Donald Trump's foreign business interests are a concern as a conflict of interest. They are also a concern as a potential target for terrorists who want to harm the U.S. and provoke our reactionary leader.
A Washington Post analysis of President-elect Donald Trump's financial filings indicate at least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia, and the Middle East, presenting complex problems for U.S. military and diplomatic strategy.
Serious concerns have been raised about potential conflicts of interest regarding the unprecedented circumstance of a sitting U.S. president having international business holdings. But there is another possibility that has garnered significantly less attention: the possibility that international (or even domestic) Trump-branded properties could become high-value targets for terrorist attacks.
The Trump Organization has many international business interests, described in the Post as ranging "from sprawling, ultraluxury real estate complexes to one-man holding companies and branding deals in Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Panama, and other countries, including some where the United States maintains sensitive diplomatic ties."
Trump has licensed his name for many of these deals. During the campaign, a licensing deal with a Dubai golf course and housing development was imperiled by Trump's comments about banning Muslims from the U.S. "Pieces of letters that appeared to spell out Trump’s name had been pulled down from a stone wall and left lying on the sandy ground," while another stone wall at the property bearing his name "was being patrolled by private security guards and police."
There is a real possibility that properties bearing his name and/or under his ownership will be regarded as prime targets, both to send a message to the U.S. president and, conceivably, to provoke him.
The combination of targets bearing his name and his infamously brittle and reactionary temperament may be irresistible to actors determined to harm the United States.
We cannot predict with certainty how he would react to such a provocation, but his reaction after Iranian sailors made insulting gestures at U.S. Navy ships does not bode well:
“When Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water,” Trump said to raucous applause from his Pensacola rally audience.
Can we trust him to react thoughtfully and carefully if terrorists bomb a building with his name on it?
In an Esquire interview, John Noonan, a former Air Force nuclear launch officer who has served as national security adviser to Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, does not think so. He told Esquire to think of the world as a playground, where the U.S. stood up for smaller countries against bullies, backed by nuclear weapons. "That's what you call deterrence," he said:
"This is what I hear from Trump: that he wants to flip that equation and make the United States the bully. That is, We're big and we have nukes and we can use them to kill terrorists in Raqqa and Mosul. Stop us if you dare. It's how he's run his businesses for decades: I can do whatever I want. In the business world, it was shady and unethical. In the national-security world, it's downright dangerous."
He does not believe it is empty talk, either:
"Nuclear weapons are like an understanding between the athlete and the bully: You don't screw with me and I won't screw with you. It's a way for the two biggest kids on the block to communicate with each other in no uncertain terms. That Trump allegedly believes that nukes are solutions to low-intensity problems like ISIS and Al-Qaeda is raw, unfiltered insanity."
If Trump does not completely divest himself of all of his foreign interests prior to assuming office, we will be entering into unprecedented territory, with potentially dangerous results for the nation, and the world.
(Melissa McEwan contributed to this article.)