Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Big Question About Trump

To what extent is Trump willing to joust with the national security apparatus of the permanent U.S. warfare state? This I think is the big question about a Trump presidency. Those on the Left and the Alt Right who imagine a real reboot to be forthcoming are being naive. All one had to do is listen to the "USA! USA!" chants emanating from the election night Trump campaign party to know that what we are dealing with here is more like an unbridled Reaganesque militarism than a wily realpolitik embrace of the Russian Federation.

James Luchte in "Trump vs. the National Security Establishment: Will There be a Revolution in US Foreign Policy?" frames the question well:
On the one hand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel seek regime change in Syria in order to build a gas pipelines to Europe.  On the other hand, the US disrupts Russian supply chains – via the Ukrainian crisis and the European sanctions regime – to destabilize Russia and Russian-European relations.  Crimea is significant, in this light, as it is a primary distribution hub for Europe, a status threatened by the coup d’etat.  The reunification of Crimea with Russia took place directly against the background of the Syrian conflict as a response to the overall US strategies of containment and market displacement.  Further pressure has been placed on Russia through oil price deflation from shale gas and oil smuggling by ISIS.
US strategy in Syria has tragically metastasized into a policy of “nation destroying”, of proxy, mercenary warfare, destabilization, partition and ethnic cleansing (the “refugee crisis”).  Syria has made a horrific sacrifice for the US national security obsession with Russia.
For Trump to ask, “What do we care?” clearly exposes why the national security establishment has condemned his candidacy in such vitriolic terms.  In its view, to allow Putin to win in Syria would be not only to accept Assad, but also to give Russia a permanent presence in the region. To exclude and push Russia back has always been the US objective and Trump’s Russophilia is a direct challenge to the National Security establishment and its plan to throw Putin out of Europe.
Trump has however won the election and he is on a direct collision course with the National Security establishment.  Of course, Trump is an unlikely revolutionary.  He has never said he would defy the National Security Act of 1947 (no president has), which means that he will accept its shadowy apparatus and its bureaucratic methodologies. Indeed, he supports increased NSA surveillance, expanded military spending, CIA activism, FBI phone hacking, etcetera. He is simply suggesting a different target for business-as-usual, by reminding us of our last propaganda cycle, the “War on Terror”.
Yet, Trump has thus far failed to articulate the “big picture” of a Russian rapprochement in the context of the necessity of a US glasnost – of a deconstruction of the National Security state.  During a campaign characterised by serial violations of longstanding taboos (Sanders’ opposition to the CIA, his support of the Sandinistas and Cuba) and Wikileaks’ disclosure of sensitive and damaging government and campaign documents, Trump squandered his opportunity to lay out a credible vision for either radical reform or revolution.  Indeed, he has been happy to simultaneously endorse the NSA surveillance state and Wikileaks – and without irony.
Trump’s has thus far failed to articulate a coherent vision of a cooperative, multi-polar world – in other words, to invite ordinary citizens to demand a radical change in the concept of national security and of the place of the US in the world.  If he does not challenge the NSC, Trump’s insurgency will expose itself as a distraction to the urgent task of finding a pathway out of the labyrinth of empire.  In its naivety, Trump’s “revolution” would then serve to further merely consolidate the unquestioned impunity of the National Security state.
If Trump is serious, he will set forth a coherent critique of US national security and the constitutional disaster that is the National Security Act.  If Trump is serious, he will defy the National Security Act.
I think we'll find out early on in the first 100 days of Trump how sincere he is in regards to Syria. Cooperation with Russia on Raqqa will tell us what we need to know.


  1. Trump may or may not live up to any of his campaign promises. It would be nice if he got a rapproachement with the Russians, that alone would be worth the price of admission. But more important, I think, is the effect his election will have on the political parties in this country which certainly need a shaking up. I have long argued that the important, watershed, election will be in 2020. With his election, we may make some of the necessary changes before that critical election. With Clinton's election, we would not make those changes, since her election would assure everyone that things are great.

    1. "With Clinton's election, we would not make those changes, since her election would assure everyone that things are great." I couldn't agree with you more. This is what I was telling my neighbor as we walked to dinner at a restaurant on Broadway. About 30 minutes into our meal the huge "No Trump" march passed by our window. The march went on for fifteen minutes. The police were quoted as saying there were 6,000 participants. From what I could from where I was sitting about 95% were 30 years old or younger. I say good. But it is going to take more than marches. Look at the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. We marched and burned candles and chanted in far larger numbers than I witnessed last night and it didn't stop Bush. No, it is going to take these millennials months and years of giving up their evenings at bars, cafes and clubs to sit in churches and union halls to become radical PCOs and local officers. Can it be done? Probably not. But at least now the task is clear. People are either can going to get to work or resign themselves to the onrushing tsunami.