An Open Letter from The Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) to President-Elect Trump
Jakarta, Indonesia, 19 January 2017
Mr. Donald John Trump
United States of America
Dear President-elect Trump,
Assalamualaikum, Om Svastiastu, Shalom, Salam.
On 20 January 2017, you will replace President Barack Obama as America’s 45th President. In doing so, you will become the leader of the free world, manage one of the world’s largest economies, command the world’s most powerful military, control the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, and in charge of the world’s only superpower. We hope you will be affected with humility by the enormous power and awesome responsibility of your new position.
We offer our early congratulations to you on your Presidential inauguration. While we were not totally inspired by the US 2016 Presidential elections, we respect the results of the American democracy just as we expect America would respect the democratic choice made in other countries.
You have successfully made the transition from businessman to politician to President-elect. Now we hope you will swiftly transition to President and to statesman.
The election of the President of the United States is the most consequential democratic elections to world affairs. As you rightfully pointed out, America’s invasion of Iraq was an ill-advised strategic blunder that has caused more — not less — conflicts and sufferings in the MiddleEast and led to the rise of IS. The world will still have to live with the dire consequences of that US mistake in the short and medium terms. Similarly, Mr. Trump, the decisions you will make as President of the United States will have direct impact on international security and prosperity.
Tomorrow, you will assume leadership at a time when the world is in severe distress. We want you to know, Mr. Trump, that the world still needs — and expects — American leadership. The right kind of leadership because the American power, know-how and resources are critical to humanity’s efforts to save our planet, eradicate poverty, resolve conflicts and manage globalization. That American leadership in world affairs does not come automatically. It must be renewed and earned periodically. And it is not compatible with unilateralism.
Fairly or unfairly, much of the world sees the United States through the words and deeds of her President. A benevolent President will generate respect for America. A bully President will make the world resent America.
We wish you the best as you try to make “America great again”, and to make America “win, win, and win”. We understand that you were born and bred all your life to compete, and to win at all cost. It is in your DNA, and we understand that. As you move to the White House, what we hope you will understand is that America cannot win alone. We ALL want to win, to succeed. The world of the 21st century can only reach peace and progress in a win-win mode. What makes America great all throughout her history — from the revolution for independence, to the Civil War, to World War II, to the formation of the United Nations, to Hollywood and Silicon Valley — is her ability to inspire others and struggle for a better world. What makes America great is her openness, her achievements, her idealism and her humility. Please, Mr. Trump, do not ruin these assets.
As we come from a country with the world’s largest muslims (there are more muslims in Indonesia than in the entire Middle-East), and a country which embrace pluralism, democracy and religious freedom, we urge you to do all you can to build positive, peaceful and stable relations with the Islamic world.
Islam is a great faith with 1,6 billion followers — 1 out of 4 people worldwide is a Muslim. Islam is also one of the fastest growing religions in the United States and one of the 20th century’s greatest muslims — Muhammad Ali — is an American. Know it in your heart that the quality of relations between Islamic world and the western world is one of the key determinants to world peace. Get it wrong, we all suffer. Get it right, we all prosper. We therefore hope that you will see Islam with the greatest judgment and wisdom. It would also be wise for you to keep the office of the United States Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
We urge you to work for Palestine’s right for independent statehood. Continued oppression and deprivation of freedom for the Palestinian people will bring neither benefit nor security for Israel, the Middle-East and the United States. Successive American Presidents have tried and failed to deliver Palestinian independence. Rather than backtracking, we hope you will intensify America’s support for the “two state solution” where Palestine and Israel can live side-by-side in peace, dignity and security. In this vein, the idea to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would serve no logical diplomatic purpose other than to cause a serious blow to the Palestinian struggle, which would only complicate the any future peace process. Your ability to work out a permanent Palestine – Israel peace deal and the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State shall be your greatest legacy and your most valuable gift to world peace and human rights.
We request that you reinforce America’s commitment to our region by personally attending the East Asia Summit this year in the Philippines, and the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Vietnam. The leaders of the Indo-Pacific region, which still serves as the locomotive for world economic growth, expect to hear directly and clearly from President Trump about America’s regional plans. Keep in mind that if America misses the train of events, we may not wait for America to come around and America will be left behind by the rest of the region. This is not in America’s interest.
We hope that as President you will not retreat from America’s global climate responsibility. In Indonesia, and in much of the world, climate change is not a theory or an opinion. It is a fact. We in Indonesia live with increasing forest fires, floods, loss of species, and extreme weather patterns which effect our economic and social security. The peoples in the Pacific islands are experiencing rising sea level which they did not cause but will make some island nations physically disappear below sea water. The urgent reality is that the human race have already spent two thirds of the 2900 giga-tons of CO2 budget and we need to prudently spend the remaining one third to have any chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.
We are encouraged that the international community has miraculously reached Paris Agreement in 2015. However, as the US is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gas, no durable climate security can be achieved without US support. All future generations, including my three young children and your grand children, will be forever indebted if you become a fierce climate warrior. Please, please, Mr. President-elect, do all you can to stay with US commitments to the Paris climate treaty and stay on the lead in this epic struggle for human and earth survival.
We strongly believe that you should exercise prudence and restraint in managing US – China relations. We understand that some changes in the US policy toward China are to be expected. As you ponder your next steps, we want you to know that China, like the United States, is an important partner to the nations in the region. Bad US- China relations is bad for business. The last thing we want to see is a heightened strategic rivalry between Washington DC and Beijing which tears apart the still fragile fabric of regionalism in our part of the world. We want the US and China to work together with regional countries to build a stronger architecture for peace and cooperation. While it seems far-fetched at the moment, perhaps one day the United States would be willing to take part in the “one road one belt” initiative, and join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as many of your allies have done. In a similar vein, we would expect China to take part in US-led regional and global initiatives. This is how strategic trust is built, and in today’s world there is too little of it.
While some say this is wishful thinking, we continue to expect that under your Presidency, the US Senate will finally ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It is beyond comprehension that the United States world’s greatest naval and maritime power still has not signed the very Convention which American and international (including Indonesian) negotiators worked hard for decades to craft, culminating in the historic signing of the UNCLOS in 1982. With growing maritime agenda worldwide, intensified competition for marine resources, naval build up of great and emerging powers, border disputes, and rising tension in the South China Sea, the US Senate ratification of UNCLOS will be a huge milestone to the stability and predictability of a rules-based global maritime order. After all, the US navy already uses UNCLOS as the de facto basis of its legal and operational manual.
Finally, we hope that you will avoid the worst mistake any leader can make. In Indonesia, and in Islam, we have a term called “takabur”. There is no precise English translation to this word, but the term describes an attitude which combines ill-advise, over-confidence, recklessness and arrogance. It is almost a law of nature that in life, business, politics and diplomacy, every “takabur” person will fail. We pray that you will exercise the duties of your office in the opposite spirit of takabur, and that you shall be a benevolent and responsible world statesman worthy of America, and worthy of world respect.
We wish you all the best, Mr. Trump. May God be with you. May God bless the good people of the United States. And may God bless all nations of the world. Amen.
On the behalf of Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI)
Salam and peace
DR. DINO PATTI DJALAL