Viet Nam

The ‘Global Order’: Myth Teary-eyed nostalgia as cover for U.S. hegemony

By ANDREW J. BACEVICH

From: The American Conservative

shutterstock_281823848

Lotus_studio/Shutterstock 

During the Age of Trump, Year One, a single word has emerged to capture the essence of the prevailing cultural mood: resistance. Words matter, and the prominence of this particular term illuminates the moment in which we find ourselves.

All presidents, regardless of party or program, face criticism and opposition.Citizens disinclined to support that program protest. Marching, chanting, waving placards, and generally raising a ruckus in front of any available camera, they express dissent. In normal times, such activism testifies to the health of democracy.

Yet these are not normal times. In the eyes of Trump’s opponents, his elevation to the pinnacle of American politics constitutes a frontal assault on values that until quite recently appeared fixed and unassailable. In such distressing circumstances, mere criticism, opposition, protest, and dissent will not suffice. By their own lights, anti-Trump forces are fending off the apocalypse. As in November 1860 so too in November 2016, the outcome of a presidential election has placed at risk a way of life.

The very word resistance conjures up memories of the brave souls who during World War II opposed the Nazi occupation of their homelands, with the French maquis the best known example. It carries with it an unmistakable whiff of gunpowder. After resistance comes revolution.

Simply put, Trump’s most ardent opponents see him as an existential threat, with the clock ticking. Thus the stakes could hardly be higher. Richard Parker of Harvard has conjured what he calls Resistance School, which in three months has signed up some 30,000 anti-Trump resistors from 49 states and 33 countries. “It is our attempt to begin the long slow process of recovering and rebuilding our democracy,” says Parker. Another group styling itself the DJT Resistance declares that Trump represents “Hatred, Bigotry, Xenophobia, Sexism, Racism, and Greed.”

This is not language suggesting the possibility of dialogue or compromise. Indeed, in such quarters references to incipient fascism have become commonplace. Comparisons between Trump and Hitler abound. “It takes willful blindness,” writes Paul Krugman in the New York Times, “not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.” And time is running short. Journalist Chris Hedges says “a last chance for resistance” is already at hand.

In the meantime, in foreign-policy circles at least, a second, less explosive term vies with resistance for Trump-era signature status. This development deserves more attention than it has attracted, especially among those who believe that alongside the question that riles up the resistance—namely, what values define us?—sits another question of comparable importance: “What principles define America’s role in the world?”

That second term, now creeping into the vocabulary of foreign-policy specialists, is liberal, often used interchangeably with the phrase rules-based and accompanied by additional modifiers such as open, international, and normative. All of these serve as synonyms for enlightened and good.

So Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, describing what he refers to as the “twilight of the liberal world order,” worries about the passing of “the open international economic system the United States created and helped sustain.” Donald Trump’s misguided emphasis on “America First,” Kagan writes, suggests that he has no interest in “attempting to uphold liberal norms in the international system” or in “preserving an open economic order.”

Commenting on Trump’s Inaugural Address, Nicole Gaouette, CNN national-security reporter, expresses her dismay that it contained “no reference to America’s traditional role as a global leader and shaper of international norms.” Similarly, a report in the Financial Times bemoans what it sees as “a clear signal about Mr. Trump’s disregard for many of the international norms that have governed America as the pillar of the liberal economic order.” The historian Jeremi Suri, barely a week into Trump’s presidency, charges Trump with “launching a direct attack on the liberal international order that really made America great after the depths of the Great Depression.” At the Council on Foreign Relations, Stewart Patrick concurs: Trump’s election, he writes, “imperils the liberal international order that America has championed since World War II.” Thomas Wright, another Brookings scholar, piles on: Trump “wants to undo the liberal international order the United States built and replace it with a 19th-century model of nationalism and mercantilism.”

In Foreign Policy, Colin Kahl and Hal Brands embellish the point: Trump’s strategic vision “diverges significantly from—and intentionally subverts—the bipartisan consensus underpinning U.S. foreign policy since World War II.” Failing to “subscribe to the long-held belief that ‘American exceptionalism’ and U.S. leadership are intertwined,” Trump is hostile to the “open, rule-based international economy” that his predecessors nurtured and sustained.

