Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Donald Trump Doomsday scenario

Donald Trump is the next President of the United States of America. It's still sinking in. 

Of course we know very little about what a Trump presidency will bring, because the man plays fast and loose with the truth, and flip-flops on so many populist policies.

But foreign policy is a massive question mark, so let's have some fun by speculating about an end to civilisation as we know it.

I read an interesting blog today, about the connectivity of political and geopolitical developments in 2016, particularly Brexit in Europe, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and now Trump in the White House.

The piece stressed historical parallels for how individual shock events can rapidly snowball into global crises, citing the spiraling catastrophe of the First World War in Europe, which was at its peak exactly a century ago.

The prospect of an isolationist Trump government dividing Nato and weakening Europe, to the point where Vladimir Putin annexes the Baltic countries and parts of Eastern Europe, was explored in the blog.

Now, this being a  Strangelove blog, let’s broaden the Doomsday scenario to become a nightmarish global conflict. Just for a laugh.
Trump has been isolationist and soft on Russia, splitting Nato and allowing some of the US’s European allies to be attacked (Ukraine and the Baltics), weakened (Poland) and undermined (Germany, France, Italy) by Putin's Kremlin.

Despite the decline of IS, the Middle East remains a diplomatic mess, with its complicated nexus of proxy relationships between local actors supported and propped up by great powers.
Meanwhile, facing a faltering US economy, Trump has taken a tougher stance on China, including enacting high trade tariffs, nationalising and then auctioning off Chinese-owned US assets, and reneging on US government debts to China.
While the US has turned its back on Europe, the situation in the South China Sea is still escalating, and also in the East China Sea with nationalist Japan, which with Trump’s encouragement, develops a nuclear programme.
For its part, China, cultivates strengthened strategic, political and military ties with Russia, Indonesia and the Philippines, while cutting off diplomatic relations with Tokyo and ramping up rhetoric with the Trump White House.

China’s economy faces a debt crisis at home, an ageing population demographic, government corruption scandals, middle class unrest with Beijing’s single party regime, a new rebellion among its Xinjiang Province’s Muslim Uighur population, and an emboldened secessionist movement in Hong Kong.
China’s “Nine Dashed Line” of the disputed islands with Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia, which have drawn closer to the US, along with its long-cherished designs on Taiwan, and perceived US isolationism, lead the Chinese to simultaneously strike southwards and eastwards.

The Philippines and Indonesia grant their support. Southeast Asia mobilises for war, and then Australia and New Zealand, fearing authoritarian Indonesia to their north.
China formally annexes the islands of the East and South China Seas disputed with Vietnam, Malaysia and Japan. It also launches amphibious invasions of Taiwan and of the Malay Peninsula, including Singapore, to control the Strait of Malacca.

A wave of air and missile attacks rain down on the militaries of its Southeast Asian opponents, while also crippling Japan’s fleet as it steams to contest the Senkaku Islands.
China's occupation of the Malacca Strait brings India into the conflict. Border skirmishes break out along their land border, with China generally coming out on top.

In the Indian Ocean, India's fleet counters the Chinese for control of the strategic Malacca Strait, creating casualties on both sides, but without a clear outcome.

India’s military response to Chinese expansion triggers Beijing in turn to pressure Pakistan, Iran and several African recipients of “One Belt One Road” economic partnerships to declare their support for China.
In the East China Sea, the destruction of much of Japan’s fleet by Chinese air and missile strikes puts domestic pressure on Trump to intervene before China wins. Japan's nascent nuclear programme has failed as a deterrent, with Tokyo unable to act without backing from its US ally.

Sensing China is emerging victorious, opportunistic North Korea, always unpredictable, seizes the opportunity to strikes, moving to settle an old score by attacking Seoul, sparking a new war on the Korean Peninsula. 

China reluctantly supports the North's attack against US-backed South Korea, once the North's antiquated forces run into trouble, after some initial gains. Chinese aircraft and naval units meet American counterparts in direct conflict for the first time, with both sides taking casualties.

The US and China are unofficially at war, whether Trump likes it or not. The US, awakened from isolation, (much like in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and Japan’s 1941-2 occupation of Southeast Asia) moves to prop up its faltering European allies.
France and Germany have been politically undermined into inertia, while the UK remains a lonely hawk in Europe, but too weak to face Russia militarily.

Trump decides to belatedly roll back expansionist China in the Pacific. The two sides are now formally at war.
We would now have a global conflict. As conventional warfare casualties grow, the only questions would be at which point and how nuclear weapons would be deployed.

For further reading, try recent novel Ghost Fleet, which examined a similar scenario in the Pacific, or this recent war game tried by the good people at Foreign Affairs.
Strange things are happening in the world today.  All of this might seem a little far-fetched, but look at 2016 so far. Would you have believed the world could be like this, just ten years ago?

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