[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] new book by the Yale University Press has just been published. Its title is The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. The author is James Kirchick, a Yale University alumnus, journalist and foreign correspondent, recipient of the Journalist of the Year Award, conservative leaning politically, who however supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections branding Donald Trump as a “brashly authoritarian populist.”
With that as an introduction, I’d like to now proceed to an analysis of the book’s thesis on European democracy by expanding it to American democracy, to demonstrate that in many ways the two may be intertwined and that they may have a common future, for better or for worse, as the case may turn out to be.
I have subtitled my article “Trouble in Paradise” which is also the subtitle of chapter four of the above mentioned book: “The European Union: Trouble in Paradise?” Indeed, there is trouble in paradise but that paradise is called democracy and there is a river that traverses both sides: it’s called the Atlantic Ocean. Their destiny may be intertwined, far more than we care to admit when we declare that it is time to go our separate ways.
Before beginning my own analysis let me provide the readers with the titles of the 8 chapters, the introduction, and the conclusion of the book. It will give the readers a better idea of its import. I recommend it as an eye-opener of sorts to the present predicament of Western Civilization.
Introduction: The European Nightmare; chapter 1: Russia: On Europe’s Edge; chapter 2: Hungary: Democracy without democrats; chapter 3: Germany: The Return of Rapallo?; chapter 4: The European Union: Trouble in Paradise?; chapter 5: France without Jews; chapter 6: Brexit: From Great Britain to Little England; chapter 7: Greece: From Polis to Populists; chapter 8: Ukraine: The New West Berlin; Conclusion: The European Dream.
As mentioned, of particular interest are the chapters on Russia, the one on England, and the one on the EU. They make the point that there is indeed a democracy deficit in Europe which, in tandem with a rising ultra-nationalism, dangerously close to authoritarianism and fascism, is endangering the whole democratic structure built in Western Europe after World War II and culminating with the new polity called the European Union.
And who might be the enemy of the traditional order which has survived for seventy years now? Let’s consider the conspiracy theory called Deep State. As an example, almost chosen at random, let us briefly survey an article which has recently appeared in the daily publication Modern Diplomacy by a US attorney Raul Manchanda with the title: “Deep State Members and their Agents Are Slowly Revealing Themselves.”
It merits mention here that there is presently, prominently lodged in the White House, a security advisor by the name of Steven Bannon, who used to edit the Breibart News, an eminent conspiracy theory publication. He has been amply mentioned and examined at length in other pieces in this publication. What they all have in common is a commonly perceived enemy which they call Deep State.
But what might Deep State be? In the above mentioned article it is conveyed best by its illustration showing the Washington Capital as the tree on top being sustained by its deep roots beneath it. Of course those roots are considered nefarious. If that is in fact the case, the question logically arises: now that the Republican party controls both Congress and the Executive, whom are those roots sustaining? I suppose the logical answer is the present legitimate government of the US, and that’s why they need to be eradicated as enemies of the state or they will corrupt that legitimate and pure state.
In fact attorney Manchanda does identify those roots. They are at the very least: the original Nazi intelligentia, spies brought over by the American elites and privileged classes (Trump excluded, of course, for he is an Andrew Jackson populist), after World War II. Names are supplied: Gottlieb von Braun Rudolph, plus 15,000 others who were supplied with fake identities so that they could establish the foundations of Deep State. So, Deep State is in its origins a Neo-Nazi state. Also Trotsky Communists wishing to establish a New World Order based on intellectual elitism and “Luciferian ideals,” among which “God according to my right” and social engineering (read the social programs which are not fully American). Also, the power to kill and murder at will (read the intelligence agencies that keep the Deep State in power); not to mention the spy agencies, the media, the Federal Reserve.
Finally, Mr. Manchanda goes on, the American people wake up and voilà, Donald Trump appears on the scene as if on a cloud (as we witnessed at the reality show that was the Republican National Convention). Populism is here to save the day. But there are many left-overs, the “useful idiots” and “bastards” who have struck a pact with the Lucifer and are ready to strike back to protect the New World Order established after World War II. They conduct the resistance via Mainstream Media, Face Book, Social Media; hence the massive investigations going on as we speak by Deep State agents on Capital Hill against Trump. A purge may be needed and the sooner the better.
