New Delhi: The rest of the world would be desperate to know if Donald Trump’s bold foreign policy moves are at risk should he be impeached or forced to step down in early 2019. The short answer is no. If anything, the targeting of Russia and China will increase, and US forces, already under orders to leave Syria, will likely quit Afghanistan as well. It will make India’s position stickier in northern South Asia but you can’t complain if you aren’t strategically up to speed.

The United States withdrawal from Syria will increase the military burden on regional and extra-regional players, including the Bashar al Assad regime, its protectors Russia and Iran, its opponents led by Saudi Arabia, and more neutral West European powers like Britain and France, which have committed to stay for now. Withdrawal was Trump’s campaign promise, and he cannot back out with elections looming. The jury is still out whether he can last till November 2020 with the payoffs and Russia scandals growing, but Trump will not go down without a fight.

Campaign promises aside, there are valid reasons for an American pullout from Syria. US presence is thin anyhow with two thousand troops. Even should the numbers be larger, it’s best to end a stalemate if national security is not irreparably compromised. Assad can no longer be removed. Indeed, his presence constitutes continuity in Syria, a mixed blessing but a blessing nonetheless. After all, leaving Syria to a localized solution was former president Barack Obama’s idea when he was reluctant to intervene. The United States had infinitely more stakes in Vietnam when it withdrew. Heavens did not fall or dominoes for that matter. The United States has enough resources to neutralize an Islamic State or Al-Qaeda resurrection anywhere in the world and not just Syria. A long war ultimately becomes subject to the law of diminishing returns.

This is most definitely the case with the seventeen-year war in Afghanistan. The outgoing US secretary of defence, Jim Mattis, had won a reprieve from Trump this year for a final attempt at some coherent strategy in Afghanistan. This writer bluntly said the US military had run out of ideas for Afghanistan. Much later, and only some days ago, an US military commander communicated to Congress during confirmation hearings that the Afghan war was stalemated. That was, if anything, Mattis’ failure. Someone had to come along and put a stop to the long war. It might well be Trump because he has threatened to do so before. If he doesn’t survive office, another president, his vice-presidential successor or an elected president, would be bound to pull out. Again, the military burden will transfer to regional states and foreign players like Russia, China, Pakistan, some Middle Eastern states, and peripherally India.

There remains the question of protecting the US homeland from 9/11-like terrorist attacks. While leaving, the United States is likely to secure bases for future counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including targeted assassinations through drones as now. The United States has no capacity to win the peace in Afghanistan. It can only hope that its absence would be powerfully felt by the remaining states leading to some kind of truce although it is farfetched. From the American viewpoint, however, Washington has done all it can to prevent Afghanistan’s irredeemable loss. Trump is not wrong to feel that the rest of the world should now pitch in. He is not withdrawing the United States to isolationism but merely stopping the bleeding. It would make America stronger to confront the Chinese and Russian challenges.

Few in America would fault Donald Trump’s foreign policy outlook if his person is no longer to be suffered in the White House. Indeed, it may even be argued that Donald Trump’s absence from the presidential scene would strengthen his legacy. The US establishment is likely to calculate that Russian bids to fill US-vacated spaces in Syria and Afghanistan before long would suck Moscow into the mires. Russia cannot have forgotten Soviet misadventures in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties. Nor would it escape Kremlin memory how easily the United States banished the Soviet Union from the Middle East in the eighties as well with all re-entry points barred till Syria. If Vladimir Putin is canny, he would not rush in where the United States has learnt not to tread.

Meanwhile, China has it coming. Presidents before Donald Trump were wary of taking on China. He has exploded the myth of China’s untouchability. China is reeling under Trump’s trade war. The Huawei scandal has brought the West together. There is increasing realization that China must be contained before it is too late. Japan is rearming. South Korea and the rest of East Asia will follow suit. A major power contest in the South China Sea and the East China Sea cannot be ruled out. Russia may be tardy in coming to China’s aid to lower its power status in a repetition of Joseph Stalin’s reluctance to rush to China’s side in the Korean War. The United States and its allies are more likely to confront China on the course cleared by Donald Trump when he is no longer around. Should Donald Trump’s presidency be short-lived, his presidential legacy ironically will place him ahead of some of his smarter and more charming predecessors, including the likeable Barack Obama.

As for India, it needs to do its strategic sums all over again. The world order has changed with and without Donald Trump.

Editor’s Note: 1. The Union home ministry’s sweeping order for computer snooping is typical of the Narendra Modi government’s authoritarian ways and must be resisted.

2. There is every reason to believe that the BJP’s rath yatra in West Bengal will lead to polarization and communal disturbances. That is indeed the intent. It is incumbent on the state government to keep peace and harmony. Riots are the last thing the country needs before the general election. Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh is already a sectarian tinderbox.