is little morality in relations between nations, and that the pursuit of national interest overrides all other considerations. But what Trump is hell-bent on doing is destroying the international structure and procedural framework within which pursuit of national interest has taken place in the post-war world, and which was largely successful in containing conflict and promoting cooperation.

His ambassador to the UN has already made it clear that if you do not support the US unquestioningly, she will ‘take names’. In other words, you will pay the price. And this is not a ‘deal’ that is negotiable for a quid pro quo: this is a threat.

That international architecture (the UN and its specialized agencies, the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization, international human rights instruments, and so on) which we all now take for granted, at least provided some constraints on the great powers. But that is now all over if Trump and Bannon get their way.

And that is the big political question: whether the Republican-controlled Congress will cave in and let him override law and morality, or whether Trump can create an American Orwellian post-truth nightmare in which we see the reign of ‘alternative facts’. I would not bet against Trump. He is a shrewd dictator in the making who is not constrained by the usual political considerations. He has a scorched earth attitude to politics. 

Now since Trump and his billionaire Cabinet are interested in feathering their own nests, and are not in the least interested in multilateralism (nor for that matter in helping the American working class), and are looking for bilateral ‘deals’, some of our leaders in the Caribbean, especially those with a history of flagrant abuse of ethical principles, may rub their hands with relish and think that this is a glorious opportunity to sell out their people and make a deal that lines their own pockets. Well, my only advice is take a very long spoon and a condom when you sup with the devil. Your hair may turn prematurely orange, and that’s the least of it.

None of the policies out of Washington is likely to be favourable to the Caribbean, whether it be in tourism, trade, international business, investment, or climate change, and if Trump wants your oil, he’s going to grab it. But more damage is likely to be inflicted on Barbados and the Caribbean from the disruption of the international order by Trump and his fellow neo-fascists, like Marine Le Pen in France, the Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders, and the Brexit crowd in England, all of whom combine economic populism with a virulent ethnic nativism.

Some people think that my antipathy to Trump is based on his politics. It is not. I object to Trump because he is a psychopathic liar and a mentally unstable person with dangerous authoritarian impulses who now occupies the most powerful position in the world. So, as Shakespeare  had Marc Antony say, “Cry ‘Havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war.”

Indeed I have over the years, since I retired, railed against Chavez in Venezuela. Chavez, a charismatic former military officer who had attempted to stage a coup, was eventually elected president with a strong populist message, promising to end poverty, bring back jobs and make Venezuela great again. His ‘socialist’ revolution, dubbed Chavismo, swept away everything in its way, and took over every branch of the government.

In less than two decades, Venezuela’s democracy crumbled and mutated into a personalist autocracy. He started an all-out war on the media, imprisoned opposition politicians, abolished the independence of the judiciary, and rigged elections. All the while corruption amongst his cronies and lackeys grew at an alarming rate and the economy was reduced to rubble. Barbados ought to take the opportunity and close its embassy in Caracas and open one in due course in Colombia, where there are greater potential economic benefits to be gained.

One can see the same impulses with Trump as with Chavez. His relentless assault on the media is not a temper tantrum but a carefully calculated strategy of attempting to destroy the freedom of the press. He’s having a disastrous time trying to roll out his policies, so look for him to use the perennial political trick of would-be dictators: scapegoat an internal group (in this case primarily Muslims) and find a ‘threatening’ foreign enemy and start a war.

So what would I advise the Government of Barbados to do? Nothing. Do not attract attention. Keep your head down, invest in the education of our people, our most valuable resource, and hunker down for the foreseeable future. This too will pass. 

 (Dr Peter Laurie is a retired permanent secretary and former head of the Barbados Foreign Service who at one point served as Barbados’ Ambassador to the United States)


28 Responses to The challenge of Trump

  1. jrsmith January 31, 2017 at 10:29 am

    All the paragraphs and lines just add up to bull talk ,talk talk all we hear in barbados and the region , is all our yesterdays…we dont even get any sense out of our educators……

    Your last paragraph says it all, that I agree with 100%.. but giving our people the right education , all we been having is painters, but no one can build a house……..

