Conflicts, Part II+

Allahpundit at Hot Air notes a poll showing that most Americans think that Donald Trump's investments will affect his decisions as Presidents, but that a strong majority of Republicans think that's a good thing. Even independents are closely divided, 39/44 good/bad.

Maybe Republicans read the question differently, Allah says, but...
I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that GOPers really did understand this as a question about conflicts of interest and just shrugged it off because they’re willing to let Trump get away with self-enrichment as president. He slayed the Clinton dragon. Giving him a “bonus” by letting special interests shower cash on his properties in hopes of winning the federal government’s favor is really the least we can do to say thanks.
As someone who believes that Trump should definitely do the blind trust option, and get out of the business world entirely, I obviously recognize the downside of these conflicts of interest. Still, there's an upside of a sort that Allah is missing.

Remember the McDonald's Theory of International Relations? It's not quite defunct, although the pure form of the theory ("No two countries both having a McDonald's will ever go to war") is now disproven. But a weaker version of the theory -- and the theory itself was really just a shorthand for a bigger idea about the effect of economic ties on the probability of war -- remains widely held.

I think a close reading of the outbreak of the First World War shows that the theory isn't really solid even in its weaker form. The First World War occurred in spite of very close economic ties, because of a problem associated with the need to mobilize one's forces as early as possible in order to avoid being overrun by an earlier enemy mobilization. Thus, once it seemed likely a potential enemy would mobilize for war, everyone had to do so immediately to avoid being behind the curve, and thus losing everything on the first cast. We have a very similar problem today with regard to the deployment of nuclear forces. (Indeed, if Hillary Clinton is to be believed -- always a chancy proposition! -- a decision has to be made within four minutes. Zbigniew Brzezinski appeared to confirm that timeline, adding that the President's adviser has about three minutes to decide whether to inform the President -- so we're talking about ~10 minutes or less for this set of persons to make its series of decision.)

So I think the theory is wrong, and the same kinds of problems that caused WWI could easily cause a Russian-American war now. But let's ask the question another way: is it ridiculous to think that Trump's business ties in Russia make it less likely that we'll get to the four-minute problem? Or is it likely that his personal cupidity in pursuing Russian business interest lower the probability of a disastrous war? Won't they incline Trump to pursue enriching rather than destructive solutions?

Well, maybe not; so far he seems to be willing to play at brinkmanship with China, which is no wiser than brinkmanship with Russia if avoiding war is your primary goal. There are questions about his temperament (perhaps having a Twitter account will be a satisfying enough revenge for his pricklish pride; perhaps not).

Still, my guess is that Republicans who say his business conflicts are a good thing are thinking of something like the McDonald's Theory. As a statement of probabilities rather than certainties, it's not wholly ridiculous for them to think it. It's just that there's a lot more that the theory doesn't capture.


E Hines said...

[M]y guess is that Republicans who say his business conflicts are a good thing are thinking of something like the McDonald's Theory.
Or maybe folks are thinking of something more current and more accurate: what's good for the country is good for General Motors [Trump], and vice versa.
Allahpundit chose to ignore that possibility.
Eric Hines

Anonymous said...

A point I haven't seen raised is what to do with Trump's children who already work in the day to day operations. The business is their inheritance. To remove Mr. Trump, but leave the children running it isn't exactly a blind trust. To remove the children also seems an injustice to them.

-Stc Michael

Grim said...

Yeah, that's right. A man spends his whole life building something. At the apex of his life, he wins the Presidency. We are now telling him that he can't pass his business on to his children, but has to give it away to strangers -- who won't tell him anything about what they're doing with it. Perhaps there will be something left to hand on to his kids at the end, and perhaps not.

It's a very strange thing to ask. On the other hand, the Presidency is a unique position, one that leads to many strange arrangements.