With Trump's inauguration tomorrow, I thought this thinking might be useful.
I was on a panel at the always insightful Suits and Spooks conference in Washington DC last week (it's an eclectic mix of IC pros and cybersecurity execs from around the world). It was lots of fun. The topic of discussion on my panel was the title of this post: will the world be safer or more dangerous under a Trump presidency?
One of my answers was a simple, synthetic (as opposed to analytic) framework for understanding Trump's foreign policy:
- Since WW2, US foreign policy has been completely dominated by national security policy. In fact, it's hard to imagine a US policy that doesn't view the world through a militaristic, cold war lens. This means that ALL other aspects of foreign policy are conducted in support of (slaved to) national security policy. In particular, US trade policy is configured to promote the economic growth of allied nations (originally to fight the cold war) even if this trade relationships damages US economic performance.
- Trump inverts that policy relationship. In Trump's post cold war world, US foreign policy will be dominated by trade policy. Even national security policy will be subservient to trade policy. If trade policy is dominant, we'll see China, Mexico and the EU (Germany) become competitors. Russia, in contrast will become an ally since it doesn't pose a trade threat.
- National security under this regime will be used to reinforce and grow positive trade relationships. For example, military tension with China creates the opportunity for sanctions that simulate the function of tariffs (allowing the US to circumvent trade organizations and domestic resistance to tariffs). In a national security policy slaved to trade, any and all security guarantees extended to other nations will require a positive trade arrangement with the US. The US simply won't protect or extent security guarantees to any nation that has a non-beneficial economic relationship with the US (i.e. runs a trade deficit).
This may or may not be useful to you.
I find it useful since it has proven to be fairly good at predicting where Trump and his bros are careening towards next.
PS: Synthesis works better than analysis in complex, rapidly changing environments like this.
PPS: This trade centric approach suggests growth in naval spending.