AMERICAN EMPIRE: THE PSYCHOSIS OF HEGEMONY
THE PSYCHOSIS OF HEGEMONY
For the past 18 years, the United States has been battling to establish global hegemony. The project’s failings, some ignominious, expose its brittle foundations and flawed design. Yet, there is an odd silence as the audacious enterprise risks coming to grief on nearly every front. Americans who, for the most part, had no idea what they were getting into remain oblivious both to what has befallen the country and the consequences. The two phenomena are intimately related.
The British Empire, it is said – albeit incorrectly, was built in a fit of absentmindedness. America’s bid for world mastery has been marked by self-delusion and willful ignorance. How this misadventure came to pass needs to be delineated before memory dissolves in the mists of history – especially since the past has become so unpredictable. A preliminary effort to do so was made in an earlier commentary on the NEO-CONS & friends. Let us continue by enumerating what is distinctive about this singular affair of historic consequence.
First, there is the sheer magnitude. American military forces are now engaging ‘the enemy’ from the jungles of interior Honduras to the barren plains of Somalia, from the sands of Mali’s Saharan frontier to the Hindu Kush, from remote ‘black sites’ where the baddest bad guys remain incarcerated to CIA operations in Iran’s Baluchistan, from bases in Britain to bases in Patagonia (yes), from the hovels of the Congo to the dusty hamlets of Helmand province; from Kiev to Rio to Caracas to Tripoli. The scope of the battlefield equals that of World War II.
Second, ‘the enemy’ bears many names – the list grows almost weekly. It began with al-Qaeda holding pride of place in the immediate wake of 9/11. Soon, Afghanistan and other violent jihadist groups were added. With the Iraq invasion and occupation, accompanied by designation of the ‘Axis of Evil,” the genie’s lamp was lit. For the first years of the Global War on Terror, many of the threatening agents were mysterious and identification elusive. We heard of ‘international criminal organizations, Islamo-fascism, narco-states, rogue states, WMD precursor proliferation, transnational terrorism – of course; and then the more academic euphemisms: cyber-terrorism, the new world disorder, etc. As the list grew, the ‘enemy’ started to show the symptoms of multiple personality disorder. In the Middle East, where so many of these ‘enemies’ reside and whose perceived menace grows as we deploy troops in every accessible backyard, their personalities merge, separate, wax and wane. (Iraq: enemy/ depenable stooge, suspect, dependent, ally, suspect). With an enemy at once elusive and omni-present, danger is eternal and victory indefinable. Only total control of the external environment could kill the former and secure the latter. That means America must mobilize all its powers and deploy them globally, i. e. hegemony.
Third, over time, the sense of danger becomes generalized and systemic. Fear turns to dread – it becomes free floating. That means it is fungible, easily shifted from one reference point to another. We now ally with al-Qaeda in Syria, ship it arms and threaten anyone who dares to uproot it; yet, the dread holds constant as it is displaced onto Russia, China, North Korea, Iran as well as the Islamic State. In this convoluted psychological process, the objective truth of the real world is overwhelmed by the subjective virtual truths that shape our perception of reality.
(This loss of contact with reality is characteristic of delusional disorder in individuals. Often it is associated with the individual’s isolation – from other persons and from the external environment. Just the opposite, though, is the case with the collective psychosis we are examining. For delusions are reinforced through regular contact with other members of society. Here is a clue to one reason for the perpetuation of the delusional state of mind. There is massive reinforcement among persons sharing the same emotional experience, reacting to it the same way, attaching the same meanings, and coping with the same fears. Collective hysteria is a fairly common societal phenomenon. It has been much studied. Witch hunts fall into this category. On a larger scale, chiliastic movements in the past exhibited similar characteristics….
….. The tension normally associated with the psychotic individual’s encounter with objective reality does not tighten if the dominant element of that reality is the attitudes and expressed opinions of others who share the underlying delusions. Their subjective state is a crucial part of the external environment. Reality testing, in these circumstances, leads to conformity in viewing the world through the delusional prism – rather than it being a potential corrective).
Psychological entrenchment is matched by institutional entrenchment. Whole industries have been created de novo to serve the cause: purveyors of anti-terrorist nostrums, nation building projects galore, democracy promotion consultants, private militaries for hire, escort services offering gun-toting anthropologists and psychologists, and the inescapable market makers for derivatives of the Great Threat(s). This reinforces the inertia – in intellectual and policy terms.
