by John Feffer
Here at Emergency Travel Services, we believe that it’s never too early to plan your vacation.
Or your emigration.
Based on the latest polls, most of you are confident that Donald Trump won’t be elected president in November. If the election were held today, according to statistician Nate Silver, Trump would have about a 12 percent chance of winning. His odds improve to about 13 percent for November (according to the polls) and a mere 23 percent if you factor in other data on the economy and so on. Trump, who insists on being top dog in everything, is now barking loudly as the underdog.
But that could change. Hillary Clinton’s campaign could implode. An October surprise—a huge info-leak, a major terrorist attack—could mean a 5 to 10 percent swing in popular sentiment.
Bottom line: don’t plan your life around public opinion polls.
Time is running out. Some of our best deals at Emergency Travel Services have already been taken. I know that many of you liberal types have a soft spot for New Zealand: tolerant culture, lots of nice hiking paths, language mostly intelligible to Americans. But our Notorious RBG package is already sold out. Following the lead of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, practically half the populations of the Bay Area, Portland, Oregon, and Burlington, Vermont have planned their escape route to down under.
Don’t wait until November 9. Last minute vacationers often make terrible mistakes. Desperate to get out of town and seduced by misleading ad campaigns, they end up at the Club Med on the Aral Sea or on a summer beach vacation in Kuwait. Our travel agency never forgets to account for global warming. The same goes for political climate change.
Always one step ahead, our risk analysts have prepared a guide to the planet’s most welcoming and least welcoming destinations, that is, if your primary objective is to run screaming in the other direction from the specter of President Trump. We’ve divided our guide into four sections: Trump Plus, Trump-Like, Trump Light, and Trump-Free.
Pay close attention. You don’t want to jump out of the American frying pan and into some foreign fire. Let Emergency Travel Services ensure that your landing is a safe one.
This is probably not news to anyone, but Pyongyang and Damascus are not good places to establish a new life abroad. Donald Trump is perhaps the greatest threat to democracy that the United States has witnessed in the last 75 years. But he’s not Kim Jong Eun or Bashar al-Assad. Of course, give Trump an army and a vast prison system and who knows? Bashar was once just a white-collar professional with a pretty wife. Jong Eun was once just a privileged child who got a big boost from his father. There but for the grace of democratic institutions goes Donald.
Also in the category of one-man dystopias are Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Omar al-Bashir’s Sudan, Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus, Islam Karimov’s Uzbekistan, and Butch Otter’s Idaho (in case you were considering internal exile in a survivalist bunker).
We recommend that you don’t go to war zones (much of the Middle East), pandemic zones (check the CDC site), and island nations that are about to disappear under the ocean. Cancun during spring break is also a no-no.
In short, there are places in the world that are worse than living under Donald Trump. Sure, if you’re a nuclear physicist or a trainer of commando units, Pyongyang and Damascus might welcome you with open arms. We run an exfiltration service—think Argo—if things go horribly wrong. But that will cost you big time. Bottom line: maximize your flexibility and minimize your cost and risk.
It’s easy to avoid dictatorships. But if you are considering a destination based solely on its designation as a democracy, think again. Plenty of other countries around the world have gone to the polls to install their own little Trumps.
Consider, for instance, the Philippines. The country has suffered under some appalling leadership in the past. Ferdinand Marcos steered the country into pauperdom; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was under hospital arrest for four years on corruption charges. But the recently elected Rodrigo Duterte is already demonstrating that he can out-Trump the competition. He called the U.S. ambassador a “gay son of a bitch” and refused to apologize. He made a rape joke too offensive to be repeated here. He even insulted the Pope. In terms of specific policies, he pledged to dump the corpses of 100,000 gangsters into Manila Bay—indeed, extrajudicial killings are already on the rise—and suspend the country’s legislature if it doesn’t do what he says. At the same time, he wants to shake up the country’s elite, negotiate with armed rebels, and make a deal with Beijing over the disputed territory in the South China Sea. Bottom line: Duterte is an offensive and unpredictable loudmouth whose war on crime might be balanced by peace initiatives elsewhere, but we don’t recommend that you relocate to Manila.
Russia could legitimately claim that its leader Vladimir Putin championed “illiberal democracy” long before the White House appeared on Trump’s real estate wish list. And Trump seems to defer to Putin—on the threat of terrorism and the proper means to address it, the annexation of Crimea and the questionable utility of NATO, and the rise of Euroskepticism and the weakening of the European Union. Trump wants to bring back torture to deal with America’s enemies; Putin gets rid of opposition in less medieval but equally distasteful ways. After Boris Yeltsin turned Russia into a post-Soviet backwater, Putin claims that he has made the country great again, measured by military spending, cross-border meddling, and nationalist rhetoric. By ruling like an oligarch and pouring money into the Pentagon, Trump promises to duplicate that feat. Bottom line: unless you plan to keep your mouth shut about human rights, corruption, and geopolitics, don’t move to Moscow.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan once won accolades as a reformer for breaking the power of the military, reaching out to the Kurdish community, and bringing Turkey closer in line with European human rights standards. But after throwing dozens of journalists in jail and reigniting a war against the Kurds, Erdogan has swung the other way. His recent efforts to pass a new constitution, which would put even more power into his hands, has a definite Trumpian feel. The recently attempted military coup gave Erdogan a fresh excuse for sweeping potential opponents from the system, and it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine such a scenario in Trump’s America. Bottom line: Turkey’s a lovely place, but this is not the time to establish residence in Istanbul.
