A History of U.S. Foreign Affairs in Which Grandiose Ambitions Trump Realism


January 2, 2017

A History of U.S. Foreign Affairs in Which Grandiose Ambitions Trump Realism

The Ringgit screwed by Fed’s Decision to raise interest rates


December 16, 2016

The Ringgit screwed by Fed’s Decision to raise interest rates–Wake Up Finance Minister Najib Razak

by Bernama

The ringgit opened lower for the last trading day of the week, dampened by external sentiment, a dealer said.

At 9am, the ringgit was traded at 4.4660/4690 versus the US dollar from 4.4440/4480 at yesterday’s closing.

The strengthening of the US dollar due to the recent announcement by the Federal Reserve on interest rates has affected Asian currencies as well as emerging market currencies, and Malaysia is not excluded.

FXTM Research Analyst Lukman Otunuga said from a technical standpoint, the dollar is heavily bullish on the daily timeframe with yesterday’s hawkish surprise sending the US Dollar Index to fresh 14-year highs above 102.50.

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“The dollar’s strength could become a key theme in 2017 as the improving sentiment towards the US entices bullish investors to propel the greenback higher,” he said in a statement.

Against a basket of major currencies, the ringgit traded higher. Vis-a-vis the Singapore dollar, the ringgit rose to 3.0945/0983 from 3.1049/1096 and versus the yen, it improved to 3.7758/7796 from 3.7846/7894 yesterday.

Against the British pound, the local currency appreciated to 5.5320/5380 from 5.5873/5949, while against the euro it rose to 4.6518/6563 from 4.6851/6921.

– Bernama

 

Najib Razak: Own Up to Reality and Resign


December 8, 2016

Najib Razak: Own Up to Reality and Resign

by Stephen Ng@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT Now that the cat is finally let out of the bag, what else does Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak have to say about China’s involvement in bailing out 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) from the US$6.5 billion sought for by the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC)?

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Most Malaysians were already half-expecting this piece of news to emerge, despite the assurances that the government would not bail out 1MDB.

One can only cross one’s fingers to hear what cabinet ministers would say in another alleged big cover-up the way we have seen with the 1MDB scam and the RM2.6 billion donation into Najib’s private accounts?

At least Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani has come forward to claim that he knew nothing about the arrangement with China, as alleged by the United Kingdom’s Financial Times (FT), but is he doing anything about it? Johari was the one who promised that 1MDB would not be bailed out by the government.

If Johari did not know, and 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy is unable to articulate anything intelligent about the arrangement with China, who else would know about it? Arul was not with the contingent that visited China recently.

I also wonder if Paul Low would continue to blow the trumpet about integrity of the man himself, now that more truths have been told about the infamous Malaysian Official No 1 (MO1).

Malaysia’s international reserves are now at an eight-month low in November, and investors are fleeing the equity market.

If it is not a serious thing, why does Jho Low’s family now try to battle the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil suit in court? Why, instead of the family, doesn’t Low and Najib’s own stepson, Riza Aziz, pick up the case themselves to claim the money back?

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They should be bold enough to appear before the American court; after all, Najib is a golfing buddy of the president-elect, Donald Trump, and both Low and Riza should be safe.

I believe that even when Trump takes over, he will not interfere with the civil suit; and if he did, against the world’s expectations, he may face impeachment. The suit would have to proceed and the money recovered back on behalf of the Malaysian people. The DOJ can certainly not be wrong when it made a strong remark about the kleptocrats and within the context of the suit, pinpointed the role played by MO1.

Ask Rahman Dahlan who MO1 is.

Digging a bigger hole

Just like the loan from IPIC, which was used as a bailout deal, now the money from China is not going to come for free. In fact, it has already made Malaysia, and Najib for the matter, to become a beggar of sorts, going around looking for money to cover one loan after another.

This cannot keep going on the way it appears to be going without the greater consequences of Malaysia becoming another rogue nation.

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The Bank Negara Malaysia Governor and his Master

I want to know if Bank Negara, Finance Ministry or the cabinet are even aware of the arrangement that was made with China. More information has to be released to the public, since it will further impact the country’s economy and investors’ confidence.

The arrangement with China, which I believe to be yet another loan which has to be paid back, will surely attract a higher interest. If the allegations by FT are not true, Najib should take the news agency to task, but till today, Najib has shunned any idea of suing either Sarawak Report or the Wall Street Journal.

