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Trump lied about his intentions toward Russia

Eric Zuesse

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On August 20th, Gallup headlined “More in U.S. Favor Diplomacy Over Sanctions for Russia” and reported that, “Americans believe it is more important to try to continue efforts to improve relations between the countries (58%), rather than taking strong diplomatic and economic steps against Russia (36%).” And yet, all of the sanctions against Russia have passed in Congess by over 90% of Senators and Representatives voting for them — an extraordinarily strong and bipartisan favoring of anti-Russia sanctions, by America’s supposed “representatives” of the American people. What’s happening here, which explains such an enormous contradiction between America’s Government, on the one side, versus America’s people, on the other? Is a nation like this really a democracy at all?

Donald Trump understood this disjunction, when he was running for President, and he took advantage of the public side of it, in order to win, but, as soon as he won, he flipped to the opposite side, the side of America’s billionaires, who actually control the U.S. Government.

While he was campaigning for the U.S. Presidency, Donald Trump pretended to want to soften, not harden, America’s policies against Russia. He even gave hints that he wanted a redirection of U.S. Government expenditures away from the military, and toward America’s economic and domestic needs.

On 31 January 2016, Donald Trump — then one of many Republican candidates running for the Republican U.S. Presidential nomination — told a rally in Clinton Iowa, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia and China and all these countries?”

On 21 March 2016, he was published in the Washington Post as having told its editors, that “he advocates a light footprint in the world. In spite of unrest abroad, especially in the Middle East, Trump said the United States must look inward and steer its resources toward rebuilding domestic infrastructure. … ‘I do think it’s a different world today, and I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore,’ Trump said. ‘I think it’s proven not to work, and we have a different country than we did then. We have $19 trillion in debt. We’re sitting, probably, on a bubble. And it’s a bubble that if it breaks, it’s going to be very nasty. I just think we have to rebuild our country.’” On that same day, The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris wrote that:

Trump’s surprising new position [is] that the U.S. should rethink whether it needs to remain in the seven-decades-old NATO alliance with Europe.

Sounding more like a CFO than a commander-in-chief, Trump said of the alliance, “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” adding, “NATO is costing us a fortune and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”

U.S. officials, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have said that European allies have to shoulder a bigger burden of NATO’s cost. But calling for the possible U.S. withdrawal from the treaty is a radical departure for a presidential candidate — even a candidate who has been endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Withdrawing from NATO would leave European allies without a forceful deterrent to the Russian military, which invaded and annexed portions of Ukraine in 2014. That would arguably be a win for Putin but leave U.S. allies vulnerable.

It also wasn’t clear how Trump’s arguably anti-interventionist position on the alliance squared with his choice of advisers. …

One other Trump adviser had previously been reported. Retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn had told The Daily Beast that he “met informally” with Trump. Flynn was pushed out of his post as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and has since spoken out publicly about the need for the U.S. to forge closer ties with Russia.

Five days later, on March 26th, the New York Times bannered, “Transcript: Donald Trump Expounds on His Foreign Policy Views” and David Sanger and Maggie Haberman presented their discussion with Trump about this, where Trump said:

I have two problems with NATO. No. 1, it’s obsolete. When NATO was formed many decades ago we were a different country. There was a different threat. Soviet Union was, the Soviet Union, not Russia, which was much bigger than Russia, as you know. And, it was certainly much more powerful than even today’s Russia, although again you go back into the weaponry. But, but – I said, I think NATO is obsolete, and I think that – because I don’t think – right now we don’t have somebody looking at terror, and we should be looking at terror. And you may want to add and subtract from NATO in terms of countries. But we have to be looking at terror, because terror today is the big threat. Terror from all different parts. You know in the old days you’d have uniforms and you’d go to war and you’d see who your enemy was, and today we have no idea who the enemy is. …

