‘A room too crowded for an elephant’

Entering a new election term poses both challenges and opportunities for the incoming U.S. administration

Salman Al-Ansari

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“There is an elephant in the room” is the expression often used to call out an obvious truth that no one wants to openly acknowledge. However, when put in the context of today’s American political room, we do not see an elephant but instead, three different inhabitants- a dragon, a bear and an intrusion of cockroaches.

The dragon represents the US debt that currently amounts to over $19 trillion. More specifically, it symbolizes the Chinese lenders who spent the last few months selling their American debt and calling in loans from the biggest financial institutions in the US. Since China is a major US creditor, continuously decreasing its debt (now standing at about $1.2 trillion dollars or 6.5% of the national debt) leaves the US government in a vulnerable position, with much of their accounts dedicated to Medicare and Social Security.

The bear represents a mighty Russia. Indeed, the superpower turned inwards following the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union, but it has emerged once again with a new expansionist agenda. It has successfully established its presence in the Ukraine and wasted no time establishing a military presence in Syria. While most remain quiet on these actions, it continues to advance, with its latest announcement to establish an airbase in Belarus. This is another strategic move taken by Russia that demands careful consideration.

Lastly, the cockroaches, which represent terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iranian backed militias, and the terrorist organization that has thrived and continues to spread its influence around the world: ISIS. Through its media campaigns, global network, effective recruiting tactics, and financial independence, ISIS has proven to have no borders. It is no longer only a threat to the Middle Eastern region but also threatens the national security of the United States and the world.

Entering a new election term poses both challenges and opportunities for the incoming US administration

Salman Al-Ansari

Trusted and tested allies

What do these three challenges share in common? No matter the party or side of the next administration, they all pose a heavy and growing burden on the United States that calls for effective leadership and collective action. In fact, in recent years, America’s long-term role in the world has been put into question by their lack of willingness to show more support towards their allies. I even asked Senator John McCain at an event hosted by the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings discussing the National Defense Authorization Act on October 20, 2015 about his views on the United States' role in regional security, who himself acknowledged the importance of our time and the lack of American leadership. “The world has not seen more crises than we are in today since the end of World War II…I see an absence in American leadership. I see some of the countries in the region hedging their bets and accommodating”.

Entering a new election term poses both challenges and opportunities for the incoming US administration. The challenges are exemplified by the need to strengthen their relationships with the newly-formed, anti-extremist Muslim coalition of 34 countries, while the opportunities are presented by the chance to build resilient economic and financial ties with these nations that will drive the global economy towards growth, stability and even prosperity. It also needs to maintain and strengthen its relations with Japan, giving the US government a better chance at improving their debt situation with China.

In very simple terms, what the US needs is to take a strong stance and set a clear strategy that restores commitment to working with its most trusted and tested allies, such as the GCC and Japan. By doing so, it will realize that restoring trust with these allies is the only viable solution to containing the three inhabitants of the American political room, because failing to do so will not only drive them further from the US, but closer to a dragon, a bear, and even closer to a threat of cockroaches.

Salman Al-Ansari is the founder and president of the Washington DC-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC). He is a Saudi writer and political commentator. He is specialized in Strategic and political communication and a frequent guest at Al Arabiya TV channel and other international media platforms, such as CNN and CNNArabic. He has been quoted numerous times in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The Financial Times, and the New York Times. Besides his native Arabic language, he’s fluent in both English and Spanish with a U.S. degree in Communication from Saint Louis University. He's active on social media with over 40K followers in twitter and has been regarded as one of the most influential media personalities in Saudi Arabia by the Saudi observatory organization "Elmam." He tweets @Salansar1.

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