Through the Looking Glass: The Black Swan Called Trump

No One Believed Peter Zeihan Until Now

In the 2014 book “The Accidental Superpower,” Zeihan predicted the withdrawal of the US from a wide range of longstanding international agreements, leading to a weakening of the present world order. With the US election of Donald Trump, suddenly such predictions do not seem nearly so outlandish.

Zeihan’s ideas take on a new significance, in the age of Donald Trump. If you have been reading and observing Peter Zeihan all this time, you are not nearly so likely to be surprised by many of the things that will completely flabbergast almost everyone else you know. Most people cannot imagine the US stepping back from most of the rest of the world. But whether it is something they wish or not, they are likely to see first-hand what it will be like.

There are a couple of things going on simultaneously. First, because of demographic aging on a global scale, the United States is emerging as the only market over the long-term. Second, the United States is backing away from the world. It is reducing the American footprint overseas while its ability to intervene increases. What we have done with Special Forces, what we are doing with drones, what we are doing with satellite tech—the ability to reach out is higher than it has been for decades. But our need to do that with troops on the ground or maintaining the day-to-day order of the international system is going away. __ Recent Forbes Interview with Peter Zeihan

Trump has already disavowed NATO, the UN, internationl trade agreements, climate agreements, and many other key bulwarks to the modern international order. Under President Trump, there are good reasons to believe that many of Zeihan’s predictions regarding American retrenchment-in-earnest will come about.

What was seen under President Obama is likely to be remembered as “a tentative or pretend retrenchment.” From the link:

Altogether, and in spite of rhetorical assertions to the contrary, the reality of American strategic retrenchment under President Obama – together with his persistent search for diplomatic accommodation with Iran, China, and Russia – have disconcerted numerous US allies in East Asia, the Middle East, and Central-Eastern Europe. The question on everyone’s mind is whether the US will actually support its allies in a crisis situation.

Trump has said that Germany needs to take over the defence of Europe, Japan should be allowed to defend itself, and South Korea should pay the US if it wants the sole superpower to continue to act as a shield against N. Korea and China. Most of all, under a Trump administration, the US seems more likely to let the chips fall where they may.

Countries like South Korea, Germany and other NATO partners, assuming that the US remains as part of the alliance, will have to pay the US for their protection. __ Disavowing Unilateral International Obligations

When the cat’s away, the mice will play!

US is “Leaving the Building”

In the ensuing vacuum bloody chaos is coming to most regions of the world. Age-long blood feuds are reasserting themselves — and neo-imperial wannabes are exploring possible expansions of their “spheres of influence” in preparation for larger struggles to come. Islamic terror is set to explode across the globe, particularly in the third world and in a badly weakened EU that has rolled over on its back, exposing its soft underbelly to anyone who looks the least bit threatening. And to the surprise of most observers, it seems more and more that the US is unlikely to do very much about any of it.

The Political Foundations of the US Itself are Shifting

The shaky coalitions that have patched together US governments on both sides of the aisle are falling apart. Trump’s neo-populist coalition poaches from both Democrat Party and Republican Party coalitions, and promises more of the same in the future. Nothing is set in stone. These turnings will be reflected in foreign policies of all kinds.

The political system is breaking down. The Republican coalition tends to win elections because it is made up of five independent coalitions—the business community, those concerned for national security, populists, evangelicals, and pro-lifers (those opposed to legalized abortion). They do not undermine each other. For example, the business folks do not really care what you do with your personal life, whereas the pro-lifers do not want to shut down the US Marine Corps.

With these groups, a platform that does not contradict itself is easy to contrive, and individuals all show up to vote. So, Republicans tend to win.

The Democratic coalition side is broader, but it is a much more fractious coalition, including African-Americans, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community, socialists, environmental advocates (or “greens”), pro-choicers (those in favor of preserving legal abortion), people under 30, union members, and unmarried women. African-Americans and the LGBT community tend to have different concepts of the meaning of civil rights. The greens and the unions disagree on almost everything, especially when it comes to industrial policy.

Then, in the middle, there are the groups that Republicans and Democrats try to swing to them—Hispanics and Catholics. Both groups tend to be economically liberal, and they tend to be socially conservative, but they are both very amorphous.

