Some of us are still trying to get one last post in before the end of the semester. As it is finals week, there is not an assigned focus for these posts. Since it is my last post on the National Security Policy blog, and my last post on a Patterson school-related blog post, I decided to take it in a retrospective direction.
Many topics that were discussed on this blog earlier in the year are going to become much more interesting next fall. Some of my colleagues just starting their Patterson journey will be here to write on them, but I wanted to highlight a few that I think the next administration will change in a drastic way. One of our first topics was inaugurational addresses from presidents past, and in particular those of President Washington and President Eisenhower. The similarities in both were a fear of domestic politics being influenced by outside actors, the importance of a strong economy, and the prevention of another state having hegemony in the Western hemisphere. President Trump’s first address to the people will only share one of these themes, a stronger economy. After all, he has been very dismissive recently when asked about the electoral influence that outside actors had, and whether or not any of that should be concerning. He also has it clear that America is no longer to be considered the leader in every issue worldwide, and wants to retrench and disengage from any issues that he considers not in the national interest. We talked about that term a lot, national interest, and what it means. It is a very subjective term, one that is open to a lot of interpretation after a new administration hits office. For the past two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the decision on where that direction led was been made for them. President Bush’s terms were defined a mere 6 months into his time in office by the 9/11 attacks. President Obama was given a little bit more forewarning during the election, as the financial crisis began making an impact and the economy headed into recession, but the fact that he was not able to make that choice remains the same. President Trump will be going in to office in a climate that has been dictated to the world by his own rhetoric. A strained relationship with China, while not his responsibility alone, will be on the agenda early. The multiple trade deals that were negotiated under his Democratic predecessors will be open to dismantlement or renegotiation. Geopolitical friction with Russia will be a continuing theme, whether he appeases Russian President Vladimir Putin by lifting focused sanctions on the Russian elite or not. There is certainly a credible forecast for continuing friction, as the diversionary Russian rhetoric on the “imperialistic” US gives way to the image of their favored candidate in the Oval Office. There will have to be a new geopolitical crisis in order to distract the Russian public from poor economic growth. At some point, this crisis will affect enough US interests for the President to be forced to step in. While this would be troubling for any leader, the statements that President-Elect Trump has made on the usage of nuclear weapons puts the world closer to cataclysmic conflict than any time since the end of the Cold War. While the logical leap should not be Trump=Armageddon, due to the bureaucratic nature of foreign policy decision making and action taking, there will be changes in this administration. I wish everyone writing for this blog in the future the best of luck as they decipher it.