I’ll tell you the problems I have with NATO. No. 1, we pay far too much. We are spending — you know, in fact, they’re even making it so the percentages are greater. NATO is unfair, economically, to us, to the United States. Because it really helps them more so than the United States, and we pay a disproportionate share. Now, I’m a person that — you notice I talk about economics quite a bit, in these military situations, because it is about economics, because we don’t have money anymore because we’ve been taking care of so many people in so many different forms that we don’t have money — and countries, and countries. So NATO is something that at the time was excellent. Today, it has to be changed. It has to be changed to include terror. It has to be changed from the standpoint of cost because the United States bears far too much of the cost of NATO. And one of the things that I hated seeing is Ukraine. Now I’m all for Ukraine, I have friends that live in Ukraine, but it didn’t seem to me, when the Ukrainian problem arose, you know, not so long ago, and we were, and Russia was getting very confrontational, it didn’t seem to me like anyone else cared other than us. And we are the least affected by what happens with Ukraine because we’re the farthest away. But even their neighbors didn’t seem to be talking about it. And, you know, you look at Germany, you look at other countries, and they didn’t seem to be very much involved. It was all about us and Russia. And I wondered, why is it that countries that are bordering the Ukraine and near the Ukraine – why is it that they’re not more involved? Why is it that they are not more involved? Why is it always the United States that gets right in the middle of things, with something that – you know, it affects us, but not nearly as much as it affects other countries. And then I say, and on top of everything else – and I think you understand that, David – because, if you look back, and if you study your reports and everybody else’s reports, how often do you see other countries saying “We must stop, we must stop.” They don’t do it! And, in fact, with the gas, you know, they wanted the oil, they wanted other things from Russia, and they were just keeping their mouths shut. And here the United States was going out and, you know, being fairly tough on the Ukraine. And I said to myself, isn’t that interesting? We’re fighting for the Ukraine, but nobody else is fighting for the Ukraine other than the Ukraine itself, of course, and I said, it doesn’t seem fair and it doesn’t seem logical.

The next day, March 27th, on ABC’s “The Week,” Trump said, “I think NATO’s obsolete. NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger, much larger than Russia is today. I’m not saying Russia’s not a threat. But we have other threats. We have the threat of terrorism and NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism, NATO’s not meant for terrorism. NATO doesn’t have the right countries in it for terrorism.”

It’s easy to see why Trump was opposed by not only Hillary Clinton and other Democratic Party neoconservatives, but also by all Republican Party neoconservatives. The main target of neoconservatives — ever since that movement (which only in the 1970s came to be called “neoconservatives”) was founded by Democratic U.S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson back in the 1950s — has been to conquer Russia. That’s the ultimate objective, toward which they all and always have striven.

Even Barack Obama, despite his pretenses for ‘a reset in U.S.-Russia relations’, had had actually the opposite of that pretension in mind — a doubling-down on the Cold War. And Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, doubles down on his predecessor’s double-down, there.

Of course, neocons aren’t only against Russia; they also are against any country that Israel and Saudi Arabia hate — and, of course, Israel and Saudi Arabia are large purchasers of American-made weapons, such as weapons from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics. In fact: Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest purchaser (other than the U.S. ‘Defense’ Department itself) of their products and services. In fact, soon after coming into office, Trump achieved the all-time-world-record-largest international weapons-sale, of $350 billion to the Sauds, and it was quickly hiked yet another $50 billion to $400 billion. It’s, as of yet, his jobs-plan for the American people. Instead of Trump’s peaceing the American economy, he has warred it. Consequently, for example, the Koch brothers’ Doug Bandow, who represents his sponsors’ bet against neoconservativsm, headlined on 27 April 2017 “Donald Trump: The ‘Manchurian (Neoconservative) Candidate’?” and he itemized what a terrific Trojan Horse that Trump had turned out to be, for the war-lobby, the ‘neocons’, or, as Dwight Eisenhower had called them (but carefully and only after his Presidency was already over), “the military-industrial complex.” They’re all actually the same people; they serve the same billionaires, all of whom are heavily invested in these war-makers — all against two main targets: first, Russia (which America’s aristocracy hate the most); and, then, Iran (which Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s aristocracies hate the most). Any nation that’s friendly toward those, gets destroyed. Other people (the masses) fight, kill, die, get maimed, and are impoverished, while these few individuals at the very top in the U.S. profit, from those constant invasions, and military occupations — which Americans admire (their nation’s military, America’s invasion-forces) above all else.

