John Feffer: Trump Doctrine as Kamikaze Antiglobalism

Yves here. I imagine readers will take issue with some of the lower-level arguments in this piece, such as claiming that Obama was trying to address climate change, when he joined the Paris Accord late in his time in office and as Gaius Publius has written at length, was a strong supporter of fracking. Nevertheless, seeing Trump as not completely ad hoc and having opposition to globalism as an underlying theme, is a useful frame of reference. And it gives him common cause with other right wing nationalist governments.

By John Feffer, the author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands (a Dispatch Books original) and the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. His latest book is Aftershock: A Journey into Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams. This winter, Frostlands, book two of his Splinterlands series, will be published by Haymarket Books. Originally published at TomDispatch

As presidencies approach their midpoints, pundits begin the inevitable search for that elusive creature: the doctrine. It’s often a quixotic quest, since presidents rarely boil down their foreign-policy visions — if they even have them — to some pithy essence. Then there’s Donald Trump.

Conjuring up the current president’s foreign-policy doctrine is like arguing that the Teletubbies have a theology. After all, this president approaches global affairs the way a teenager with attention-deficit disorder might tackle War and Peace. To call Trump scattershot in his approach would be generous. He doesn’t even have sufficient command of the relevant vocabulary to formulate a doctrine. His linguistic universe, with its “covfefe,” big-league malapropisms, and contradictory pronouncements, often seems to come straight out of Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem “Jabberwocky.”

Yet punditry abhors a vacuum, so the search for some sort of policy coherence never ends. Many observers have suggested that the Trump doctrine, stripped to its musculature, is simply a reassertion of American power in the crudest form. In The Atlantic, for instance, Jeffrey Goldberg canvassed Trump administration officials for their take on the president’s doctrine and concluded that the most succinct formulation for it was: “We’re America, bitch.” Another possibility: forget the doctrine; Trump is merely asserting his own authority in an increasingly empowered executive branch to do whatever comes into his head. In other words, we’re not talking unilateralism but unileaderism.

A third possibility: that Trump is defining himself and his policies entirely in opposition to his predecessor. The Obama Doctrine, according to administration insiders, boiled down to don’t do stupid shit. In his eagerness to reverse everything his predecessor ever did, Trump seems to have turned his doctrine inside out as well. His recent trip to Europe, with its falsehoods and gratuitous insults, not to speak of the near sundering of transatlantic relations, suggests that the administration continues to come up with new and creative ways of doing stupid shit on a daily basis.

There’s truth in all of this, but something’s still missing.

Although Trump’s approach to global affairs seems to have no particular rhyme or reason, it does have a certain rhythm. It has an insistent, urgent beat, something like the notorious two-note theme of the movie Jaws. The president not only wants you to believe that the world is a dangerous place, but that those dangers are approaching at a terrifying pace. Only Trump, he would have you believe, can save you from those sharp teeth inches from your throat.

Let’s call this approach Trump’s Flight 93 doctrine, after an infamous article, “The Flight 93 Election,” published in September 2016 in the far-right Claremont Review. According to its pseudonymous author, later revealed to be former George W. Bush administration staffer Michael Anton, liberals like Hillary Clinton were piloting America into catastrophe, aided, electorally, by “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty.” Only Donald Trump and his conservative backers — like the heroes who charged the cockpit of hijacked United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 — could avert such a tragedy. “A Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian roulette with a semi-auto,” Anton wrote. “With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”

The analogy is, unfortunately, all too apt. Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard. It was heroism, yes, but at a very steep price. And playing Russian roulette with any kind of weapon rarely ends well.

No surprise, then, that, as the president spins the cylinder of the gun pressed to all our heads, the Trump Doctrine of non-stop risk-taking has turned out to be the most self-defeating approach ever adopted by a modern American president. In fact, it may turn out to be the last doctrine that the White House ever has the luxury to formulate.

The Uses of Doctrine

Doctrines are inherently conservative. Among the many ways the U.S. could deploy its forces and resources overseas, they spell out the one that is best believed to preserve the status quo of American power and at the same time advance a select number of national interests.

Before the first identifiable presidential doctrine — the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 — George Washington warned of forming anything but impermanent alliances with foreign powers. In his farewell address as president, he lauded the “detached and distant situation” that the United States found itself in and cautioned that “foreign influence” could wreak havoc upon the republic. His successor, Thomas Jefferson, spoke similarly against the dangers of “entangling alliances.”

