• Ryan James Carlson

Right or wrong

The Trump question is not about right or left. It's about right or wrong, and the future of the country and world as we know it depends on making the right choice. This is not about Democrats and Republicans – he is a unique threat to our country and the world.

I ask anyone who disagrees or thinks this is hyperbole to indulge me for a minute.

Much has been said about his coarseness and the foolishness of many of the policies he has presented, but although those are very important and have terrible implications, the most important point is what kind of person he is, the effects of how he acts, and how he responds to those effects. The chain reactions of what he sets in motion.

He may think that he can dial it back later, act "presidential" and all will be fine. But that, as usual, is looking at things only from his own perspective. In the world of international politics, he doesn't get to decide what happens with what he starts. He is not a maestro playing an instrument. He is a man at the top of a hill pushing a snowball. There are two main reasons why he is so dangerous: 1. He is creating, legitimizing and instrumentalizing hostility between different groups of people in the country and the world. This does not solve problems – it makes them worse and more difficult to resolve the longer it goes on. If it continues unchecked, it always leads to violence. All of human history proves this. 2. His instincts and temperament are towards hasty, emotional decisions without considering or caring about the consequences and, when things don't his way, he responds with escalation and vindictiveness. These are the worst possible characteristics for a person whose decisions carry greater weight for the future of humanity that anyone else's on earth. These "qualities" make it inevitable that he (and all the rest of us) will be involved in conflict scenarios (because he causes them even when they don't arise naturally) and that the pressure under which he is making decisions will continuously ratchet upwards as his instincts compel him to act in ways that outrage the other parties involved. The world is not a primary race – competitors don't drop out. They redouble their efforts to kick your ass later.

The human side

He treats people with disrespect and encourages other people to do so. The effects of this are already clear, but they can get much worse and will as long as he has a platform. It is now more acceptable than ever in recent times to assign people to groups based on their color, origin, religion or whatever and talk about them in ways that degrade or dehumanize them. Entire groups of people are described as obstacles to America's greatness or downright enemies without having done anything wrong as individuals or acting in concert as groups. (A good definition of "un-American" if America stands for anything at all.)

Even people who agree with his attacks cannot deny this fact: The things he says generate animosity towards the people he denigrates, and anger among the people who are his targets. That is not a conversation about policy, on which people can reasonably disagree – it is the creation of enmity between peoples. History is full of examples of where this leads. Hint: It's not "winning."

There are consequences to such behavior. When people are encouraged to hate and distrust each other, and incendiary comments of the type Trump expresses daily stoke those emotions further, conflicts are inevitable. This is no way to solve problems. It is a way to intensify existing problems and create new ones.

The decision-making side

This is where the implications of Trump spiral out of control. He is an impulsive decision-maker, and when his decisions cause outrage or retaliation, he digs in and attacks further. This may be a useful tactic for a real-estate developer, who can either win through rough tactics or, if they don't work, cut his losses and move on to the next deal. But it is a horrible set of instincts in a person who is dealing with situations in which the actors will all still be there tomorrow and any damage caused today will be a problem that needs to be reckoned with in the future.

You can't just flip the bird to China, or Russia, or any of the groups of people in this country he has attacked, and expect them to say "fair play, man, you won this one," shake your hand and go play somewhere else, full of respect for your firm resolve. At the very least, if you want firmness to translate into respect, it doesn't pay to outright insult and threaten people, which can easily compel them to respond to the indignity even if their interests might be best-served by walking away.

This is a recipe for chaos. Countries do not calculate their interests the way businesspeople do, and they do not react the way businesspeople do. If you back a businessperson into a corner, chances are they will evaluate what is going to be the least costly or most beneficial decision and go with that. It is also relatively easy to calculate what the other person's interests are and thus the risks of your strategy, because there is a limited number of factors that could be relevant and a limited number of potential outcomes.

Countries are different. There are infinitely more factors at play, they tend to take a longer-term view, and they are frequently prepared to sacrifice blood and resources both to pursue their aims and harm the interests of their enemies, even at a very high cost to themselves. They can form alliances that fundamentally change the situation. And they are adept at concealing their aims and capabilities. Assessing the risk of a course of action with a country makes hashing out business deals look like child's play. Because it is.

Donald Trump shows no signs of recognizing the difference. His foreign policy statements so far have unsettled allies and provided ammunition for enemies. He doesn't even seem to notice this. Anyone who understood and cared about these factors would first learn what he doesn't know and only then speak, responsibly, as a candidate, knowing that as the presumptive Republican nominee, his words carry weight even now.

