President Trump: What Would It Mean For Global US Partners And Adversaries

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Donald Trump, The Voice Of The “Angry Class”:

It looks increasingly like Donald Trump, the brash, braggart real estate developer from New York, will be the Republican nominee for president.

Though it is months until the July nominating convention, which will make things official, Trump is notably ahead in the delegate count needed to win, and moves from primary to primary with additional momentum. Who is in second place? The answer seems to be “who cares?”

A significant amount of what Trump speaks of publicly is aimed squarely at an audience concerned with domestic American concerns, keeping with his broad theme of speaking for the “angry class.” His pronouncements about foreign policy are so far largely limited to issues that affect his case.

That said, there are some things clearly on President Trump’s agenda.

ISIS

He has spoken regularly about amping up the American war on Islamic State, albeit with few details on how and where that might occur. Like most candidates from both parties, Trump speaks of an “Arab Coalition” to fight ISIS, but again without details. His earlier statement about seizing Iraqi and/or ISIS-controlled oil seems impractical, given the vast job of doing anything with seized oil in the middle of someone else’s conflict zone.

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Image Source: Nworeport

Military

Trump has left no doubt he wants to spend even more of America’s money on its military, stating “I will make our military so big, powerful and strong that no one will mess with us.” Trump will find, like his predecessors, that spending money is fairly easy, but getting insurgents and other asymmetrical warriors to “stop messing with us” is much, much harder.

Further on the subject of money and the military, Trump has maintained for a very long time that “Americans are laughed at around the world for losing a hundred and fifty billion dollars year after year, for defending wealthy nations for nothing, nations that would be wiped off the face of the earth in about 15 minutes if it weren’t for us. Our ‘allies’ are making billions screwing us.”

Americans are laughed at around the world for losing a hundred and fifty billion dollars year after year….Our ‘allies’ are making billions screwing us.”- Donald Trump

Trump has latched on to the idea that America’s allies have somehow tricked us into maintaining the world’s largest military, with the world’s largest network of bases world-wide, so that they need not spend large sums on their own defense.

There are, as typical with Trump, slivers of truth in what he says; some of America’s outposts are indeed tied to mutual defense arrangements, such as NATO. But America’s global military exists largely to protect America’s global empire. Bases in Italy have little to do with that nation’s defense, same for Djibouti and Australia, to name a few examples.

Trump’s views are very much based on Cold War scary dreams. His military advisors will quickly divest him of any plans to shut down bases abroad, though some allies may be talked into paying up a bit just to take a smooth way out, as many do now each time the U.S. calls for a new “coalition” against some international boogeyman.

As with trade, Trump has never let go of his antagonism toward the Japanese. On the campaign trail, he promised to renegotiate the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. “If somebody attacks Japan,” he said, “we have to immediately go and start World War III, OK? If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us.” Someone will certainly brief President Trump that Japan recently signed a new bilateral security treaty with the U.S. that does commit them to helping us, and that Japan currently pays the U.S. billions of dollars a year for the military bases we maintain inside their country.

Trade

One issue Trump is quite specific on is his dislike for international trade agreements, which means America’s entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently supported by the Obama Administration, is dead in the water if he wins; his likely nemesis in the general election, Hillary Clinton, is also a recently converted opponent of the TPP. Further, to “even the playing field,” Trump has stated his willingness to impose tariffs on other nations in a strange back-to-the-future kind of 19th century protectionism.

But Trump saves his strongest anti-trade rhetoric for China (his bleating about Japan is nearly fact-free.) The candidate has said China’s “Great Wall of Protectionism uses unlawful tariff and nontariff barriers to keep American companies out of China and to tilt the playing field in their favor.”

Trump intends, and, if the Republicans hold Congress, will likely be able to, begin comprehensive negotiations with China across a range of economic and trade issues. Where those talks will end up, and how they will affect the global economy, is certainly uncertain, but given that markets value stability, the guess is “not good.”

Immigration

Immigration is another hot-button issue for Trump. He, and his base, see illegal immigration as a security threat to the U.S., and legal immigration as taking away American jobs.

It is possible Trump will push back the numbers of work visas in at least a symbolic gesture. However, confronted with pressure from the large, high tech American companies who rightly or wrongly depend on foreign programmers and engineers, how far Trump will actually be able to go is in doubt. There is also a lot of uninformed hot air out of the Trump camp — he claims, for example, that American companies will first have to try and find an American worker before hiring from abroad. That provision already exists for many working visas, including the controversial H-1 category.

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Image Source: Larry Marano

Some Same Old, Same Old

Apart from all that, Trump mouths a fairly standard American foreign policy line: hold back North Korea, be cautious around Iran, deal firmly with Putin, avoid new, long-term interventions in the Middle East, and support Israel. He does like to play with the wording, claiming his foreign policy will be less like a chess player and more like a dealmaker. Expect the rhetoric to expand around these go-to tropes of American foreign policy.

Trump the Domestic Bully?

Still, there remains the overarching question of will Trump the President resemble Trump the Candidate — bombastic, threatening, firing off-the-cuff? It is one thing to mock Cruz and Rubio like a schoolyard bully during a heated campaign, and another to speak that way to world leaders who control armies of their own, and whom the U.S. needs as allies.

I will offer in answer to this a somewhat reassuring “probably not.”

Trump throughout his decades in the public eye has always striven to appear larger than life, and with every step up in the polls, he seems to grow in bluster. Yet at the same time, Trump the Businessperson has proven generally shrewd and for the most part, successful. Though it is possible he is as big a jerk in private as he is in public, it seems unlikely.

President Trump will also find running the government is not like running his business empire. The government is full of civil servants who have been there for years before Trump and who intend to be there for years after Trump. His emphasis on short, sharp change, doable in business, will find a dead, hard stop with the bureaucracy.

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Image Source:Branco

Trump’s clever funding and strategic bankruptcies will hit a wall when he learns how complex and slow government funding is. Like most modern presidents, he’ll be able to push some things through, but will find opposition from his many opponents slowing every move down. The Democrats, and some moderates, have learned well from the Republican playbook to stymie Obama.

Trump Global Bully?

There will be massive uncertainty around America’s commitments, and a period of testing and probing, but bluster at world forums can be parried by foreign diplomats with years of experience talking down angry Americans.

Trump may indeed brag about changing the international world order, set in motion and maintained by the United States since 1945, but talk is cheap (especially on Planet Trump) and tossing aside American control of the international sea lanes (withdraw the navy!) and the world trade system (cancel all the treaties!), Trump will find, is not in America’s interests. His business partners will be the first to let him know.

Trump will certainly lash out in places, commanding the military to do things because the military is the one part of the government the president can command to do things with reasonable assurance they will happen. But that, perhaps sadly, represents more of the status quo of America than either the radical changes Trump proposes, or the deep fears of chaos some abroad may harbor.


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