The media are not vetting Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSanders aide: DNC chairwoman a 'thorn that's still stuck' Kaine: 'Crooked Hillary' nickname is 'ridiculous' Obama's half-brother voting for Trump MORE’s policy proposals, which would undermine the U.S. economy and exacerbate global chaos. Like cynical 20th century pundit H.L. Mencken, Trump appears to believe the “aim of politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins.” Trump’s policy proposals are incoherent and wrong-headed. He would pour fuel on a world afire.
Trump poses as the champion of a besieged working class. He portrays himself as its St. George, slaying the corrupt, albeit “stupid” elite and foreign bogeymen such as China, Japan, and Mexico who have rigged the game. To quote Mencken, he tells followers that “for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear and simple.” As Mencken stated, that answer is invariably “wrong,” solely serving to play on fear and insecurity.
Trump states he will make the U.S. an economic powerhouse again by imposing a minimum tariff of 20 percent and up to 45 percent for China. He says he will compel allies to defray costs for deploying US military forces to NATO, Japan, South Korea, and elsewhere. He pledges to expel 11 million undocumented immigrants and build a massive wall on the border with Mexico. Trump claims all this “will make America great again,” creating high-paying jobs.
Trump is correct that free trade is not necessarily fair, many U.S. allies do not pay their fair share, and illegals take low paying jobs. However, Trump’s policies would be disastrous. His tariffs are reminiscent of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act, which contributed to the Great Depression. Trump’s hostility to the U.S. alliance system could undermine U.S. security interests and access to markets. Building a wall and deporting all illegals would cost an estimated $400-600 billion. Expelling these illegals would cause social turmoil. Trump says he will emulate Eisenhower’s Operation Wet Back, but it failed. If Trump succeeded, he would wreak havoc with agribusiness, hotel and restaurant industries. Also, net illegal Mexican immigration currently is negative, contrary to Trump’s assertions.
Trump’s foreign policy views are incoherent and contradictory. He accuses Obama of lacking the resolve to contain Vladimir Putin, but appears weaker and more naïve than Obama in this regard. Trump expresses admiration for Putin, downplaying his human rights violations. The billionaire betrays ignorance of the U.S. nuclear triad, even as Russia modernizes nuclear forces. He says the U.S. has no role in the Ukraine nor in containing Putin in Eastern Europe, ignoring NATO’s inability to take concerted action without U.S. leadership. Trump also fails to appreciate the interconnectedness of Russian regional and global geopolitical strategy. Finally, Trump wants to ally the U.S. with Russia in Syria and outsource much of the fight against ISIS to Putin.
The evolution of Trump’s Middle Eastern and ISIS strategies is bewildering. First, he said the U.S. has no vital interests in Syria, preferring to let Damascus and ISIS fight it out, despite terrorist threats to Europe and the U.S. Subsequently, he recommended outsourcing anti-ISIS operations in Syria to Putin. He swallowed “hook, line, and sinker” Putin’s propaganda that Russian airstrikes target ISIS, whereas they mostly target anti-ISIS Free Syrian Army and Islamist forces. Finally, he stated we should ally ourselves with Putin in Syria, even though this would make us an ally of a Russia-Iran-Lebanese Hezbollah axis. Trump’s approach to Syria contradicts his vow to contain Iran.
Most recently, Trump vowed to stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un from targeting the U.S. with nuclear warheads. Instead of calling for Obama to bolster U.S. regional forces, Trump reiterated threats to remove U.S. troops from South Korea. Trump did not lay out a plan to upgrade anti-ballistic missile defenses or expand sanctions to foreign – including Chinese – companies trading with North Korea. Instead, Trump said he would force Beijing to reign in North Korea by cracking down on trade with China. The initial Chinese reaction to Trump likely would be a nationalistic backlash, lowering chances for cooperation.
Winston Churchill might have characterized Trump’s policy proposals as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” It is unclear to what extent Trump’s pronouncements reflect bluster and demagoguery, and to what extent, ignorance. Whatever the case, Trump is unsuited to be commander in chief.
Davis is a retired intelligence analyst, who worked with the Army Special Operations Command, Defense Intelligence Agency, and CIA.