If we continue going on a merry-go-round to borrow money from one source to cover the loan from another, we will end up being an impoverished nation in no time. Eventually, we will have a much bigger hole to deal with.

By then, Najib may be gone, but the problem will continue to plague the nation. No amount of lies can cover up all the lies already told. Just look at the way how the lies have been concocted – and published in the Malaysian media, yet the truth eventually surfaces.

God is great! It is time for Najib to come forward to tell the whole story, now or never! Malaysians are not stupid people, although some of us may appear reticent or inhibited, but I think enough is enough. How long can Malaysians be lied to?

Straighten up

In Malaysia, we have the tendency to glorify illegal moneylenders and gangsters as ‘businessmen’, with some being given the Datukship or as Malaysiakini’s commentator, Mariam Mokhtar, put it, ‘Latukship’.

Although short of a Tan Sri title, Paul Phua may be an illegal gambling kingpin to the rest of the world, arrested and charged by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, but in Malaysia, he is being glorified by the Home Affairs Minister for his contribution towards national security which even the Police knew nothing about.

Recently, we saw how red-shirts leader and UMNO Sungai Besar division chief Jamal Md Yunos allegedly behaved like a gangster, yet he is allowed to go scot-free despite the numerous threats that he allegedly made against BERSIH chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah.

Another man on the police’s wanted list for murder cases in the past, Ong Teik Kwong, was shot dead by his own bodyguard; he, too, was a celebrity when his funeral was held recently.

Both are said to have received datukships, although their behavour and allegedly dubious backgrounds may have been raised in the media.

Instead of arresting the people who created ruckus at Zunar’s exhibition, I wonder why the political cartoonist was being arrested, when the exhibition was a peaceful one and held within an enclosed premises for people who want to view his artwork.

And while the Police are now looking for BERSIH activists, I wonder if they are also looking for the people behind the controversial solidarity gathering with the Rohingyas, especially when the speech by Najib has not only soured the relationship between Myanmar and Malaysia, but the criticism of a Nobel peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi is anything but diplomatic.

And certainly not befitting the head of a government. If he cared enough for the Rohingyas, he should be brave enough to confront Au San Suu Kyi herself instead of sending the chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces, General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin. After all, Aung San Suu Kyi is only a woman, but a woman of substance.

If we do not straighten up, things can only get worse and everyone will suffer as a result. Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said this in an interview recently with the international media: “He (Najib) is destroying this country… he is bringing in racism… very, very serious crime has been committed.”

My humble plea to Najib at this stage is, for the sake of the nation, he should resign, and allow someone else to take over. If he cannot trust his current deputy, he can always lift up his own cousin, Hishammuddin Hussein, as the next deputy prime minister.

Whatever it is, Malaysians are saying, “Enough is enough!” We want punishment to be meted out against those who were responsible for the 1MDB scandal.Who knows, with Hishammuddin, the people may return to Barisan Nasional?


STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.

 

Trump,Putin and Asia


December 5, 2016

Trump,Putin  and Asia

by Artyom Lukin@ Far Eastern Federal University

The US vote in favour of President-elect Donald Trump was a shock for Russian leaders, though a delightful one. According to public opinion surveys, Russia was the only country in the world that preferred Trump over Hillary Clinton. Post-election, the Kremlin argued that Trump and Putin’s views on major issues were very close and expressed cautious optimism that Russia–US relations could improve. In turn, Trump has repeatedly said that he would like ‘to get along with Russia’.

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Putin and Trump seem to have chemistry absent in the Russian leader’s relations with both current US President Barack Obama and with Hillary Clinton. Trump is a pragmatic deal-maker, not an ideologue. He is not going to call Russia out on democracy or human rights. If Clinton had won, confrontation with Russia would have continued, and may have even escalated considering that Clinton’s foreign policy entourage included many figures with strong anti-Russia and anti-Putin views. Trump does not have any preconceived notions about Russia. He is therefore more likely to succeed in making a fresh start with Moscow — or at least in avoiding dangerous clashes in places like Ukraine and Syria.

But most importantly, the  incoming Trump administration has a fairly good chance of getting along with Russia because of the president-elect’s foreign policy philosophy.

Trump is keen to scale back the United States’ international commitments in order to concentrate resources on domestic priorities. Putting the United States’ own house in order is much more important to him — and, it seems, to his supporters — than performing the role of global policeman.