Fourth, the goal and the strategy for achieving total security have not been clearly enunciated by persons who animated them. That has been true under three successive presidents. There is more proclivity than there is strategy; more least common denominator convergence than coherently crafted, unitary plan. The confluence takes the shape of a self-conscious devotion to ensconcing the United States’ dominance by Americanizing the world. The currents that form it are these: Some prefer to achieve that end by merchandizing knock-off versions of the American Dream. Some blandish the lure of Freedom and liberation from whatever irks peoples. Some advocate ‘pro-active’ approaches that stress the stick rather than the carrot – applied “for their own good.” Those aim to exploit American muscle. Some promote the “good deed’ strategy of sheltering the oppressed – when they happen to be endangered by governments who coincidentally are not obedient to Washington. The current Trump bunch are enamored of insult, intimidation, and coercion by various means. They all encourage unilateralism, whether masked behind the façade of American controlled organizations or by freelancing (the Trump preference).
Unilateralism in its present form features actions that aim at once to establish dominance and to demonstrate it. Hence, the emphasis on doing unparalleled things that advertise American control and the weakness of Washington’s subordinates. The United States, in effect, declares all disobedience to American dictate as illegitimate. Insurrectionists against our occupation of Iraq are denounced as “anti-Iraq forces”. Similarly, the Taliban and Haqqanis are anti-Afghanistan forces, Assad ‘s army is an anti-Syria force, the Houthi-led coalition is an anti-Yemen force, the al-Shabab are an anti-Somali force, the sovereign Maduro government an anti-Venezuelan force because it resists the pretension of the GQ pretty boy we arbitrarily promote as President. Anyone who comes to their aid is denounced as an outlaw.
Think of recent steps in Trump’s trade war on China. The United States has broken all precedent by strong-arming the feeble Justin Trudeau to arrest Huawei’s CFO on spurious charges of the company’s violating an American law that unilaterally claims extraterritorial jurisdiction over third part commercial dealings. We then follow-up by denying Huawei the right to do business in the United State while squeezing other countries to join the boycott. Trump admits that if China caves in to his trade demands both actions will be reversed. Justification for the latter action rests on the unsubstantiated claim that Huawei products containing hidden surveillance cum hacking devices. Yet, the one outstanding case of cyber warfare was the attack carried out by Washington, in cahoots with Israel, to irreparably render inoperative critical Iranian computers via the notorious STUNEX Worm. Likewise, the one country that has hacked into the private communications of leaders in other governments, and international organizations, is the United States. I am not aware of any major publication, politico or think tank luminary who has made these elementary points.
Still another example, drawn from dozens, is the continuing effort to block Nordstream, the extensive project to bring Russian natural gas to Germany and other European countries via pipelines under the Baltic. Washington has made all manner of threats towards achieving this end. Quailed leadership in Europe, and the silence of media lambs in the United States, are making that campaign look likely to succeed. It already has led to Germany’s purchase of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the U.S. which is markedly more expensive.
Finally, there is the Sweden-Assange affair. The allegations against Assange for rape à la Suedoise (a busted condom) was investigated and dismissed three times. Three times they have been placed back on the docket. In the first instance, 7 years ago, Barack Obama threatened the Swedes that unless they pursued the matter Washington would terminate all Intelligence sharing – even including warnings of terrorist attacks. Stockholm caved in to the plea from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Three weeks ago, it was Donald Trump’s turn. The motivation was to extract Assange from the British judicial system where there is some slight risk that due process and/or a pang of conscience by a maverick judge might result in denying the Americans the opportunity to wreak revenge for the embarrassment that he caused them – and to deter others from emulating him. In Sweden, the charges quickly would be dismissed for the fourth time, and the nail-biting Swedes would extradite Assange to the U.S. The American threat? Probably, involving Intelligence again – or, maybe, Washington has hinted broadly that it has embarrassing fresh evidence that further inculpates Swedbank AB for its alleged criminal activities involving the laundering of $100 billion in the Baltic region (including Russia). Stockholm authorities are busy sweeping the affair of Sweden’s oldest bank going rogue under the rug while concentrating on devising ways to get Assange into American hands.