Those warnings, though falling short of doctrinal, were influential in the early republic. In 1821, four years before he became president, John Quincy Adams famously spoke of the dangers of Americans heading overseas “in search of monsters.” The country’s glory, he insisted, “is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace.”

Stirring words, but it was not to be. A mere two years later, President James Monroe made the first effort to link U.S. national interests to a project outside its borders. Latin America, Monroe said in 1823, was effectively part of a U.S. sphere of influence. It was still a far cry from the kinds of imperial intervention that would come in the era of Theodore Roosevelt, more than 80 years later. Monroe, however, did cast aside the warnings of his predecessors and begin a flirtation with a new kind of imperial dominion.

In the twentieth century, such presidential doctrines evolved far beyond simply protecting spheres of influence. They came instead to justify U.S. military intervention on a global scale, while attempting to discriminate between areas worth the risk of war and those beneath U.S. concern. The Truman Doctrine rationalized U.S. efforts to contain the spread of Communism, while spreading the U.S. military and the CIA far and wide. In the midst of the disastrous Vietnam War, the Nixon Doctrine tried to pass on much of global enforcement there and elsewhere to subservient allies. The Carter Doctrine articulated the priority of protecting U.S. access to oil resources in the Middle East, especially the Persian Gulf. The Reagan Doctrine put forward a particularly aggressive policy of actually rolling back Communism — and recovering from a disastrous defeat in Vietnam — while George W. Bush applied Reagan’s framework to a new enterprise, the Global War on Terror.

All of these doctrines were designed to preserve and expand Washington’s preeminent imperial power and authority in the world, while justifying to an American public the increasingly enormous sums ploughed into the military budget. They also signaled to allies what to expect from the United States in terms of its big-picture allocation of resources and attention.

Barack Obama, with his preference for addressing issues on a case-by-case basis, recoiled from any attempt to develop a doctrine. If anything, he wanted to repudiate the doctrinal mistakes of the recent past: America’s fixation on the Middle East, on a borderless global war on terror, and on self-defeating attempts to isolate Cuba and Iran. There was no single theme that brought together all of Obama’s initiatives, though he did put a lot of chips into a so-called Pacific pivot, a shift in military and diplomatic focus from the Middle East to Asia (which never quite came about).

In the end, Obama remained imprisoned in the failed initiatives of the past, including an unending war in Afghanistan and Bush’s Global War on Terror, even as he tried to address new and amorphous threats like climate change. Still, he showed a sincere belief in diplomacy and the synergy of countries working together to solve global problems.

Not so his successor.

Trump Rushes the Cockpit

For the Pentagon, a notoriously risk-averse institution, doctrines are a kind of security blanket. They reassure the generals that civilian leaders will not send U.S. soldiers into harm’s way everywhere at once. Even during the Bush era, with global counterterrorism the primary focus of the moment, the military felt reasonably certain that the administration wouldn’t also pick fights with Russia and China or send troops into Latin America.

Donald Trump doesn’t look at the world that way. He seems to have no ability to prioritize among various real and imagined threats to U.S. national interests because he doesn’t think in any structured way about the nature of such problems. He seems to believe that the country has been, or will soon be, hijacked and so he spots potential hijackers everywhere. Because of the urgency of the situation, he’s always in red-alert mode.

For Trump, immigrants are a clear-and-present danger and so he has repeatedly pushed for extreme measures to keep them out of the United States: a wall, a travel ban, a zero-tolerance family-separation policy. For Republican Party supporters of the president, immigration may well represent an electoral challenge, the means by which the Democratic Party can eventually secure a lock on the presidency. But for Trump, the threat transcends the political. It’s a matter of blood and soil, the touchstones of extreme nationalism. Trump is eager to spend billions of dollars and undermine the American legal system in pursue of his policy of ethnic cleansing.

The global economy is another arena where he has quickly shifted to an emergency footing and taken out after everyone in sight, subjecting allies and adversaries alike to mounting tariffs. Canada, Europe, Japan: they’re all shocked to find his knife in their backs. But the trade war with China promises to be particularly costly. After an opening bid, a 25% tariff on $34 billion in Chinese imports, which generated a response in kind from Beijing, Trump promptly upped the ante. He’s now planning to target $200 billion in Chinese goods. China, however, has a variety of ways to retaliate, including a sell-off of the vast hoard of U.S. Treasury bonds it holds and a potential devaluation of its own currency to make its exports more competitive globally. And keep in mind that a U.S.-China trade war involving the globe’s two largest economies will prove to be anything but a bilateral problem. If this conflict moves to DEFCON 1, the damage will spread across all borders.

