Donald Trump speaks at his final campaign event at the Devos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The pollsters get it wrong.
The populist candidate wins after a polarizing campaign targeting migrants, and the markets plunge after a shock result. Sound familiar? Well, it is, and Donald Trump was right when he presciently called it “Brexit plus plus plus.”
Like Britain’s decision to pull out of the European Union, Trump’s surprise victory has already sent shock waves around the world, initially causing markets and the dollar to plummet.
Except that the United States is a much bigger fish with even greater global implications. Trump’s victory speech adopted a moderate presidential tone that was a far cry from the hate-filled rhetoric of his campaign. Markets calmed somewhat, but as with Brexit, the initial slide, followed by a recovery, will likely lead to long-term volatility.
On practically every front, Trump’s victory sparks fears of global instability.
On the economic front, he has suggested he would renegotiate trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement) covering the US, Canada and Mexico, which he blames for the decline of American manufacturing. He has vowed to introduce protectionist trade measures and impose tariffs on imports, and threatened to label China a currency manipulator.
But it is in the sphere of foreign policy where Trump is an unknown quantity, and he has said he will adopt an America-first policy, which raises the greatest concerns.
“This is virtual terra incognita,” said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East negotiator who served Democratic and Republican presidents. “The biggest danger of a Trump presidency is the unpredictability and sheer lack of stability that our allies and adversaries would feel.”
Trump’s warm overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his statements that he could abandon NATO’s mutual-defense guarantee have raised the specter that Putin could make a grab for the Baltic states, which have sizable ethnic Russian minorities.
In Asia, South Korea and Japan could both pursue independent nuclear capabilities against North Korea, following Trump’s campaign statements that he might let them do so and that they would have to pay for the presence of American troops.
In Europe, populist leaders already buoyant on the back of Brexit have been further energized. France’s farright National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, who will compete in next year’s presidential elections, welcomed the news. Le Pen strategist Florian Philippot tweeted: “Their world is collapsing.
Ours is being built.”
In the Middle East, Trump has been ambiguous about what he will do with regard to Syria, but has threatened to “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS” and said it would be good “if Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS.”
On Iran, he has said he would “rip up” the nuclear deal between Tehran and the world powers. Yet any attempt to change the conditions of the deal could lead Iran to push ahead with its nuclear program, pouring more fuel onto the Middle East fire.
His anti-Muslim rhetoric will certainly do no good for America’s standing, either.
Here in Israel, the Right and settlers are already celebrating. Within hours of the election result, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Trump’s victory is “an opportunity to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country.”
It is a short distance from there to the temptation to think that Israel could get away with taking unilateral steps such as annexing the West Bank or parts of it, which would render a negotiated solution dead and buried.
Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, as Trump has said he would do – and his advisers have been adamant that, unlike previous candidates who made a similar promise, he will – is another potentially destabilizing maneuver.
Domestically, too, America faces uncertainty – the US is now a house divided against itself.
While Trump came to power on the back of the anti-establishment sentiment of disenfranchised Americans, in his America, many minority groups will find themselves marginalized.
Trump spoke in his victory speech of the need to heal the divisions, but that is a far cry from the hate-filled campaign that took him to the White House. And once the demons are unleashed, they cannot so easily be put back in the bottle.
Welcome to the age of disorder.