  2. Santini More
    Santini More January 31, 2017 at 10:45 am

    I completely agree with the analysis & sentiments of this excellent column.

  3. Celine Barnard
    Celine Barnard January 31, 2017 at 11:09 am

    Brilliant! Should be required reading!

  4. allison archer January 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Dr. Peter Laurie if President Trump as you say have implemented a muslim ban why did he not include the others such as Saudi Arabia where those from 911 came from, India etc. why just target Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Lybia, Somalia, Yemen because Dr. Laurie the former President Obama had identified those seven countries as sources of terror that’s why.
    with all these extremists having access to whatsoever states they prefer killing innocent people, you do not think it is wise to provide adequate safety measures?
    are you also aware in 2011 Obama also had a temporary banned on visas for refugees coming from Iraq?
    please give the guy his time to lead, give the man at least his 100 days

    • W. Andrew Deane January 31, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      “please give the guy his time to lead, give the man at least his 100 days”???? You are talking about giving a malignant narcissist racist man-child, who surrounds himself with white supremacists and has no experience in government or diplomacy, doesn’t follow the guidance of his Intelligence Agencies, along with control of nuclear launch codes 100 days? Do you think that after the fiasco with just 1 week in office, thing are going to get better? Clearly you believe in Santa Claus too!!

      • allison archer February 9, 2017 at 4:59 pm

        clearly you miss the most important aspect of his victory, let me remind you= the American people selected him for President
        President Trump made promises to the people and the people believed him and now he is following through what?
        the others went before and lied now this President is keeping his word and besides the executive orders that are being enforced are not bad at all for the American people
        take my advice stop listening to CNN

  5. allison archer January 31, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    there is no longer use of words and meetings in dealing with ISIS and these extremist only raw brute force they understand and this is the President to restrain them.

  6. Old timer 1995 January 31, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    As a us citizen and long-stay visitor in your great country, I have to agree with Ambassador Laurie in most part. We have a child president sitting in the White House and we are going to see tough times ahead if he survives the scrutiny of the public. God help us all.

  7. t. squires January 31, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Just a few words for my fellow respondents, as someone who has
    seen and been in some world conflicts. I agree with the former Barbados Ambassador that we keep a low profile for at least the first 100 days, and to those naysayers please do some research on ISIL (not ISIS) then you might come up with the answer to the question posed reference Saudi Arabia, and try to recognize that some very dangerous games are being played out for global supremacy, which many of our people lack true education for. A few tall tales have been spun since 2000, that bear no truth in the least although most persons think they are true. I chose to speak in parable since I travel worldwide.

    • allison archer February 1, 2017 at 9:25 pm

      Whether it is called Daesh, ISIL or ISIS, this heinous terrorist group presents a threat to the region, and the entire world.

      measures must be put in place to restrain them
      the strength of a man is found in the leadership of America and Russia, they will join forces to provide the solution and it will not be in meetings, phone calls, pleadings with them but with the same brute force these cruel animals unleash on the innocent

  8. Harry January 31, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Those countries Saudi Arabia etc. are missing from the list as Trump has business interests there and for no other reason. The Republicans and red necks in the USA who voted for Trump were under the mistaken opinion that once elected they would be able to control Trump clearly they are mistaken, this pouting President is dangerous

    I had always thought that America – a country of no balance – would one day implode i suggest that has begun.

  9. Catherine January 31, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Can’t help but agree with everything Peter Laurie has said. The man is a dangerous psychopath, have said so all along. He’s firing the ‘NO’ men and hiring the YES men/women. Nothing but a dangerous dictator. Before we know it, we’ll be at war.

  10. Cherylann Bourne-Hayes
    Cherylann Bourne-Hayes January 31, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Great piece!!

  11. Horace Jordan
    Horace Jordan January 31, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Thank you for view/perspective; which I find most enlightening. Have been a visitor/student/etc., of north America for many years. 1965 onward.