After gesturing in the direction of a more prudent, “isolationist,” “America First” national security policy during his election campaign, especially when it came to the country’s never-ending war on terror, Trump has proved to be an indiscriminately bellicose president. He has twice bombed Syrian government targets, issued a “gloves off” directive to his generals in the war in Afghanistan, and expanded the use of drones in the “war on terror.” He made an implicit threat to attack North Korea with nuclear weapons and evidently seriously considered an invasion of Venezuela. And don’t even start on Iran. His approach to war has nothing to do with doctrine. It’s all about going after the “bad hombres.” Its focus seems more to be on who insulted the president most recently rather than any assessment of genuine risk.

Trump has identified a number of hijackers — immigrants, trading partners, the Islamic State, Iran — who have used asymmetrical power to challenge the authority of the United States. But here’s what’s genuinely scary: from his actions, it’s clear that he believes it’s not just random outsiders who are trying to bring down the country. To stay with the Flight 93 image, for Trump it’s the entire global aviation system that’s conspiring against him and his cohort.

All presidential doctrines of the modern era have been predicated on a global international system — first the “Western world” and now the international community — within which the United States was to operate as the first among equals. The Flight 93 Doctrine overturns all such other doctrines. President Trump, personally and with malice, is now taking aim at the entire international architecture that liberals and conservatives helped build to serve U.S. interests. It’s as if the president and his acolytes have commandeered that hijacked plane not to bring them safely back to the airport, but to fly them into buildings in Brussels, The Hague, and Geneva, among other places.

Michael Anton was wrong. The Trump campaign wasn’t about saving America from a suicide mission. It was about launching a kamikaze attack on the heart of globalism.

The Wages of Self-Defeat

Despite George Washington’s warnings, the United States is now so enmeshed in the international system that its prosperity depends on it. As a result, Trump’s Flight 93 doctrine is a formula for self-defeat.

Take immigrants. Whatever the president may think, the U.S. economy runs on immigrants. Agriculture, construction, and the service sector all rely heavily on recent immigrants, many of them undocumented. Indeed, so vital are they as economic actors that the undocumented annually contribute $11.6 billion in state and local taxes and help keep Social Security afloat even though they have little prospect of ever drawing from the fund themselves. Immigrant workers, both legal and undocumented, make the U.S. economy an estimated 11% larger than it would otherwise be. At a time of record low unemployment and labor shortages — and with a population that is inexorably aging — the United States should for economic reasons alone be encouraging an influx of immigrants, not trying to keep them out.

Trump, meanwhile, is fixated on the “$800 billion a year” that the United States runs as a trade deficit with countries around the world. You undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn, given the source, that this number is off, since it doesn’t incorporate the net surplus in “services” — such as tourism, royalties, and banking — the United States has with other countries, which promptly brings that figure down to $500 billion. Far more important, the focus of White House attention shouldn’t be that trade deficit, which doesn’t reflect the overall strength of the U.S. economy, but the enormous and ever-growing debt the United States has, something the Trump tax “reform” plan and his driving desire to continually boost the country’s already bloated military spending only aggravate.

In addition, tariffs are one of the worst ways of addressing trade deficits, since they almost invariably generate retaliatory tariffs so that the “cure” ends up hurting far more than the problem. “The United States will be opening fire on the whole world and also opening fire on itself,” a spokesman for the Chinese Commerce Ministry aptly noted after Trump announced his latest round of tariffs on Chinese goods. Although he may ultimately declare victory in this war, it will certainly be a pyrrhic one.

Trump’s approach to national security is equally self-defeating. It’s bad enough that Washington is applying the screws to allies to up their military spending — and their purchases of U.S. military goods. Worse, he’s not even using the burden-sharing argument to reduce national security expenditures, which have soared above a trillion dollars a year. The wars that Washington is still fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere across the Greater Middle East and Africa, as well as the wars it’s supporting, as in Yemen, continue to generate instability in that vast region and blowback at home. Trump’s willingness to entertain new wars with Iran, Venezuela, and (if negotiations go south) North Korea is yet more unnerving.

