The formerly respected Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has declared a Donald Trump presidency a “Global Risk.” They have assigned it a place on their list higher than a war with China in the South China Sea and only a little more serious than the breakup of the EuroZone.
This is what they have to say:
The businessman and political novice, Donald Trump, has built a strong lead in the Republican party primary, and looks the firm favourite to be the party’s candidate in the US presidential election in November.
Thus far Mr Trump has given very few details of his policies – and these tend to be prone to constant revision – but a few themes have become apparent. First, he has been exceptionally hostile towards free trade, including notably NAFTA, and has repeatedly labelled China as a “currency manipulator”. He has also taken an exceptionally right-wing stance on the Middle East and jihadi terrorism, including, among other things, advocating the killing of families of terrorists and launching a land incursion into Syria to wipe out IS (and acquire its oil). In the event of a Trump victory, his hostile attitude to free trade, and alienation of Mexico and China in particular, could escalate rapidly into a trade war – and at the least scupper the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the US and 11 other American and Asian states signed in February 2016. His militaristic tendencies towards the Middle East (and ban on all Muslim travel to the US) would be a potent recruitment tool for jihadi groups, increasing their threat both within the region and beyond.
Although we do not expect Mr Trump to defeat his most likely Democratic contender, Hillary Clinton, there are risks to this forecast, especially in the event of a terrorist attack on US soil or a sudden economic downturn. It is worth noting that the innate hostility within the Republican hierarchy towards Mr Trump, combined with the inevitable virulent Democratic opposition, will see many of his more radical policies blocked in Congress – albeit such internal bickering will also undermine the coherence of domestic and foreign policymaking.
This analysis is actually bull**** on stilts. I can understand how the EIU could be mistaken, having lived through the past eight years, into thinking that a president can do whatever he wants to do. But he can’t. For instance, a president’s hostility to NAFTA, etc., doesn’t mean a whole lot as trade deals are approved by Congress. A president can’t really start a “trade war” because the imposition of tariffs is a legislative function. Likewise military operations can only proceed to the extent that Congress funds them. Inarguably, the largest aid to jihadi recruiting is not overreaction to them, it is flaccid acceptance of Islamism in Europe that gives the completely understandable appearance of the jihadis actually winning.
A Trump presidency will be a global risk but for none of the reasons the EIU lays out. A Trump presidency will see a flocking of C and D list talent to the executive branch that will make the current crop of goobers and yahoos employed by Obama look like Nobel Laureates. He will be stymied by Congress as neither party will have any interest in working with him. Worse than that, Trump actually has no interest in the presidency, he just wants to be president. The result will be four more years of the accelerating national decline, militarily, politically, economically, and socially, that was put into motion by Obama.