On the Bill O’Reilly Show, 4 January 2016, Trump was asked to announce, before even the Presidential primaries, what would cause him as the U.S. President, to bomb Iran, and Trump then was panned everywhere for refusing to answer such an inappropriate question — to announce publicly what his strategy, as the U.S. President, would be in such a matter of foreign affairs (in which type of matter only the President himself should be privy to such information about himself, namely his strategy) — but Trump did reveal there his sympathy for the Sauds, and his extreme hostility toward Iran, a nation which is a bête noire to neocons:

I will say this about Iran. They’re looking to go into Saudi Arabia, they want the oil, they want the money, they want a lot of other things having to do…they took over Yemen, you look over that border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, that is one big border and they’re looking to do a number in Yemen. Frankly, the Saudis don’t survive without us, and at what point do we get involved? And how much will Saudi Arabia pay us to save them?

The Sauds have already answered that question, with their commitment to paying $400 billion, and they’re already using some of this purchased weaponry and training, to conquer Yemen. But who gets that money? It’s not the American people; it is only the stockholders in those American war-making corporations (and allied corporations) who receive the benefits.

And what’s this, from Trump, about “at what point do we get involved” if Saudi Arabia’s tyrants “don’t survive without us”? America is now supposed to be committed to keeping tyrannical hereditary monarchies in control over their countries? When did that start? Certainly not in 1776. Today’s America isn’t like the country, nor the culture, that America’s Founders created, but instead is more like the monarchy that they overthrew. This was supposed to be an anti-imperialist country. Today’s American rulers are traitors, against the nation that America’s Founders had created. These traitors, and their many agents, are sheer psychopaths. The American public are not their citizens, but their subjects — much like the colonists were, who overthrew the British King.

Donald Trump just wants for Europeans to increase military spending (to buy U.S.-made weapons) even more than the U.S. is doing against Russia, and for the Sauds and Israelis also to buy more of these weapons from America’s weapons-firms, to use against Iran and any nation friendly toward it. Meanwhile, America’s own military spending is already at world-record-high levels.

That’s Trump’s economic plan; that’s his jobs-plan; that’s his ‘national security’ plan. That is Trump’s Presidency.

He lied his way into office, just like his predecessors had been doing. This is what ‘democracy’ in America now consists of: lies — some colored “liberal”; some colored “conservative”; but all colored “profitable” (for the ‘right’ people); and another name for that, in foreign affairs, is “neoconservative.”

About Russia, he’s continuing Obama’s policies but even worse; and about Iran, he’s clearly even more of a neocon than was his predecessor. However, as a candidate, he had boldly criticized neoconservatism. Democracy cannot be based on lies, and led by liars.

Author’s note: first published by The Saker

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Will the Trump Administration Fight the Coronavirus or China?

Harley Schlanger

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In reviewing the excruciating pressure imposed on U.S. President Donald Trump to drop his efforts to achieve a collaborative relationship with China’s President Xi Jinping, it is useful to review the strategy outlined by former United Kingdom Ambassador to Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, to manipulate him to adopt British policy initiatives. The {Daily Mail} published on July 6, 2019 leaked diplomatic cables sent by Darroch to Britain’s National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill, discussing how to maintain what he described as “our single most important bilateral relationship”, with Trump as President, given the importance of “defense and intelligence cooperation.”

In his cables, Darroch gave credibility to the discredited report by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele, that Trump could be compromised by the “dodgy Russians…the worst cannot be ruled out”; that Trump and his administration are “inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional”; and that his presidency could “crash and burn”, in a “downward spiral…that leads to disgrace and downfall.”