On these latter episodes, silence reigned among all but a handful of our politicos, our media, and the folks along Mass Ave who are paid to do nothing but think. (30 minutes ago, some in the press have awakened to the threat to the First Amendment the Assange persecution represents – after 6 years as accessories in the campaign of character assassination. In the forefront was Bill Keller, then Executive Editor of the Times).
Today’s journalistic reality is that truth is negotiated. The old motto: “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” is just a quaint throwback to an age of idealism. Of course, practice never matched ideal. The differences between now and then are the pretense, the widening gap, and the increased urgency of getting facts – so labelled – into public discourse. In current practice, journalists and public figures are collaborators rather than writers and subjects. The former get a story; the latter get a say on how reality is presented – and occasional privileges to have their ‘line’ transmitted via the media directly to the reader/listener. Stenographic reporting along with refrain from raising awkward questions serves the latter purposes.
‘Negotiated truth’ has become the standard currency in and around public institutions. Robert Mueller’s manner of handling his relations with the Department of Justice fits the pattern. In declaring that William Barr’s gross misrepresentations of his report’s conclusion were ‘well intentioned,’ while making it obvious that Trump had obstructed justice, is a prime example. In this instance, Mueller negotiated the truth among his sense of professional duty, his conscience and his keen desire to maintain a certain standing among his fellow Republicans. In the end, he tilted toward the last while hiding behind the first. Par for the course.
‘Negotiated truth’ has been institutionalized on the ubiquitous talk shows. Questions are agreed in advance, talking points treated as pearls of wisdom, and hosts bargain away their right to ask probing questions in exchange for the guest’s (and their colleagues’) willingness to appear on the show.
What would a more fruitful media discussion of these matters look like? Leaving aside for a moment the obvious value of informed, non-slanted reporting – create a space for Lawrence Wilkerson, Andrew Bacevich, Charles Freeman and a few more people of that quality. At present, they are non-persons – and that is not a coincidence. Similarly, why are Sy Hersh, Chris Hedges and Stephen Cohen banned from the op ed page of papers like the NYT? (And even the high-brow, enlightened New York Review of Books which, for the past 5 years, has subjected readers to a steady stream of articles decrying Putin and Russia in tones suggesting revelation of happenings in Hitler’s Reich in the late 1930s). After all, the editors show no compunction in opening their space to the likes of Erik Prince of Blackwater notoriety or Karl Rove. Or, is it that showcasing persons who know how to think and write would cast shade on the effusions from their more dubious guest contributors?
The hegemonic Trumpites are promiscuous in choosing ‘enemies.’ Everyone is a potential candidate for bullying – except Israel. The enemies list covers a large portion of the U.N. membership. Nikki Haley introduced herself to the U.N. Security Council with the mafia style warning that “For those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names, and we will make points to respond to that accordingly.” 1 Pompeo, Bolton, the President mimic the bullies who prowl the schoolyard casting an eye for susceptible targets. Recent additions to the preferred category are Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, Japan, Canada and Turkey (on odd numbered days of the month – and for the wrong reasons). There are hardy perennials like Cuba, North Korea and Iran viewed through the sights of a rifle scope. And then there are the perceived rivals for ‘king of the hill’ – China and Russia. The uneasy co-existence with Beijing and Moscow that prevailed for a while has now been replaced by outright hostility and verbal assault backed by economic sanctions. This way, Trump and his Vulcans can indulge their impulse to threaten without paying attention to the exact direction given how rich the target environment is. Their tantrums abroad now bear close resemblance to the cavalier imprecations in irate attacks on Nancy Pelosi or Rex Tillerson or Robert Mueller at home.
A number of core premises underlie this aggressive way of handling foreign relations. They are shared by many non-Trumpites:
- It is legitimate, even imperative, for America to use its power to forestall dangers of any kind to its interests – whether striking preemptively against extant threats or preventively where the lethal combination of anti-Americanism, WMD, and/or terrorism may coalesce.
- Traditional concepts of state sovereignty do not constitute an acceptable legal or political barrier to efforts at imposing that solution.
- The United States is uniquely endowed to lead such an enterprise. In addition to its material strength, it has the capacity to inspire – it remains the beacon of idealism for those yearning to be free of repression.
