Connect with us

Americas

Corruption and the Self-destroying of Democracy

Published

on

Hitler was first elected, and then he destroyed his people” –Pope Francis   “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” –Abraham Lincoln

The two above mentioned quotes in some way complement and explain each other. What the Pope is implying is what Lincoln prophesized; misguided people may vote for the monsters they have created and ultimately for their own downfall and destruction.

The question arises: has Lincoln’s prophecy been fulfilled with the election of Donald Trump? Are we in the process of destroying ourselves, just as it happened with the Roman Empire which began the process of self-destruction with the installment of deranged emperors such as Caligula or Nero?

Only five days after the inauguration on the 20th of January 2017, it has become apparent to any observant spectator that Trump has already recreated the corruption of Tammany Hall in the 1800s and early 1900 when cronyism dominated this nefarious group of New York politicians whose only aim was that of satisfying their personal ambitions through any actions, legal or illegal. That was especially true under Tweed in 1858 when corruption in the form of kickbacks from public works programs invaded practically every aspect of city and state governance.

Imperceptibly but inexorably democracy is being replaced by an oligarchy of corrupt politicians aiming at control of the people and putting profits before people. With the Trump presidency the US is now at risk of becoming a plutocracy catering to the rich, the only ones to enjoy the freedoms and rights guaranteed for all by the Constitution.

Trump has a shining example in Putin who has managed to become just about the richest man in Russia and whose net wealth is at least 10 times that of Trump. That may go a long way in explaining the affinity and admiration the two men feel for each other. The problem of course is that a plutocracy cannot exist without a fascist government equipped with a propaganda machine where the truth is what the government says it is and alternate facts can be dished out any time the government is scrutinized and criticized by the media.

On the day of his presidential inauguration, it’s already clear how Donald Trump will govern. We’ve seen his Cabinet appointees, and watched some of their confirmation hearings and they are very revealing. Now we’ve got a first glimpse of his budget ideas. What they predict is a veritable orgy of conflicts of interest, looting and corruption ending in violation of the Constitution and an unmitigated disaster.

Trump has already instituted policies designed to repeal the first amendment. He has proudly declared that he has a running war with the press. And he made such declaration in front of the wall memorializing CIA members who died in their line of duty and blaming the press for his communication difficulties with the agency.

Some in the press are still deluding themselves with the notion that our constitutional provisions of checks and balances among the various branches of government will ultimately save the day and correct this abnormal situation. Others are not so sanguine and are afraid that we might have seen our last free election. Next time around the election will not only be rigged but will be decided before any voting occurs.

Let’s examine Trump’s budget plan first. During the campaign, he flirted with left-leaning fiscal ideas, saying he wouldn’t cut Social Security and Medicare. But thus far he is going in the exact opposite direction, albeit his populism, as a way of deceiving the middle class which he has exploited and manipulated his whole life, remains strong.

Last year the Republican Study Committee came up with an ultra-conservative plan to slash federal spending by $8.6 trillion over 10 years. But Trump’s initial budget has cuts of $10.5 trillion. The details aren’t worked out yet, but it is becoming more and more obvious that that all manner of government agencies would be gored or killed off altogether and that foxes have been placed in charge of chicken coops. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated. They are considered unnecessary frosting on the cake. Barbaric times call for barbaric solutions. Several offices designed to help minorities would be gone. Research and scientific spending would be sharply rolled back and several agencies dedicated to climate change and renewable research would be simply abolished. Seventy five per cent of government environmental regulations are scheduled for elimination. Who needs a livable environment if we have jobs and economic prosperity. That too seems to be considered frosting on the cake.

The scale of these proposed cuts is simply staggering. The military, debt payments, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid account for three quarters of the federal budget. It is literally impossible to get that scale of cuts without cutting deeply into some of those programs. And when you dig into the budget proposed by the Heritage Foundation, which the Trump plan is based on, it turns out everything but defense is getting slashed — Social Security by 8 percent, Medicare by 41 percent, all domestic discretionary spending by 41 percent, and Medicaid by 47 percent. And with Republicans in charge of most state governments, huge austerity at the state level can also be expected.

The rationalization for these cuts is that they are about cutting the deficit, but in reality they are about making budget headroom for large tax cuts on the rich, the so called top 1 per centers. The outrageous lie is apparent by the choice of cabined officials; a good number of them are millionaires or billionaires, or people who have spent their careers undermining the very departments to which they have been appointed (Sessions, Perry, Puzder), and then there are those, like Tillerson who like Trump are clueless about the nature of public service, or De Vos who fits in all three categories.