Need more? Let Gen. David Petraeus have the last word: “To keep the peace,” the soldier-turned-investment-banker writes in an essay entitled “America Must Stand Tall,” the United States has established “a system of global alliances and security commitments,” thereby nurturing “an open, free and rules-based international economic order.” To discard this legacy, he suggests, would be catastrophic.

You get the drift. Liberalism, along with norms, rules, openness, and internationalism: these ostensibly define the postwar and post-Cold War tradition of American statecraft. Allow Trump to scrap that tradition and you can say farewell to what Stewart Patrick refers to as “the global community under the rule of law” that the United States has upheld for decades.

But what does this heartwarming perspective exclude? We can answer that question with a single word: history.

Or, somewhat more expansively, among the items failing to qualify for mention in the liberal internationalist, rules-based version of past U.S. policy are the following: meddling in foreign elections; coups and assassination plots in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Cuba, South Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, and elsewhere; indiscriminate aerial bombing campaigns in North Korea and throughout Southeast Asia; a nuclear arms race bringing the world to the brink of Armageddon; support for corrupt, authoritarian regimes in Iran, Turkey, Greece, South Korea, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Egypt, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and elsewhere—many of them abandoned when deemed inconvenient; the shielding of illegal activities through the use of the Security Council veto; unlawful wars launched under false pretenses; “extraordinary rendition,” torture, and the indefinite imprisonment of persons without any semblance of due process.

Granted, for each of these, there was a rationale, rooted in a set of identifiable assumptions, ambitions, and fears. The CIA did not conspire with Britain’s MI6 in 1953 to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected president just for the hell of it. It did so because shelving Mohammad Mosaddegh seemingly offered the prospect of eliminating an annoying problem. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson did not commit U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam because he was keen to fight a major ground war in Asia but because the consequences of simply allowing events to take their course looked to be even worse. After 9/11, when George W. Bush and his associates authorized the “enhanced interrogation” of those held in secret prisons, panic rather than sadism prompted their actions. Even for the most egregious folly, in other words, there is always some explanation, however inadequate.

Yet collectively, the actions and episodes enumerated above do not suggest a nation committed to liberalism, openness, or the rule of law. What they reveal instead is a pattern of behavior common to all great powers in just about any era: following the rules when it serves their interest to do so; disregarding the rules whenever they become an impediment. Some regimes are nastier than others, but all are law-abiding when the law works to their benefit and not one day longer. Even Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s USSR punctiliously observed the terms of their non-aggression pact as long as it suited both parties to do so.

My point is not to charge à la Noam Chomsky that every action undertaken by the United States government is inherently nefarious. Rather, I am suggesting that to depict postwar U.S. policy in terms employed by the pundits quoted above is to whitewash the past. Whether their motive is to deceive or merely to evade discomfiting facts is beside the point. What they are peddling belongs to the universe of alt facts. To characterize American statecraft as “liberal internationalism” is akin to describing the business of Hollywood as “artistic excellence.”

“Invocations of the ‘rules-based international order,’” Politico’s Susan Glasser rightly observes, “had never before caused such teary-eyed nostalgia.” Whence comes this sudden nostalgia for something that never actually existed? The answer is self-evident: it’s a response to Donald Trump.

Prior to Trump’s arrival on the scene, few members of the foreign-policy elite, now apparently smitten with norms, fancied that the United States was engaged in creating any such order. America’s purpose was not to promulgate rules but to police an informal empire that during the Cold War encompassed the “Free World” and became more expansive still once the Cold War ended. The pre-Trump Kagan, writing in 2012, neatly summarizes that view:

The existence of the American hegemon has forced all other powers to exercise unusual restraint, curb normal ambitions, and avoid actions that might lead to the formation of a U.S.-led coalition of the kind that defeated Germany twice, Japan once, and the Soviet Union, more peacefully, in the Cold War.

Leave aside the dubious assertions and half-truths contained within that sentence and focus on its central claim: the United States as a hegemon that forces other nations to bend to its will. Strip away the blather about rules and norms and here you come to the essence of what troubles Kagan and others who purport to worry about the passing of “liberal internationalism.” Their concern is not that Trump won’t show adequate respect for rules and norms. What has them all in a lather is that he appears disinclined to perpetuate American hegemony.

