Trump’s risky bets in the world arena

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There are two things concerning Donald Trump about which everyone, friends and foes, seem to agree. No one can be sure what he will tweet next. And he wants to stay in power.


Trump has made three risky geopolitical bets: He will get North Korea to denuclearize. He will be able to force Iran to renounce any attempt to have nuclear weapons. He will dismantle NAFTA to the benefit of the United States.


It is totally unlikely that he will achieve the first two at all. It is at best marginally possible that he will replace NAFTA with a more advantageous arrangement for the United States.


So then comes the second certainty. He wants to remain in power. If his bets all fail, what will he do to remain in power? Here there is no agreement, either among friends or foes. One group thinks he is pathologically mad and would pull down the world with him. The other group says that he would modify his priorities in order to remain in power.


So the risks turn out to be ours. Do we bet on his pathology or on his self-interest? If we choose the wrong one, we lose and lose in a big way. We cannot bet on both kinds of response from Trump. It is one or the other.


To resume: Trump will fail in his risky bets. He will respond in some way. But which? I tend to favor the self-interest prediction. But I’m frightened about being wrong.



Immanuel Wallerstein, Senior Research Scholar at Yale University, is the author of The Decline of American Power: The U.S. in a Chaotic World (New Press).


Copyright ©2018 Immanuel Wallerstein — used by permission of Agence Global.
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