By Donald Losman

On the verge of serious domestic unrest

November 4, 2020 - 10:28

We are on the verge of some serious domestic unrest.  If the election is contested, as I suspect it will be, it may take weeks to sort out.

 During that time it is likely that groups both from the left and the right will take to the streets for demonstrations, ostensibly peaceful, but very likely to degenerate into riots, clashes with each other, and with the police.  It could get very ugly.  Further, even after the election winner is finally determined, if it is Trump, I believe riots and disorder will continue as the political left will be frustrated, angry, and unable to accept the outcome. 

American reactions will largely depend on who is in charge politically.  If Trump wins, there will be huge demonstrations and riots in many cities.  To the extent that they are Democratic locations—mayors and governors—the protests will tend to continue with local leadership choosing to allow their cities and economies to be disrupted rather than tame the crowd.  If such demonstrations become disorderly in Republican-run cities, local police will be sent into action.  Further, they will ask for federal assistance.  If Trump is president, they will get assistance; if Biden is president, they will not.

U.S. foreign policy in West Asia will change slightly with a Biden administration.  There will be more stress, mainly verbal, but also diplomatic, on expanding U.S. values such a human rights, democracy, fair play.  This will no doubt put pressure on U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  Somewhat oddly, such pressure is unlikely to be exerted against Iran or Turkey.  There will also be more pressure for Saudi to get out of Yemen.  

Regarding Iran, Biden will attempt to re-establish the JCPOA.  His proposals are likely to involve the ending of sanctions in exchange for a new agreement which puts greater time limitations on Iran’s enrichment actions as well as limits on ICBM efforts.  Exactly how such negotiations will end up is something I cannot possibly even try to predict.

Regarding Israel, Biden’s personal inclination is to maintain strong ties with Israel.  However, his vice president, Congressional members such as ‘the squad,’ BLM (Black Lives Matter) will push against him.  I suspect they will prevail in getting him less favorably inclined toward Israel.

On some other issues, Biden will be quick to repair relations with China, even if it means softening or removing the trade demands of the Trump administration. On the economic front, economic growth under Biden is likely to be meaningfully slower than under Trump. Biden is likely to return to the Paris Agreement on the environment; Trump will not.

Donald Lee Losman is a professor of Economics and West Asian Studies at National Defense University and a lecturer in International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs. 


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