To sustain the cooperation with — or subservience from — the U.S. that the U.K. requires, Darroch recommends that they employ “Trump whisperers” to “flood the zone” around him: “You want as many as possible of those who Trump consults to give him the same answer. So, we need to be creative in using all the channels available to us through our relationships with his Cabinet, the White House staff and our contacts among his outside friends.”

The goal of the “Trump whisperers” from the time he took office has been to break Trump from his stated desire to improve cooperative relations with Russia’s President Putin and China’s President Xi. The Russiagate narrative, which originated with British fabrications from the GCHQ and MI6, was designed to force Trump into a hostile relationship with Russia, in order to dispel rumors he was being blackmailed by Putin. Though it has been fully discredited, and he survived the subsequent effort to remove him, by a House vote for impeachment regarding his alleged effort to withhold aid from Ukraine for political purposes, the U.S. relationship with Russia has been badly damaged, though he continues to say he wants a positive relationship with Russia. In the weeks since the Coronavirus has taken an increasingly deadly toll in the U.S., and the lock-down measures to combat the pandemic have wreaked havoc with the already-collapsing U.S. economy, the Trump Whisperers have escalated their campaign against China, pushing Trump to blame China for the public health crisis, and the related crash of the economy. Among those who have been identified as Trump Whisperers who met with Darroch are former National Security Adviser John Bolton, former Chief of Staff John Kelly, and former adviser Steve Bannon.

But the ultimate target of this campaign is not Putin and Xi — it is Donald Trump, as his presidency is viewed by leading British/City of London officials, and their U.S. allies in the Bush-Obama intelligence community and both U.S. political parties, as an existential threat to the maintenance of their bankrupt system, which is dependent on the unbroken continuity of geopolitical confrontation, and neoliberal economic policies. A review of the British role in promoting the anti-China hysteria demonstrates how the U.K. establishment is focused on moving Trump to turn against China, especially after the successful conclusion by Trump and Xi of Phase I of the trade negotiations.

“Blame China”

At the heart of the British anti-China campaign is the Henry Jackson Society (HJS). Founded by neocons with ties to the lying campaign accusing Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq war — including Sir Richard Dearlove, who as MI6 head delivered the fake Iraq WMD dossier to the Bush administration — the HJS has conducted an ongoing campaign demanding concerted action by western nations against China. (Note that Dearlove was among the most aggressive defenders of Christopher Steele, when his fake dossier against Trump came under fire). Among other targets, they went after Chinese telecom innovator Huawei, insisting that any deal with Huawei opens western telecommunications to Chinese spying. Most recently, an April 5 report from HJS demanded that China must pay compensation for the spread of the Coronavirus, drafting a bill for $4 trillion to be paid to G7 nations.

This demand became a leading “talking point” of the anti-China crowd in the U.S., picked up by trade negotiator and anti-China hack Peter Navarro, who is pushing the slogan, “China lied, people died”, to claim that China owes the U.S. It is the subject of a raving article published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on April 28, titled “How to Make China Pay for COVID19”. The article was written by John Yoo and Richard Delahunty, who are notorious for authoring the infamous memo defending torture in Iraq for the Bush administration in 2002. The AEI is one of the leading promoters among U.S. think tanks of British neo-illiberal economic policies. After relentless questioning by anti-China media hawks, President Trump stated at recent press briefings that his administration is looking into getting China to pay!

One prominent “Trump whisperer”, Steve Bannon, a former adviser until he fell into disfavor, uses his “WarRoom” podcast to demand punitive actions against the Chinese government. Bannon accuses China of unleashing a “biological Chernobyl”, saying the “world must hold them [the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)] accountable,” adding provocatively that “All the dead [from the pandemic] are victims of the CCP.” Bannon’s co-host and collaborator in the WarRoom is Raheem Kassam, who previously worked for the HJS.