How do we recognize those subversive agents? Manchanda does not hesitate to enlighten us by furnishing 7 telling signs: 1) they wish to start World War III. Their tactic is to demonize peace-loving, non-threatening nations such as Russia, Iran, Syria, China, 2) divide and conquer strategy focusing on divisions and centrifugal forces rather than a united patriotic stance as advocated by Trump, 3) fighting the alternative media (read the deceiving lying media contemptuous of facts) as 4) practiced by the Tweeter in Chief; 5) decoupling Europe from the US by destroying NATO and the Atlantic allegiance, 6) the refusal to abolish the “Luciferin” Federal Reserve Bank, 7) social engineering (the social programs) smelling of socialism, and the manipulation of the judiciary and the courts.
It goes without saying that Alternate State advocates find all the above as conspiracies against the American people, against Human Rights and against the Constitution, as judged by them or some ultraconservative judge, of course. If it all sounds slightly incoherent and deranged, it is. That’s what a pernicious ideology produces when lodged firmly in the human mind. It leads to the denial of facts and reality itself. What elsewhere I have dubbed the reign of Emperor Caligula.
But the most alarming and troubling phenomenon, is not the conspiracy theory itself, which can easily be judged by its own merits and sheer lack of common sense, but what it reveals, when examined carefully, about loyalty to truly democratic ideals, and the anti-democratic authoritarian spirit it reveals. What you have at play is addiction to power and influence parading as populist love of the underprivileged and the powerless. Slogans such as “unpatriotic bastards,” “fake news” “alternative media” “non threatening nations such as Russia, Iran, Syria” give the game away. The ultimate Machiavellian goal seems clear enough: to eliminate democracy as we know it and as implemented after it was rescued by World War II some seventy years ago.
Perhaps this brief review of a conspiracy theory alive and well in the present White House will furnish an initial idea of the present predicament of democracy in the West (on both sides of the Atlantic). We have reached the sorry stage wherein Europe and the US, bastions of democratic values around the world, now have to confront their own demons which they thought they had put to rest once and for all.
The old pathologies and centrifugal forces of rabid nationalism, authoritarianism, territorial aggression, fascism and racism, are menacing the consensus reached after World War II while the present leaders, so called, pursue shallow disingenuous policies such as Brexit, and Moslem bans, even anti-Semitism, and leave the two continents of Europe and North-America open to Russian imperial ambitions out to destabilize, divide and conquer, not so much with the threat of nuclear weapon which could prove self-destroying, but with digital information techniques, considered the new weapon to achieve geo-political parity; a strategy which has found a more than willing ally in Trump and his conspiracy theory minions, beginning with Steve Bannon, who typically advocates the abolishing of NATO and the Atlantic Alliance.
In other words, the liberal world order fought over in World War II and guaranteeing the two continents’ security, is now in serious jeopardy. What did Marx say? “Those who neglect to pay attention to their own history are bound to repeat it.” Marx got it wrong on many fronts, but perhaps on this one he had it right on target. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Trump’s New Wall? Mexico’s Southern Border
For much of modern history, Mexico defined itself in opposition to the United States. In recent years, the two countries stepped up cooperation on almost all relevant issues, and the two nations are now deeply intertwined politically, economically and culturally. This is bound to change. After months of ignoring Donald Trump’s provocations, López Obrador reacted rapidly to Trump’s shakedown and agreed to a number of resolutions of extraordinary scope and urgency: the new Mexican administration agreed to deploy the country’s federal police to its southern border to crack down on immigration; and opened the door to the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy that would turn Mexico into a Third Safe Country in less than a month from now.
As stated in the agreement, Mexico would take in all the refugees that the US decides to send back to Mexico to await resolution of their asylum process. This could take years, given the substantial immigration backlog in American courts. The agreement goes further: Mexico is responsible for the provision of education, health care and employment for such refugees. This could easily lead to a serious humanitarian crisis that Mexican institutions will be unable to deal with.