The most devastating impact of the Flight 93 Doctrine, however, will be on the version of the international community Washington had such a hand in creating in its moment of dominance. The organs of the global economy like the World Trade Organization set the rules of the road that have consistently preserved Washington’s privileges, including the dollar’s use as the world’s most common reserve currency. In the form of treaty organizations like NATO as well as bilateral alliances, that community similarly supports American military adventures around so much of the globe by subsidizing its bases, contributing soldiers and weaponry to its military campaigns, and purchasing huge amounts of its military exports. Even as he blathers on about making America number one, Trump is systematically drilling into the very foundations of U.S. power.

There can be no doubt that the rules governing the global economy should be rewritten, given the widening gap between rich and poor. And yes, America should rethink its global military posture and the alliances that support it. Washington needs a radically new foreign policy doctrine that rejects the exceptionalist thinking of the past and offers a more cooperative way for the United States to interact with the world.

But Trump’s Flight 93 Doctrine is the opposite of what’s needed. It will accomplish what Osama bin Laden set out to do so many years ago. By driving a wedge between the United States and its allies, initiating trade wars that will weaken the economy, potentially driving the country toward bankruptcy through insane budget priorities, and destroying the very fabric of the international community, Donald Trump is on a suicide mission. He’s rushing the cockpit, that’s for sure, but don’t expect a soft landing. When it comes, it will be a terrible, heartbreaking crash.

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  1. chris heinz

    Ha ha!
    There is no “doctrine … undergirding Trump’s actions”.. Trump behaves as a petulant child, randomly trying whatever comes to mind, and, if his base likes it (good ratings), he’ll keep spouting it. The only thing he ever succeeded at in his life was being a reality TV host. Conflict was what got the best ratings on the “Apprentice” shows, so his overall process it, break something (particularly if it came from Obama), create a controversy, see how long that will boost his ratings.

    1. gearandgrit

      Exactly right. I’m so tired of these puff pieces trying to decode the method behind the madness. Few can seem to wrap their heads around a POTUS not having any plan whatsoever, but that’s exactly where we are. His plan is to do as little as possible, stay in power, and move from story to story quickly enough that no one thing can amass enough momentum to take him down. That’s it.

  2. The Rev Kev

    As far as I can see, the only unifying theme running through his policies is to cement his hold on power. I doubt most Americans want a war with Russia so he decides to cool things off which drives the deep state, and their cohorts like the media, crazy if not frantic. Their reactions though I am willing to bet is being noted in flyover America.
    He does not really care about Syria and if the US starts racking up casualties, it will be Trump wearing the blame for that so he wants to pull out. In business terms, the Syria policy went bankrupt so now he wants to liquidate the venture.
    He gives big business a series of hundreds of billions of dollars in goodies so that they won’t go gunning for him. He also helps cement a conservative hold on the Supreme Court which gets him in the good books of the Republican party.
    He wants emigrants out because he knows that they have been used by the elites to lower wages and conditions for ordinary Americans so this will play really well in middle America. In just some fifty years the US has added in about 100,000,000 people which has really put blues collars under pressure.
    Of course I may be wrong and Trump is just continuously shooting from the hip but based on a long career leading to him being a New York billionaire without kowtowing to the New York elites or going to prison, I am saying that there are some unobvious depths to the man. Doesn’t mean that he is not a terrible President though.

    1. Lorenzo

      I’ll piggyback of Rev Kev’s comment with which I broadly agree to take some jabs at why I think are some serious misconstructions in several cases made by the author:

      He twice mentions North Korea, yet he doesn’t mention Singapore or accounts for any of the facts that help make sense of what’s happened in this regard: there where missiles flying all over Northeast Asia and ‘non-authorized’ nuclear testing taking place in the Korean peninsula which obviously warranted a reaction by the United States. The missiles and testing have stopped, with zero casualties, and a cooperating spirit has been rekindled in the Korean Peninsula. It went from This Is Really Bad to Hey Not So Bad And Maybe A Fleeting Reason For Hope. I think a similar story could be told about Syria, where the US was forced to react/untangle itself from an awkward spot indeed and Drumpf, with war-crazed Yankees poking at him from every side, has managed the feat quite successfully. We haven’t seen the end of it in Iran, but his latest unhinged tweet makes me suspect that he might be trying some variation of the approach he’s used with the DPRK.. This is I think a POV more faithful to the facts than the author’s.

