By Munir A Saeed

Sometimes it takes a volcano to start the healing 

February 1, 2021 - 15:20

Let me start by saying something some may consider outrageous.  One day, not long from now, many may look back on the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency and consider it to be not just the worst choice Americans made, but, ironically, the best thing that happened to America and the world. Why? The U.S. needed Donald Trump to save it from itself. 

Biden’s inaugural speech introduced a new narrative and his first presidential directives – so far - suggest that he means what he said. At least when it comes to immediately undoing some of his predecessor’s foolish yet harmful publicity stunts. But, it’s only the beginning and the road is long and challenging. Undoing other decades-old wrong policies will take much more than the stroke of a new presidential pen. And that is where Biden’s past may become useful in his presidency, not just to redeem his own participation in those past decisions, but to change America’s image of itself and the destructive global consequences of that self-image. 

In a previous article (, I wrote, "Trump was not the problem. Trump was the result of the problem". It took the shock of a volcanic four years for Americans and the world, hopefully, to finally realize that. It took the unprecedented magnitude of a destructive world war for the Germans to realize and get rid of the cumulative growth of a mindset that brought Hitler to power. Fortunately, neither Americans nor the world have had to pay that kind of heavy price again - not yet, anyway.  Hopefully, all is not lost. We can avoid that outcome. But the dangers have not been completely overcome. Taming the mindset is not an event, it’s a process, and one that must start immediately. Those who allowed it to be implanted and fester, if now also entrusted to change it, must be put on a very short leash. And the sooner the cleanup starts, the earlier the healing can begin. Joe Biden came as a result of 4 years of Trumpism.  He was repeatedly not America’s first choice, but rather, finally, the alternative for a majority who went to the voting booth convinced that anyone is better than Trump. Just anyone! 

Biden will be doing himself and America a disservice if he allows himself to be dominated by the media hype now predictably proclaiming him “the” savior. Building that kind of high expectations is dangerous, and Biden has the experience to hopefully not fall into that trap.  Rather than the media, Biden must focus on the mission ahead. The challenges facing him are formidable. America must change, domestically and globally. 

Biden’s own inauguration would not have been possible without the highest security measures that were put in place following the attack on America’s legislative buildings. Despite Biden’s claims, it was not democracy that won the day, but the more than 20,000 armed soldiers deployed to lockdown the capital city that enabled Biden to be inaugurated. That is more than the American soldiers currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined.  For the first time since its civil war, America’s vast war machine was pointing its guns towards itself inside it own streets and not towards a foreign enemy overseas, real or imagined. It wasn’t a foreign power or “Islamic” fundamentalists that threatened to derail America’s peaceful transfer of power, but a white Christian American mob led by white Christian American leaders. Ironically, the army that stood guard to save American democracy and its constitution, and were prepared to die for that cause included many from the religious and ethnic minorities who are often the victims of racial profiling and discrimination! 

In Yemen, the former military strong man and president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, used to claim that the military is the safety valve. A claim that I have always felt corrupted everything we must stand for. It is the institutions of governance that must be the safety valve of our political process. On January 20 of 2021, in Washington, which is one of the citadels of the institutions of governance, it was the military that saved the day to ensure the peaceful transfer of power. The elected political, judicial and legislative institutions of governance and the democratic political process they represent had progressively failed to protect the country. What precedent that mobilization has set in motion remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that America is not out of woods yet. Not by a long shot. And Americans cannot afford the deception of, again, being led by leaders and America’s powerful mercenary media into believing otherwise. There are more than 70 million Americans, about 20% of that country’s population, many armed and ready, who voted for Donald Trump and his fascist call to MAGA. 

If Biden is serious about healing America internally and rebuilding the nation that 77% of its people feel has become bad (according to a CNN poll), then he must change how Americans view themselves. The decades-old deception that Americans have been systematically fed has to be replaced by bringing home its current realities and the need for change. The age-old mantra, “the first step to solving a problem is to recognize its existence” has never been truer or more profoundly needed. Anything else is destructive. 

Globally, Biden must lead America back to America where it is needed most. He spoke of engagement and partnership.  He must, if he wants to save America’s global image, make that new narrative a commitment that is translated into practical policy. He will find an audience willing to give America, yet again, one more opportunity to move to the right side of history. We are eager to engage and partner with America, but not to be bullied by it. Biden has been part of that leadership that brought about America's destructive foreign policies. He could now be the healer, the leader who leads America to change its course and build partnerships. Dictatorship is imposed by military muscle and thuggery. Leadership is earned through engagement and partnership, when and if needed. Biden might be forgiven for telling his domestic audience “we have never failed”. Whether those “feel good” words send the right message to a nation in desperate need of solutions for past policies, is for Americans themselves to determine. But outside the U.S., in every one of its brutal misadventures, from East Asia to the Middle East (West Asia) to South America, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, America failed miserably.  Because people, by nature, reject intervention and all those who come to lead or tell them how to live. We may despise our own rulers but we may despise more those who come unsolicited to tell us how to revolt against our rulers. Especially when they come with a self-serving agenda of their own. In these places, America is not viewed as a leader as much as a bully. The image of America is represented by the likes of Raytheon whose missiles have killed thousands in weddings, funerals and even school buses. And by Erik Prince whose mercenaries brutally killed civilians then obtained a presidential pardon for doing so. Going forward, neither Biden’s presidency nor America’s recovery process can afford to allow its worst characters to be America’s global ambassadors. 

Biden and America must make a choice. They can no longer at once be a global power demanding the world’s respect and the greatest purveyor of violence in the world by military invasions and arms selling to the world’s most ruthless despots.
Neither can relations between nations be sustained if they are only built with ruling tyrants rather than peoples. 

The two opposites do not mix.