This approach contradicts previous Mexican presidential vows for regional development and humanitarian relief rather than confrontation and enforcement. Conditions on the ground in Mexico are far harsher than the Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister, Marcelo Ebrard and the President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, would like to admit, and this is partly due to the current administration’s miscalculations: López Obrador has dramatically cut the budget for governmental agencies responsible for managing refugees and processing removals. Mexican border towns are also ill-equipped for handling transient migrant populations; and Mexico also faces other more systematic challenges, such as corruption and lack of rule of law enforcement. The new policy agreed with the American government is likely to result in a significant increase in claims filed for asylum in Mexico. Mexico’s immigration bureaucracies are utterly overwhelmed, and López Obrador’s misguided budget cuts have exacerbated their failings.
Mexico’s immigration policy is now bound by an immoral and unacceptable deal that will effectively turn Mexico into Trump’s border wall. The global system for the protection of refugees is based on the notion of shared responsibility among countries. It is very dangerous for the US to use Mexico as a pawn to set an example and ignore its international responsibility. This agreement also violates international law on refugees: Mexico is a life-threatening country for undocumented migrants. Human trafficking, recruitment for organised criminal organisations, abduction, extortion, sexual violence, and disappearances are some of the issues migrants face in Mexico. Finally, Mexico’s National Guard, the agency that will be in charge of monitoring the southern border, was created by López Obrador to tackle domestic crime. Its members have no training nor knowledge on immigration matters. It is an untested new military force that could end up creating more problems than the ones it is trying to solve. Deploying agents to the border could also have a high political cost for the president.
The agreement with Trump gives López Obrador 45 days to show progress. If Mexico fails, Mexico will be forced to set in motion some version of Safe Third Country agreement, or face further tariff bullying from the US. This deal has been sold by the new Mexican administration as a victory over the US. More migrants, less money, extreme violence and a recalcitrant, unpredictable northern neighbour are the ingredients for a potential, impending refugee crisis, not a diplomatic victory.
Could Mexico have taken a different approach? Yes. Trump’s decision to impose tariffs would exacerbate the underlying causes of immigration in the region and do nothing to address it. His bullying to force Mexico to crack down on immigration was a cheap electoral ploy to mobilise its base with a view to winning the 2020 elections. This is nothing new. Trump is not seeking a solution; he is seeking a political gain. He built his first presidential campaign on an anti-Mexico and an anti-immigrant rhetoric. It worked in 2016, and he is planning to repeat the same formula.
The Mexican administration lack of knowledge on diplomatic matters, and their inability to play politics let a golden opportunity go. Using trade to bludgeon Mexico into compliance with an immigration crack down makes no sense: Mexico is not responsible for the increase in migratory flows. Central America’s poverty and violence trace back to American policies in the 1980s. Mexico is not responsible either for America’s famously dysfunctional immigration system. Trump’s economic threats against Mexico may not even have been legal: both the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the newly agreed US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) require most trade between members to be tariff free.
Mexico could also have hit back with by levying tariffs that would have hurt swing-state voters, and in turn hurt Trump. This was the golden opportunity Mexico let slip from its hands. Mexico could have responded by hitting Trump where it hurts: Tariffs on American goods heading south. Mexico responded in a similar manner in June last year in response to the steel and aluminium tariffs. Mexico could have raised those tariffs each month in tandem with American levels.
This retaliation would have highlighted the gap between Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric and the underlying interdependence of the US and Mexico with stark consequences for the US presidential elections of 2020. Many of the biggest exporters to Mexico such as Arizona. Florida. California, Michigan and Illinois are swing states. New tariffs could have thrown Texas into recession and put its 38 electoral votes into play. It is all too late now, Mexico could have inadvertently helped Trump to get re-elected. Mexico has less than a month left to show some backbone and demand real American cooperation on the region’s shared challenges and rejecting Trump’s threats once and for all. The relationship between Mexico and the US could have been an example of cooperation under difficult conditions, but that would have required different American and Mexican presidents.
Scandinavia Veers Left plus D-Day Reflections as Trump Storms Europe
Mette Frederiksen of the five-party Social Democrat bloc won 91 of the 169 seats in the Danish parliament ending the rule of the right-wing Liberal Party group that had governed for 14 of the last 18 years. The election issues centered on climate change, immigration and Denmark’s generous social welfare policies. All parties favored tighter immigration rules thereby taking away the central issue dominating the far-right Democrat Freedom Party which has seen its support halved since the last election in 2015.