      With respects to his critique of the current economic policy, I concur with Rev Kev that the tax cut was an olive branch at big business -who have been bankrolling many of most outspoken opponents-, the registered republican voter-base, and the Party in general. Are they ‘unjust’? Well of course they are, but then again what isn’t in contemporary US governance. And on his ‘foreign economic policy’, why should we be crying about the tens or hundreds of billions that multinationals, big exporters and the stock market are going to be losing over his trade war? Certainly I’ll feel bad about the lost jobs, but does anyone see a realistic, less damaging alternative to unwinding the unhinged levels of globalization that have been established? And before someone asks, I do think this unwinding as it’s begging to take shape is better in every way to globalization continuing apace.

      I won’t engage with the psychological or historical arguments that have been made because I simply haven’t done my homework in those fields, though I do think they are important areas to look at. Overall I can honestly only say ‘not too bad’ at what we have seen is the President’s interacting with a most dangerous world but especially what are record levels of insanity in the US’s political climate. It might all, and I mean everything all go south and I won’t be more optimistic than to think the chances are 50/50 of this happening under Trump, but I dread to think of the alternatives.

      1. YankeeFrank

        “There can be no doubt that the rules governing the global economy should be rewritten, given the widening gap between rich and poor.”

        And there’s the rub. No other candidates, with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders, were anywhere near offering to rewrite the rules governing the global economy. And Bernie wasn’t an option in the general.

    2. marym

      Re: He wants emigrants out because he knows that they have been used by the elites to lower wages and conditions for ordinary Americans

      That’s not what he says when he talks about why he wants immigrants out. No other policies of his, or of people in his administration, advance the cause of better wages and conditions for ordinary people; and many policies are to their detriment.

      1. skippy

        He cant DeReg FinReg or EPA et al fast enough or support crony corporatists fast enough, seems to think the free markets just have some blockages that need to be cleared.

  3. Mattski

    Obvs. Global neoliberalism has empaupered millions. The argument is that both Dem and Republican pols have pacted more with other countries than taken care of people within our own borders. Arch-nationalism, taking care of our own, is the rallying cry. And openly using our strengths, our economic advantages and military, to make the nation richer. In the absence of any real plan or explanation of their ills from the left, this looks fact-based to struggling poor and middle-class people. Check out Trump’s platform on immigration; pins much of the blame on Mexico, but also purports to demonstrate how US policy has hurt Black people and Hispanics here, as well as the well educated–blames corporations for illegal hiring and curses Rubio-Schumer as a coporate giveaway. Trump had a plan; the Democrats had the status quo. Status quo ante will also be a losing electoral proposition.

    *Sanders’s contains many good ideas, goes on for page after page without signposting or any roadmap. Cut and pasted from some 25-year-old’s Mastes Thesis.

  4. /lasse

    So, Trump really won’t rewrite the global economic order or avert from US global hegemony at “any” price. Big surprise?
    So, now neocons are not the best but almost the good guys compared to Trump?
    So, Trump are undermining the right-wing foundations for US global domination, not least the worlds desire to hoard USD created out of thin air.

    So, tariffs are the very worst thing? On par with “competitive” devaluation of your currency, in one way or the other? Better to do like the Europeans? Apply harsh austerity that hit the weakest hardest, so they can’t buy import and as a “side effect” neither can afford much domestically produced stuff. All for the holy grail of neoliberal mandated export led growth and meaningless balanced budgets.

    If it had been that e.g. die hard mercantilistic export led growth tigers like Germany, China, EU and so on had run run global economic order it had been much less global trade. Probably good for the planets environment but also a hard hit on the poorest when “everybody” was to promote export surplus with domestic anorexic demand.

    So, what Trump, at least verbally are “devoted” to on trade, are what the Chicago boys have dumbfounded the rest of the world with for the last 3-4 decades, surplus is the thing whether it make sense or not.

  5. Sound of the Suburbs

    What’s going wrong?

    Economic liberalism required a simplistic view of the world where aggregates didn’t matter.

    The economists duly complied with this simplistic world view by working up from the micro to generate the macro.

    It was all supposed to reach a stable equilibrium, but it didn’t.

    What’s happening in the US in the aggregate?
    This is the US (46.30 mins.)

    Look at the size of that trade deficit.

    It let its company’s off-shore to maximise profit with no thought of the aggregate effects that are now coming home to roost.

    They didn’t know about this equation that only exists in the macro.

    Government assets + private assets + transfers from/to the rest of the world = zero

    They need to run a huge Government deficit to cover the trade deficit.

    Clinton tried to maintain the trade deficit and cut the Government deficit, which could only, and did, end badly.