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Trump’s views appear to be close to offshore balancing, a concept promoted by American realist thinkers such as Christopher Layne and Steven Walt. The offshore balancing grand strategy calls for eschewing costly onshore commitments and getting other states to do more for their own security.

Offshore balancing emphasises that the current US policy of maintaining global primacy is unsustainable because it can lead to imperial overstretch. Instead, it envisions a multipolar system in which the United States will still be the strongest player, although not a preponderant and overbearing one. Offshore balancing also stresses that the United States’ comparative strategic advantages rest in naval and air power. This is very much in line with Trump’s stated desire to build up the US naval forces.

If Trump follows at least some precepts of offshore balancing, this will relieve much of the current tensions in US–Russia relations. After all, a multi-polar world is exactly what Russia wants. Moscow may even agree to grant Washington the status of ‘first among equals’, provided Russia is given due respect as a great power. If Trump shifts military investments from the continental theatres of Europe and the Middle East toward the naval theatre of East Asia, this will only please Moscow. Historically, Russia has seen its main security concerns as lying to the west and south of its borders. The Asia Pacific is still of secondary importance.

If the Trump administration avoids lecturing Moscow on democracy (which is very likely) and strikes a grand bargain with the Kremlin on Ukraine and Syria (which is less likely but still possible), that would usher in a period of rapprochement in US–Russia relations.

But the most interesting question in all of this is: what impact will the Russian–US détente have on Russia’s ‘strategic partnership’ with China? Since 2012, ties between Moscow and Beijing have been expanding and deepening, especially in the political–military domain. Russo–Chinese alignment has mostly been driven by shared opposition to the United States, which they accuse of hegemonic pretensions and suspect of seeking to subvert their political regimes.

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Moscow’s estrangement from the West in the wake of the Ukraine crisis has made it increasingly dependent on Beijing — and deferent to Chinese interests in East Asia. But if Moscow normalises relations with Washington, it will be less interested in pursuing a far-reaching entente with China. This will remove the risk of the Asia-Pacific being divided into two camps: the Beijing–Moscow axis versus Washington and its allies. The Sino–Russian partnership will continue, but it will shed much of its current anti-US overtones, with the emphasis shifting to economics and trade. Moscow will feel less obligated to support China on contentious issues in East Asia, such as the South China Sea.

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Russia will also act as a more independent and proactive player on the Korean peninsula. It is an open secret that Moscow’s harsh protestations against the THAAD missile defence system in South Korea were caused not by immediate concerns about its impact on Russian security, but rather at the behest of Beijing. On the North Korea issue, Russia is interested in the resumption of the Six Party Talks, which may be possible if Trump decides to reopen a dialogue with Pyongyang. With relations between Beijing and Pyongyang marked by growing distrust, Russia is now the only neighbour with whom North Korea remains on more or less friendly terms, which could enable Moscow to play a mediating role.

The Trump victory will also affect Russia’s relations with Japan. The stark fact that US alliances can no longer be considered ‘ironclad’ has now been laid bare. Even though Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to be granted an audience with the president-elect, Japan is unlikely to regain full confidence in the alliance. This makes it imperative for Tokyo to look for more partners in order to hedge against a rising China. Russia is one obvious choice. After the Trump win, we may expect Prime Minister Abe to re-double his efforts to court Putin.

Artyom Lukin is Associate Professor at the School of Regional and International Studies, Far Eastern Federal University, Vladivostok.

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/12/02/53330/

Malaysia-China Relations: A New Turn? – Analysis


November 25, 2016

 

Malaysia-China Relations: A New Turn? – Analysis

Malaysia’s Najib Razak. Photo by Malaysian government, Wikipedia Commons.

Malaysia’s perceptible tilt towards China especially in economic relations reflects Malaysia’s foreign policy of hedging major power influence in the region and globally. While it seeks closer ties with China, it does not imply that Malaysia is shifting away from the US.

By Johan Saravanamuttu and David Han Guo Xiong*

Since Najib Razak assumed the premiership of Malaysia in 2009 China has featured significantly in his foreign policy. It was Najib’s father Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s second prime minister, who was the first leader in Southeast Asia to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic in 1974.

That said, Malaysia’s foreign policy has been one of hedging against major powers in the region and globally. While Malaysia has shown great awareness of China’s rise and importance in the Asia Pacific region, it remains highly cognisant of the political and economic role of the United States in the region.