Another major British intervention, which has been repeated incessantly by those attacking China, was the article on April 5 in the {Sunday Times}, by Niall Ferguson, who is an outspoken apologist for the British Empire. Ferguson claims that “after it became clear that there was a full-blown epidemic spreading from Wuhan”, that the Chinese cut off all domestic travel from there, but allowed international travel to continue. This charge has morphed into the argument that China was spreading the disease deliberately to the rest of the world, and found its way into the April 30 Trump press briefing, when Trump responded to a question by saying that the U.S. is investigating whether this may have been a mistake, or deliberate!

Clearly Trump had not been briefed on the devastating blow to Ferguson’s polemic from Dr. Daniel A. Bell, Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shangdong University. Bell proved that Ferguson’s charge that international travel continued from Wuhan after January 23 was false, by examining the flight logs, which showed NO flights from Wuhan after that date. Neither the {Times}, nor Ferguson, nor whomever briefed Trump on Ferguson’s fabricated story, has come forward to acknowledge that it is a lie, and the story continues to be bandied about by anti-China politicians and the media. Among those repeating this claim is Navarro, who blustered that instead of containing the virus in Wuhan, “five million people went out from Wuhan and propagated the virus around the world.”

While there are many other instances of such lies shaping an anti-China environment, one of the more egregious ones was a report in the [Daily Telegraph] of Australia, which claims that a report was prepared by a joint intelligence team of the Five Eyes, accusing China of conducting “an assault on international transparency”, by hiding or destroying evidence of the Coronavirus. While the author of this article was subsequently featured on Fox News in the U.S., it has been noted by critics that no one from Five Eyes has taken credit for the report, nor has anyone else seen it! The same “report” also targets Trump, saying that he had been briefed in January that China had unleashed a potentially devastating pandemic, yet he did nothing to counter it. U.S. intelligence officials deny that Trump received such a briefing. The Five Eyes network, which includes the U.K., the U.S., and British Commonwealth countries Canada, Australia and New Zealand, was prominently involved in setting in motion the fake Russiagate story, with particular input from Australian official Alexander Downer.

One U.S. official, who is at the center of the War Hawk grouping in the Trump administration, who finds no British claim too extreme to repeat, is Secretary of State Pompeo, who often travels to London to coordinate this offensive. In May 2019, he spoke at a London think tank, the Center for Policy Studies, warning that China’s goal is to divide the western alliance — which in fact is what he has been doing, with his global tour attacking the Belt-and-Road Initiative, which has been gaining support among some EU countries — and attempting to cut-off cooperation with Huawei. Last January, during a stop in London, Pompeo said that “the Chinese Communist Party is the central threat of our times.” Recently, on Fox tv and in other venues, Pompeo said there is “huge evidence” that the CCP is “hiding and obfuscating” the truth about its role in spreading the Coronavirus, but that he cannot divulge that evidence! He went on to accuse the CCP of “using classic communist disinformation” in its coverup, insisting that the CCP “continues to pose a threat to the world,” and that it “now has a responsibility to tell the world how this pandemic got out of China and all across the world, causing such global economic devastation.”

As the 2020 election approaches, this line is one that Trump is being urged to employ to combat the charge that his administration was not prepared to take on the pandemic, a charge already being voiced by the campaign of Trump’s likely opponent, Joe Biden. While ignoring that the lack of preparation was due to a 40+ year dismantling of public health in the U.S., due to adherence to neoliberal austerity policy, a key campaign theme which is emerging is who is “softer” on China. A 57-page memo prepared for the National Republican Senatorial Committee advocates that, in response to Democratic attacks, the Republican response should be “Don’t Defend Trump…Attack China.” This report was prepared by a consultant, Brett O’Donnell, who has in the past worked for Fox News’ anti-China and anti-Russian loudmouth Sean Hannity, war hawk John McCain, and, in 2019, current British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

China Responds to War Hysteria, Calls for Cooperation

The leading media in China have countered this unhinged propaganda campaign sharply, warning that these allegations not only threaten a worsening of relations, but could lead to military confrontation. The British-Canadian news agency Reuters attempted to whip up war hysteria, reporting that a leaked document shows that the Chinese military is “preparing for military confrontation.” Apparently Reuters does not consider nearly non-stop naval maneuvers by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea to be war preparation, nor that the constant demands that nations in the “Indo-Pacific” region engage in joint maneuvers with the U.S. to combat Chinese “aggression” could raise legitimate concerns in China.