- American efforts to impress its vision on other governments are not tainted by imperial ambition. America’s rectitude and civic virtue validate its role as guide and prophet.
- The United States, therefore, is not a ‘global Leviathan’ that advances its selfish interests at the expense of others. It is, rather, the benign producer of public goods.
- The privilege exemption from the international norms, including the right to act unilaterally, is earned by an historical record of selfless performance.
‘Unilateralism’ is the key term for understanding this mode of non-thinking. Washington demands complete freedom of action without regard to other states – be they friends, rivals or interested bystanders. That implies breaking the bonds of mutual obligation incorporated into international organizations – any international organization whatever its membership. Hence, Trump et al rail against NATO allies, against the World Bank, against the WTO, against arms control treaties, and the Paris Treaty on global warming, etc., etc. An ancillary proposition is that it will undercut any cooperative organization that strengths the influence of its members since such a formation might countervail America’s power to dictate to the weaker: the European Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Chinese ‘Silk Road’ project.
Trump’s narcissism is perfectly suited to unilateralism since narcissists’ obsession is to have complete freedom to act unconstrained as the impulse moves them.2 The malignant narcissist in particular craves that freedom so as to impose himself on others at will and to hurt them as he wishes.
This is a Hobbesian world. An all-against-all environment where the strongest will rule – and has a right to rule. Threat and coercion are the standard instruments used to get one’s way. In practice, there is some inhibition about direct use of military force where and when it can lead to all-out war. Why? Big wars are not predictable; they can lose you votes; and – in this case – they demand the intestinal fortitude that Trump totally lacks. After all, his experience of combat is limited to the grey-zone real estate market and municipal corruption in NYC. The disposition arising from the last two often is mistaken for ‘isolationism.’
An essential feature of this behavior pattern is that it is not formed or guided in accordance with some carefully conceived, thought-through strategic design. There is none. The closest approximation is the Wolfowitz Plan whose ideas gained remarkable currency by seeping into the minds of the policy community by osmosis rather than by deliberation. There, it has filled an intellectual void. If there were such a comprehensive strategy – clearly articulated, Trump himself would be incapable of understanding it or following the script. The same can be said for Kushner, for Pompeo, for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff Joseph Dunford, and their senior associates. The uniformed military do not yearn for wars. What they want are three things: expanding bureaucratic empires and budgets; getting as close as they can to the mirage of “full spectrum military dominance’ in every region of the globe; and avoiding embarrassing failures. This last is accomplished by throwing dollars and lives into lost causes like Afghanistan along with a sophisticated propaganda apparatus that uses the managed media and pliable politicos to pass on fictional versions of what is happening in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia, in Syria, in Iraq, and in the Russian borderlands.
Hence, the coverage and analysis of Trump’s doings internationally are distorted by the erroneous assumption that his acts form a rational pattern. That they are the resultant of some logical thought process. That is false. Trump is mentally deranged. We discuss that fact of life all the time – except when it comes to foreign policy. So, analysis of his meeting last week with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is treated like that of any other American president with the head of a major government. Trump’s counterparts do not; they are acutely aware that they are dealing with somebody who is unhinged– somebody who could have a temper tantrum that seriously harms them, himself and bystanders. Abe prepared for his first encounter with Trump by forming a panel of six psychiatrists whose insight and advice he sought on how to deal with this madman. Likely, so have Xi and Putin. This aspect of Trump’s tête-à-têtes with foreign leaders should figure in every report of these meetings.
