Trumpism and the remaking of world order
by Brett I. Kier | 10 November 2017
As the soul of America travels through the katabasis known as Trumpism, we are able to catch a glimpse of the various conjurings out of the Hegelian grimoire taking place that are shaping the narrative of the current historical moment. Rhetorically, the most strident voices against Trumpism are decrying what they view as a Völkisch pastiche underway, as if part of the country is under the spell of some kind of cult of personality mixed with a dash of ethno-nationalism – a mass ritual that will result in a society full of Minute Men asking non-whites for their identification papers, ready to deport anything not wrapped in Old Glory. The staunchest examples of this kind of politico-cultural gemeinschaft are Nazism and Zionism. But does Trumpism parallel these kinds of weltanschauung? In some ways it does, but in others ways, it represents the opposite. The one world government, resulting in a nationalist backlash, leading to a multilateral denouement dialectic being played out misses the larger picture. Namely, the new thesis that results from the synthesis we seem to be heading toward. Trumpism fits the fascist moniker in that it embodies romantic ideas of the great return to a Golden Age, and a culturally revanchist attempt to take back a lost birth right. It is a revolt against intellectualism, and the political elite more broadly. It speaks of lebensraum, which necessitates the preventing and expelling of diasporic peoples, not tied to the land, not part of the Volk, from entering the Homeland. But what does it mean for the liberal order, a system that the political class have proclaimed is being dismantled by Trumpism, as well as by Trump himself? The closer one looks at Trumpism vis-à-vis its de facto policy prescriptions, one can easily see that dog won’t hunt, and its populist rhetoric – even if the most extreme of the extreme vetting procedures were able to keep mosquitoes from entering the country – amounts to a glazing over with a patina of shit the growth of the National Security State. The expansion of the National Security State is not what the twilight of the liberal order looks like.
Trumpism’s role in the further expansion of the National Security State is robust. Congress has finalized the call to raise the defense budget to 700 billion dollars (on the books numbers), which represents a steady and precipitous rise in defense spending since the Founding (regardless of political party). On the covert operations front, Trumpism was incorrectly given kudos for ending the CIA’s training of Syrian Rebels in the fight against ISIS and to depose Assad. This policy decision was primarily a pragmatic one. They were forced to cut bait. Although the United States was able to help the White Helmets (Al Nusra Front, aka Al Qaeda) get an Oscar for Best Documentary Short, it failed to depose Assad. With the help of Russia, Syria has successfully prevented jihadists from overrunning their country, despite the best efforts of the United States, Israel and Turkey. This may be a short term victory, as the Balkanization of Syria is still a very real possibility, as efforts are underway towards this end by numerous state and non-state interests. Instead, the CIA has been given an even wider mandate in Afghanistan to begin a kidnap, torture, and kill program like the one it used to horrible effect in Vietnam, called the Phoenix Program. It has also been given an expanded mandate to conduct drone strikes, much like the unfettered decision-making powers given to the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of children via bombing raids.
In a certain sense, the political elite are correct about the death of the liberal order, with the United States acting as global hegemon, but the culpability does not lie with Trumpism. It is more of a symptom than a cause. It has facilitated it to be sure, but the economic realities that have been taking place since 2007-8 have put the lender of last resort in grave danger of losing its current (previous) standing in the world. The United States is in the midst of the kind of danger that countries who control the world reserve currency always find themselves in when their currencies inflate to levels that make the debt unsustainable by the international system, resulting in a euphemistic “correction” of the markets, a process that began with the Nixon Shock of 1971. Additionally, the United States is currently losing three wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. These wars represent what will likely be a generations-long financial commitment by the United States, and have only served to line the pockets of the military industrial complex, raise the debt burden of American taxpayers, and kill more children.
In the twilight of the promised one world order sought by the Anglo-American Establishment, and in the face of the growing tide of multilateral power blocks forming across Eurasia, we have to ask, what comes after the synthesis of multilateralism sweeping all parts of the globe – where will the next thesis arise? And how genuine is the nationalist backlash that appears to be going on in the country and abroad. (We must look skeptically at the Saudi Reformation, and wait to see if it embodies something more akin to the film The Purge. Erdogan’s purge in Turkey is an apropos case study.) First, on the foreign policy front, much of the United States’ actions can be interpreted as an attempt to maintain its hegemonic position. The threat of attacking North Korea, decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, China containment, should all be understood in this context. However, the reopening of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the United States, Japan, India, and Australia on the China containment front demonstrates both the growing power of China and the comparative waning of US influence in the international system. The United States is attempting to talk out of both sides of its mouth in order to, on the one hand, quash the One Belt One Road initiative and stop it from engaging in a military buildup in the South China Sea; and on the other, make nice to get it to leverage its influence with North Korea. Second, on the domestic front, Trumpism seems to have facilitated the recent Democrat wins in Virginia, and is predicted to similarly effect the midterm elections. However, historically midterm elections see a shift away from the party controlling the White House. Another, perhaps unintended consequence of the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief is that he has, by his behavior facilitated a public moral rebuke which has encouraged a torrent of allegations of sexual harassment, rape, and pedophilia in the entertainment industry and in politics. This may be the best thing that comes out of Trumpism. There is, unfortunately, a well-paved road that traffics in micro-aggressions and trigger warnings that could easily co-opt the transparency sweeping our public discourse in this respect.
