If the Bernie Sanders campaign has propelled the word “socialism” into common, benign American usage, Donald Trump may have done the world an even greater service by calling into question the very pillars of U.S. imperial policy: the NATO alliance; the U.S. nuclear “umbrella”; the global network of 1,000 U.S. bases; military “containment” of China and Russia; and U.S. “strategic” claims in the Persian Gulf.
Were the U.S. to actually rid itself of these strategic “obligations,” the military hand on the Doomsday Clock would immediately be rolled back, giving humanity the breathing space to tackle other accumulated crises.
Of course, Donald Trump may over time rephrase, reverse or “clarify” out of existence some of his profoundly anti-imperial, “America First” foreign policy points, elicited in extended interviews with major U.S. media.
However, if Trump’s tens of millions of White so-called “Middle American” followers stick by him, despite his foreign policy heresies – as seems likely – it will utterly shatter the prevailing assumption that the American public favors maintenance of U.S. empire by military means.
If the rank-and-file right wing of the Republican Party is not a pillar of such policies, then who is?
Rank-and-file Black, White and Brown Democrats? If the Trump candidacy can continue to thrive while rejecting the holiest shibboleths of the bipartisan War Parties, then we must conclude that the whole U.S. foreign policy debate is a construct of the corporate media and the corporate-bought duopoly political establishments. Thus, there is no popular consensus for U.S. militarism and no true mass constituency for war in either party.
If Donald Trump is to be the catalyst for such a revelation, then may all the gods bless him – because lots of assassins will be out to kill him.
Trump’s language is sloppy, but there can be no mistaking the thrust of his position on key points.
He calls NATO, the globe-strutting Euro-American military juggernaut that extended its domain to Africa with the 2011 war of regime change in Libya, an alliance that is “unfair, economically, to us.”
Trump told the New York Times that NATO should focus on “counter-terrorism” – clearly a fundamentally scaled-down mission.
He repeated his often-expressed willingness to withdraw U.S. forces from Japan and South Korea, where American troops have been stationed since the end of World War II – unless both countries pay a lot more money to maintain them. Trump actually seems eager to get out of the region, based on the number of times he has brought the subject up in his campaign.
As with everything else in the Trump paradigm, he hooks the alliance to his quest for a “better deal” – but the point is that he doesn’t think the “price” of the far-flung U.S. military commitment is “worth it.”
Trump’s stated intention to renegotiate virtually all of the “deals” the U.S. has made around the world – the military architecture of imperialism – means he is pointedly applying a cost-benefit test to the 1,000 U.S. bases around the globe. He is reluctant to offer other nations the “protection” of U.S. nuclear weapons.
Trump does not accept the fundamental premise that these bases exist for U.S. security interests.
He frames them as a kind of “service” that the clients should pay for. Once the “national security” veneer is withdrawn, the military-imperial rationale evaporates and all that is left is a business transaction – not enough to call a nation to war, or to risk a world over.
Saudis should pay
Trump appears to welcome a strategic break with Saudi Arabia, threatening to cut off U.S. purchases of oil from the kingdom unless it “substantially reimburse[s]” Washington for fighting the Islamic State, or unless the Saudis and the other rich oil states commit troops to the anti-jihadist battle – at their own expense. It’s all nonsense, of course, since Washington and Saudi Arabia have been partners in global jihadism for two generations – but so what?
Trump seems to relish the idea of severing the Saudi connection. “If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection, I don’t think it would be around,” he said.
His threat to withdraw the “cloak” unless the potentates pay for protection would negate the U.S. national security rationale in the Persian Gulf going back to President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1943 declaration that “the defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defense of the United States.”
President Carter, another Democrat, upped the ante in 1980 with his doctrine that the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its “national interests” in the Persian Gulf.
Bush presidents One and Two were simply building on these previous national security rationales.
Trump recognizes no such imperative – without which U.S. imperial policy in the region has no political basis.
Trump plays the trade card rather than the military gambit in dealing with China. He would threaten economic retaliation for China’s fortification of islands in the China Sea – not military encirclement. “We have tremendous economic power over China, and that’s the power of trade,” he said. The same, presumably, would apply to Russia.
The presidential candidate shows no interest in “spreading democracy,” like George W. Bush, or assuming a responsibility to “protect” other peoples from their own governments, like Barack Obama and his political twin, Hillary Clinton.
On the contrary. Trump has stated that the U.S. should not have invaded Iraq and Libya and killed their leaders, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, because they killed terrorists – in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s macabre cackling over Gaddafi’s body. He opposed the U.S. proxy war against the al-Assad government in Syria, for similar reasons. He even briefly defied the ultimate taboo, using the word “neutral” to describe the stance he would take on Palestine.
In sum, albeit sloppily – and with no guarantee that he won’t change his mind at any moment – Trump has rejected the whole gamut of U.S. imperial war rationales, from FDR straight through to the present. He is busily delegitimizing U.S. imperial policy since World War II.
It’s not that “the Empire has no clothes;” it is being stripped of its rationale to march around the planet in battle gear thanks, not to Bernie, but to The Donald.
Trump has reduced White American nationalism to race, his “trump” card – but without his hero, Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet sailing the world to plant the flag on distant shores.
Supporters don’t care
The first effect of Trump’s intervention in the Republican primaries was to demonstrate that his White hordes really don’t give a damn for the GOP establishment’s corporate agenda. Indeed, Trump gave them a chance to show they hated what global capitalism has done to “their” jobs.
The fact that this cohort despises and fears non-Whites of whatever citizenship status is nothing new. It’s a constant in U.S. politics, which is why there has always been a White Man’s Party.
What makes this electoral season different – and, hopefully, a turning point in U.S. history – is that much of the rank and file of the White Man’s Party, the GOP, is rejecting the economic agenda of its corporate masters.
If the Republican voters accept Trump’s assault on the ideological rationale undergirding U.S. foreign policy and its imperial structures, there will be nothing left of the GOP for the corporate rulers to defend. The Republican house of cards is collapsing, inevitably throwing the whole duopoly system out of whack.
Break the system
The job of the Left, at this historic juncture, is to ensure that the two-party duopoly is permanently broken, to create the space for a much broader national discourse and, especially, to free Black America from the “trap within a trap” of the corporate-controlled Democratic Party. As we have written before, the best scenario of 2016 would be a fracture at both ends of the Rich Man’s Duopoly.
It is insane – although perfectly explainable – that the most leftish constituency in the nation, Black America, is aligned with the right wing of the Democratic Party in the person of Hillary Clinton, while White Democrats man the barricades for the nominal socialist, Bernie Sanders.
Blacks are the most pro-peace ethnicity in the nation, but have also been the indispensable bloc behind Hillary Clinton, the warmonger who is on her way to becoming the sole candidate of both Wall Street and the Pentagon.
It is magnificent, grand and glorious that the duopoly system is in deep trouble. But it is sad beyond measure that the near-extinction of independent Black politics has placed African-Americans in the most untenable position imaginable at this critical moment: in the Hillary Clinton camp.
Fortunately, key elements of the movement for Black lives have pledged not to endorse any candidates this election season. We hope that they stick with that commitment, continue to build a grassroots movement, and resist the corporate Democratic hegemony that has strangled and subverted Black politics for the past 40 years.
This electoral season will see massive realignments of parties and coalitions – events that will happen whether Black people are organized or not. But Black self-determination is only moved forward if people push it.
The most optimum time to press issues of Black self-determination is when the larger polity is in flux, such as exists today – thanks, in great measure, to the racist billionaire, Donald Trump.
Glen Ford is executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com. E-mail him at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.