Ms Frederiksen promised more spending to bolster the much loved social welfare model and increased taxes on businesses and the wealthy. A left wave is sweeping Scandinavia as Denmark becomes the third country, after Sweden and Finland, to move left within a year. Mette Frederiksen will also be, at 41, the youngest prime minister Denmark has ever had.
Donald Trump has used the 75th anniversary of D-Day commemorations to garner positive publicity. The supreme promoter has managed to tie it in with a “classy” (his oft-chosen word) state visit to the UK spending a day with royals. It was also a farewell to the prime minister as her resignation is effective from June 7. Add a D-Day remembrance ceremony at Portsmouth and he was off to his golf course in Ireland for a couple of days of relaxation disguised as a visit to the country for talks — he has little in common with the prime minister, Leo Varadkar, who is half-Indian and gay.
Onward to France where leaders gathered for ceremonies at several places. It is easy to forget the extent of that carnage: over 20,000 French civilians were killed in Normandy alone mostly from aerial bombing and artillery fire. The Normandy American cemetery holds over 9600 soldiers. All in all, France lost in the neighborhood of 390,000 civilian dead during the whole war. Estimates of total deaths across the world range from 70 to 85 million or about 3 percent of the then global population (estimated at 2.3 billion).
Much has been written about conflict resolutions generally from a cold rational perspective. Emotions like greed, fear and a sense of injustice when unresolved lead only in one direction. There was a time when individual disputes were given the ultimate resolution through single combat. Now legal rights and courts are available — not always perfect, not always fair, but neither are humans.
It does not take a genius to extrapolate such legal measures to nations and international courts … which already exist. Just one problem: the mighty simply ignore them. So we wait, and we honor the dead of wars that in retrospect appear idiotic and insane. Worse is the attempt to justify such insanity through times like the “good war”, a monstrous absurdity.
It usually takes a while. Then we get leaders who have never seen the horror of war — some have assiduously avoided it — and the cycle starts again.
To Impeach Or Not To Impeach? That Is The Question
Robert Mueller let loose a thunderbolt midweek. Donald Trump had not been charged, he said, because it was Department of Justice policy not to charge a sitting president. Dumping the issue firmly into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lap, he reminded us of the purpose of the impeachment process. According to Mueller there are ten instances where there are serious issues with the president obstructing justice adding that his report never concludes that Trump is innocent.
So here is a simple question: If Mueller thought the president is not innocent but he did not charge him because of Justice Department policy, and he appears also to favor impeachment, then why in heaven’s name did he not simply state in his report that the preponderance of evidence indicated Trump was guilty?
Nancy Pelosi is wary of impeachment. According to the rules, the House initiates it and when/if it finds sufficient grounds, it forwards the case to the Senate for a formal trial. The Senate at present is controlled by Republicans, who have been saying it’s time to move on, often adding that after two years of investigation and a 448-page report, what is the point of re-litigating the issue? They have a point and again it leads to the question: if Special Counsel Mueller thinks Trump is guilty as he now implies, why did he not actually say so?
Never one to miss any opportunity , Trump labels Mueller, highly conflicted, and blasts impeachment as ‘a dirty, filthy, disgusting word’, He has also stopped Don McGahn, a special counsel at the White House from testifying before Congress invoking ‘executive privilege’ — a doctrine designed to keep private the president’s consultations with his advisors. While not cited anywhere in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has held it to be ‘fundamental to the operation of government and inextricably rooted in the Separation of Powers under the Constitution.’ Separation of powers keeps apart the executive branch, the legislature and the judiciary, meaning each one cannot interfere with the other.
Nancy Pelosi is under increasing pressure from the young firebrands. Rep Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has already expressed the view that it is time to open an impeachment inquiry against Trump given the obstruction of lawmakers’ oversight duty.
Speaker Pelosi is a long-time politician with political blood running through her veins — her father was Mayor of Baltimore and like herself also a US Representative. To her the situation as is, is quite appealing. Trump’s behavior fires up Democrats across the country and they respond by emptying their pockets to defeat the Republicans in 2020. Democratic coffers benefit so why harm this golden goose — a bogeyman they have an excellent chance of defeating — also evident from the numbers lining up to contest the Democratic presidential primaries, currently at 24.
Will Trump be impeached? Time will tell but at present it sure doesn’t look likely.
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