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Jakarta Post

An open letter to President Trump

  • Dino Patti Djalal
    Dino Patti Djalal

    Former Indonesian ambassador to the US, founder of the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI)

Jakarta   /   Mon, January 23, 2017   /   12:48 pm
An open letter to President Trump A man reads a newspaper with the headline of "US President-elect Donald Trump delivers a mighty shock to America" at a news stand in Beijing, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP/Andy Wong, File)

As America’s 45th president, you will become the leader of the free world, manage the world’s largest economy, command the world’s most powerful military, control the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and be in charge of the world’s only superpower. We hope you will keep a sense of humility despite the enormous power and awesome responsibility of your new position.

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 US is the democratic election most consequential 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 — conflict and suffering in the Middle East and led to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) movement. 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 US will have a direct impact on international security and prosperity.

We want you to know, Mr. Trump, the world still needs — and expects — American leadership.

This is the right kind of leadership, because American power, know-how and resources are critical to humanity’s efforts to save our planet, eradicate poverty, resolve conflicts and manage globalization. American leadership in world affairs does not come automatically. It must be renewed and earned periodically. And it is not compatible with unilateralism.

We wish you the best as you try to “make America great again”, and lead America to “win, win, and win”. We understand that you were born and bred all your life to compete and to win at all costs. 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 has made America great all throughout her history 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.

As we come from a country with the world’s largest Muslim population and a country that embraces 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. Islam is also one of the fastest growing religions in the US. Know it in your heart that the quality of relations between the Islamic world and the Western world is one of the key determinants of 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 preserve the office of the US Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

We urge you to work for Palestine’s right to 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 a “two state solution” in which Palestine and Israel can live side-by-side in peace, dignity and security. In this vein, the idea of moving 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 any future peace process.

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 increasingly severe forest fires, floods, loss of species and extreme weather patterns that affect our economic and social security. The peoples of the Pacific islands are experiencing a rising sea level that they did not cause but will make some island nations physically disappear below the sea.

All future generations, including your grandchildren, will be forever indebted if you become a fierce climate warrior. Please, please, Mr. President, do all you can to stay with the US commitments to the Paris climate treaty and stay in the lead in this epic struggle for the survival or humanity and our earth.

We strongly believe that you should exercise prudence and restraint in managing US-China relations. We understand that some changes in US policy toward China are to be expected. As you ponder your next steps, we want you to know that China, like the US, is an important partner to nations in the region. Bad US-China relations is bad for business.

We want the US and China to work together with regional countries to build a stronger architecture for peace and cooperation. 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 world’s greatest naval and maritime power still has not signed the very convention that American and international (including Indonesian) negotiators worked hard for decades to craft, culminating in the historic signing of the UNCLOS in 1982.

With the 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 would be a huge milestone to the stability and predictability of a rulesbased 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.

 

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The author, a former Indonesian ambassador to the US, is founder of the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI). This letter was read out in an event at Erasmus Huis, South Jakarta on Jan. 19.

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