Making things worse, he reacts to perceived slights and provocations of the sort that are daily occurrences in both domestic and international politics with extreme immaturity, responding in ways that provoke people to respond in kind, creating vicious circles that become more and more difficult to pull out of. (Remember: Countries don't give up and go away.) Escalation is inevitable with him. He even feels comfortable with it – feels like it's his game –, but again he overlooks the difference between his world and the world we live in. In the real world, you can't win in the end if everyone hates your guts. He can go off to some mansion come what may, but if his style of presidenting pisses off the rest of the universe, we're all going to pay.

The strength of the US is not just, or even mainly, the strength of our military – it is that the US represents something that people, however grudgingly, like and respect. Freedom as a way of life and not being, on the whole, a bunch of fuckers. Good luck with that one with Trump in the White House. (This might seem like a joke both to my US friends and my foreign ones, but it's not – people around the world might think ill of some parts of the US and many people in the US might not really give a damn either way, but a huge part of US power and our ability to be a mainly positive and stabilizing force in the world has to do with the fact that, in spite of any flaws, people kind of like some things about America and sure the hell don't want Russia or China wearing the pants instead. Trump obliterates a huge amount of that global capital instantaneously if he wins. Good-bye friends, hello everyone-wants-to-fuck-us.)

Most damning with regard to his decision-making ability – even worse than the loose-cannon mechanics of his decision-making process – is the fact that he lacks a huge amount of relevant knowledge about domestic and foreign political affairs and yet evidently doesn't care or doesn't even realize that that is the case. His statements about NATO, nuclear proliferation – basically our entire foreign policy going back to WW2 and the foundation of the world order – have clearly demonstrated that he falsely regards every situation as being analogous to his real-estate deals, simple calculations of revenues and expenses, in which whenever you don't immediately bend someone over a barrel you're losing.

This is quite simply stupid. We don't invest huge amounts of resources all around the world because our allies have outsmarted us – we do it because it serves the interests of the US and global security to be a global presence and tend to relationships that we need to preserve the freedom and order that our lives depend on. Declaring that you're going to overthrow the post-war world order because you think your allies aren't paying you enough to do something that is squarely in your own interest is a declaration of having no clue what you're doing.

In short: Donald Trump vastly overestimates himself, and not just in the sense that is obvious – an ego run wild. He overestimates his knowledge and understanding of things that are of huge significance to the future of the US and the world. If you screw up a real-estate deal, who cares – you lose your shirt, maybe. Declare bankruptcy again, screw your creditors and start over. If you screw up in your decisions on the world stage, the result could be World War III. You can trigger events over which you subsequently have no control.

The complexity, and unpredictability, of world affairs is precisely the reason that knowledgeable, responsible candidates measure their words and do not make grand promises that cannot be fulfilled even if they are more than intelligent enough to realize that adopting the Donald Trump model of campaigning would be an easy way to gain some cheap votes. (Take a look around at the current crop of candidates: Who are the ones who have said things that are unpopular with their natural electorates? In this year of anti-establishment fervor, it is precisely the "outsiders" who are telling people exactly what they want to hear – you can have everything you want and it won't cost a thing – while at least a couple "establishment" figures on both sides have defended policies that any conscious person could see were not going to gain them votes. It's worth thinking about.)

Don't do it

Donald Trump has a certain kind of intelligence in spades. He has a genius for self-promotion. He is a master manipulator. He knows what to say to achieve the outcomes he wants. That is a kind of intelligence that can make you rich, or perhaps even become president. But it is not the kind of intelligence that's good for actually being president. By the way, for anyone who thinks that our enemies fear Donald Trump: Don't kid yourselves. He's their wet dream. Pulling out of NATO? Vladimir Putin thanks you very much. Backing away from East Asia? China thanks you very much. Bashing all Muslims? ISIS thanks you very much. Turning our backs on the values that are the foundation of any credibility that we enjoy in the world? All rivals applaud in unison. Look around the world and see who wants Trump to become president. It's the worst company imaginable. It's a hodgepodge of racial supremacists, bloodthirsty nationalists and people who want the US to go down. There is not one single theater of international affairs in which it serves either the interests of the US or the world in general to abandon our alliances, demand tributes from our friends or carelessly punish everyone who Donald Trump thinks is giving us a raw deal. Sure, we can blow the world to smithereens if we want to, but if we want to live in peace and prosperity, we need the world as much as it needs us. Being hated is not the key to strong negotiating positions for a country, to put things in terms that Donald Trump understands. I beseech everyone who knows me not to vote for him. And I defy anyone who is thinking of voting for him to tell me these things aren't true. We will all regret it if he wins. Cheers, Ryan

#Trump #2016Election #NATO #Putin #China #Beseeching #Trumpnotsmart

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