The Chinese media point out that one aspect of the virulent anti-China response is to take away the focus on the failure of the U.S. to adequately prepare for the pandemic. A May 5 story in {China Daily} was headlined “Pompeo’s Clown Show Spotlights U.S. Administration’s Mistakes,” was followed by a story the next day which stated that rather than blaming China for a “coverup”, the problem is that the U.S. ignored the indicators of the coming problem. “Washington should face the reality of the situation…and work with Beijing”, the editorial states, “to defeat this pathogen.” On May 7, {China Daily} issued a call for collaboration under the headline “It’s Time U.S. Focused on the Struggle Against a Real Enemy — the Virus.”

What must be presented to American citizens is that the propaganda designed to create an “enemy image” of China is run by the same networks which targeted Trump for removal by Russiagate, and is just as fabricated as that narrative, as is being demonstrated by the latest evidence coming out from the Flynn case. National security requires that immunity to the “British virus” known as the “special relationship” must be developed, through an understanding of the real intent of British meddling in U.S. policy. This is an essential component to not only effectively fight the Coronavirus and prevent the spread of future pandemics, but also to consolidate mutually beneficial strategic relationships with Russia and China.

From our partner RIAC

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Is an Electioneering Trump Overblowing the ‘China Threat’?

M Waqas Jan

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As several analysts grapple over the futility of calling for greater international cooperation against the Coronavirus pandemic, US – China relations seem to be plumbing to ever increasing lows day by day. One has to just glance at the daily news cycle to see how both the virus and the US – China rivalry seem to be going almost hand in hand in representing perhaps the most serious threats to global peace and prosperity. Threats that are in turn more than likely to dramatically impact the world’s economic and security outlook for many years to come. 

Yet, even before the COVID-19 pandemic stormed all forms of political and international relations discourse, the primacy with which the US – China rivalry had been afforded was never in doubt of fading anytime soon anyway. Especially considering President Trump’s incessant obsession with everything China in his previous election campaign, it was already expected that his hardline stance on China would only intensify the closer it came to his re-election bid. This for instance was best encapsulated in his ‘successfully concluded trade deal’, which in supposedly ending the long and protracted US- China trade war,was to stand as one of the most significant achievements of the Trump presidency. In fact, it was to represent in essence a vindication of President Trump’s entire ethos of America First as manifest in his more assertive and obstinate approach to US diplomacy and foreign policy.

Yet based on some of President Trump’s most recent statements, even the achievements of his much-touted trade negotiations now stand jeopardized as both the White House and State Department continue to directly blame China for causing the Coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the way both President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo have gone about in accusing China of deliberately covering up and mishandling the crises during its earliest stages has stood out particularly for its lack of evidence and sole reliance on hawkish rhetoric. What these claims have instead effectively done is to conflate the security and economic implications of the ‘Chinese threat’ on US primacy. An aspect which has in turn continued to resonate unequivocally with President Trump’s highly conservative and mostly far-right electorate.

Its thus not much of a surprise that China’s response has been to mount an even stronger diplomatic offensive. This has been evident in the collective vitriol expressed by a new breed of more assertive diplomats engaging in what has been ascribed (perhaps more disparagingly) as ‘Wolf Warrior Diplomacy’. Yet, it is worth emphasizing that while such a response is likely to have been expected, it still represents a marked departure from the more subtle, patient and restrained manner that had up till now characterized Chinese diplomacy under the now infamous guiding principlesof Deng Xiaoping. While such assertiveness may represent a benign attempt by China at limiting the defense of its international credibility to the diplomatic front, it could also point towards the growing eminence of more hawkish voices taking hold within the Chinese politburo. Hence, ultimately signifying a more overt and perhaps more dangerous challenge to US primacy on China’s part.