Malaysia’s Perceptible Tilt Towards China

Thus, Malaysia is among the 12 countries that have signed the US-sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement in Auckland, New Zealand, on 5 February 2016. The TPP is interpreted by some observers to be a crucial pillar of US rebalancing in the Asia Pacific to check China’s rising political and economic influence.

However, it is uncertain whether the US would commit to the TPP after the Obama administration. Thus, seemingly as a hedge to the signing of the TPP, the Malaysian parliament approved on 20 October participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) — thought to be China’s brainchild — just prior to the Malaysian premier’s seventh state visit to China this week.

Recent developments in Malaysia demonstrate a perceptible tilt towards China, particularly in economic relations. When President Xi Jinping unveiled China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road or “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) strategy some three years ago, Malaysia welcomed the initiative and has remained very enthusiastic about it.

On 3 September 2016, the Malaysian Minister of Transport, Liow Tiong Lai (concurrently President of the political party Malaysian Chinese Association, MCA) extolled the virtues of OBOR in a Malaysia-China Business Dialogue event in Kuala Lumpur. Liow suggested that Malaysia could be “China’s gateway to ASEAN” and a crucial link to the 65 OBOR countries across Asia, Europe and Africa.

Impact of New Posture

This new Malaysian posture has come together with concrete developments in Malaysia-China relations. Malaysia is currently China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN with total trade of some US$100 billion expecting to reach $160 billion by 2017. China has also recently become the largest direct foreign investor in Malaysia, overtaking Singapore, Japan, Netherlands and the US, through buying assets in Malaysia’s troubled 1MDB.

These multi-billion assets bought from the Malaysian national fund include Edra Global Energy sold to China General Nuclear Power Corp for $2.3billion and a 60 percent stake in Bandar Malaysia, 1MDB’s flagship 197-hectare property site in Kuala Lumpur, at a price tag of $1.7 billion to China Railway Construction Corp. The China railway corporation is also thought to be in pole position to undertake the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed railway worth some $16.6 billion.

More interestingly, in keeping with its OBOR policy, China has been deeply involved in the rebuilding and refurbishing of sea ports in Malaysia. According to Transport Minister Liow, Malaysia’s has signed a “port alliance” with China linking six of Malaysia’s ports to 11 of China’s. Currently, China is helping Malaysia to rebuild and expand port services at Klang, Malacca and Carey Island in the Straits of Malacca and Kuantan on the South China Sea. Some 70 to 80 percent of the ships passing through the Straits of Malacca are said to originate from China.

Kuantan on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula would be of great importance to Chinese maritime trade as well. Liow said his ministry is therefore encouraging China to participate in port construction across 120 kilometers of the Malacca Straits. According to Liow, the port alliance with China would help develop shipping, logistics and other related industries to augment the $1 trillion worth of OBOR trade.

Ramifications for Malaysia

There are three ramifications of Malaysia’s embrace of OBOR. Firstly, OBOR, which is partly funded by the AIIB, would help China to further expand its prominence in Southeast Asia. It is expected that through the OBOR, Malaysia would be a key node for China to access the ASEAN market. China’s increased economic prominence through OBOR and the AIIB could improve China’s image among ASEAN countries as a major player in boosting the economies of Southeast Asia.

The strengthening of economic ties between ASEAN and China would obviate potential conflict, and enhance the benefit for ASEAN and China to work closely together economically.

Secondly, Malaysia’s perceptible tilt towards China in the OBOR venture could be a nudge to the US to maintain its current commitment to Southeast Asia. If the US, under its new President, reneges on its commitment to TPP, this would be a setback for Malaysia as the TPP has the potential to enhance Malaysia-US economic ties.

Thus, Malaysia’s favourable tilt towards China and OBOR could help to cushion some of the negative fallout of such a scenario. It could also be a signal to the next US President that America risks losing the support of its friends to China if the US does not continue its economic rebalancing role in Asia.

Thirdly, domestically, strengthening economic growth would be advantageous to Najib’s administration. Due to domestic political challenges having a strong economic performance would enhance the legitimacy of Najib’s government. The economic benefits of OBOR would play a vital role in buttressing Najib’s regime.

Najib’s recent visit to China  will improve bilateral ties significantly with OBOR featuring prominently in this development. This does not however imply that Malaysia is coming under China’s sway while shifting away from the US.