Indeed, the most significant theme of journalistic coverage should be how a given foreign leader is using what psychological strategy to bring Trump more or less into line with what he wants to get across – even if it be just warding off some disaster or other. Otherwise, they fall into the trap that has ensnared American commentators/analysts: trying to figure out what Trump’s scattershot ejaculations – verbal and electronic – are meant to convey. That futile exercise is like seeking the recondite theological message hidden in ‘scat’ singing. Also, they might employ their talents to illuminate the psychological stratagems used by Bibi Netanyahu, Mohammed bin-Zayed of the UAE, and Mohammed bin-Salman to put a ring through the loudmouth bully’s nose to turn him into a docile water buffalo.3
The same line of analysis should be applied to the administration’s internecine games-playing. People like Bolton, Pompeo and Kushner plot their own psychological strategies to exploit Trump’s mental inadequacies and defects so as to promote their favored schemes – and themselves. These should be the object of personality focused investigative reporting. For these men, too, are queer characters. Bolton is a fanatic driven by a compulsion to subordinate the entire world to the will of America or to destroy those who object. He sees the world as presented by distorted images in a Coney Island chamber of mirrors. Pompeo, the clueless blowhard ever ready to sound off like the drunk at the end of the bar, has only one objective – to make sure that he is allowed to rumble around the world on the ultimate celebrity tour as long as possible. To that end, he bellows like his boss – throwing out insults that endear him to the Orangutan. Kushner is an ignorant novice as a foreign policy-maker whose lifetime experience consists of belonging to one criminal family, marrying into another, palling with a disgraced Israeli diamond operator and close friend of Bibi Netanyahu, Lev Leviev, who was identified as the owner of an Angolan mine that used slave labor, and skirting the law in a series of shady NYC real estate schemes.4
But instead, The New York Times features bewildering headlines like “Trump Undercuts Bolton on North Korea and Iran” with no acknowledgement of its weirdness or import. Imagine: “Roosevelt Undercuts Hopkins on Second Front in Europe.” Mental derangement has become a contagious disease.
Obviously, it is discomforting to write of the President’s abnormal mental state as a central factor in the doings of his administration abroad. Yet that is the obligation imposed on journalists and commentators by objective circumstance. It is the height of irresponsibility to do otherwise. The macro story is that the American people have selected as their leader, and continue to accept as the custodian of the nation’s welfare, a certifiable malignant narcissistic. It may well be that nothing can be done about that unfortunate reality. However, to appraise what he does as if he were normal, is to create a make-believe world as disengaged from reality as is Trump’s own mind.5
Our ever deferential European friends do not take the precaution that Abe and others do. They cannot face up to the fact that their leader is psychologically off the rails. They treat him as a ‘normal’ statesman. (Jan Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, goes so far as to pronounce him a godsend to the Alliance – for whose power of imagination and unabashed loyalty, he is invited to repeat this revelation before a joint session of Congress).6 The reason? Doing so would carry the obligation to set their own course and to risk crossing the United States. That is impossible given the parties’ deeply entrenched dominant/subordinate relationship. It is a harsh truth evinced by their abject reneging on a pledge to salvage the Iran nuclear accord by protecting commerce and financial transactions from Washington’s predation. Having followed Washington over the cliff in the earlier years of the GWOT (initial French and German opposition to Iraq aside), they suffered enormously from the blowback: terrorist attacks, refugee waves, the jeopardizing of the EU’s very unity. That has altered attitudes not one iota. If anything, their uniform obedience to Washington is stronger than ever; witness Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia and even Venezuela which few Europeans could find on a map.
Americans, and their European allies are equal in one respect: their deformed perspective on the world is largely shared. Even on the JCPOA agreement with Iran, assessments of the Tehran regime and its role in the world are near identical.
Let’s run through a number of awkward facts that help explain this phenomenon.
- In the United States, the invasion of Iraq, followed by the dire consequences attendant upon it, was supported by nearly all of the country’s political class. They were willing dupes. Hence, a line of blood was drawn that separates them from underlying truths. If the American political class remains blinkered, ipso facto so too does most of the European political class. That certainly is true in the U.K., France and at both ends of Brussels.
- There never has been a reckoning. The architects of that disaster never owned up to their misjudgments and sins. In the U.S., Barack Obama never held them to account in his trademark “let’s avoid unpleasantness’ manner. Nearly all Democrats were complicit. The cheerleaders and enablers among the pundits and the media similarly never acknowledged the multiple errors of their ways. Several of those in the first category are in charge of American foreign policy once again: Bolton, Abrams, et al – and their protégés.
- America, as a polity, learned nothing of enduring importance. The road to possible war with Iran is fueled by the same combustible ingredients that permitted the Iraq fiasco to unfold. Admittedly, the political class is divided this time around about the idea of an actual military assault. Nonetheless, the demonization of Iran, the ascription of evil designs, the exaggeration of threat, the aversion to engagement are near universally held.
The recent falsifications about Iranian actions – real or imagined, the gross misrepresentations, are taken as Gospel. I know of no mainstream think tank or university institute where this is not the case. (Of course, my knowledge is not omniscient). As for Congress, as for the media – forgedaboutit.