    There are only three terms in the equation and the trade deficit had been covered by the Government deficit, so when Clinton reduced the Government deficit he drove the private sector into debt.

    The financial crises began.

  6. fresno dan

    Trump is the rather crude guy who actually asks “Who f*rted” at Thankgiving dinner.
    It is a remarkable to remember how many republican shibboleths that he demolished – from “he (Bush) kept us safe” to the heroism of John McCain. Substantively, Trump said he would not cut social security and medicare (and yes, there is a big difference between promises and actions, but my point is how profoundly against republican dogma this was)
    Trump really isn’t very important at all – but the fact that he is the most garish, outlandish, and in your face example imaginable of how divorced an American party could get from the desires of its base AND the electorate is noteworthy (whether those desires are “good” or not, it shows just how imaginary “representative” government in America is). As much as I despise Trump, his ax murdering of the old republican guard was long overdue and is most salutary. Firemen swinging axes in a burning house are gonna smash a lot of china.
    I am surprised this happened first in the republican party – can it happen in the democratic party so that there is an ACTUAL choice in elections? (how different SUBSTANTIVELY was Clinton 1 from Bush 1, and Bush 2 from Clinton 1, and Obama from Bush 2….)

  7. Carolinian

    The author is in love with his Flight 93 comparison and ignores any evidence to the contrary so perhaps one could say Feffer has a doctrine: i.e. Trump is stupid.

    Meanwhile others have pointed out that Trump is pursuing the same ideas he has (no doubt crudely) advocated since the 1980s. It could be that the many inconsistencies have at least as much to do with the vast opposition to a change in course–something the author also ignores. For example Trump allegedly asked his advisers why we shouldn’t just get out of Afghanistan and it was they who persuaded him otherwise.

    It could be that Trump really doesn’t know what he’s doing and that wouldn’t be too surprising given that his recent predecessors didn’t seem to know that either. The country itself is a mass of confusion at the moment.

    But scary plane crash metaphors don’t help and just gin up the hysteria that something must be done about this deplorable presidential result. So the question is, who are really the ones wanting to storm the cockpit?

    1. Off The Street

      Nature imitates art, once again.

      Flight 93 was planned to crash into DC and kill politicians. Tom Clancy’s book Debt of Honor has a variation on that political decapitation scenario.

      Another of his books, The Sum of All Fears, deals with a dirty nuke smuggled into the US. Pre-staged weapons of various types by any number of parties in different locales (recall Operation Gladio) could tip balances of power and position in international relations.

      What would Clancy have written in the current times?

    2. integer

      perhaps one could say Feffer has a doctrine

      When one considers that Feffer was a fellow at Open Societies Foundations in 2012 and 2013, and appears to have maintained ties to the network since then, it’s a fairly safe bet that his doctrine is closely aligned with that of Soros.

      1. Carolinian

        ‘Splains it all.

        Of course Trump is erratic and often hard to fathom which makes the author’s confident crystal ball all the more dubious. Some of us hope Trump is serious about wanting peace with Russia and N. Korea. Who knows what he’s up to with Iran.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Many threads ago a commenter noted that Trump has had a deep race-based distaste for Obama over many years. ( I don’t remember if that commenter also noted that Obama humiliated and embarrassed Trump at one of those White House Correspondents’ Dinners).

          So Trump is motivated by racial distaste and by personal revenge for personal humiliation. He wants to destroy every one of the precious few genuine good achievements that Obama achieved, because to allow such achievements to succeed makes Obama look good in hindsight. And Trump will not willingly allow that to happen.

          So Trump seeks to destroy the Obama agreement with Iran to deny Obama any long term credit for having achieved it. Trump neither knows nor cares what comes after, so long as this particular Obama-legacy is erased. Neo-cons and Friends Of Israel, most esPECIALLY the Rapturanian Armageddonites ( CUFI and so forth) will move to fill that Trump-vacuum with a war of Regime Change and/or annihilation against Iran.

          A dirty scum Senate and a dirty scum House will not bother to get in the way of these plans.

          I suppose any putatively non-dirty non-scum candidates for the House and/or Senate could run on forcibly re-instating the Agreement and forcibly resuming America’s place in the Agreement as their very first go-to project upon reaching the House and/or the Senate. That would be a display of non-dirtiness and non-scuminess on the part of any officeseeker risk-taking enough to do it.