Yet as this back and forth between Chinese and US officials rapidly intensifies, many have been left wondering whether the very threat of China’s rise has been deliberately overblown within US policymaking circles to begin with. This argument for instance has been raised by a number of leading analysts such as Fareed Zakaria among others. In a recent article, Zakaria very pointedly explains how designating China as a strategic competitor has allowed the Pentagon to once again justify the kind of grandiose plans and expenditures which more or less defined some of the most tense days of the US – Soviet Cold War. This kind of thinking for instance is replete in some of the latest analyses and commentary calling for a complete overhaul of the US military – industrial complex in response to the ‘Chinese threat’. Chris Brose’s recent book ‘The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare’, makes exactly this argument drawing on his years of expertise working closely with the Pentagon and the US Senate’s Armed Services Committee. As pointed out by Zakaria, this kind of discourse feeds directly into the perceived inevitability and simple predictability of a US – China conflict in what has been famously ascribed to now as the much-vaunted Thucydides Trap. A concept whose own author – Graham Allison – has warned against turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. A similar skeptic can be found in Michael Beckley whose latest research also questions the severity and alarm that has been afforded to China’s rise. Especially when considering the long way China still has go to overtake the US both economically and militarily.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that on the purely political front, this debate on China’s rise while completely stripped off its historical precedents and hard economic numbers has been reduced to just diplomatic vitriol between both powers. Whereas, President Trump has simply continued what he knows best, the more assertive line taken by China now however directly feeds into US insecurities regarding the future of its power projection capabilities even more.

With the COVID-19 pandemic now representing the latest battleground for this rivalry to play out, China’s attempts at ‘Mask Diplomacy’ and pandemic aid are adding even more fuel to this fire by appearing to take on a more leading role in international leadership. All while appearing to eclipse the US’s waning influence even further as it undergoes one of the most divisive US elections to date. A development that is to only further complicate this rivalry more along the basis of simple prestige than on any serious hard power discrepancies in the years to come.

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From Plato To Donald Trump: A Once Unimaginable Declension

Prof. Louis René Beres

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An elder Plato walks alongside a younger Aristotle. "The School of Athens" is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. It was painted between 1509 and 1511 as a part of Raphael's commission to decorate the rooms now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

“….till the class of philosophers be invested with the supreme authority in a state, such state and its citizens will find no deliverance from evil….”-Plato, The Republic

“I love the poorly educated.”-Donald J. Trump, 2016

It’s hardly a secret. During the once unimaginable Trump years – an ongoing era of conspicuous presidential dereliction and determined anti-reason[1] – Americans have been enduring  a grievous national retreat. Earlier, in  principle at least, and at a moment when “principle” still held certain tangible meanings,  Plato’s Republic had provided a proper benchmark for many generations of college students. Here, acquainted with a learning-based view already well-known to Thomas Jefferson and to other founders of the American Republic (back then, our leaders actually read challenging books), such students could think interestingly and usefully about a “philosopher king.”

 The lesson was “heavy,” of course, yet unambiguous. For earnest freshmen, this inspirational figure of  commendable judgment and public righteousness was cast asthe one who could be trusted, the exemplary political  leader, the witting thinkerwho could fuse real learning (not cheap merchandising, chicanery or electoral contrivance) with law-supporting national governance.[2]

Plato’s proposed leader represented what the interested scholars would call an “ideal-type,” and was not considered as an immediately graspable or pragmatic model for national political implementation. Nonetheless, it still served to remind entire societies that justice, virtue and decency could somehow be immensely practical. This dignifying message is patently absent from literally anywhere in the Trump White House. Correspondingly, with this Platonic example, higher education was regarded as an intrinsically worthwhile American experience, not just a tactical stepping stone to better vocation or higher personal income.