  12. Greengiant January 31, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    The theory and intent of President Trump is to weaken and destabilize the EU. This will strengthen his Russian business partners and establish what so many of you have called ” a new world order “. This will only lead to a third world war.

    Brexit + Trump = A break up of Nato.

  13. Beatrice January 31, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you Dr Laurie. To those who found again..slowly this time and you might understand.

  14. Othneal January 31, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    Excellent analysis Mr.Ambassador. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it is a duck. Trump is child masquerading as an adult.He has just been handed the most extensive arsenal in the world. We are witnessing the beginnning of the Scripturally predicted end of civilization as we know it. Incidentally India is not an Islamic country. It is essentially Hindu. Pakistan owes it’s existence to this fact.

    • allison archer February 1, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      the article is referencing that the president is antimuslim, there are 138,188,240 Muslims making Islam the second most popular religion in India as of 2011.
      what about Pakistan an Islamic state these still have entry to America
      why not ban all muslims in the middle East ?
      I’m saying Trump can’t be hateful of muslims if we truly weigh matters equally
      those from those seven countries are totally barbaric having no conscience

      everyone is jumping on the President because of what the media is reporting

  15. greg ward February 1, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Can you draw a connection between the neo-nazi definition and Brexit ‘hardliners’? Think twice about using words you do not understand, Mr. Ambassador. How typical of someone spending too many years in DC on taxpayers buck.

  16. Othneal February 1, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    Excellent analysis Mr.Ambassador. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it is a duck. Trump is child masquerading as an adult.He has just been handed the most extensive arsenal in the world. We are witnessing the beginnning of the Scripturally predicted end of civilization as we know it. Incidentally India is not an Islamic country. It is essentially Hindu. Pakistan owes it’s existence to this fact.

  17. Ivana Cardinale February 2, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Well Peter Laurie, YOU GOT IT ALL WRONG. But, what wrong can be when you are an evident sheepple of the Western media? You believe everything you read or see on TV? Apart of being a sheepple, it seems that you are a CNN’s parrot too that just repeats and repeats what hears without knowing what is saying. Don’t waist your time writing these sort of ignorance. A man, that never lived the Venezuelan Revolution, talks just like the US-lackey Venezuelan opposition. I am not going to waist my time and saliva with a crook writer that think he knows, but doesn’t know NOTHING. How the hell Laurie tries to compare Chavez with Trump? And you speak about education? EDUCATION? Please educate yourself first in order to demand what you don’t have. Laurie has the screws upside in his head

  18. ManLissun February 2, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    He has been elected. Gih de man a chance, nuh man?

  19. Monty d February 2, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    Peter Laurie is spot on
    Alison archer is sn appoligist for Donald trump

    • allison archer February 9, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      Monty d no I am not, you make me laugh,
      in listening I see a man with a great desire, passion to restore the lives of his people in making them leaders and giving them control again over their land America, that’s all

  20. Jeffrey C. February 2, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Mr Laurie’s nihilism is I fear, born of the knowledge acquired in his years of representation and the consequent acceptance of the fact that our little island has no influence on the directions of the world’s political winds. We can hope only that they will blow good fortune in our direction.
    I have been surprised at the number of Barbadians who think highly of Trump……and even more surprised that his Make America White Again effort finds favour with a few.

    The emerging planned chaos could change the world’s balance of power and if we are honest, all we can do is stand prepared to trim our sails accordingly.

  21. Hal Austin February 3, 2017 at 4:07 am

    Brilliant understanding. Plse send it to the Stuart Cabinet.

  22. TC February 21, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Great and very thoughtful article Mr. Ambassador.

    • CMM February 2, 2018 at 1:19 am

      Don’t think I have read so many uneducated and foolish remarks than have been made here. I thought that on the whole, Bajans were more educated. I seem to be wrong. You all should read and learn from Peter Laurie a bit more regularly. You might learn something.


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