    3. juliania

      Good point, but I believe the author has another doctrine – that of rewriting history:

      “…In the end, Obama remained imprisoned in the failed initiatives of the past, including an unending war in Afghanistan and Bush’s Global War on Terror, even as he tried to address new and amorphous threats like climate change. Still, he showed a sincere belief in diplomacy and the synergy of countries working together to solve global problems…”

      I just sent a post into the nether regions dissecting this paragraph – if it doesn’t show up, I’m sure others will have fun doing so. It is my belief that this paragraph puts everything else the author opines upon in a great deal of doubt.

  8. Tom Stone

    If both the 2016 candidates had decided to play Russian Roulette with a semi auto before the election…
    Would it have had a bad outcome?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If both had perished from this game you suggest of Russian Roulette, the outcome would have been bad. The Dems would have simply given us another Clintonite from their deep bench of Clintonites, and the Reps would have given us one of their Bush-Pence-Ryan establishment gargoyles.

      If only one would have perished in this game, the betterness or worseness of the outcome would depend on which one would have survived and which one would have perished. In my view, Clinton perishing would have been the better outcome, and Trump perishing would have been the worse outcome.

  9. Brooklin Bridge

    Despite George Washington’s warnings, the United States is now so enmeshed in the international system that its prosperity depends on it. As a result, Trump’s Flight 93 doctrine is a formula for self-defeat.

    This rhetorical justification of globalism reminds me of the argument used to keep American forces in Iraq once the manipulated tide of approval for the war had shifted. Basically it was, “Bringing them home now will put our troops in harms way.” Take away the, outside is inside and up is down, filter imposed on us by think tanks selling neoliberalism as American Soul and you end up with, “Getting our troops out of harms way will put them in harms way.”, but such obvious drivel didn’t phase our bobble head pundits for a moment – intrepids that they are – who nevertheless dutifully repeated that nonsense on-air, in front of millions, with the solemnity of priests saying their vows 24/7 for months and months on end. And damn if it didn’t work.

    As to the article, it follows the, “Trump is an idiot, Trump is an idiots idiot, Trump is worse than an idiots idiot, and thus proveth my thesis (which I’ll share forthwith) beyond a doubt.”, pattern of in-fashion analysis.

    1. DonCoyote

      Yup, lesser evil-ism, once deployed and accepted, justifies and can be used to justify a multitude of, well ,evils.

      And, once all those evils are enshrined as good things, the Trump becomes the ultimate “bull in the china shop/flight 93” for trampling on (or even just calling out) some of them.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The way to address this problem of currently-hopeless enmeshment in the international Corporate Globalonial Plantation system is to reverse-engineer the enmeshment process that got us enmeshed to begin with.

      It took the International Free Trade Conspiracy several decades to enmesh the United States in the international Corporate Globalonial Plantation system. It would take the American National Patrioticonomic Freedom-seekers several decades to untangle America from all the enmeshing nets. It would be harder than freeing a humpback whale from a bunch of crappy old abandoned fish net. But it could be done if such a Patrioticonomic Movement could assume commanding Majority Rule over every single branch of government long enough to achieve it.

      With a head full of plans and a heart full of hate, we can make things happen.

  10. John Wright

    The author writes:
    >Take immigrants. Whatever the president may think, the U.S. economy runs on immigrants. Agriculture, construction, and the service sector all rely heavily on recent immigrants, many of them undocumented. Indeed, so vital are they as economic actors that the undocumented annually contribute $11.6 billion in state and local taxes and help keep Social Security afloat even though they have little prospect of ever drawing from the fund themselves. Immigrant workers, both legal and undocumented, make the U.S. economy an estimated 11% larger than it would otherwise be.”


    “the Center for Migration Studies, which reported that the U.S. illegal immigrant population fell to 10.9 million by January 2016, the lowest number since 2003.”

    $11.6 billion contributed in state and local taxes/10.9 million = $1,064 per illegal immigrant/per year.

    About a thousand per year contribution in state and local taxes does not seem significant, given that they are also probably using state and local public services.

    Feffer states:

    >Immigrant workers, both legal and undocumented, make the U.S. economy an estimated 11% larger

    And given the high CO2 production per capita of the USA, in light of climate change, an 11% larger USA economy is a good idea?

  11. HotFlash

    Yet punditry abhors a vacuum, so the search for some sort of policy coherence never ends.

    That should have been the end of the article, but pundits gotta pund.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      “pund” ? Is that a word? I had always thought the word was ” pundate”.

