Donald Trump is a new face for the institutions of Realpolitik. This in itself is indicative of our time and age, that is that there has not been a juxtaposition to Realpolitik over the past quarter of a century. Gone is the age of ideological conflict. The standard discussion in international relations centres on the application of power, so much so, that this has become the new normal.
Approached from this stance, relations with Russia within the USA-EU axis, surrounded by the rhetoric of a new Cold War, or even Cold Peace, a term fashioned out more recently, perhaps in an effort to save the rhetoric, despite the absence of an ideological conflict, appear puzzling. Perhaps, this is what Trump means, although passing judgement on what is as yet unknown, is at best opportunistic, at worst, frivolous.
The card of gloom and fear that has been suddenly pulled out in the international relations game, following on from Trump’s election, is somewhat reminiscent of Derrida’s democratic autoimmunity discourse (I am, of course, conscious of Derrida’s many critiques in the American vernacular during the GW Bush years). Fear is, indeed, the opposite to what democracy stands for. Whilst democracy is itself not an ideology, liberalism is. To see it constraint, not by a rival ideology, but by a discourse, born out of its own regime, is defeatist in ways that no outside enemy can perpetrate. WJT Mitchell wrote that the dose was the key to the whole business of autoimmunity. Therefore, the scramble for the physical borders’ security during Obama’s farewell visit to Europe dwarfs the more pertinent issue that is the condition of the democratic covenant. The latter invariably jumps out from polling the voter in recent times.
Fear has some advantages, of course, known to anyone who has thought about Weber’s state or his ‘Politics as a Vocation’. It binds people together and around a government-protector (I simplify). It has been speculated that given the European ideational impasse, it helps to manage unity, and has been pointed to as the source of strength that the UK can tap into to drive a favourable Brexit deal.
Still, this is all short-term, that is one cannot achieve a “full house” in democracy with a single card. If the dose is gotten right, it can at best bring an “out”. If this is what Trump means by a NATO overhaul and if it leads to a discourse about ideas, not just application of power, then there may be a change to the new normal that the world has become accustomed to since the collapse of the Soviets.