This system is how politics has worked in the United States since the 1930s. What is happening right now in the political system is that these “traditional” party coalitions are already broken beyond repair. The last time this happened to the United States was in the 1930s. There was the Great Depression, and the country moved into World War II. The United States had the most popular president in its history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It took the United States 15 years for the parties to settle into their new form, the form that we know today.

Even if the United States was convinced that its economic and physical security required international engagement, it is about to step out to lunch, and it is going to be a very, very long lunch. Just as the rest of the world needs the United States, it is leaving the building. __

Donald Trump appears in many cases to be appointing cabinet officials who will try to maintain the international US corporate status quo, while shaking up the domestic rats’ nests in media, government, and perhaps academia. But looks can be deceiving. If Trump does nothing more than push hard on the parasitic Chinese relationship with Europe and the US, and drops out of a catastrophic climate agreement, a lot of dominoes will begin to fall. And it is likely that after that, the process of maintaining the globalist order will be much of a lost cause.

If you don’t want to be caught with your pants down when the world you think you know suddenly starts unraveling, you may wish to read this book. The process has been underway for decades, but it is getting ready to accelerate.

US commitment to NATO was already rapidly waning — until the reconquista of Crimea and the less than stealth invasion of eastern Ukraine. Suddenly, new life was breathed into the near-corpse, and NATO began to strike a strong pose along the threatened Baltic region. But such a revival is likely to be only temporary, for many reasons.

The US has been in the process of abandoning military bases in Germany and western Europe for over 50 years. Confident that the US will always be around to protect it, Germany is turning some of the old bases into new age hippie communes. Very pretty. But can they fight?



Attention! This is Not a Drill!

Trump is taking a lot of the trends that already existed in American politics and kicked them up a notch. We are already going through this period of new isolationism and here comes a trade warrior who wants to renegotiate every trade deal on the books, specifically fingering Mexico and China, two of our three biggest trading partners.

__ Peter Zeihan Interview Forbes, 5 Dec. 2016

Donald Trump is exactly the kind of US president who will do the sort of things that Zeihan has been predicting for almost ten years now:

  1. Step back from costly asymmetrical trade deals with China — setting immense political and economic instabilities in motion inside of China
  2. Back away from a number of US overseas commitments of various types — military, economic, climate, etc.
  3. Drastically reduce the US role of “global policeman”
  4. The US will be a much tougher trade partner in general — “No more Mr. Nice Guy on trade”, or diplomacy of any kind for that matter
  5. The US together with Canada (and necessarily Mexico) will form a far more self-sufficient economic bloc than exists anywhere else in the world — at the expense of China
  6. Stop wasting money on apocalyptic climate hysteria and green energy scams

And much more besides…. One of Zeihan’s most interesting post-2016 election predictions, is that the “immigration wall” will more likely be built and patrolled along Mexico’s 500 mile southern borders, rather than along the 2,000 mile long border of the US with Mexico. Mexico is even more paranoid about illegal immigration within its borders, than the alt.right in the US. It might not work because of rampant corruption throughout the entire Mexican government, but it is an interesting idea.

Aleppo and Donbass May Well Become the New Norm

Russia and China in particular may feel emboldened by a genuine American retrenchment under President Trump. As Putin has shown, he is not afraid of breaking a large number of eggs in order to cook the particular neo-imperial omelette that he longs for. Unfortunately for Putin and the grand Russian empire, under Trump China is likely to feel pressured to assert itself more widely in its neighborhood in the quest for critical resources and breathing space. Siberia itself will suddenly be up for grabs. In fact, all of Asia from the Indian Ocean to the Arctic to the China Seas and Pacific will be at risk of lighting up — at particularly strategic hot spots — when the bear and the dragon get down to existential tacks.

Putin understands that Russia faces literal extinction, and when it comes it is far more likely to come at the hands of China — with an assist from the Turks, Iranians, and the much abused peoples of eastern and northern Europe.