      As in . . . intellectuals gotta intellectuate, authorities gotta authoritate, pundits gotta pundate.

      But if “pund” takes off, then “pund” it shall be.

  12. Sound of the Suburbs

    I found this on the INET website and it was an eye opener for me.

    You hear bits of it and even then everything is quite fuzzy as the US empire is never openly discussed.

    The sound fades in a few places but you can get the full paper on the INET website.

    His conclusions are somewhat different.

    It seems to explain why the same things are happening everywhere in the West to varying degrees and why the response to 2008 was such a catastrophic mistake across the West.

    Trump is a symptom, not the cause.

  13. juliania

    The piece is long, and I’m only halfway through, but this:

    “In the end, Obama remained imprisoned in the failed initiatives of the past, including an unending war in Afghanistan and Bush’s Global War on Terror, even as he tried to address new and amorphous threats like climate change. Still, he showed a sincere belief in diplomacy and the synergy of countries working together to solve global problems.”

    …is pure hokum. When, pray tell did he become imprisoned? Was it when —-oh, there are too many ‘when’s’ for me to adequately express the terms of his imprisonment. I’ll just give one: when he decided not to trust in the people’s ticking of box to have our taxes support his campaign and instead opted for oligarchal subserviency with the promise of future megabucks? Was that when? It was one of the whens!

    Oh, and that imprisonment of poor Obama meant we had to endure his eight year term of unending war in Afghanistan. Poor Obama! He couldn’t end it; he was imprisoned! (Pay no attention to those drones behind the curtain!) Oh, and that ‘sincere belief in diplomacy’ – must have been out there in the Rose Garden when he practically foamed at the mouth being denied an upgrade on Syria’s mess – he was imprisoned! But he was biting his tongue – diplomatically!

    Well, I’ll quibble here, just a bit. What, pray tell, is amorphous about climate change??? Is it amorphous that huge chunks of prehistoric ice the size of small states are suddenly carving themselves away on both poles??? (I hope I’m allowed lots of questionmarks here.) And someone will remind me of the dictionary meaning of the term – I’m taking it somewhat amorphously I will grant you.

    Still, Obama showed a sincere belief – when? When?

    Well, his belief was in synergy, you see. And his belief was only ‘sincere’, not ‘strong’ or ‘unwavering’, because — he was imprisoned!

    As I said, I am only half way through, but I have a strong feeling this whole big article was a kind of sandwich – plenty of thick bread around the outside for folks to glom onto, and this thin sliver of a gem of rewritten history deftly positioned within.

    I rest my case.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Obama was not “imprisoned”. Obama very carefully and with cynical malice aforethought constructed a fake foam-rubber prison with papier mache’ bars . . . so that he could portray himself as being “imprisoned”.

      His fake cardboard-replica “prison” was really his command post from which he carefully conspired to do, and succeeded in doing, all the things he expects to get paid hundreds of millions of dollars for doing in the decades to come.

  14. juliania

    I have tried twice unsuccesfully to draw attention to the following paragraph:

    “In the end, Obama remained imprisoned in the failed initiatives of the past, including an unending war in Afghanistan and Bush’s Global War on Terror, even as he tried to address new and amorphous threats like climate change. Still, he showed a sincere belief in diplomacy and the synergy of countries working together to solve global problems.”

    Last attempt (I know stuff gets caught up in trash, etc. – and who knows, I could have pressed the wrong button.)

    Just want to say this is such a rewriting of history that it throws the other parts of the article in doubt. If the author believes these things, he is not to be believed.

    1. knowbuddhau

      Great rant, share your disdain for Obama and his apologists, but cool your jets, Sister, just because you don’t see it right away don’t mean a thing. The harder you try, the more It learns to reject you.

      Also remember not to resemble spam. Cheers!

  15. ObjectiveFunction

    Wow, great comments here, vastly more heft than this latest smug virtue signalling broadside from another centrist paladin.

    Power to the Commentariat!

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps the members of the Commentariat could learn to see themselves as one strand out of two strands which make up the Virtual Double-Helix of Virtual Information-Action DNA.

      We who comment and read here are the digital avatars and information-thinkformation messengers who are sent here by the analog meat-space humanimals who send us here from their various keyboards. We the avatars can then take thoughts and / or information back to the meat-space humanimals who send us here. Those humanimals might very well put that information to analog-meatspace use in the analog-meatspace reality-sphere in which they live and from which they send us avatars here to write and to read.

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