Private industry will be in charge of the state and it will be called “business as usual.” In the book The Wrecking Crew Thomas Frank elucidates how corruption is usually a logical product of a misguided approach to government. When the very idea of quality government is treated with scorn declaring government incompetent and inefficient, and the normative principles are greed, private industry, markets, to which all human society is subordinated, the predictable result is a Frankenstein monster who eventually turns around and destroys the very people who created it. But the worst, I am afraid, is still to come. Buckle your seat-belts.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

Continue Reading
Comments

Americas

Will Geneva Be Any Different Than Helsinki?

Published

on

Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Any meeting between the leaders of Russia and the U.S. is inevitably an important international event. At some point in history, such summits decided the fate of the entire world, and the world held its collective breath as it followed Kremlin-White House talks on strategic arms or the two sides seeking agreements on urgent regional problems or any political signals coming from the superpower capitals prior to another round of negotiations.

The bipolar era has long been gone, and the Russia-U.S. relations are no longer the principal axis of international politics, although the suspense over bilateral summits remains. As before, the two countries are engaged in “top-down” interaction. Summits give the initial impetus to Moscow and Washington’s cumbersome bureaucratic machines, then diplomats, military personnel and officials start their assiduous work on specific issues, collaboration between the two countries’ private sectors and civil society perks up, the media gradually soften their rhetoric, bilateral projects in culture, education and science are gradually resumed.

Still, there are annoying exceptions to this general rule. In particular, the latest full-fledged Russia–U.S. summit in Helsinki in July 2018 failed to trigger improvements in bilateral relations. On the contrary, Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Finland’s capital aroused massive resentment among the anti-Russian Washington establishment. Ultimately, on returning home, the U.S. President had to offer awkward apologies to his supporters and opponents alike, and relations between the two countries continued to rapidly deteriorate after the summit.

Surely, nobody is willing to see another Helsinki scenario in June 2021, this time in Geneva. Yet, do we have good reason to hope for a different outcome this time? To answer this question, let us compare Donald Trump and Joseph Biden’s approaches to Russia-U.S. summits and to bilateral relations at large.

First of all, in Helsinki, Trump very much wanted the Russian leader to like him. The Republican President avoided publicly criticizing his Russian counterpart and was quite generous with his compliments to him, which inevitably caused not only annoyance but pure outrage in Washington and in Trump’s own Administration. Joe Biden has known Vladimir Putin for many years; he does not set himself the task of getting the Russian leader to like him. As far as one can tell, the two politicians do not have any special liking for each other, with this more than reserved attitude unlikely to change following their meeting in Geneva.

Additionally, in Helsinki, Trump wanted, as was his wont, to score an impressive foreign policy victory of his own. He believed he was quite capable of doing better than Barack Obama with his “reset” and of somehow “hitting it off” with Putin, thereby transforming Russia if not into a U.S. ally, then at least into its strategic partner. Apparently, Biden has no such plans. The new American President clearly sees that Moscow-Washington relations will remain those of rivalry in the near future and will involve direct confrontation in some instances. The Kremlin and the White House have widely diverging ideas about today’s world: about what is legitimate and what is illegitimate, what is fair and what is unfair, where the world is heading and what the impending world order should be like. So, we are not talking about a transition from strategic confrontation to strategic partnership, we are talking about a possible reduction in the risks and costs of this necessarily costly and lengthy confrontation.

Finally, Trump simply had much more time to prepare for the Helsinki summit than Biden has had to prepare for Geneva. Trump travelled to Finland eighteen months after coming to power. Biden is planning to meet with Putin in less than five months since his inauguration. Preparations for the Geneva summit have to be made in haste, so the expectations concerning the impending summit’s outcome are less.

These differences between Biden and Trump suggest that there is no reason to expect a particularly successful summit. Even so, we should not forget the entire spectrum of other special features of the Biden Administration’s current style of foreign policy. They allow us to be cautiously optimistic about the June summit.

First, Donald Trump never put too much store by arms control, since he arrogantly believed the U.S. capable of winning any race with either Moscow or Beijing. So, his presidential tenure saw nearly total destruction of this crucial dimension of the bilateral relations, with all its attendant negative consequences for other aspects of Russia-U.S. interaction and for global strategic stability.

In contrast, Biden remains a staunch supporter of arms control, as he has already confirmed by his decision to prolong the bilateral New START. There are grounds for hoping that Geneva will see the two leaders to at least start discussing a new agenda in this area, including militarization of outer space, cyberspace, hypersonic weapons, prompt global strike potential, lethal autonomous weapons etc. The dialogue on arms control beyond the New START does not promise any quick solutions, as it will be difficult for both parties. Yet, the sooner it starts, the better it is going to be for both countries and for the international community as a whole.

Second, Trump never liked multilateral formats, believing them to be unproductive. Apparently, he sincerely believed that he could single-handedly resolve any burning international problems, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to North Korea’s nuclear missile programme.