A vast country of accelerating emptiness

This entry was posted in Coming Anarchy, Everything You Think You Know Just Ain't So, geopolitics, Idiocracy, Peter Zeihan, Siberia and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Through the Looking Glass: The Black Swan Called Trump

  1. Bob says:

    What about the “internal contradictions” of Zeihan’s retrenchment scenario? There is a massive and ongoing demographic shift in the US that is heightening tensions and polarization. Retrenchment will exacerbate these tensions. Demographic tensions tend to require an external focus and engagement to keep a lid on things.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Of course it is obvious that in the real world things rarely work out cleanly and neatly for everyone (or anyone) involved. But doomers will be doomers, and problem solvers will be problem solvers. And the world turns.

      Marinading in hopelessness atrophies the brain, while the successful solving of serial problems has the opposite effect.

      • Bob says:

        Right, but the demographic shift and its consequent tensions and polarization are things that Zeihan and other mainstream analysts don’t and can’t even address, let alone solve or propose solutions for, because it is not politically correct to do so. These things could be ignored if the US were more externally oriented and interventionist and had external conflicts to focus on that would paper over the internal conflicts, but retrenchment would bring them to the fore.

        • alfin2101 says:

          Demographic decline is indeed ubiquitous across the western world, although the immigration portion of this decline is within the power of governments to address via immigration policy change. Trump has promised to make changes in that area of policy.

          A black against everyone race war has been building for about a decade, but most people fear to mention it publicly. A leftist war against economic infrastructure is also building, usually hiding behind faux environmental concerns.

          Both of those problems are addressable via defunding, since the government has been funding both areas of insurgency through backdoor mechanisms since early 2009 — if not earlier. George Soros and a number of other usual suspect moneybags will continue to fund the insurgencies, of course.

          But far more important in the US are the deep problems within a lying media, an indoctrinating academia, coorrupted public bureaucracies at all levels, public worker pensions, and threats to constitutional rights of citizens against unreasonable government intrusion. These are significant problem.s

          Intelligent people tend to devise solutions to problems, while doomers tend to throw up their hands and wail loudly.

    • Matthew Musson says:

      But, the US will continue to prosper on the whole because of our arable land and navigable waterways. Not to mention our vast energy resources.

      Of course, it will not always be easy going. But, we will not go down the drain like many other countries.

  2. Echo says:

    Trump’s foreign policy towards Russia is something you did not factor in. I hear many birds chirping that Trump will aim for warmer relations with Russia in order to contain China.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Birds will indeed chirp about almost anything at all. But unless you have a special channel into Trump’s mind all prediction concerning Trump’s behaviour toward Russia as US President is sheer conjecture.

      Trump will not go to war with China to save Russia, and that is obvious enough so as not to need a brain-channel into POTUS elect’s mind. When the US steps away from large numbers of international unilateral obligations, the term “letting the chips fall where they may” could well apply.

      • djolds1 says:

        Zeihan’s entire thesis turns on the US stepping back from the international system it has created since 1945. If his scenario has a weak point, that is it.

        Good reasons to expect it tho:

        1) No reason to enforce peace in the Persian Gulf after the shale boom;

        2) The US really hasn’t obviously directly benefited from playing global policeman for the last 25 years. Expense w/o thanks, even contempt sometimes.

        3) The US party system has imploded on both sides of the aisle. The Dems looked much stronger than the GOP before the Trump win, but after Trump’s win they’re centrifugally disintegrating. Sorting that out is a 4-12 year period of American internal focus.

        4) Obama’s prequel retreat has already set the world ablaze. Why engage in a place as ugly as Eurasia, which is busy reviving thousand year old blood feuds? Leave the idiots to themselves.

        Once the jobs start obviously reshoring, Trump gets hailed for keeping his promises and the difficulty will be preventing him from being elected to Godhood. A very powerful position from which to control the party system realignment. There are cohorts of people who have been voting Dem for the last 80 years because of the myths built up around FDR and Hoover in a few short months back in the 1930s. The very same type of devotion could easily materialize around Trump, and last just as long.

        And when the US reengages globally 5-10 years down the line, the 10 USN CBGs are still there, but all competitors will be weakened by the interim.

  3. Matthew Musson says:

    Under Trump international trade will no longer be a means to political influence. Trade will be an end in itself.

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