Most PEP members were shocked and unnerved on the night of Nov. 8, when, despite the polls, the Republican nominee received 290 Electoral College votes and became President-Elect. What does it mean for the nation, and for our work? In the coming months, along with many others, we will monitor this situation closely.
At this stage there is no shortage of confusion. During the campaign, there were many mixed messages. Tea leaves can be read as the President-Elect begins to select his senior staff and department heads, yet understandably at this stage there is lot to be resolved. Consider:
Donald Trump argued he wanted to dramatically expand the military. Earlier this year he indicated he would build 75 more naval ships, 87 more fighter planes, add 13 more Battalions to the Marines, and 65,000 more troops for the Army. This would suggest lots of room for lobbyists to do their thing on behalf of defense industries. In fact, a number of lobbyists have already been given responsibility for defining policy in various sections of the government. Trump claimed he would eliminate the Sequester, and reinvest $500,000,000 in the military over the next 10 years.
Yet Trump was not kind to “lobbyists” or “military leaders” during the campaign. He emphasized his intent to “drain the swamp” in Washington, and he called for a full audit of the Pentagon, something that most PEP members would welcome. He declared our “generals to be a disaster” and our military to be a “shambles.”
He has stated that invading Iraq and Afghanistan were terrible mistakes. Does this mean that he would be hesitant to engage in additional wars around the world? Perhaps, but he has promised to bomb the (expletive) out of ISIS, not to mention keeping oil in Iraq and Syria. His admiration for Vladimir Putin is well known, the same Putin who invaded Crimea, muscled into eastern Ukraine, and has provoked Europe with aircraft flights and tough talk. Maybe he was kidding, but based on his language, any future Trump war will probably be accompanied by “enhanced interrogation.”
He suggested the U.S. was slow in updating its nuclear arsenal. That has hardly been evident, as President Obama has seemed to go along with Republican demands for a new generation of nuclear weapons. Clinton indicated she might not be at ease with this build up, especially a new generation of nuclear cruise missiles. Trump’s position has not been clear.
Trump flirted with using nukes in Europe or on ISIS. He stressed that it was important to be “unpredictable” as to the use of nuclear weapons. At one point, he seemed to be telling South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to go build them – forgetting about nuclear proliferation. Will he follow through with his pledge to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran, even though five other countries are party to it? Will he attack North Korea if they continue to develop nuclear bombs and the missiles able to carry them to the American Pacific coast? That could unleash one of the world’s largest army’s (1,200,000 troops) towards Seoul (35 miles south of the DMZ) and the rest of South Korea, not to mention its 25 million hungry and impoverished citizens.
Again, there are so many unknowns. In the Middle East, would he switch sides, joining Russia in defense of Bashar al-Assad and accelerating the killing of the remaining 250,000 residents still on the rebel side in Aleppo? In Europe, could he mitigate Russia by reversing the Obama/NATO policy of stockpiling military equipment, and rotating battalion size troops in Baltic and Eastern European countries? Or to really please Russia, he might change the current Obama policy to place Anti-Missile Batteries in Romania and Poland? In Asia, a trade war with China, and killing the Trans Pacific Partnership, might nudge more corporations to build in the United States. It would also likely drive up prices at Walmart and other retail outlets. To the extent that the new President may care less about human rights and civil liberties, the U.S might get along better with China and some other countries, but at the expense of the traditional moral high ground that many expect.