Where have those true leaders gone?

Homo sapiens, despite the wisdom attached to the species distinguishing itself from our ancestors who lived on trees, continues to produce nutty leaders apace in the first quarter of the 21st century.

5 mins read
Millions of people in the world lived in deep poverty in regions that were denied political sovereignty and exploited economically for the benefit of Europeans and North Americans. Photo credit [ Taylor Brandon/ Unsplash]

Reflecting on the state of the world as we begin our comments (August 24), our conviction is that the world has gone nuts.

History has records of leaders of tribes, races and nations invading countries and killing innocent people on horrendous scales for many reasons. But these leaders—even those of the primitive ages—did not pose threats to the environment or violate the laws of nature. A Native American leader whose tribe became captive to European invaders is reported to have exhorted his captors to protect the land and its resources that they had captured.

The world is heating up, as scientists have kept pointing out for some years, and there is plenty of evidence of the fallout in every region of the world. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says it clearly: “The world is not simply warming; it is boiling. But do all the leaders that matter and most people really care?

What is most alarming is that in the most powerful country in the world, there is a looming threat from a former president who does not appear to give consideration to the global threat to the environment. He appears to even ignore the constitutional laws so rigorously protected by its previous leaders and do it his own way for him to return to power.

Donald Trump, even after his defeat, remains unquestionably the leader of the Republican Party. He cannot be defeated at an election because, even before such an election is called, he alleges it to be rigged against him, and therefore it is an illegal election. When he lost the last presidential election to Joe Biden, he made those allegations, insisted he was right, and attempted to declare the election null and void.

There lies the present problem of Donald Trump. He is a criminal defendant in four separate cases filed against him by the Department of Justice. The first of the three cases covers the falsification of business records in exchange for hush money paid to a woman named Stormy Daniels. The second involves keeping classified documents in his Florida home, and the third involves attempts to prevent the validation of the election of Joe Biden as president in 2020. This week, he was charged with attempting to interfere in the counting of votes in Georgia and the validation of Georgia’s vote for Biden.

All four cases are due to be taken up by the courts in the first half of 2024, before the presidential election that Trump is expected to contest.

While some political commentators doubt whether Trump being charged before a grand jury for criminal offences for which he could be imprisoned in addition to other civilian cases such as non-payment of income tax, filed by New York City, impeachment by the House of Representatives, and many other violations of conduct not in keeping with the dignity of the office of the president will enable him to win the next election, he is certain of being nominated for the presidency by the Republican party.

A CBS News/YouGov survey this week showed that Trump holds 62 percent of likely Republican votes and leads his closest rival, De Santis, by 46 points.

In the first primary debate of the Republican candidates held in Milwaukee this week, which Trump kept out, eight of the candidates onstage were asked by the hosts of the conference whether they would still support Trump as a Republican candidate if he were convicted of the charges by the grand jury. Six of the candidates said they would support Trump, as against two. The six Trump supporters included Florida Governor Rin De Santis, former US ambassador Niki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, Vuvek Ramasamy, an unknown entrepreneur, and Carolina Governor Doug Burgham. The ambivalence of this support is indicated by a remark by Niki Haley: We have to face the fact that Donald Trump is the most disliked politician in America. We can’t win a general election that way.

Trump, who kept out of the debate, instead gave an interview to X (the new name of Twitter), claiming that his participation would only help the candidates.

If Trump does emerge as the winner in the next election, it is predicted that civil unrest will be widespread in what was once the world’s greatest democracy and could even reduce it to the totalitarian rule of one family.

The global fallout will be impossible to speculate on because his foreign policy during his previous tenure turned previous American policies on their heads.

Joe Biden, in contrast, has invested in massive development projects in conformity with the proposed changes made by world environmental authorities. His fault appears to be his desire to run again for president, though he will be the oldest president in US history. TV shows his unsteady gait, and his choice of Kamala Harris as vice president as a successor does not inspire even staunch Democrats, critics have said. He could be an opponent, which Trump would enjoy.

The world can only hope that the checks and balances in the American constitution can hold the leader of the country to sanity who has his finger on the world’s deadliest nuclear arsenal. MAD (mutually assured destruction) saved the world during the Cold War. But can those not guided by reason be relied on to be guided by the principle of MAD?

Homo sapiens, despite the wisdom attached to the species distinguishing itself from our ancestors who lived on trees, continues to produce nutty leaders apace in the first quarter of the 21st century.

Last week, Hun Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister who was a soldier in the army of Pol Pot that killed 1.7 million Cambodians, joined the invading forces of the Vietnamese and became the prime minister of Cambodia, and he remained so for 38 years. Last week, his son, Hun Manet, was appointed Prime Minister of Cambodia. Manet had been the commander of the Cambodian army.

Being the commander of a father’s army, with the father being an absolute dictator for 38 years with the blessings of foreign powers, is no difficult task.

However, Hun Manet is a graduate of the famed US military academy, West Point. He also holds a degree from the University of New York and a doctorate in economics from Britain’s Bristol University. Whether he should have been the prime minister, the minister of education, or an academic is a moot point. But this is in line with Asians in some countries, such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.

Even in the Philippines, the son of the dictator Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, who fled the country with the rebels surrounding the presidential palace, was elected president last year with a convincing majority. Bong Bong Marcos, however, does not seem to claim his family legacy, unlike most other Asian leaders who delight in recalling the deeds of their ancestors. Details about Bong Bong’s parents are not found alongside his biodata online. There have been protests by some groups about the family wealth acquired by Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda. His Vice President is Rosa Duterte, daughter of the controversial President Rodrigo Duterte, whom Bong Bong succeeded.

To end our commentary on the survey of the world, we quote an article by Prof. Jun-Werner Muller of Princeton University and a US columnist for the Guardian. His column published on August 22 is very relevant to Sri Lankan politics. He says: “Hungarian sociologist Balent Magyar has coined the term ‘Mafia State to describe the creation of political families (which can include a ruler’s actual family, as in the case of Trump’s, Orbans’, Bolsanaro’s and Erdogan’s children with special roles reserved for sons-in-law); these families use the state to enrich themselves.”

Gamini Weerakoon

Gamini Weerakoon is a former editor of The Sunday Island, The Island, and consultant editor of the Sunday Leader.

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