Biden does not seem to harbor such illusions. He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of multilateralism, and he clearly understands that collaboration with Russia is necessary on many regional conflicts and crises. Consequently, Geneva talks may see the two leaders engage in a dialogue on Afghanistan, on the Iranian nuclear deal, on North Korea, or even on Syria. It is not at all obvious that Biden will succeed in reaching agreement with Putin immediately on all or any of these issues, but the very possibility of them discussed at the summit should be welcomed.

Third, Trump was not particularly fond of career diplomats and, apparently, attached little value to the diplomatic dimension of foreign policy. The Russia-U.S. “embassy war” had started before Trump—but not only did Trump fail to stop it, he boosted it to an unprecedented scale and urgency.

Sadly, the “embassy war” continues after Trump, too. Yet President Biden, with his tremendous foreign policy experience, understands diplomatic work better and appreciates it. Practical results of the Geneva summit could include a restoration of the diplomatic missions in Washington and Moscow to their full-fledged status and a rebuilding of the networks of consular offices, which have been completely destroyed in recent years. Amid the problems of big politics, consular services may not seem crucial but, for most ordinary Russians and Americans, regaining the opportunity for recourse to rapid and efficient consular services would outweigh many other potential achievements of the Geneva summit.

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

Americas

“Choose sides” is practically a bogus idea for US military partners

Published

on

“Choosing sides” is practically a non-starter for US military allies such as Japan and South Korea. These nations, first and foremost military allies of the US, are forging cordial and productive ties with other countries based on military alliances with the US. The nature and level of partnerships varies greatly from those of allies, despite the fact that they appear to be quite heated at times.

Military concerns have been less important in the postwar period, but economic concerns have been extremely heated, social and cultural interactions have been close, and the qualitative differences between cooperative relations and allies have gotten confused, or have been covered and neglected.

Some unreasonable expectations and even mistakes were made. In general, in the game between the rising power and the hegemony, it is undesirable for the rising power to take the initiative and urge the hegemony’s supporters to select a side. Doing so will merely reinforce these countries’ preference for hegemony.

Not only that, but a developing country must contend with not only a dominant hegemony, but also a system of allies governed by the hegemony. In the event of a relative reduction in the power of the hegemony, the strength of the entire alliance system may be reinforced by removing restraints on allies, boosting allies’ capabilities, and allowing allies’ passion and initiative to shine.

Similarly, the allies of the hegemonic power are likely to be quite eager to improve their own strength and exert greater strength for the alliance, without necessarily responding to, much alone being pushed by, the leader. The “opening of a new chapter in the Korean-US partnership” was a key component of the joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States following the meeting of Moon Jae-in and Biden. What “new chapter” may a military alliance have in a situation of non-war?

There are at least three features that can be drawn from the series of encounters between South Korea and the United States during Moon Jae-visit in’s to the United States: First, the withdrawal of the “Korea-US Missile Guide” will place military constraints on South Korea’s missile development and serve as a deterrence to surrounding nations. The second point is that, in addition to the Korean Peninsula, military cooperation between the US and South Korea should be expanded to the regional level in order to respond to regional hotspots. The third point is that, in addition to military alliances, certain elements in vaccinations, chips, 5G, and even 6G are required. These types of coalitions will help to enhance economic cooperation.

Despite the fact that Vice President Harris wiped her hands after shaking hands with Moon Jae-in, and Biden called Moon Jae-in “Prime Minister” and other rude behaviors, the so-called “flaws” are not hidden, South Korea still believes that the visit’s results have exceeded expectations, and that Moon Jae-in’s approval rate will rise significantly as a result.

The joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States addresses delicate subjects such as the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. Of course, China expresses its outrage. It is widely assumed that this is a “private cargo” delivered by Biden’s invitation to Moon Jae-in to visit the United States.

Moon Jae-in stated that he was not pressured by Biden. If this is correct, one option is that such specific concerns will not be handled at all at the summit level; second, South Korea is truly worried about the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns and wishes to speak with the US jointly.

South Korea should be cognizant of China’s sensitivity to the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns. When it comes to China-related concerns, the phrasing in the ROK-US joint statement is far more mild than that in the ROK-Japan joint declaration. Nonetheless, the harm done to South Korea-China ties cannot be overlooked.

South Korea highlights the “openness” and “inclusiveness” of the four-party security dialogue system, which allows South Korea to engage to some extent. South Korea will assess the net gain between the “gain” on the US side and the “loss” on the Chinese side. China would strongly protest and fiercely respond to any country’s measures to intervene in China’s domestic affairs and restrict China’s rise.

