Monthly Archives: November 2016

Okay … Maybe I agree with Trump a little

Writing a blog entry that stands the test of time days before a presidential election is difficult.  Any assumptions about what should happen in the coming months and years might be upended by what actually does happen on Tuesday.

Like most analysts who try to put their feelings aside and focus on the available data, I’m fairly confident that Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.  Averting the “Trump apocalypse” would mostly be a positive thing, but, cutting through all the bombast, scandals, and lunacy of the past six months, there were several issues, especially where foreign policy is concerned, that I found myself in agreement with Trump more so than with Clinton.  Here are the issues that I would hope a Clinton administration would consider or reconsider were she elected – and would comfort myself as silver linings were Trump to win.

  • Our relationship with Russia. It’s certainly a change from the Cold War era that the Democratic candidate for president seems to view relations with Russia primarily through the lens of deterring an Evil Empire while the Republican candidate advocates co-existence. While I am no personal fan of Vladimir Putin and while Russian interference (whether it’s from the top or not – it is almost certainly Russians) in US electoral politics has been disturbing, the Russian perspective that the US has been cavalierly ignoring regional and global Russian interests and threatening Russian security is understandable.  Rather than attempting to understand and assuage these legitimate concerns, both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign have been doubling down on a hard line on Russia that has only made cooperation on the many issues where our interests converge that much harder.  While many Democrats have questioned whether a Trump presidency would raise the specter of a nuclear war versus the cool and seasoned diplomacy of a Clinton one, I wonder, based on the 7, 300 Russian nuclear warheads pointed in our general direction, whether this is really the case or whether the opposite is true. 
  • Our alliance partners are free riding. And they always have.  Anyone remember the old joke that it was Germany and Japan that won the Cold War as the US shelled out trillion of dollars to provide a security umbrella while they invested their dollars at home?

Today the situation is largely the same.  Only four countries, other than the US, out of 28 NATO members have met the agreed-upon NATO target of spending 2% of their GDP on their militaries.  While it is hard to argue that US military spending is much affected by our free riding allies (it probably isn’t) or that somehow we could muscle other countries into spending significantly more (we can’t), it does bring into question why the US should be committed to the security of countries that aren’t particularly committed to their own.  While it is important to emphasize our resolve in honoring our existing alliance obligations, rethinking the nature of those obligations is not as absurd as Trump’s opponents have suggested . . . which brings up the next point . . .

  • US relative power is declining . . . and Trump is willing to openly admit it. Make no mistake – the US is unquestionably still the most influential country in the world.  That will, however, not be the case forever, and policy-makers should already be thinking about ways in which the US can manage the rise of “the rest” in the decades to come.  This will involve inevitably involve the type of burden-sharing and re-assessment of relationships that Trump has mentioned at points during his often-incoherent ramblings on foreign policy.  As I said in a radio interview yesterday, “I agree with some of the underlying message, it’s just the messenger that’s the problem.”

While I feel that a Trump presidency would be a disaster on important issues like global climate change, the now-settled Iranian nuclear issue, and global trade relations (for a start), I at least appreciated some of his outside-of-the-box ideas that would have raised some valid concerns in a more traditional campaign year.

 

Postscript:  Just because a colleague asked me, here’s my prediction for Tuesday.  I’m a little more optimistic than other Clinton supporters, in part because I tend to have an affinity for Bayesian statistics and the data analytics that I think will prove decisive in several close states.

So:  Clinton 46%, 320 electoral votes   Trump 40%, 218 electoral votes