There are a handful of exceptions: Paul Pillar at Georgetown and Val Nasr, Dean of SAIS-Johns Hopkins – both are former high government officials. As for the major think tanks – the Council on Foreign Relations, Rand, Peterson Institute for International Economics, the Atlantic Council, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the International Institute for Strategic Studies – London, their uniform, repetitive product on these matters is not worth the time of day. That is understandable for their funding comes mainly from foreign governments, the U.S. government agencies, corporations, NATO, and billionaires like the Koch brothers and Haim Saban the Israeli who underwrote Brooking’s Center for Middle East Policy which never strays far from the Netanyahu line.
You get what you pay for. Do the rest of us get what we need?
- The same obedience to false narratives is, if anything, more complete in regard to Russia. Our image of an aggressive, hostile Russia – led by the megalomaniacal Putin – on the march everywhere to subvert America’s well-intentioned foreign policies is so deeply rooted in the national mind that anyone, no matter how credentialed, who questions it immediately is dubbed an apologist of dubious motivation. Over the past four years or so, I do not recall anyone among the legion of those denouncing Russia’s action in Ukraine bothering to mention the American orchestration of the violent coup against a democratically elected president in March 2014 led, in situ, by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State. This is an extraordinary exercise in studied forgetfulness.
In Europe, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande at first shied away from taking a confrontational stance vis à vis Russia post-Kiev coup/Crimea annexation. They feared a new Cold War for both economic and political reasons. Together, they brokered the Minsk II agreement with Russian and Ukraine. Its main provisions were never implemented, mainly due to reneging by the Ukraine side under considerable pressure from Washington to stand firm. From that point on, policy in Berlin and Paris has shifted close to the American hard-line toward Moscow – including washing their hands off the Ukraine problem. As for Britain it has been happy to serve as America’s obedient auxiliary – as on all other international matters. London parleys the GCHQ’s surveillance/spying capabilities to enhance its valuation as an asset to America’s global machinations. That, and the English language, pretty much guarantee London the rank of First Lieutenant.
This is tragic – for Europe especially. Putin is unique among statesman, past and present, in laying out a comprehensive design for his conception of a viable international system. It includes a detailed guide to prospective ‘rules of the road.” He has done so in a series of lengthy, dispassionate speeches beginning with an address to the Dumas in March 2004. There is absolutely no resemblance between the thoughts presented there and the reckless ambitions attributed to him in the West.7 Frankly, I am doubtful that any senior American policy-maker has read them. Indeed, few if any in the foreign policy community have ever referenced them – even critically. That goes, too, for the self-declared Russia ‘experts’ who drown the airways and print media in pronouncements and denunciations. If they decline to make the effort of actually reading Putin’s thoughts, the Russo-phobes might at least listen to him singing Fats Domino’s classicBlueberry Hill on YouTube – although they doubtless would prefer a plaintive version of “Blue Monday.”
- As for the national myth that the Kremlin has undertaken a massive campaign of disinformation and trolling to undermine American democracy, it suffers from the liability of being unsubstantiated – as well as illogical from a Moscow standpoint. No number of ad hominin judgments by Robert Mueller or James Clapper taken out of thin air can change that. They have no probative value whatsoever. (Any more than do the four Gospels’ affirmation of Jesus’ Resurrection). What is put forward as evidence could not stand up in any fair-minded court of law. But evidence is immaterial in circumstances that approximate those depicted in The Devils of Loudon or the Salem witch trials. Hysteria. Beyond political science or international relations, psychopathology is the place to look for insight into the phenomenon.
- The same dynamic is unfolding – against a somewhat different historical backdrop – in regard to China. See Ambassador Charles Freeman‘s extensive interpretative discussion distributed last week.
- The extremity of this powerful tide running to uniformity and obedience to the official line is manifest in the Venezuela affair. As pointed out in an earlier commentary, none of the excuses and rationales for interference deployed in regard to the Middle East or to Russia are applicable. By any sane standards, whatever happens in Venezuela is of no measurable consequence for the United States. And what is happening in political terms pales in comparison to the evil acts of rulers we coddle and embrace from Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia to Bibi Netanyahu to the Emir of Qatar to General Sisi to Erdogan to Duterte to Ukraine’s neo-Nazis to Bolsonaro to the thugs in Honduras and Guatemala to Sheik al-Maktoum of the UAE, and so on.