More fundamentally, Trump’s conception of a usable past differs radically from that favored in establishment quarters. Put simply, the 45th president does not subscribe to the imperative of sustaining American hegemony because he does not subscribe to the establishment’s narrative of 20th-century history. According to that canonical narrative, exertions by the United States in a sequence of conflicts dating from 1914 and ending in 1989 enabled good to triumph over evil. Absent these American efforts, evil would have prevailed. Contained within that parable-like story, members of the establishment believe, are the lessons that should guide U.S. policy in the 21st century.

Trump doesn’t see it that way, as his appropriation of the historically loaded phrase “America First” attests. In his view, what might have occurred had the United States not waged war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and had it not subsequently confronted the Soviet Union matters less than what did occur when the assertion of hegemonic prerogatives found the United States invading Iraq in 2003 with disastrous results.

In effect, Trump dismisses the lessons of the 20th century as irrelevant to the 21st. Crucially, he goes a step further by questioning the moral basis for past U.S. actions. Thus, his extraordinary response to a TV host’s charge that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a killer. “There are a lot of killers,” Trump retorted. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” In offering this one brief remark, Trump thereby committed the ultimate heresy. Of course, no serious person believes that the United States is literally innocent. What members of the foreign-policy establishment—including past commanders-in-chief—have insisted is that the United States act as if it were innocent, with prior sins expunged and America’s slate wiped clean. This describes the ultimate U.S. perquisite and explains why, in the eyes of Robert Kagan et al., Russian actions in Crimea, Ukraine, or Syria count for so much while American actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya count for so little.

The desperate exercise in historical revisionism that now credits the United States with having sought all along to create a global community under the rule of law represents that establishment’s response to the heresies Trump has been spouting (and tweeting) since his famous ride down the escalator at Trump Tower.

Yet in reclassifying yesterday’s hegemon as today’s promulgator and respecter of norms, members of that establishment perpetrate a fraud. Whether Americans, notably gullible when it comes to history, will fall for this charade remains to be seen. Thus far at least, Trump himself, who probably knows a thing or two about snake-oil salesmen, shows little inclination to take the bait.

Say this for the anti-Trump resistance: while the fascism-just-around-the-corner rhetoric may be overheated and a touch overwrought, it qualifies as forthright and heartfelt. While not sharing the view that Trump will rob Americans of their freedoms, I neither question the sincerity nor doubt the passion of those who believe otherwise. Indeed, I am grateful to them for acting so forcefully on their convictions. They are inspiring.

Not so with those who now wring their hands about the passing of the fictive liberal international order credited to enlightened American statecraft. They are engaged in a great scam, working assiduously to sustain the pretense that the world of 2017 remains essentially what it was in 1937 or 1947 or 1957 when it is not.

Today’s Russia is not a reincarnation of the Soviet Union; the People’s Republic of China is not Imperial Japan; and the Islamic State in no way compares to Nazi Germany. Most of all, United States in the era of Donald Trump is not the nation that elected Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower, not least of all in the greatly reduced willingness of Americans to serve as instruments of state power, as the failed post-9/11 assertions of hegemony have demonstrated.

The world has changed in fundamental ways. So too has the United States. Those changes require that the principles guiding U.S. policy also change accordingly.

However ill-suited by intellect, temperament, and character for the office he holds, Trump has seemingly intuited the need for such change. In this regard, if in none other, I’m with the Donald
But note the irony. Trump may come closer to full-fledged historical illiteracy than any president since Warren G. Harding. Small wonder then that his rejection of the mythic past long employed to preempt serious debate regarding U.S. policy gives fits to the perpetrators of those myths.

Andrew J. Bacevich is TAC’s writer-at-large.  

Emperor Obama’s Old New Clothes and The US Energy War

The plain truth, why we are where we are, and the negation of democracy and human rights, for gas.

The Russia They Lost

Native Americans would like to know how cool America ever was…

SLAVYANGRAD.org

185065.b
Original article by Dmitry Sokolov-Mitrich: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/jurnal/73443.htm
September 8, 2014
Translated by: Daniil Mihailovich
Edited by: S. Naylor


We loved America. I remember, we did. When we were teens, growing up in the early 90s; most of my friends the same age did not even question their attitude toward Western civilization. It was great, how could it be otherwise?

Unlike our grandfathers and even fathers, we did not think of the USSR falling apart – the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the XX century” – as a disaster. For us it was the beginning of a long journey. Finally, we would break out beyond the Soviet shell into the big world – limitless and cool. Finally, we would quench our sensory deprivation. We are born, maybe not in the right place, but certainly at the right time – or so we thought. It’s hard to believe now, but even the Orthodox Church…

View original post 1,247 more words

The US of A’s destiny – #tyranny #fascism #NativeAmericans #genocide

Herausgegeben vom Reichsministerium des Innern - Reichsgesetzblatt I 1935 S. 1145As an old European (old enough anyway to remember clearly the glorious behaviour of France and the UK after WWII), and a friend of the USA, now observer of the tragedies of Palestine and Eastern-Ukraine, I often wonder what pushes the United States governments, irrespective of colours, with the apparent approval, even if passive, of a sizeable section of the white US electorate, to fund, arm, lie on behalf of, abject rightwing régimes the world over. The record is not arguable, from Chang-Kai-Shek to the new-born Nazi humunculi of Kiev, via Franco, a variety of South and Central American dictators, the fascistic colonels in Greece, the not too glorious generals of the so-called Republic of South-Vietnam, Signor Pinochet, the clownesque but lethal Mobutu, without forgetting the evil dynasty of Saud.

Of course, I understand the marxian analysis: corporate interests lie with conservative governments, that know how to protect divine private property and assets, if necessary by massacring their citizens, or their neighbours. America is the supreme, all-powerful, bully to the service of such interests, and protector of last resort of Capital Accumulation.

It does not entirely explain the taste of generations of US politicians to deny, or justify under ludicrous reasons, and more lies, the genocidal crimes committed by themselves, or under their protection, from the destruction of undefended German and Japanese cities in WWII, to the burning of Korean cities in 1954, the bombing and chemical onslaught on Viet-Nam, the removal of countless democratically elected governments (such as in the Congo and Iran), the active support (and arming) of Saddham Hussein’s criminal war against the Islamic Republic of Iran – and recently the use of weapons of mass destruction, directly or by proxy, in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan, and now the Ukraine.

Perhaps, to understand the logic, one has to go as far back as the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and the Trail of Tears, the thousands and thousands of Native Americans butchered to make space for the cream of European “colonists”. For the truth is here: the US élite is the extension, in direct line, of the same variety of ruthless, immoral, criminals that dominated Europe for centuries. For the Indian lands of North and South America, read Indochina, North Africa, those rich colonies plundered by western powers. The quasi-elimination of the Native population of America is, with slavery, the greatest genocide of all.

One day, in his Spandau jail, Albert Speer explained that the model for the Nazi racial laws of 1935 were indeed inspired by the Indian Removal Act. The loop is closed.

In Ukraine, the US is dragging us towards war with Russia | John Pilger | Comment is free | The Guardian

The Hundred-Year War

In Ukraine, the US is dragging us towards war with Russia | John Pilger | Comment is free | The Guardian.

 

The Logic of Power

Not in our nameAt the height of the Cold War, in 1974, Franz Schurmann, a respected Professor of Sociology and History at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of the already classic “Ideology and Organization in Communist China”, wrote “The Logic of World Power“. This masterly dissection of US Foreign policy, of the role of the imperial presidency, and of the significance of the nuclear arms race, remains to this day one of the most cogent analyses of the Cold War viewed from a US perspective.
The book subtitle was, aptly: “An Inquiry into the Origins, Currents, and Contradictions of World Politics”.

In his forward, Schurmann explains that he started writing the book in 1965, “when American planes began the bombing of North Vietnam.” He died in 2010, having had the time to see to the end the Vietnam tragedy and what Giovanni Arrighi would later consider “the signal crisis of US hegemony”. However his starting point was the observation that “since the end of World War II, the prime mover on the world scene has been the United States of America.”
Forty years later, in September-October 2013, the New Left Review, arguably one of the few remaining independent observers of world politics left in the English speaking media, published a two part study by Perry Anderson, “American Foreign Policy and it’s Thinkers.” In 2009 Mr Anderson gave us “The New Old World“, an unforgiving account of the origins and evolution of the European Union and its undemocratic institutions. “The New Old World” is indispensable reading for anyone who wishes to understand European current politics, and the logic of the US – European conundrum.
This new study will equally become a must read, not only for students of US Foreign Policy history, but for whoever wishes to follow up on Schurmann’ magisterial analysis, forty years later.
For the US are still the prime mover, despite all the disasters, despite the illusions of generations of prophets of doom and gloom for America’s role in the world. What was the logic of world power then, still is. Now, as then, the genesis of the new world order has US foreign policy as it’s midwife: in 1970, it was the onset of the final struggle with the USSR, the collapse of Keynesian political economies, and, soon, the rise of capitalist China, under the cloak of communism; today it is the seemingly unstoppable spread of neoliberal austerity policies in all western economies, on a backdrop of ever closer violent uprisings and local conflicts, and, still, the spectrum of conflict with China.
Schurmann wrote: “What began to wane in the late 1960s, clearly in relation to the Vietnam war, was the American Empire.” And indeed this relative decline has continued (as seen in the “longue durée”), but the reality of our world is that the logic of power is unchanged. Anderson shows that the fundamental logic of the Cold War had little to do with a “soviet threat” (for the USSR was at the end of WWII an exhausted and ruined country, contrary to the US who had hugely benefitted from the war and had been untouched by it), but rather the continuation of a bid for sustained US political and military dominance, unchallenged at the end of World War II, and with it, an economic order far remote from the official “free-world” propaganda.