Drawing closer towards China economically is a pragmatic move by the Malaysian government to expand its economic space and boost economic growth. Provided the US continues its commitments to Southeast Asia Malaysia will also seek to build up ties with the US for regional peace and development.

*Johan Saravanamuttu, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, was previously professor of political science at Science University of Malaysia (USM). David Han is a Research Analyst with the Malaysia Programme at RSIS.

The Art of the Protest


November 22, 2016

The Art of the Protest

Poland has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. Recently, a government-backed bill sought to go further, punishing women who had abortions with up to five years in prison. Last month, Polish women responded with a one-day strike. On Oct. 3, tens of thousands of people, most of them women dressed in black, protested in major cities.

Poland is run by a nationalist, right-wing Roman Catholic party that controls Parliament, has taken over independent media, is disregarding rulings of the Constitutional Court and now proposes creating a militia outside the command of the armed forces.

It would not seem to be a government that would listen to such a protest. But three days later, its legislators voted down the abortion bill. Why? The government saw the size and speed of the mobilization, and its high concentration of young people, as a threat — one it worried could grow.

Yet they are not powerless. Seldom, in fact, has an out-of-power opposition been able to count on more resources — in broad support, political clout and moral authority.

But how these resources are used is what matters.If the purpose is to allow despondent or angry people to vent and show solidarity, then the anti-Trump protests going on in major cities already do that. But they will not reverse the election results, or alter what President-elect Trump seeks to do.

Protests can change policies, however — and often have. In other countries and throughout American history, ordinary citizens banding together have triumphed over governments, even when a single party holds sweeping control. Many of those protests used resources that the opposition to President-elect Trump enjoys today. They can learn from how those victories were won.

Plan, plan, plan. A half-century after the street struggles in Birmingham, no American movement has yet surpassed the strategic mastery of the civil rights movement. Civil rights leaders were fighting a war — nonviolently, but a war nevertheless — and they planned it as such. They mapped out protests to create escalating drama and pressure. They ran training schools for activists, teaching them how to ignore provocations to violence, among other lessons.

Provoke your opponent, if necessary. The turning point for civil rights came when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference allowed children to march in Birmingham (a decision criticized by many, including Malcolm X). Bull Connor, the city’s commissioner of public safety, ordered the police to turn attack dogs, night sticks and fire hoses on children marching peacefully — some of them 6 years old. The scenes made the nightly news and the front page of newspapers around the country.

The movement won by making a strong moral appeal to public opinion. It showed protesters making sacrifices for their cause. It lured opponents into violence that finally swayed the views of whites — a tactic similar to the playbook of Mahatma Gandhi in India, of forcing an oppressor to show his ugliest face. When that sight tips public opinion, government often listens.

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Protestors organized by ACT UP on the street in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. Credit Tim Clary/Associated Press

Think national, act local. Protests are most effective when they aim for an achievable goal in one location, knowing that the real battle is for national public opinion. Movements work on two distinct levels, Mark and Paul Engler wrote in their important analysis of nonviolent strategy, This Is an Uprising. On a local level, the civil rights movement often failed; for example, the concessions won by the Birmingham protesters were vague and modest. But it was Birmingham that finally gave momentum to the passage of federal civil rights legislation.

Use humor. In Serbia, the Otpor movement mobilized the country against the dictator Slobodan Milosevic by using pranks to cut through fear. Its daily fare consisted of street actions that painted Milosevic as absurd: When the tyrant dedicated a new bridge, Otpor built one out of Styrofoam and held its own ceremony.

Srdja Popovic, an Otpor leader, calls this “laughtivism.” (Here is a Fixes column about his strategies.) It does more than counter fear. Humor breaks down defenses, creating an openness that allows people to consider your argument. “If the joke is good, even the police get it,” said Ivan Marovic, another Otpor leader.

When appropriate, be confrontational. It is hard to imagine how marginalized people with AIDS were during the Reagan administration — and how hopeless their cause, both medically and politically.

No group more proudly claimed the title of “outsider” than Act Up, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, founded in March 1987 in New York. Many of its members were dying. They were despised and reviled.

The Englers call Act Up an example of the power of the extreme outsider strategy: change through confrontation. It was noisy and angry. It was the first group ever to close down the New York Stock Exchange. Members scattered the ashes of loved ones on the White House lawn. They held a “Stop the Church” demonstration in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Act Up’s polarizing language, actions and style put off even some influential gay men, who told the group it was hurting the cause. (The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had heard the same criticisms.) But even many who were repelled by Act Up’s approach still heard its message.

