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But only a little. Trump’s clownish foreign policy shouldn’t be used to discredit diplomacy.
By Jeet Heer
September 11, 2019
photo above: John Bolton talks to reporters about outside the White House on May 1, 2019. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)
WN: This analysis strikes as reading Trump all too well: thereby accentuating Trump’s continued gargantuan threat to the world.
John Bolton doesn’t seem like a man who quotes T.S. Eliot in moments of trial, but he might take comfort in these words from Four Quartets: “In my beginning is my end.” Bolton’s truncated tenure as national security adviser, a 17-month sprint from April of 2018 to this week, started with Donald Trump delighting in Bolton’s vigorous defense of the president on Fox News and ended, reportedly, with the POTUS fuming over Bolton’s refusal to be a talking-head surrogate. According to The Washington Post, “Bolton recently said he did not want to appear on television to defend some of the administration’s positions, particularly on Afghanistan and Russia.”
Television, then, was both the making and unmaking of John Bolton. Like so much else in the Trump era, Bolton’s career as national security adviser was a media creation. Fittingly, it ended in a flurry of competing tweets, with Trump claiming Bolton was fired while Bolton countered he’d tried to quit first.
Whatever the exact sequence, Bolton’s departure is welcome news for one simple reason: Bolton was an ultra-hawk who pushed some incredibly dangerous policies. Bolton advocated withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, coupled with badgering the Iranian regime; canceling long-term nuclear agreements with Russia; making impossible demands on North Korea—among other reckless initiatives. Bolton was known to stand in the way of Trump’s occasional gestures of diplomacy aimed at Iran, North Korea, and the Taliban. With Bolton gone, some optimistic souls are even hoping that Trump might enter a new phase of his presidency, one in which his unilateralist instincts will be turned toward negotiation rather than bluster.
These liberal pundits are being too generous to the president. It’s true that to date Trump, unlike George W. Bush, has avoided an all-out war. But Trump also likes to make statements and gestures that skirt close to war. He threatened to bring down “fire and fury” on North Korea before he declared he was “in love” with Kim Jong-Un. Trump has also ramped up drone strikes, with a chilling disregard for civilian lives that outdoes his immediate predecessor. And let’s remember: The same Trump who fired Bolton first hired him.
Trump is not a dove, nor is he a hawk. Trump is not a bird of any feather. He’s a narcissist. The key to understanding the wild gyrations of Trump’s foreign policy is his self-image as a great global dealmaker. President Obama won a Nobel Prize just for not being George W. Bush, and Trump would like nothing more than to best his predecessor. Much of Trump’s wayward foreign policy makes sense when we realize that his normal tactic is to create a crisis—then take credit for trying to fix it. That’s the pattern he’s followed with North Korea and NAFTA. It also seems to be his goal with Iran. Trump hungers for a photo-op that will prove once and for all that he’s the greatest dealmaker of the age.
Nothing in Trump’s record suggests he has the command of government policy—or skill at bureaucratic in-fighting—needed to make any sort of lasting deal in the face of opposition from his own party or the military-industrial complex. Bolton is gone, but Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo are still in power. They remain in Trump’s good books by diligent sycophancy. A former ambassador once described Pompeo as “a heat-seeking missile for Trump’s ass.” But Pence and Pompeo are also rigidly right-wing Republicans and can be trusted to undermine any diplomatic gambit.
The true danger of Trump is not that he’ll make bad deals but that his clowning will discredit diplomacy. Post-Trump, the United States will have to go into diplomatic overdrive: Sign back on to the Paris Accord and the Iran nuclear deal, come to terms with nuclear North Korea, make peace with the Taliban, normalize relations with Cuba, deescalate from a looming conflict with China, reengage with Russia on nuclear diplomacy, among many other urgent tasks. Even Denmark will need an apology for Trump’s buffoonish attempt to buy Greenland. All of this will be harder to do because Trump has convinced the world that the United States is a mercurial and untrustworthy superpower. With Bolton gone, the danger is not bad deals—but that the next president won’t be up to the daunting task of rebuilding American diplomacy.
Please click on: The World Safer?
