Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Is the Culture War Going Hot?

Ask yourself what America would look like if Donald Trump is re-elected president of the United States.

What would America look like by the time Trump would be sworn into a second term in January? What would it look like after that?

Trump has already erased any doubt that he is a cruel, vindictive malignancy for whom reality is a function of his psychotic imagination. He doesn't bridge divides, he doesn't brook dissent. He doesn't forget a slight and always makes those who offend him pay for it. He must always win which, by definition, means others must lose.

This psychopath has had an unbelievably successful, borderline magical, first term in office. He has subdued the Congressional branch of his party. He has weeded out the disloyal to the point that winning a primary has become an act of fealty. He has emasculated the lot, from Mitch McConnell to Lindsey Graham to Ted Cruz. None dare stand against him. He has turned the Department of Justice, the one agency that is supposed to serve the American people, not the executive branch, into his personal legal arm.

He has corrupted the federal courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court by his purely partisan appointments. He is proud of how he has stacked the deck for the nation and the American people for decades, possibly generations.

Trump has amassed a fanatical following, the Gullibillies, who are prepared to accept whatever he says regardless of whether they believe it. These are people who knowingly embrace lies as truth often told.

He has embraced and empowered the radical right, groups that the FBI and national security agencies have repeatedly denounced as the greatest terrorist threat facing the United States. They have become Trump's 'brown shirts,' his Sturmabteilung.  To their excesses, including murder, Trump looks the other way and blames Democrats and BLM protesters for all the violence.

Trump has raised a private army, a militarized force drawn from the ranks of ICE, Homeland Security and other agencies that he can unleash on protesters in the name of law and order. They are dispatched to what Trump calls 'Democrat cities' to confront and incite protesters and crush dissent.

Does any of this sound like a president remotely interested in uniting the American people? Conflict is his shtick. He understands it and how to exploit it. He knows it draws the Gullibillies to him as a lantern draws moths.

If Trump wins, his sins and crimes will be buried. The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee report that so belatedly acknowledged what Trump and his Congressional lap dogs so continuously denied - that the Trump campaign was neck deep in Russian collusion in 2016, will be forgotten.

Completely omitted from Trump's agenda is anything that could heal the deepening divide between white America and other, lesser Americans; between rich America and poor America; between the radical right and domestic terrorists who back Trump and moderate Americans who do not. From these glaring omissions it seems save to assume that these fractures would only worsen under another Trump administration, testing the warning that 'a house divided against itself cannot stand' perhaps to the breaking point.

The challenges facing Trump in a second term will likely be far more challenging and, for the nation, more damaging than what America endured under his first term.  If Trump guts the payroll tax it is estimated that it could drain Social Security of funds in as little as three years.

Trump is incompetent. When confronted with challenges such as the pandemic and recession, he says he takes absolutely no responsibility for them. Instead he exploits them to blame others and worsen the already deep divides. He went into a trade war with China and he lost. Those manufacturing jobs did not come back but the agriculture sector was hammered by Chinese counter-tariffs.

As Trump has turned his back to the world, especially the "shithole" countries, American hegemony has waned. Power vacuums resulted and China has been quick to add them to its own sphere of influence. The past four years have been bountiful for China and its Eurasian ally, Russia.

Meanwhile Trump seems to be backing into a "Thucydides Trap"  Trump is being herded by fanatics in his inner circle included Miller, Navarro and Lighthizer. Not for nothing has the Doomsday Clock been moved to just 100 seconds to midnight. Anyone exposed to war studies knows that many terrible wars were neither wanted nor intended. The First World War is a fine example of nations blundering into a murderous debacle.  Remember this is the same Trump who, during his transition briefings before his inauguration asked military briefings what was the purpose of America having a nuclear arsenal "if I can't use them."

Say what you will about Biden but Trump's mental faculties have declined noticeably over the past two years. His intellect may have dulled but his basest instincts and impulses are still as ominous as ever, perhaps even worse.

Four more years of Trump may be more than America, or the world, can survive.


Anonymous said...

Neither candidate is ´fit’ for office. Neither candidate will be good for anybody but the top twenty-ish percent. But as a non-American I am hoping trump will be president for another term, simply to hasten the decline and disfunction of the u.s. the world on the whole will be far better off with a weak America.
It’ll happen with the Democrats as well, but they’re more competent, not to mention capable of being diplomatic, so they’d at least slow the process down somewhat.

The Disaffected Lib said...

You hold dangerous ideas, Anon. Another term for Trump could easily harm the world every bit as much as it damages the United States. Don't underestimate the ability of Trump to plunge the world into a major war. In this post I mention Thucydides Trap. You should follow the link and learn something about it. See what the experts think.

Toby said...

I really hope the democrats haven't thrown the election away with Biden. Clinton showed that they can't win with a platform based on "I'm not him." Because of the Electoral College and Republican cheats there's a very good chance that Trump will win.

Mound, CBC Ideas has posted a three part series on "Hollywood's role in war & propaganda." Listen to it here:


Anonymous said...

