New Delhi: Donald Trump has been routinely compared to strongmen in Russia, China, Turkey, India, parts of Eastern Europe and elsewhere somewhat unfairly. He is a rather more complex character than your average strongman and indeed a good example of a successful businessman wedded to power politics. With apologies to Carl von Clausewitz, Trump’s credo is that business is the continuation of politics by other means. Keeping his sights firmly on US and world business and economic interests, he pulled back from war with Iran which his national security adviser, John Bolton, has been egging him on to prosecute. It requires courage and conviction to say no to war. It does not mean the United States has blinked on Iran. It does suggest that tackling Iran’s nuclear ambitions is a project with a longer timeline than anticipated and the United States will use every means at its disposal to bring Iran to the negotiating table. The world does need a pause from war and Iran’s interests should be reasonably served with unconditional talks with the United States which Trump has offered from the first.

Responding to Iran’s downing of a US spy drone which from all accounts flew in international airspace, Washington has launched targeted cyber attacks on Teheran’s intelligence facilities. Computers employed to track two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz for attacks traced to Iran have been hit. More crippling US sanctions have been announced. At Trump’s behest, the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, flew to Iran for talks with Ayatollah Ali Khameini, while US diplomacy perceptibly has increased with Iran’s Sunni Arab rivals. Iran is holding out despite IMF’s report of a six per cent economic contraction, and Iran-backed Yemeni rebels have doubled missile attacks on Saudi airports. The situation is biased towards a sudden Iranian collapse and military flare-ups by Iranian proxies in the Middle East leading to a larger war with destructive consequences for the world’s oil and general economy. The US president’s dependence on economic and non-aggressive tools to contain Iran cannot be more timely and relevant.

So how did Donald Trump come to be clubbed with the other warmongering strongmen in Eurasia? The problem comes with the difficulty of classifying Trump’s policies on narrow ideological lines. For example, the trade war with China would automatically define him as a regressive protectionist who opposes free commerce. There is, however, the uncomfortable matter of the $419 billion US trade deficit with China which did not balloon in a single calendar year. Trump’s predecessors in the White House would not bell the cat. Somebody had to do it if the United States was not to go under. The United States’ contribution to liberal democracy and democratic capitalism cannot be overstated. Helmed by tyrants, China has plotted to overturn the world order. If Trump called the Chinese bluff, how does that make him a strongman or a narrow nationalist?

Donald Trump’s immigration policies are harder to defend and decent Americans are standing up to protect America’s immigrant heritage but his motives for entry restrictions are primarily related to American well-being and secondarily to security where race and religion are not independent markers. When a great number of Americans in heartland states have seen their lives collapse with jobs gone and the promise of America turning out to be a chimera, should the president act as though it is business as usual or take structural corrective measures? Time and again, Trump has supported quality and valuable immigration. Wasn’t unstoppable immigration from Europe the primary trigger for Brexit even though the economic consequences for the UK of separation from the Continent were not fully considered? The United States is also encountering difficulties from protectionist walls but erecting them is not so much Trump’s emphasis as tearing them down where they exist. China is the worst culprit but Donald Trump has targeted all blocs and states with unreasonable tariffs, intellectual property abuses, nativist economic policies and absent level-playing fields for industry. Trump has such a penchant for politicizing economics (which is any day preferable to waging war) that he threatened Mexico with new tariffs for the human smuggling to the United States from its Guatemala border. It hasn’t endeared him even to conservatives in the Republican Party and of course the Democrats loathe him but the immigration crisis bedevilled his predecessors too who kicked the can down the road. Donald Trump, however, does not believe in doing that.

But problematic as Trump still is in important ways, his most redeeming quality is that he is opposed to war. That he can resist hawks like John Bolton attests to Trump’s strengths of character and conviction. He has resisted hostilities with North Korea despite Kim Jong Un’s provocations. China is spoiling for a military confrontation with the United States but Donald Trump is presently content to pile up economic pressure on it. And while no one can predict the future, it looks highly likely that Donald Trump will corral Iran without bloodshed and without -- all importantly -- undermining its sovereign prestige.