Continue Reading

Americas

Political Violence and Elections: Should We Care?

Published

on

The next Sunday 6th of June, the Chamber of Deputies along with 15 out of the 32 governorships will be up for grabs in Mexico’s mid-term elections. These elections will be a crucial test for the popularity of the president and his party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). They currently hold majority in the Lower Chamber of the national Congress, and these elections could challenge this.

Recent national polls indicate that the ruling party, MORENA, is still the most popular political force in Mexico, and they are poised to win not only several governorships, but also several municipalities. They are also expected to maintain control of the Lower  Chamber, although with a loss of a few seats. In order to ensure MORENA keeps its current majority in the Congress, they have decided to pursue an electoral alliance with the Green Party (PVEM) and the Labout Party (PT). It is expected that with this move, they will be able to ensure the majority in the Chamber of Deputies in the Congress.

There is, however, another aspect that is making the headlines in this current electoral process: The high levels of political and electoral violence, The current electoral process is the second most violent since 2000. The number of candidates that have been assassinated is close to 30% higher than the mid-term electoral process of 2015. More than 79 candidates have been killed so far all across the country.

Insecurity in Mexico has been an ongoing issue that has continued to deteriorate during the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). AMLO has continually criticised his predecessors and the valid problems of their approaches to insecurity in Mexico along with the War on Drugs policy. However, to date, he has yet to offer a viable alternative to tackle the security problems he inherited. During his campaign, AMLO coined the phrase “abrazos no balazos” (hugs not bullets) to describe his approach toward improving security in Mexico. He believed that to successfully tackle the worsening crisis of insecurity, the structural conditions that forced people to commit crimes had to be addressed first: Namely inequality, poverty, low salaries, lack of access to employment etc. To date, insecurity in Mexico continues to worsen, and this had become evident during the current electoral process.

This nonsensical approach to insecurity has resulted in the first three years of his government reaching over 100,000 murders, along with the nearly 225,000 deaths as a result of the pandemic.

What should be particularly worrying in this spiral of violence, is the prevalence of political and electoral violence during the current process. Political violence represents not only a direct attack on democratic institutions and democracy itself, but it also compromises the independence, autonomy, and integrity of those currently in power, and those competing for positions of power. It affects democracy also because political violence offers a way for candidates to gain power through violent means against opposition, and this also allows organised crime to infiltrate the state apparatus.

Political violence is a phenomenon that hurts all citizens and actors in a democracy. It represents a breeding ground for authoritarianism, and impunity at all levels of government. This limits the freedoms and rights of citizens and other actors as it extinguishes any sort of democratic coexistence between those currently holding political power and those aspiring to achieve it. Political violence also obstructs the development of democracy as it discredits anyone with critical views to those in power. This is worrying when we consider that 49% of those assassinated belong to opposition parties. This increase in political violence has also highlighted AMLO´s inability to curtail organised crime and related violence.

Assassination of candidates is only the tip of the iceberg. Organised criminal groups have also infiltrated politics through financing of political campaigns. Most of electoral and political violence tends to happen an municipal levels, where it is easier for criminal groups to exert more pressure and influence in the hope of securing protection, and perpetuate impunity, or securing control over drug trafficking routes. This should be especially worrisome when there is close too government control in certain areas of the country, and there is a serious risk of state erosion at municipal level in several states.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Africa Today1 hour ago

Kenya Receives $750 million Boost for COVID-19 Recovery Efforts

To reinforce Kenya’s resilient, inclusive and green economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the World Bank approved $750 million in...

Finance3 hours ago

World Bank Supports Croatia’s Firms Hit by COVID-19 Pandemic

Tamara Perko, President of the Management Board of the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) and Elisabetta Capannelli, World...

coronavirus people coronavirus people
Economy5 hours ago

Assessing the trends of Globalization in the Covid Era

Coronavirus largely represents acceleration in existing globalization trends, rather than a full paradigm shift. Globalization has ebbed and flowed over...

Reports6 hours ago

Zimbabwe’s Economy is Set for Recovery, but Key Risks Remain

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in Zimbabwe is projected to reach 3.9 percent in 2021, a significant improvement after a...

International Law9 hours ago

Carl Schmitt for the XXI Century

For decades, the scholars of international relations have confused the term “New World order” in the social, political, or economic...

New Social Compact10 hours ago

Educating Women in Pakistan: A Necessity For National Development

Education is fundamental to the success of any nation. Almost every developed nation recognizes its importance and lays great emphasis...

Economy12 hours ago

How has Russia’s economy fared in the pandemic era?

Authors: Apurva Sanghi, Samuel Freije-Rodriguez, Nithin Umapathi COVID-19 continues to upturn our lives and disrupt economic activity across the world....

Trending