Yet, here again, we see near universal propagation of a fictive tale, of passive acceptance of outright lies, of issuing calls for the overthrow of Maduro as litmus test of political maturity. This holds for conservatives and liberals, for the Vulcans and the R2P crowd (silent about the American participation in the slaughter of Houthis until the dismemberment of a Saudi journalist in Istanbul by MBS got their attention), for NPR, for the Rubios and for Harvard professors. The sole point of disagreement is over the conjectured use of direct military force – as opposed to our deployment and involvement on Venezuela’s borders which already have occurred – surprise?
Our ever loyal European allies have joined in, marching hand-in-hand with Trump and Bolton. What interest of theirs is at stake? See above.Chacun à sa psychose.
UNCLE SAM’S LAMENT
Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my Credit in Men’s Eye much wrong:
Have drown’d my Honour in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a Song.
- Haley’s evocative phrasing is drawn from the old Gospel Spiritual; “There Is A Man Going ‘Round Taking Names” Her remarks and subsequent behavior prompted Colonel W. Pat Lang to write:
“It appears that Israel is wasting money by maintaining its own ambassador at the UN since they already have Nikki Haley. They should make her status official and save money. Yesterday she vetoed Kuwait’s draft resolution on Gaza and was joined by no other country on that. Then she offered a US resolution condemning Hamas for the Palestinian deaths on the Gaza border and was joined by none. Not even the usual European toadies would sign up to support that….I doubt if Trump really understands anything about the Middle East. His “thinking” appears to be a melange of the murmurings of his family members, the flickering images on the Fox channels, (Hannity the Wise, Jack Keane and Stewart Varney) and his own lack of a reflective mind. “
Lang was the Defense Intelligence Officer (DIO) for the Middle East, South Asia and counter-terrorism, and later, the first Director of the Defense Humint Service. He also was the head of all the Middle East and South Asia analysis in DIA for counter-terrorism for seven years.
- Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th edition © 2009; DSM V 2013
3. Trump’s impulsive, disjointed speech matches the absence of any continuity of thought or coherent conduct. Extreme narcissists have no sense of time progression – or ‘history;’ that is, yesterday quickly disappears, there is no settled plan for tomorrow and neither is connected to what he is doing today. A conjectural Kim – Trump exchange is remindful of the scene from CASABLANCA where Rick approaches party girl Yvonne at the bar and peevishly asks:
‘I missed you last night – where were you?
‘That’s a long time ago, I don’t remember”
“Will I see you tonite?”
“I never make plans that far in advance!”
Michael Wolf’s graphic depiction of life in and around the Trump White House highlights the inchoate and random goings-on that pass for executive management of the nation’s affairs. (THE SIEGE 2019)
The book has been widely disparaged by ‘right-thinking’ members of our political class who slander it as nothing more that a scabrous collection of salacious gossip. That is a mistake – a big mistake. There is no way of knowing, of course, which anecdotes are valid – any more than we know the veracity of government pronouncements/leaks that are duly reported with a straight face by the MSM. Still, there is no ignoring the overall picture that conforms closely to every account – in print or otherwise – that has exposed the extreme pathologies of Trump world. It is too easy, and convenient for many to dismiss out-of-hand this appalling reality. That is so not just for Republicans who have tied their fate to his. Many of the holier-than-thou crowd (like The New York Times) may demand that only the Gospel truth be credited – even though the Gospels themselves were split 2 to 2 on the not insignificant question of Mary’s virgin birth. Let’s recall that the Times’ editors were among those leading the lynch mob on the Clinton/Lewinski affair (blue dress and all) until it dawned on them in the last moments that impeachment could damage the sturdy oak of a Republic on which he was slated to be hung.
In truth, they – like almost all the Washington-New York establishment – will pour over the book, eager at least to find out exactly who was screwing whom in the White House snake pit. So, too, will it receive close attention in foreign chancelleries where there is keen interest in the behavioral patterns of America’s demented leaders – however unpalatable that embarrassing reality is to so many faithful patriots over here. In addition, the bases for several important actions abroad become clearer thanks to this account.