- Please look at several articles as well on American/Western will to world domination by clicking on "Selected Articles: Western Aggression Backed by Western Media”. The series of articles is introduced thus:
The Western allies never run dry of resources to support their global war of terror and aggression, ostensibly an integral part of their foreign policy. They dynamically legislate laws lest the people awaken. They have the unbending support of the corporate media, which skilfully distorts reality. When will they ever back down from their destructive quest for colonies? Read our selection below.↩
- It continued:
‘For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands, killing scores of unarmed civilians – in some cases torturing and mutilating them - in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public,’ the newspaper said, at other points describing the killing of hundreds of unarmed civilians. ‘Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers,’ The Blade said. ‘Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.” The New York Times confirmed the claimed accuracy of the stories by contacting several of those interviewed. It reported: “But they wanted to make another point: that Tiger Force had not been a ‘rogue’ unit. Its members had done only what they were told, and their superiors knew what they were doing. “Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground forces throughout Vietnam, they said. That contention is backed up by accounts of journalists, historians and disillusioned troops… ‘Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go,’ [one veteran] said in a recent telephone interview. ‘It was that kind of war, a frontless war of great frustration. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.’ Current likely Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry was also quoted giving evidence before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971. He reported that American soldiers in Vietnam had “raped, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. Nicholas Turse [later author of: Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam], a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, has been studying government archives and said they were filled with accounts of similar atrocities. ''I stumbled across the incidents The Blade reported,'' Mr. Turse said by telephone. ''I read through that case a year, year and a half ago, and it really didn't stand out. There was nothing that made it stand out from anything else. That's the scary thing. It was just one of hundreds.'' Yet there were few prosecutions.↩
- Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:
Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin's gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] ("The Cold War in Central America", pp. 216 - 221).What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary "City on A Hill" that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. "The Land of the Free" conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America's leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its eventual global reach.↩
-  The highlighted article about renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world's) reality: "Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button". He has since written The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Of it we read:
Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist for the California Book Award in Nonfiction The San Francisco Chronicle's Best of 2017 List In These Times “Best Books of 2017” Huffington Post's Ten Excellent December Books List LitHub's “Five Books Making News This Week” From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America's Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day. Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America's nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization--and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration--threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.↩
- A classic instance of this aligning with "just war" is the United States' "war on drugs" as subset of "war on crime", while at the same time the CIA was a major worldwide drug dealer in league with other drug cartels -- all done to enhance American Empire during the Cold War -- and continues to the present. The four-part series mentioned below connects American Empire drug dealing to the current War on Terror, in particular in Afghanistan. This of course is colossal hypocrisy as well. Worse: the series posits American federal government administrations over many decades as the Ultimate Drug Cartel, with Blacks, Latinos, and generally the poor directly being knowingly poisoned en masse. Then they have been primary targets of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and thereby become victims of America's too often savage prison system that oppresses and brutalizes them all over again... See: "The War on Drugs Is a Failure, So [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions Is All for It". A citation from the article reads:
In June , the History Channel aired a four-part documentary series called America’s War on Drugs.” The series asserts that the war on drugs was actually a war of drugs—and that the CIA was essentially a partner in spreading drugs and drug use. The series follows how the U.S. intelligence agency, in an obsession with fighting communism, allied itself with U.S. organized crime and foreign drug traffickers and includes firsthand accounts from many involved. In an interview with Truthdig columnist Sonali Kolhatkar on her radio program “Rising Up With Sonali,” the series’ executive producer, Anthony Lappé, explains why the CIA got involved:
It’s actually a pretty mind-blowing story when you look at the extent to which the CIA was involved with drug traffickers and drug trafficking throughout the Cold War. … If you look at Cold War policy against the Soviet Union, we were locked in a global battle for supremacy, where we have lots of proxy wars going on. … We needed to team up with local allies, and often the local allies we were teaming up with were people who had access to guns, who had access to underground networks, to help us fight the perceived threat of communism. There are actually a lot of similarities between what drug traffickers do and what the CIA does.Lappé elaborates by saying the hypocrisy of the war on drugs has been evident from the start: Secret CIA experiments with LSD helped fuel the counterculture movement, leading to President Richard Nixon’s crackdown and declaration of the war on drugs. The series also explores the CIA’s role in the rise of crack cocaine in poor black communities and a secret island “cocaine base.” In addition the documentary makes the connection between the war on drugs, the war on terror and the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco state and contends that American intervention in Mexico helped give clout to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the super cartels, making it easier to send drugs across American borders. Watch Kolhatkar’s full interview with Lappé by clicking here. Please also see the now classic: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, by noted American historian Alfred McCoy. Of it we read:
The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, The Politics of Heroin includes meticulous documentation of dishonesty and dirty dealings at the highest levels from the Cold War until today. Maintaining a global perspective, this groundbreaking study details the mechanics of drug trafficking in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South and Central America. New chapters detail U.S. involvement in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan before and after the fall of the Taliban, and how U.S. drug policy in Central America and Colombia has increased the global supply of illicit drugs.To be noted as well is Johann Hari's Chasing The Scream, which tells the tragic tale of America's long-standing offensive against drugs, and the way to end such a war worldwide -- that several nations are successfully embracing.↩