Japan has long been a popular destination for Americans looking for safe, economically advanced locales. But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been steadily remilitarizing the country by undermining the “peace constitution.” Recently he installed a war-crimes denier as his defense minister. Unlike Trump, Abe is not given to outrageous statements. Nor has he proposed any outlandish walls (Japan’s an island, after all). But he’s no fan of immigrants, and he desperately wants to put Japan first (evoking some of the same noxious World War II-era slogans as Trump’s America First rhetoric). Bottom line: we’re not predicting another Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, but who wants to live in a country that’s been ruled by the same party practically for the last 70 years?
Then there’s a man, a plan, a canal: Ortega. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega has partnered with a shadowy Chinese tycoon to build a huge canal that will ruin the environment, undermine the livelihoods of farmers, and maybe never turn a profit – if it gets built at all. The formercomandante of the Sandinistas, Ortega has been politically reborn as an anti-abortion, pro-business autocrat who has manipulated the electoral rules to run for a third term as president this year. He recently chose his wife as his vice presidential candidate. Like Trump, he’ll do practically anything to win. Unlike Trump, he was a Marxist revolutionary who once deposed a tyrant. Bottom line: the 70-year-old Ortega is expected to win another four-year term in November by a wide margin, so unless you can stomach Trump in the guise of a putative leftist, stay away from Managua.
The European Union might seem a safe emigration bet, if you’re coming by plane from America and not a boat from North Africa. However, some EU countries have anticipated Trump by electing their own offensive blowhards. In the Czech Republic, President Milos Zeman has argued that Muslim integration in Europe is “practically impossible,” ignoring the experience of millions of immigrants, not to mention Bulgarian Turks, Bosniaks, and Albanians. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pledged to remodel his country along the lines of Russia’s “illiberal democracy.” In Poland, the ruling Law and Justice Party has interfered with press freedom, made controversial statements against homosexuality, and squared off against the EU. Bottom line: beware this “new Europe” of intolerance, nationalism, and Euroskepticism.
The spread of illiberal democracy has reached epidemic proportions. There’s simply not enough room in this report to cover them all: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Malaysia’s Najib Razak, and so on. Trump is not as unique as he’d like to believe.
The last thing you want to do is move to a country that seems safe only for the citizens to turn around and suddenly install their own Trump, forcing you to pick up and move again. We call these at-risk countries Trump Light.
Take France, for example. Perhaps you’re already planning a four-year term in Provence. The country has great food, civilized conversation, and a humane vacation policy. But it also has Marine Le Pen. The right-wing extremist is now twice as popular as current president Francois Hollande and is leading in the polls against the other presidential hopeful, Nicolas Sarkozy. If she becomes president next year, expect her to try to join the UK in leaving the EU and implement any number of Trump-like laws against Muslims and immigrants. Bottom line: a lot of French might be joining you next year in whatever safe haven we’ve found for you.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world. It is also a tolerant democracy under the leadership of Joko Widodo. But two variants of extremism lie in wait. The Great Indonesia Movement Party and its frontman Prabowo Subianto want to turn back the clock to the days of Sukarno, cultivating a potent mixture of hypernationalism and militarism. Subianto came in second in the presidential elections in 2014, and his party commands the third largest bloc of seats in the legislature. Meanwhile, Islamic extremism in the form of Hizb ut-Tahrir is on the rise, and terrorists have launched a series of attacks to gain headlines and followers. Bottom line: you might want to play it safe and stay away so as not to be caught in the extremist crossfire.
Over one-third of the world lives in India and China, so why not you too? Both countries appear relatively stable at the moment. But before you throw in your lot with the global plurality, consider the following. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the head of the Hindu nationalist party, BJP, which has precipitated communal violence in the past. Modi has been rather circumspect as leader, but that could change if radicals in and around the partyget the upper hand. In China, meanwhile, Xi Jinping is the anti-Trump: a careful bureaucrat comfortable with navigating within the system. But Xi is not above using nationalism—against “separatists,” against Japanese militarists, against claimants to territory in the South China Sea—to sustain support in the Party at a time of cooling economic growth. Bottom line: keep your eye on the headlines before heading to Beijing or Mumbai.
If you’ve been busy crossing off countries on the map as you’ve been reading along, you’ll realize that there’s not a lot of free space left at this point. Much of the globe is downright dangerous in its Trump-like proclivities. If these global Trumps have not already taken power, as in the Philippines or Poland, they are gathering strength, as in France and Indonesia. We are experiencing the formation of a Trump International.
That leaves you with a couple of choices. You could:
- Run across the border and throw yourself on the mercy of Justin Trudeau – until the Canadians build their own wall and make Donald Trump pay for it;
- If you miss the boat on Canada, you could find a quiet, boring, and relatively obscure place to live like Andorra, Tuvalu, or Belize;
- Volunteer to take ice floe measurements in Antarctica for the next four years;
- Get on a cruise ship and stay on it, circling the globe until people come to their senses or the world blows up, whichever comes first.
At Emergency Travel Services, we can help you with any of these options. Don’t be caught with your pants down and your passport expired on November 9. Even if Trump loses this time around, his followers aren’t going anywhere. They’ll get behind an equally offensive but more politically viable candidate in 2020.
Bottom line: in these desperate times, it’s not just the Pentagon that needs an exit strategy.
Reprinted, with permission, from Foreign Policy In Focus.