Thursday, November 10, 2016

Global consequences of Trump

I've been thinking about likely global effects of Trump's election, gaming out scenarios in which Ukraine returns to Putin's unlovely embrace, and perhaps the Baltics as well, that the Philippines will kick out the US bases and cozy up to China. While it might be a 'good thing' in many ways for the US to retreat from its empire, it will also be very destabilizing, a bad thing in a world with so many nukes and mad men in control of them.  Fred Kaplan looks at the likely international ramifications of Trump's first months in office, and what he sees are as gloomy as my projections have been.
Allies will start looking elsewhere for protection and deals. The Baltics and Ukraine might have to scale back their Western-leaning ambitions and make an arrangement with Moscow. The other European countries are less likely to keep up sanctions against Russia, which their business leaders are already eager to drop. Asian allies may react more swiftly. Already, President Putin is planning a December trip to Japan to discuss settling territorial disputes left over from World War II. South Korea will likely turn to China for a security arrangement, especially if Seoul’s current scandal-ridden government falls. The rest of the region might follow Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s drift toward China, especially in the wake not only of Trump’s isolationist (or unilateralist) tendencies but also of the utter collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty—which, contrary to Trump’s rantings, would have strengthened America’s leverage in the region and reduced China’s.
Trump voters (and many other Americans) may regard all this as abstract stuff about faraway countries, but the clichés about global interdependence are true. Some trade agreements do have dislocating effects on certain sectors of the American economy, but many of them are, on balance, beneficial. Exports make up a huge share of gross domestic product; imports have a calming effect on inflation.
Hard as this may be to imagine, the Middle East is likelier to get messier still. American leadership—political, diplomatic, and military—hammered together the ramshackle coalition that’s currently pushing ISIS out of Mosul in Iraqvand Raqqa in Syria, and it will take even more persistent American leadership to maintain the peace afterward. Trump will not be eager, or remotely able, to make the effort.
As for the Iran nuclear deal, one of President Obama’s shining achievements, it’s unclear what Trump means when he says—and he’s said this over and over—that he’ll tear it up on Day 1. First, it’s a multinational accord, signed not just by the United States and Iran but also by the European Union nations, Russia, and China. If Trump pulls out, that doesn’t mean the deal is off. He might re-impose sanctions against Iran, but the other signatories are already doing business there and aren’t likely to go along. If U.S. banking sanctions require that they go along, then Iran may well respond by restarting its nuclear program. Either way, the hard-liners will be strengthened and the Western-leaning modernizers will be forced out. (For those who doubt that Iranian politics is beset with factions, please read Laura Secor’s Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran.) If that happens, will Trump bomb Iran—as some of his advisers (and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who wants to meet with the president-elect ASAP) have long wanted to do? If that happens, we are seriously screwed. When Robert Gates first became George W. Bush’s secretary of defense, he told some Israeli officers that they might do well the first few days after such an attack—but then the terrorists would launch strikes, the Straits of Hormuz would be cut off, every Muslim nation that had been warming up to Israel would have to back off, and then, a few years later, Iran would resume its nuclear program, this time with little foreign opposition.

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