By Mohammad Mazhari

'Trump views the world as a dog-eat-dog with U.S. as the biggest dog': Princeton professor

July 26, 2020 - 21:6

TEHRAN - Political observers believe that the Trump administration has had one of the worst records so far, both in managing domestic crises and foreign policy.

In foreign policy, the White House, despite its policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran, has not been able to achieve its desired goals, especially as the Trump administration has been seeking "regime change" in Iran.

Internally, the situation caused by the COVID-19 and the economic crisis resulting from it has led to doubts and questions on Trump's chances of reelection in the November elections.

Developments in the U.S. are not promising. In this regard, the Tehran Times interviewed Frank N. von Hippel, professor, and co-director of the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University. 

Regarding the Trump administration’s policy towards Tehran, especially its “maximum pressure” campaign to strangle Iran, Hippel said these policies have proved “disastrous” for the U.S. as well as Iran. 

"They have moved us from a potentially constructive relationship to one that could too easily transition into a war," he warned.  

While politicians and analysts argue that the U.S. policies are provoking a nuclear arms race in West Asia, Hippel, who served as assistant director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 1993 to 1995, said, "The perversity of the Trump Administration policy has been to make nuclear weapons more attractive to Iran."

"The Trump Administration's perverse policy toward Iran is just one facet of a broader attitude that rejects any rules of civilized conduct and views the world as a dog-eat-dog with the United States as the biggest dog."He added, "I think that some elements of the Trump Administration would like to see Iran go there so that the U.S. would have an excuse to bomb Iran." 

Responding to a question about American soft power under the Trump presidency, he said that respect for the United States has plummeted worldwide. 

"The Trump Administration's perverse policy toward Iran is just one facet of a broader attitude that rejects any rules of civilized conduct and views the world as a dog-eat-dog with the United States as the biggest dog."

Referring to Trump's promise to reduce the number of U.S. forces abroad and return them home, the American physicist said, "There has been relatively little change in this regard."

The Princeton University professor said the Trump administration’s move to pull out American forces from Afghanistan is a kind of “face-saving agreement”.

The U.S. first refused to negotiate with the Taliban, saying they are terrorists. However, after 19 years the U.S. is seeking an exit route by holding talks with the militant group.

 "The main focus has been to withdraw from Afghanistan.  I have not followed this closely, but it appears that strategy is similar to that for withdrawal from South Vietnam fifty years ago: a face-saving agreement with the adversary," Hippel maintained.

On Sen. Bernie Sanders's statement to change American priorities including cutting the military budget to serve poor people, Hippel argued that the fundamental strength of the United States is not its military but rather its democratic and open society.  

"This strength has been undermined by the great economic inequality that has always been with us but has broadened during the past 40 years with a smaller and smaller fraction of the society monopolizing the benefits of economic growth," he pointed out.

Believing that the resulting resentments created fertile ground for exploitation by a demagogue like Trump, Hippel said, "If Trump had been more competent, he might have succeeded in taking the United States down the road to fascism."

Regarding the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign to strangle Iran, Hippel said these policies have proved “disastrous” for the U.S. as well as Iran. He added, "I hope – but I am far from certain – that this road will be rejected by a strong majority in the coming election." 

Commenting on the U.S. withdrawal from international treaties like Open Skies, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, Hippel said, "This is not just the Trump Administration. The Republican Party has come to reject arms control more broadly because it believes that other countries will cheat, and therefore the constraints will be unilateral."

For the Senate to approve a treaty requires a two-thirds majority and “this means that arms control treaties have become impossible except at a prohibitive price," he said.

He noted that in 1997, President Clinton was able to get the Chemical Weapons Convention ratified only by eliminating the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency as an independent organization. 

"President Obama was able to get the New START treaty ratified only by promising the Senate Republicans to replace all U.S. nuclear weapons and their "delivery vehicles" with new versions," he maintained. 

Under recent Republican administrations, the U.S. has exited treaties, starting with G.W. Bush's exit in 2002 of the treaty with Russia limiting anti-ballistic missile systems.

"I hope that, if President Trump is defeated, he takes the Republican Party down with him and that we can return to more normal politics in the United States.  But that may be just a dream," he said in conclusion.

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