Khashoggi’s Killing and Implications for Multilateralism and Global Governance

From the start of Donald Trump’s presidency, it was clear that his intention was the implementation of his promise of “America First”. It was evident from his plans that fostering global governance agencies and institutions were not amongst his administration’s goals. The initial pointers include the following. His plans to decrease funds allocated for multilateral institutions dramatically, drafting executive orders signifying the probable withdrawal from numerous global treaties, and the decision of bombing an airstrip in Syria devoid of authorization from the Security Council or even seeking support from an alliance of states. President Trump elucidated his lack of interest in the institutions, agencies, and instruments which usually act as forums for global cooperation. Contrary to his predecessors who believed that multilateralism regulated hubris, President Trump in his actions and plans indicated that the US was diminishing the leadership role it has always played in the global law and institutions (Boon, n.d.). This paper discusses multilateralism and global governance as relates to the recent killing of journalist Khashoggi and subsequent remarks by Trump.

Jamal Khashoggi was a journalist who was captured and tortured by hit-men believed to have sent by Saudi’s crown prince. His disappearance sparked a vast media and a global outcry of individuals. Khashoggi was a harsh critic of Mohammed bin Salma, challenging the leadership of the monarch and the reforms in the sources of social changes proposed by the administration. Saudi administration denied the allegations that they were involved in the death of the journalist. Days later, Khashoggi was found dead and the Saudi administration denied involvement. Many countries, starting from Saudi’s neighbor condemned the act, and was joined by 3 other European countries; Finland, Denmark, and Germany who halted their arms sales to Saudi (Hayes, 2018). In the US, Republicans and the Democrats criticized the act and called for Trump’s criticism of Saudi. CIA’s immediate assessment concluded that Saudi crown prince MBS ordered the assassination. Trump, in his statement, reiterated his support for the Saudi administration. I think that suggests that the existing international legal system has been subjected to stress (CNN, 2018).

Trump’s policies covering multilateralism have constantly evolved and over his tenure, have manifested contradictions making it hard to predict what this current occurrence bear for multilateralism and global governance. I have tied and connected this to Trump’s numerous contradictions on his stances. Instances proving his contradictory stances include Trump’s UN address condemning ISIS as bloodthirsty killers and the praising and terming President Duterte’s death squads as to have done an “unbelievable job.” President Trump perceived Mohammed Bin Salma as a reformist and therefore aimed at engaging in a coalition with him to clean up what he saw was a threat in Iraq (Wolffe, 2018). I then posit that killing of Khashoggi presented Trump with a twist he never expected and his response affirmed his apparent lack of interest in global governance and little support for a free press and respect for human rights.

I suppose that President Trump had hoped to use his relationship with Saudi administration to make efforts that sought to ease diplomatic disagreements that the western countries for years had had with Saudi Arabia. The killing of Khashoggi then presented Trump with political conundrums. Back at home, accepting Saudi’s assertion that the killing was due to a rogue operation meant that the credulity with the populace would be strained. Trump’s choice would depend on the Turkish president’s handling of the crisis. Given the previous grievance Turkey had with the US over the failure of US to extradite Gülen; the cleric instigated in the failed coup on Turkish president and US’s support of fighters in Syria against Turkish forces. My analysis of Trump sending Mike Pompeo was with the realization that multilateralism was at stake and thus someone close to Trump had to meet with Saudi administration in a bid to save the royal family from international condemnation (Wintour, 2018).

President Trump’s decision to back the Saudi administration despite all facts pointing at them underscores my supposition of Trump’s worldview and reiterates his opinion in foreign policy and governance. As Ward (2018) contends, Trump’s administration has not focused much on a free press as well as human rights; by no means would the president have retaliated and reprimanded Saudi administration. The 3 major themes which are underscored in this regard are as follows; prioritization of economic deals which point at “America First,” support to allies, and disregard to international governance institutions (Ward, 2018). These 3 themes are the basis for the president’s foreign policies. In prioritization of American economic interest, Trump’s statement thus asserting that Saudi had agreed to inject US$450 billion into the US which had the potential of multiple jobs, economic advancement, and increase wealth confirms Trump’s priorities (Landler, 2018). I tend to believe that this sent a signal to the international community that Trump disregarded a free press and gave no importance to human life, and that dictators in the world could get away with assassination provided they gave America great amounts of money.

It is apparent that Trump’s statements sent a word to the European allies that he would support his allies immaterial of what they do. Saudi Arabia had promised to cede to Trump’s requests and the Kingdom feted Trump when he visited them (Tisdall, 2018). I tend to think that this pointed a formed alliance and Trump proved that such an alliance and friendship was not worth throwing. Further, Trump’s statements acknowledging that after the intelligence agencies assessment which showed that maybe Crown Prince was aware of Khashoggi’s killing casts doubt on Trump’s respect for multilateral and global cooperative institutions such as CIA and FBI. I believe that the logic behind Trump’s position might be the long history that the US has had in the past with Saudi including cooperation against terrorism and support they provided against Iran. I surmise then that Trump’s support for the Saudi administration could transform the relation of the two countries into partisan one given the interaction in oil, money, and geopolitics just as George Bush and Barack Obama did (CNN, 2018). However, my fears are that multilateralism may be destroyed as some of the Democrats may push for a bill to end US’s support for Saudi in the Yemen War.

Trump’s position in the matter clearly furthers his non-committal to international multilateralism that the US might have gained in its interest to work with Vladimir Putin after the Kremlin affair. I think that it is a manifestation of Trump’s idea that sought to disengage the US from the Security Council which disregarded the role that the Council had played in international law and cooperation. While over the past the US had propelled Security Council’s resolutions in fighting terrorism and regard for the law, Trump’s statement cast doubts on the credulity of US’s commitment to global governance and cooperation. It signals to the global community that the US does not oppose the violation of international laws (AlJazeera, 2018).

In conclusion, I contend that global stability and security is enhanced by a shared interest in upholding legal frameworks, respect for a free press, and human rights support and thus Trump’s assertion has painted a bad image of the US amongst its European allies and the global community at large. I believe that it showed disregard to values of multilateral bodies and agencies like the UN and security forces. Trump’s statements show his commitment to nationalist values which might damage United States position in the international order. My position is that this will distance the US from multilateral cooperation and global governance since it failed to join other countries in condemnation of the horrific killing of a human being.