I’m familiar with the Thucydides trap; don’t forget which party is most keen on reigniting a Cold War with Russia, or which president initiated the ‘pivot to asia’.
I’ve read you for years (at least a decade) and you’ve written plenty on the destructive foreign and domestic policies and actions of both major u.s. parties, and are clearly no stranger to the extensive and horrible history of that duopoly. Add to that your recognition of and revulsion to the hegemony of neoliberalism and PNAC and I’m surprised you haven’t come to the same conclusion. Not that American decline/collapse wouldn’t be painful, just that the u.s. has already been inflicting massive pain around the world for most of it’s history, and hoping for a diminishment of their ability to do so seems to me both moral and uncontroversial.
Not a criticism, just my view. I appreciate the blog—I’m a daily visitor and find a lot of the links you share valuable reads as well.
Btw, I’m the anon from the first comment above.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Anon, mankind is sailing into uncharted waters today. We face a number of potentially existential threats that will vary widely in both onset and severity from one region to the next. The postwar world order, today's geopolitical centre, may not hold. The cracks are already appearing.

Liberal democracy and capitalism that, way back in my school days, were presented as flip sides of the same coin, have gone their separate ways. Capitalism sometimes prefers authoritarianism for its reliability and willingness to put special interests ahead of the public interest.

We have a population crisis - experienced in some regions but not others; a consumption crisis, again not experienced uniformly; a genuine Hydra of a climate crisis - too hot/too cold, too dry/too wet that every region is experiencing differently.

These are all mile markers of a destabilizing world that, before this decade is out, I think we won't be able to ignore.

Wishing for a precipitous downfall of one of the major players, the USA, is dangerous. For all its many sins and offences, it's hard to imagine the North Atlantic/Western Europe alliance holding together without it. Some nation will rise up to occupy such a collapsed sphere of influence and there's no reason to expect that will be a welcome change for us.

One part of me thinks it's already too late. The consensus is already too deeply wounded. Canada should just throw its lot in with the Western Euros. But tell that to the segment of our population whose livelihoods on the stuff we buy from and sell to America. That could be massively more disruptive than Brexit is poised to become for the UK.

It feels like the remote, branch office, that is reasonably well managed and profitable suddenly being told the head office has screwed up and is bankrupt. The upside is that some one will buy you. The downside is the buyer may be even worse.

Northern PoV said...

"I am hoping trump will be president for another term, simply to hasten the decline and disfunction of the u.s. the world on the whole will be far better off with a weak America."

Be careful what you wish for.

Long term, you may be correct .... in the meantime
"the longest undefended border" and all that

Anonymous said...

Again, it could be painful (I’ve long thought Canada’s only real threat was from the u.s.) but on the whole it’s hard to argue that the world wouldn’t be better off. And to imagine that because America acted the way it did (when it could) that another country will inevitably act the same is fallacious thinking. The current United States of America checks all the boxes for comic book level villain, and neither China nor Russia (whatever criticisms you might lay at their domestic behaviour) have shown no interest in following a similar global example.
Anon comment #3

The Disaffected Lib said...

The world would be better off how, in what way? How weak do you want America? What impact do you imagine that would have on Canada?

America, especially the current iteration, is not our friend. Do you imagine China would somehow treat us better if they were the dominant world power? I'm sure you realize that the Chinese are holding two Canadians hostage in one of their shitty prisons to pressure our federal government.

I agree that America has to give up on its fantasy of a unipolar world in which they claim dominion over all they survey. America needs to be chastened but I think they're sowing the seeds of that comeuppance themselves. Lincoln's line about "a house divided against itself" was true in the runup to the Civil War and it's true today. The America of today cannot stand. Look at how they compulsively gnaw away at each other. They're getting really good at it.

Rather than praying for the decline of America perhaps we should be praying for its return to stability, something that's been missing since the let the genie of neoliberalism out of its bottle. Recognizing that such a renaissance may already be foreclosed, Canada should be drawing closer to Western Europe and building on historic alliances.

It hardly ever comes up at the federal level but the Arctic is becoming very worrisome. Putin is on course to transform the Arctic Ocean into a nuclear weapons zone. China has already proclaimed that the conventions of the Law of the Sea Treaty do not apply to Arctic waters and that it has as much right to the resources of the Arctic as anyone, including Russia, Canada, the United States, the Danes and Norway. China has also declared its intention to establish a substantial and permanent military presence in the Arctic and, to this end, is constructing the largest icebreakers (armed of course) ever built. I've been writing about these issues for many years.

There have been a number of accounts, some American, some Chinese that claim China's officer class yearn to avenge their nation's "Century of Humiliation" at the hands of the Russians, Europe and the United States. Do you know that China has an annual Humiliation Day to keep those fires stoked? At the same time I've come across papers in American military journals wherein US officers lament that America is allowing China to become its rival "without a fight." I can't see that the emotions that run deeply on either side are enough to pull a trigger but they're worrisome when it comes to a war that is sparked accidentally.

I don't know if you lived through those days but, in the 60s and 70s, Russia was very active in exporting "the revolution" wherever circumstances permitted. America more or less held them at bay in Asia-Pacific but the Soviets made real inroads in South Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. The Red Navy was a true, bluewater navy. China was too backward in those days to have territorial aspirations but things have changed over the past 20 years. Today's China is wildly different than yesterday's China and your assumptions about Beijing's global interests are out of date.

I've done two modern warfare courses through the war studies department of Kings College, London over the last ten or twelve years but I'm looking for a suitable refresher course to stay current. Warfare is now very dynamic. The relative stability of the Cold War is gone. Now war is a dynamic at many different levels and is conducted by a far wider cast of players as access to weapons of mass destruction constantly devolve. It's no longer the preserve of nation states which once kept the bit players in line.

What I'm trying to say, Anon, is that your perceptions from the past are really not relevant in this era of what the experts call "new war."