New Delhi: What’s the world after 4 November going to look like? Rarely has an American president made such a forceful impression on the world without fighting a war as Donald Trump has. Given his background, it was inevitable that he would follow his commercial and financial instincts, and Trump has played by the book. If Trump had happened earlier to America, colloquially speaking, the period of American decline after the Cold War victory should have been curtailed. In the event, the decline has been reversed.

There are no parallels for Trump in twentieth and twenty-first century American presidencies. Moments of triumph have not been rare for the United States. It was the clearest victor of World War II and became a superpower of a kind not seen before. But its World War II victory was scarred by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which never obtained widespread US public approval, and the threat of the Soviet Union had sent enough alarm bells ringing to compel deployment of US capital to save war-ravaged Western Europe from the charms of Moscow’s Marxism. The Marshall Plan was actually conceived and marketed by the guru of containment, George F. Kennan, although his secretary of state had the acuity to understand its brilliance.

Kennan’s point was simple and logical. US capital had to show its human face to counter Soviet propaganda. The president, Harry Truman, understood too that the United States could not operate and prosper in a world of permanent hostilities. This is what made the United States different from Nazi Germany. The Marshall Plan also truly inaugurated what came to be known as the American century. Truman, to be sure, was compelled to intervene in Korea but shrank from the nuclear option against China suggested rather shrilly by General Douglas MacArthur and sacked him for gross insubordination. Under other presidents, the United States disastrously intervened in subsequent decades in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. All these interventions showcased the United States’ extraordinary advances in weapons technologies but the denial of outright victories also suggested the limits of geopolitical power. The defeats and stalemates eventually pushed the United States into decline. China, which had remarkably steered clear of significant hostilities after the seventies, doubtless guided by the genius of Deng Xiaoping, grew in the space provided by the United States’ reduced geopolitical power. Concentrating on geo-economic growth, it set about becoming the world’s second largest economy, with the long-term ambition to displace the United States from the number one spot. It was almost getting there when Donald Trump came and ruined the party.

Trump has no warriors in the field, so to speak, in his campaign to restore America’s world dominance. Instead, he has deployed the United States’ inherent powers. These include being the world’s largest and richest marketplace, the engine of world economic growth, the pre-eminent creator of high technology, the leader in sciences, the country with the highest concentration of capital, and perhaps the only place on earth where wealth creation is as naturally endowed as the four seasons. Donald Trump has recognized the United States natural strengths and launched them overseas in place of carrier task forces and divisions of marines.

The test of Trump’s campaign starts on 4 November. The Iran sanctions lock in in full scope and some countries and blocs are making a show of challenging them. They may not necessarily agree with the Iran regime but they loathe Trump’s United States more. Would they succeed in making the sanctions porous? Highly unlikely. While governments might like to defy the United States, commercial entities would not care to attract sanctions. They would simply be destroyed. The Iran of the ayatollahs and murderous revolutionary guards is not worth saving even for its oil. There is also the sneaking feeling that Iran may not be able to withstand the sanctions although it has done so in the past. The revolutionary fervour in Iran is dying. People change. Iranians have changed. They do not have the stomach to face more hardships particularly when the cause no longer appears just. Iranians have begun questioning the foreign revolutionary wars launched by the regime. It has not made Iran secure and it has squandered the gains to Shia power from the deposition of Saddam Hussein.

If the Iran sanctions succeed as they give every appearance of doing, Donald Trump would become more emboldened to pursue his America First project. Trump’s vision would now be tied to the personal ambition of winning a second term. Unless health fails him, Trump is unstoppable for re-election. As prosperity spreads, party lines will be broken and support for him will pour in from all over the United States. Corporate America is still over-invested abroad and breaks the even narrative of support for Trump now and then besides political activism. But once it is clear that the world, including China, has accepted the America First principle, American business will fall in line. In any event, when the world passes through turbulence, US capital flees to the safe shores of America. This is the macro picture. Micro-developments may vary in details but they would add up more or less to constitute such a scenario of Trump’s visionary success. How long would it last?

It would last as long as the world has surplus to offer to America. The test of this will come in the market, and as likely as not, US industry will be the first to know that the America First policy is no longer profitable and sustainable. Without a president like Trump to give the vision a missionary purpose and propulsion, US trade will return gradually to more normal prescriptions. Institutional learning is not greatly prevalent in US administrations, but the continuations provided by Congress would ensure that Trump’s America First legacy survives him. America’s trade victories will continue to remind the US establishment of America’s extraordinary strengths in times to come and it would enduringly change the way that America engages with the world.

To take a long view of the situation, the United States took a considered decision to leave its isolationism to enter World War I committed to mould the world in approximation of itself. The advance of liberal democracy was central to US vision. To a remarkable degree, the United States has succeeded. The democracy project can run ahead on its own. Having achieved something of what it set out to do in the early part of the last century, it has embarked on phase two of its engagement with the world. Donald Trump is the most unlikely ambassador for this. One thing is certain. You would see more of America than before, and it will come without abashment.