Although people condemn your tactics, they can still support your issue, the Englers wrote.

By pulling from one extreme, Act Up shifted broad public opinion. The group started a global AIDS activist movement. It played a major role in changing the rules to expedite new AIDS medicines — and then it helped to bring down their cost. It forced insurance companies to cover treatment. It procured a patient voice in treatment. It was a major force behind the Ryan White CARE Act, a federal program for uninsured and underinsured people with AIDS.

Pull out the pillars. Gene Sharp, an American academic who is the guru of strategic nonviolence, argues that every leader, no matter his power, relies on obedience. Without the consent of the governed, power disappears. The goal of a civic movement should be to withdraw consent. Pull out the pillars, and the whole structure falls.

Senior citizens and his police were two of Milosevic’s most important pillars. Otpor members worked on both whenever they were arrested (which was quite often). Grandparents got angry when high-school students were repeatedly arrested or accused of terrorism.

And every arrest presented a chance to talk to the police. At the barricades, Otpor led cheers for the police. Over time, the police got to know the students they kept arresting, and some came to admire the youths’ commitment to nonviolence. “Police officers would complain to us about their salaries,” said Slobodan Homen, an Otpor leader. He offered some advice for Milosevic: “If later you order these people to shoot us — well, don’t count on it.”

This strategy also works for policy change. Advocates for gay marriage won early victories among many churches, the American Bar Association and child development experts. This helped transform influential opponents of gay marriage into influential allies.

The most important pillar on policy matters is Congress: Presidents need to pass their bills. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush failed to pass signal legislative priorities, despite controlling Congress. This was not because of grass-roots activism, but because of lobbying and spending by powerful and wealthy groups.

Under Mr. Clinton, health care reform fell victim to, among other things, “Harry and Louise” ads featuring a fictional couple, financed by the health insurance industry.

Mr. Bush’s top priority in 2005, when he had just won re-election and control of Congress, was to allow people to invest their Social Security contributions in private accounts. It was the focus of his State of the Union speech and town meetings he attended around the country. Yet he could not get it through Congress. “The simplest explanation is that President Bush overestimated the amount of political capital he had banked,” wrote William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution. “After all, he had prevailed by the smallest popular vote margin of any president re-elected in the 20th century. And there was evidence that the campaign’s bitter, divisive tone had taken its toll. As President Bush’s second term began, he enjoyed the lowest approval rating — just 50 percent — of any just-re-elected president since modern polling began.”

Exploit galvanizing events. During the 1970s, the United States built nuclear power plants. Lots of them. The first major protests came from the Clamshell Alliance, formed in 1976 to oppose the construction of the Seabrook Station plant in New Hampshire.

The Clamshell Alliance failed to stop Seabrook’s construction, but it gave rise to a grass-roots antinuclear movement. Groups around the country staged protests and sit-ins that slowed the pace of new reactor construction.

Then on March 28, 1979, Reactor Number 2 at the Three Mile Island station lost coolant and suffered a partial meltdown. The nuclear reactor industry never recovered.

Three Mile Island came 13 years after another partial meltdown, at the Fermi 1 reactor outside Detroit. Haven’t heard of it? One reason is that at the time, there was no movement ready to respond.

Events that galvanize public attention occur frequently. Most lead to nothing. But a few become sparks for sweeping change. What makes the difference is the existence of a prepared movement.

Thankfully, a galvanizing event need not be a nuclear meltdown. It does need to be an attention-grabbing drama where one side holds the moral advantage. When activists don’t have one, they have sometimes created one: think Bull Connor’s dogs, or Gandhi’s Salt March.

President-elect Trump has no popular mandate (Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin larger than John F. Kennedy in 1960, Richard M. Nixon in 1968, or Al Gore in 2000). Even many who voted for him do not endorse some of what he advocates or represents. Many traditional pillars of Republican administrations are less than firm in their support, beginning with the wary Republicans in Congress — and some are starting out opposed, notably much of the foreign policy establishment. The president-elect, as Mrs. Clinton said, can be “provoked by a tweet.” He is impulsive. His campaign set a new standard for what Galston called a “bitter, divisive tone.” He and his advisers hold bigoted views that overwhelming majorities of the American people reject as immoral.

What terrifies many people about a President Trump, in other words, is also what makes, for civil resistance, a uniquely promising moment.