Is it really immaterial to learn that Trump and Bannon have been in regular communication through the agency of a Washington Post reporter who conveys Brannon’s ideas in stories that attribute them to an ‘anonymous’ former high official? Trump awaits them eagerly without ever acknowledging the source. This is consequential since Bannon is the only one in Trump’s circle with pronounced views that encompass American security interests, trade, and the promotion of neo-Fascism globally – all in a doctrinaire package. Bolton, by contrast, is obsessed by only one thing – establishing total American dominance by intimidation and coercion.
The picture of the White House that emerges resembles Hellzapoppin’ superimposed on Marat/Sade. By the time Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson shows up (the alcoholic who declared Trump was made of Krypton fortified by heavy infusions of 3 Musketeer bars), we’re not at all surprised that he ran a for-free drug 7/11 in the White House basement. It’s less the drugs the residents take that worry us than the needed meds they don’t take.
4.Kushner’s greatest accomplishment was to fool a 94 year old Henry Kissinger that to certify and guide Kushner as a foreign affairs sage could be a capstone to the Kissinger’s historic career. The son-in-law systematically exploited the link to ‘uncle Henry’ to hoist himself to the top of the White House policy pyramid. To Kissinger’s credit, he did encourage the initiative leading Trump to meet Kim Jong Un of North Korea, and on similar realpolitik grounds advised that Trump establish a dialogue with Vladimir Putin. The latter was a complete flop; the former was undermined by the uber-hawks in Trump’s entourage. The President himself never placed either in any strategic framework – instead, he winged it.
5.The constant experience of dissonance between a lifetime of taking as given that there is some form of logic at the heart of diplomatic doings and the manifest conduct of a President unmoored from reality does generate a great amount of inner tension for journalists and editors. Yet, such is their place in the nation’s public life that an inability to handle it suggests that you look for another line of work. That unfortunate situation is roughly analogous to that of a policeman who lacks the temperament to cope with the tension between an obligation to observe restraint in the use of firearms, on the one hand, and his ingrained fears or impulse to physically hurt (certain types of) criminals, on the other.
Trump’s associates – in and outside the White House – are near unanimous that”the closer they are to him, the more alarmed they have found themselves….about his mental state….unlike the reporters and writers who regularly cover Washington and who are primarily interested in the pursuit of success and power.” (WOLF X11)”I have never known anyone crazier than Donald Trump” is the commn refrain.
6. Stoltenberg succeeded the equally malleable Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark. Rasmussen now runs a lucrative consulting business in Washington where he has been a personal advisor to President Poroshenko of Ukraine – the man humiliated by the comedian who carictatured him on TV and then trounced him in the April election.( Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky) A professional comic in the presidential seat in Kiev is fitting since the recurrent American escapades of regime change have had something of a slapstick appearance to them – even when initially successfu
7. Stephen F. Cohen offers an explanation for the Washington elite’s hostility toward Putin – and that of America’s political class as a whole. See his new book WAR WITH RUSSIA? FROM PUTIN & UKRAINE TO TRUMP & RUSSIAGATE.
At the time of Putin’s succession, they expected and wanted a sober Yeltsin. That is to say someone content to be subservient to the United States, marginalized in Europe and a non-factor elsewhere in the world. In addition, lucrative investment opportunities were foreseen in the usual neo-liberal fashion. It soon became apparent, though, that Putin was a formidable leader bent on applying his singular talents to restoring the Russian state and the country’s legitimate place in global affairs. That made him, and the renewed Russia that he was fashioning, unpalatable. Hence, the accelerated expansion of NATO to Russia’s western and southern borders in direct violation of solemn pledges made by Bush the Elder at the time of German unification, rushing ahead with a potentially destabilizing missile defense system coupled with withdrawal from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and instigation of the Georgian attack on Southern Ossetia in 2008. Barack Obama had a personal aversion to Putin. He could not stand the man. That was due to the latter’s failure to provide the celebratory embrace he was accustomed to, as well as the disconcerting discovery that Putin was at least as smart as Obama and, in political cum diplomatic skill, outclassed him by orders of magnitude. After all, Putin had revivified a broken and amputated Russia inside of a decade while it took Obama four years to get his healthcare website up and running.
It is against this background that we should place the panic in American security and Intelligence circles when Trump began making his off-the-cuff remarks about seeing no reason why he couldn’t treat with Putin.