Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, may be one of the most underestimated global leaders today. His image in the media, at home and abroad, is that of a bumbling blustering business tycoon who has caused American foreign policy untold harm due to his lack of understanding of the complexities of global politics. This image is basically incorrect and largely promoted by the sharp polarisation of the contemporary American and global politics. The critics cite the jettisoned Iran deal, the scrapped Trans-Pacific Partnership, the festering Afghan imbroglio, the continued calibrated defiance of North Korea post-Singapore Summit, the putative superiority of the Russian strategy in Ukraine and Syria, the snowballing trade war with China, anticipated trade conflicts with and growing dissatisfaction of allies in Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific, and the retreat of the US from multilateralism and pluralistic global governance as the so-called self-evident cases of the inept management of global problems by President Trump and his team. The ad hominem estimation of these events caused not a dent in America’s global leadership but a forceful reaffirmation of its status as the sole global power actually capable of exerting influence simultaneously in the major continents of the world. Trump in reality is an extremely astute player in the international arena who boldly applies the principles of action belonging in the world of business and entrepreneurship to the domain of politics and diplomacy. This means understanding the value of constant change in the geopolitical interaction between powers in line with the creative destruction that rules the world of innovation. What is lost by way of the stability of global politics may then be compensated by the opening of new possibilities for resolving old problems setting the stage for a more stable global order, changing things that would have stayed the same resulting in the retention by the US of its global leadership position. Trump knows that sometimes seeming to agree with your adversary is a way of disarming him, especially when it helps to baffle naysayers back home This hard-boiled embrace of change by President Trump is a result of a mindset developed over a lifetime spent in making a name for himself in the corporate crucible where a moment’s carelessness causes the downfall of massive fortunes and only an unrelenting pursuit of goals guarantees success. Behind his façade of flamboyance and bravado, lies a deep awareness of human nature grounded in a robust realism not warped by romantic notions of altruism. For him, adherence to basics without heeding to pedantic niceties is the foundation of success. He knows instinctively that safeguarding national interest like securing business interest is a tough line of work in which misty-eyed view of things leads to ruination. He has perceived that a prolonged bonanza of cooperation and non-confrontation leads to the accumulation of huge asymmetric advantage by competitors allowing them an untrammelled run at the realisation of objectives that could jeopardise one’s own position in future. It is also apparent to him that it ultimately inclines both friends and foes to pursue agendas that may lead to the steady erosion of one’s pre-eminence. His pragmatism consists in his refusal to allow this to happen as long as he is at the helm. He has, therefore, not demurred at embracing confrontation to maintain America’s global pride of place. It is not that President Trump does not desire peace; it is just that he knows that peace is better secured when conflict is a close not a distant prospect. As a consequence, he is scorned globally for his plain Hobbesian acceptance of competition as a fact of life unvarnished by liberal rhapsodies to peace and wants everyone to work harder to preserve the peace that all desire. One measure of President Trump’s mastery of the art of negotiation is his adroit use of the reject-then-retreat tactic of great negotiators which consists of initially making an excessive demand that unsettles others and leads either to acceptance, which was never the aim and so valued all the more, or to rejection of that excessive demand. In case of rejection, one then makes a lesser demand which was the original objective all along and one that others may find reasonable and acceptable. This process is explained in Professor Robert Cialdini’s psychology classic, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Translated in terms of global affairs, owing in large part to President Trump’s effective utilisation of this method, America’s major interlocutors — Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada, Britain, Germany, and France, etc — are more eager today in listening to the US and more likely to arrive at preferred solutions to common problems than they have ever been in the last decade under President Obama’s US foreign policy. His actions rest on the consciousness that defying the US means the narrowing of distance between a country’s domestic and external spheres where its foreign policy choices could lead to undesirable domestic outcomes that could easily upturn decades of past progress or pre-empt future progress for decades to come. Economic sanctions, tariffs, withdrawal of aid or support, international isolation, sustained application of diplomatic pressure, and the threat of use of force when all else fails serve as means through which states viewed as intransigent or adversarial can experience this constriction. The realisation that the health of relations within nations depends upon the state of relations amongst nations is a critical corollary of President Trump’s diplomacy. His willingness to get the US involved in the “Quad” with Japan, India, and Australia in response to the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) appears to be an excellent use of competitive multilateralism which in time will lead to greater cooperation amongst different multilateral arrangements that currently seem to be non-convergent. The Quad may become the bridge in future which shall enable the US, Japan, and India to forge a working relationship with BRI. This is because the question of convergence cannot be seriously broached unless there is divergence first. Things indeed move forward dialectically. He knows that sometimes seeming to agree with your adversary is a way of disarming him, especially when it helps to baffle naysayers back home. His denial in Helsinki of Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential Elections is, therefore, not a blatant betrayal or abject abandonment of the fundamental interests of the US as portrayed by his critics. The retraction couched in linguistic clarification that followed shows this was not the case. By allowing the world to concentrate on his person, President Trump has enabled his administration to seize initiative for the US in Americas, Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific, and South Asia evidenced by the reactive behaviour of major powers in these regions. The credit for it in no small measure goes to President Trump and his fearless utilisation of cross-domain insights. The writer is a policy analyst based at NUST and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, July 24th 2018.