Anderson observes on what was to follow, on the conclusion of the Cold War:
“In the Cold War, triumph was in the end complete. But the empire created to win it did not dissolve back into the liberal ecumenism out of whose ideological vision it had emerged. The institutions and acquisitions, ideologies and reflexes bequeathed by the battle against communism now constituted a massive historical complex with its own dynamics, no longer needed to be driven by the threat from the Soviet Union. Special forces in over a hundred countries round the world; a military budget larger than that of all other major powers combined; tentacular apparatuses of infiltration, espionage and surveillance; ramifying national security personnel; and last but not least, an intellectual establishment devoted to revising, amplifying and updating the tasks of grand strategy, of a higher quality and productivity than any counterpart concerned with domestic affairs – how could all this be expected to shrink once again to the slender maxims of 1945?”

It did not and it won’t. Despite the disappearance of the USSR, despite many localised conflicts and their costs, the logic is unchanged.
Reflecting on the dilemma, under Nixon, of US policies over Vietnam in 1970, Schurmann wrote: “but the nuclear chess game was not compatible with either popular sovereignty or parliamentary rule. As it was, the President preferred to appeal to the bottom over the middle. He spoke to what he felt was the majority’s opposition to any American defeat, appealing to their nationalism… Like any President, he had to go to his constituencies when he faced a great crisis within his bureaucratic ranks and ask for their support.”

God bless America.

Image: Ilka Hartmann Photography

#WritersWednesday: In Praise of White Poppies

Dresden, Teilansicht des zerstörten Stadtzentrums über die Elbe nach der Neustadt. In der Bildmitte der Neumarkt und die Ruine der Frauenkirche.

We will wear a white poppy from now on, in November. Listening to the unctuous words of a political class that does not hesitate to send young men and women to war, on lies and idiotic excuses, of course guarding themselves to ever wear a uniform, we just felt utter revulsion.

Nothing is new. As a franco-german household, we’ve always seen the two European world-wars as civil wars, caused by the folly of politicians and their henchmen in industry and the media. That there is always a party of war is a sad truth. It is made of bigots, hypocrites, profiteers and the inept, the clueless, who end up as cannon fodder among the real innocent.

So this year, we remembered: our grand fathers who died on opposite sides of those trenches, but in the same spirit: that of awe and terror at the hell those liars had sent them to; the fallen citizen-soldiers in their millions, and the martyr cities of the 20th, and now, the 21st century, already (only a small sample listed here):

Verdun (1916-17), Reims (1917), Nanking (1937), Coventry (1940), Lübeck (1942), Hamburg (1943), Kiel (1944), Bremen (1944), Stuttgart (1944), Warsaw (1994), Dresden (1944), Berlin (1945), Leningrad (1941-45), Stalingrad (1943), Tokyo (1944), Hiroshima (1945), Nagasaki (1945), Pyongyang (1953), Hué (1968), Pnom-Penh (1975), New-York (2001), Bagdhad (to date)… 

Remembrance must not be an opportunity for liars to retell their tales: that political class and their lackeys only deserve our contempt and that of our Dead. We hope that some of these devils, at least, will face trial for their (war) crimes. 

Haibun Today: A Haibun & Tanka Prose Journal

Morning view over the Mekong river

Haibun Today: A Haibun & Tanka Prose Journal.