The question of China containment is particularly instructive as it relates to the question of US hegemony and the rising tide of multilateralism. The United States is trying to keep its seat at the global table, and the national security troika comprised of the intelligentsia, politicians, and the Pentagon (which includes the Intelligence Community) is very concerned. Graham Allison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? has been making the rounds among the political class. The Thucydides Trap hypothesis will prove to be ineffective to guide US policy towards China, primarily because it possesses extremely limited explanatory power, and presupposes US military supremacy into the foreseeable future. The latter will run into a debt wall unless the United States is willing and able to continue to sell its weapons of war to developing nations. And even then, if China’s development of AI surpasses the United States, as has been feared, China may be able to compete militarily with the United States. Allison’s hypothesis asserts that a nation strong enough to militarily challenge the global hegemon will do so. Besides that being a relatively banal observation, it only held true prior to the nuclear era. We have to return to the age-old questions of when to use hard, soft, or smart power (i.e., the Third Option), or better yet, how not to use hard power. Hot wars between nuclear powers are anathema, and will remain so until miniaturized tactical nukes, or laser and electromagnetic technology become a viable military option. For example, the railgun, an electromagnetic artillery weapon with a range of 220 miles, will likely be debuted by the Unites States’ in their next large scale military attack. This technology has been in existence for many years, but military planners are measuring the opportunity (created or otherwise) to test the weapon against revealing its existence and effectiveness once tested, similar to the M.O.A.B. However, the moral scarlet letter that is rightly worn on the chest of “all” the countries that have used nuclear weapons may serve as a deterrent well into the future. One can only hope. The wars of the future between powerful nations will exist on the economic battlefield, and in covert proxy wars and color revolutions amongst client states in their respective spheres of influence. This is especially true between the United States, China, and Russia (and to some extent Iran, but that is a discussion for another time).
The Russia question vis-à-vis Trump and Trumpism is an interesting one. Trumpism seeks a détente with Russia, an increased cooperation on the Global War on Terror, and an end to the New Cold War. Trump wants Mueller’s Russia investigation to end in order to hide his (and Kushner’s) fraudulent business dealings with Russian oligarchs, and by extension wants his financial records kept from public view. Russia, on the other hand, aka, America’s Most Wanted, has managed (or should I say the MSM) to turn uber-lefties into old fashioned Cold Warriors. It turned career NSA official William Binney into a conspiracy theorist. It turned every state funded Russian media outlet into a propaganda arm whose sole purpose is to lie about what the United States and all its citizens know to be the case. And it miraculously managed to prevent any formal investigation into charges of pedophilia against John Podesta, for which there is strong circumstantial evidence. There is a full court press underway against Russia as the fight for Eurasia ensues. Both Russia and the United States are courting the same nation for control of the Heartland. If Russia manages to mitigate the effects of US sanctions and build strong relationships with China, it would likely be a win-win for China and Russia. If the United States can manage to reach a trade agreement with China that both nations find amenable, this will undoubtedly weaken Russia and allow the New Cold War to continue. It appears that China’s real power lies in being pursued by two nations. Trumpism would like to have a trade surplus with China, something they both want long term; and Trumpism would like a transactional diplomatic relationship with Russia. It seems unlikely that both Trump and Trumpism will get what they want.
What then is to be made of the effects of Trumpism and how will the new thesis manifest itself on the back end? We are at the beginning of the synthesis of the multilateral revolution. There are many more political, economic, social, and cultural transitions yet to be realized. If recent history tells us anything, the new thesis of this ongoing dialectic will go all-in with global socialist mandates on the international economic front (i.e., macroeconomic agreements like the SDR); and domestically, just as George W. Bush propelled the first black president into office, so too will the pendulum swing back to another antithesis. All the while the establishment will be clamoring for a restoration of political order, and a move towards moderation (in name only), which in the end will only mean more wars. But what will America’s new savior be like? We know for certain it is likely to be a free-for-all on both sides as everyone and their mother throws their hat in the ring. Perhaps it will provide just enough room for another outsider to capture the imagination of the coveted swing voters. There are many questions that have yet to be answered, but this much seems certain: Trumpism has signaled the end of an age, has strangled moderation in its crib, and is breathing life into the war machine the likes of which the world has never seen before.
The traditional ruling class, which has numerous trained cadres, changes men and programmes and, with greater speed than is achieved by the subordinate classes, reabsorbs the control that was slipping from its grasp. Perhaps it may make sacrifices, and expose itself to an uncertain future by demagogic promises; but it retains power, reinforces it for the time being, and uses it to crush its adversary and disperse his leading cadres, who cannot be very numerous or highly trained.”
~ Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks