I’ll start off by saying I believe in human rights and nonviolent civil dissent to achieve political goals. I need to say this because some will infer a wish for the scenarios described in this essay to happen, or even an incitement to them. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Donald Trump is the greatest danger to America in its 238 year history. Plenty of people are feeling this way for a myriad of legitimate reasons. But I don’t want to examine Trump’s xenophobic or autocratic tendencies here, and I’m not even particularly thinking of the ethical considerations of Trump’s conflicts of interests. These business entanglements are so complex and messy to unravel that it may be impossible for a President Trump to exist within the bounds of the “emoluments” clause of the Constitution which prohibits payments or gifts to the U.S. head of state. While worthy of serious scrutiny, I think the focus on favors and competing interests is missing one of the aspects that makes Trump most dangerous.
Donald Trump is mortally dangerous because someone is going to attack one of his properties and it is going to drag us into a war.
Start with the small case, the obvious need for protection at his residency Trump Towers in New York City. It will cost millions of dollars to protect Trump in a busy hotel in downtown Manhattan where at least his son and wife will frequently reside. This is a pittance compared to the potential cost of the rest of Trump’s real estate empire and its exposure to foreign threats.
Dozens of the most gilded buildings across the planet are literally emblazoned with the name of the future President of the United States. These eponymous structures are not just moral and financial risks that would pull at the president’s political and foreign policy thinking. They are each one giant targets, now beaming with the imprimatur of the U.S. executive branch, concrete and glass arms of the U.S. body politic. To protect Trump’s business empire — its physical manifestation as skyscrapers and luxury hotels — would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and still it won’t be feasible to do it with necessary robustness.
So what happens if a group of insurgents takes over Trump Towers Istanbul with the average menace of stock machine guns, like happened in 2008 at the Oberoi Trident and Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai? These were acts of terrorism, plainly, but they did not threaten to embroil the greatest military power on Earth with their wanton destruction of property and life.
Not so with Trump as President. In addition to New York City and Istanbul, Trump has keystone buildings in Azerbaijan, Vancouver, Toronto, Panama City, Seoul, the Philippines, Uruguay, Rio, Pune and Mumbai.
If the guests of one of these properties are held hostage, will it mean the United States is under attack?
Far from merely making every diplomatic handshake and agreement over a Trump building a lucrative power-play for any foreign government, each existing and newly granted property vastly extends the attack vector against the United States. Never before in our nation’s history will we be so vulnerable to the entanglements of terrorism as when a tycoon who sells his name for elite edifices takes office in 2017.
The greatest risk of one of these scenarios taking place is firmly not because terrorism or radical Islam or ISIS are the greatest threats to the U.S. nation. Staggering global inequality, climate change, and the rise of neo-fascist movements are far more pressing dangers around the world. But the United States has a voracious appetite and weakness for being dragged into wars even without a belligerent narcissist at the helm.
Trump’s properties are often blights of gilded cosmopolitanism, and that’s insult enough. But the injury will come from their being marked as vulnerable trigger points for targeting the U.S. government, to suck it again into a morass of billions squandered and tens of thousands of lives lost. Not over geopolitical strategy or oil or chemical weapons, but over branded real estate.
Trump is easily provoked, holds grudges, and tends to overreact. If one of his Towers falls, will the U.S. topple with it?
No one is talking about this, so I thought I had to.
Update: More on this concern…
Are Trump towers and hotels across globe now terror risks?
Donald Trump’s name has long been a marketing dream, splashed across skylines at home and abroad in letters sometimes…
For context, I studied the history of political entanglements at Wesleyan University’s College of Social Studies. That history is littered with horrific lessons learned about alliances and exposures that became pits into which nations sunk to war. This essay is written with that perspective in mind rather than a pro-or anti-Trump point of view. While I clearly don’t think Trump is qualified to be leader of the United States, my argument is not about that. It’s about the real risks posed by a global real estate empire and what that means for us as a nation prone to war.