That there is a Presidential election coming up on the other side of the pond has hardly been avoided by anyone even here in Europe. Since I have American ancestry it is with a good deal of interest that I follow the run up to the election this fall. As a Swede it is also interesting to analyze the election from a Swedish perspective. The paradigm here is in most cases that Hillary = good, Trump = bad. And sure, Donald Trump sometimes behaves like a buffoon, makes racist comments and his statements about NATO´s 5th paragraph regarding the Baltic states vs. a potential Russian aggression certainly seem less than statesmanlike. There is no doubt about that. Personally I would much rather have seen Rand Paul as the Republican candidate. Unfortunately he disappeared early on in the campaign.
However now the American voters are stuck with two evils, the choice could be compared to that of one between plague or cholera. When I make that statement here in Sweden people often look upon me with raised eyebrows. “-What did you say?”
The rhetorics used by Trump is often condescending about for instance Mexicans and he argues that there is a need to build a wall along the border. That really is enough to rule him out as a candidate in Sweden. What many Swedes don´t know however is that Hillary Clinton has made just the same kind of statements regarding the need for a wall along the border, although I doubt that she is inclined to stand by them today? Instead I would argue that Hillary is a turncoat who´s popularity over here stems from the fact that she is a Democrat and a woman and the that her opponent is a Republican and a billionaire who sometimes makes very stupid statements, not her political agenda per se.
Since I´m not an American citizen and thus not eligible to vote I will leave out domestic American politics in my analysis and instead focus upon the international repercussions if Hillary Clinton wins the Presidential elections.
Some here argue that Donald Trump, with Russian assistance, would try to wage war against China. I find this scenario totally without relevance. Why? Well, the are many aspects that speaks against this. To start with the relations between Russia and China has been steadily improving since 90´s, for instance due to the highly one sided foreign policies of the former Bush administration in the Middle East and the Balkans and very much so over the souring relations lately in the Ukraine between the EU, NATO and the US and Russia´s interests on the other side. Then we also have the intricate relations in the South China Sea where Russia supports China, there will be joint Russian-Chinese naval maneuvers there soon. Russia still have good relations with Vietnam though, who´s relations with China has been strained for decades. Russian arms industry has during the latest decade supplied Vietnam with highly capable military hardware, for instance modern SU-30 fighters, BAL coastal defense missiles and corvettes.
Furthermore US economy is highly dependent on Chinese loans these days why a military conflict would have dire consequences other than just from a military perspective. All this really speaks against a US-Russian alliance against China.
However the risk of a conflict in the South China Sea between China and for instance US-allied Philippines is very much real but that has more to do with the relations between the countries in the region and less so than with who is elected President of the United States.
If Hillary Clinton is elected President of the United States she has vowed to make a 180 degree turn when it comes to US policy in the Middle East. Today there is an unoutspoken cooperation between Russia and the US. People within the CIA have off the record been thankful that Russia intervened diplomatically when there was talk about “a red line” when the al-Assad regime supposedly used chemical weapons in Ghouta. If it really was the government or rebels using these weapons have yet to be fully concluded. The Russian diplomatic intervention however saved the US from another military adventure. The ones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have as we know not turned out well. On the contrary these interventions, at least in the cases of Iraq and Libya, opened up these countries for Islamic fundamentalists. President Obama probably never will admit that the United States bet on the wrong horse in Syria and that Russia was right all along but the military actions in Syria nowadays really speaks for an existing, if not official, cooperation between Washington and Moscow.
Hillary Clinton however is very clear that she will bomb al-Assad out of office. This follows the exact same lines of policies that we saw in Libya. What will the results be? Well, even if she would decide to bomb both the government, al-Nusra (al-Quaida in Syria) as well as IS there are still over 1300 different combatant groups in Syria. The ethnic minorities like Assyrians, Druzes and so on support al-Assad since they know that they will not have a future in Syria given the power vacuum that would follow a toppling of the Baathist government. Furthermore if there would be even a shadow of a successful toppling of al-Assad there would be a need to have “boots on ground” that could effectively occupy Syria, which would mean heavy combat against various groups just like in Iraq. Given the fact that the US has failed in both Afghanistan and Iraq, very little speaks for a success in Syria. Another thing to take into consideration is Russia. al-Assad is Russia´s ally and Moscow has a naval base in Tartus, a number of troops on the ground, has employed one of the worlds most advanced SAM-systems, the S400, in the country together with some 50+ aircraft in Khmeimim. There would hence be an actual risk of direct military confrontation with Russia, a situation that rapidly could escalate into a nuclear exchange and thus a world conflict.
There are however also several other players in this mess. The ever more authoritarian Erdoğan in Turkey could very well intervene militarily in Syria since the Kurds there are seen as allies to the PKK on the Turkish side of the border. An independent Kurdistan would be a nightmare for Erdoğan.
Iran is another regional power that would not sit idle if the US would attempt to topple an ally of Teheran. Even though Iran has limited capabilities on the ground in Syria, even though they do have a military presence there, the Hezbollah in Lebanon could act on the behalf of the Iranians. Hezbollah´s military capabilities today are more advanced and they are militarily stronger than the forces of Lebanese army and has substantial quantities of rockets, some with long range, that they could deploy against Israel, just like they did in 2006. Furthermore Iran has great influence and presence in Iraq today, where the Shia dominated government supports Iran, and could thus take a conflict to the borders of for instance Saudiarabia. The relations between Teheran and Riyadh are highly strained and there is already a war by proxy between them in Yemen where the Iranians support the Houti rebels who has taken the war over the Saudi border. A potential Saudi intervention into Iraq could in turn be carried out in conjunction with Turkey who has claims on Kirkuk, a heritage from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore it would not be the first time Ankara launches military actions over the border into Iraq since the PKK operates from bases on the Iraqi side of the border. The risk for a substantial regional conflict, with a evident risk of becoming a world conflict, should not be underestimated.
An attack by Hezbollah against Israel could also be used as a casus belli by the Israelis to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities in for instance Natanz, just as they did in Osirak, Iraq in the 1980´s. It is no secret that Israel was vehemently against the nuclear agreement between the West and Iran. The Israeli Air Force has however limited capabilities and many of the Iranian installations are nowadays underground. The Israelis would also have to fly over Iraq, who as we know supports Iran although the Iraqis themselves lack in capabilities in protecting their own airspace. This would however give the Iranians some possibility of early warning. An Israeli attack would, even if it would be ineffectual, put Washington in front a fait accompli. The US would have no option but to support Tel Aviv and engage militarily against Iran.
Hillary Clinton has in past expressed a willingness for a military solution to “the Iranian problem”. Iran is however far from Iraq in 2003. If a conflict would brake out in the Persian Gulf Iran has substantial military assets, for instance semiballistic antishipping missiles with long range, which they could use to effectively close the strait of Hormuz for oil shipping. To keep in mind is that over a quarter of the world´s oil production passes through this strait and a closing of it could thus cause a new oil crisis which would have adverse effects on Western economy. On the other hand an oil crisis would be very much beneficial for Moscow since the Russian economy has been hit hard, not only by sanctions, but also due to the low oil prize and the one sided dependency on oil and gas for it´s revenues.
So, when seen to factual political analysis of foreign policies Hillary Clinton is by no means less dangerous when compared to the pompous Donald Trump, on the contrary. This really is a choice between plague and cholera. The popularity that Hillary Clinton enjoys on this side of the pond, a popularity that to a very high degree is based upon the fact that she is a woman and a Democrat, is woefully undeserved. No matter how the American voters choose to cast their votes we can be sure that they make the wrong choise since both candidates are wrong, not only for the United States, but also for the rest of the World.