Back then, inter alia, American higher education was not just about learning how to extract narrowly personal benefits without regard for fulfilling certain much wider and necessary societal obligations.[3]

Back then, in essence, dignified learning was about rejecting the primal and persistently damaging ethos of “everyone for himself.”[4] In other words, worthwhile it itself, such learning was the literal opposite of what we now suffer hourly from a tweeting but non-reading American president.

 There is more. Now, at a precarious time when extant US presidential liabilities are being amplified and multiplied by worldwide disease pandemic,[5] by a bewildering and frightful pestilential assault, it is a last good time to inquire as follows: What has happened to this once enviable and hopeful model of political leadership?

Significantly, the day-to-day betrayal of this model by an American president and his unswervingly obsequious henchmen in government and industry also represents a wholesale betrayal of America’s Founding Fathers. Though assuredly not understood by Donald Trump or any of his reflexively servile enforcers, the Founders who crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were animated by distinctly Platonic notions of wisdom and by the corollary high ideals of Natural Law.[6]  Thomas Jefferson, especially, had argued that the core viability of the precarious new American republic would depend most of all upon the meaningful education of its citizens. For Jefferson, the kind of ignorant imposture we must now tolerate in the Trump White House would have been judged irreconcilable with any genuine democracy.

Myriad promises notwithstanding,  Donald J. Trump could never plan to move us even inches toward a more properly virtuous and wise “polity.” Rather, and exactly as Plato had once feared in a generic sense, we Americans have already been deformed by a dissembling president who is unable and/or unwilling to distinguish between true knowledge and self-serving opinion. Much like the contemporary Sophists who Plato had recognized could only impair societal betterment and virtuous government, Donald J. Trump represents an utterly insidious caricature (one might even say here, a grotesque self-parody) of commendable national leadership.[7]

In this connection, the president now wittingly risks millions of American lives by personally taking over very complex medical and scientific judgments regarding Covid19.[8] When he is finally finished supplanting properly analytic assessments with his own propagandistic and conspiratorial views of the raging pestilence,[9] there will likely be more body bags piled up on our streets than were earlier evident during the Vietnam War.

That is a sobering and instructive image, one now well worth visualizing.

What about basic human compassion in the White House? As to any evidence of personal empathy or presidential concern for the millions of already suffering, ill and jobless fellow countrymen, Trump can only lament his own alleged punishments by the “fake news.” Grotesquely, even when confronted with the steadily mounting number of American fatalities to Covid19, his only thought is to urge “unfair” interlocutors to “be nice,” to be “more polite.”

There is more. Under Donald Trump’s sorely twisted presidential tutelage, we Americans can never expect any Platonic-style  “deliverance from evil.”  Rather, when we begin to consider the increasing threats of war and terrorism now tied up in various complex interactions with unpredictably virulent pathogens, such evil could prove greater than anything Plato might ever have imagined in the fourth century BCE. Looking toward these potentially existential  perils, they could eventually include enemy nuclear attack and/or biological terrorist assaults against the American homeland.[10]

If anyone in President Trump’s governing inner circle should ever come around to acknowledge such hazards, it would have to be done with a proper obeisance to Der Fuehrer; that is, obliquely, disingenuously, sotto voce.

Nothing more.

Ironically, in this pestilential age of rampant pandemic, a time of global war, terror and plague, the absence of a suitably wise American leadership could render vastly more probablethe weaponized pathogens of some present or future adversary. To wit, as Donald Trump rules openly and entirely by untruth and obfuscation –  “in his own flesh”[11] – he simultaneously undermines utterly vital US relations with Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

“I love chaos,” volunteered  Donald Trump with uncharacteristic honesty on March 4, 2018. Portentously, there is ample confirming evidence of just such a dissembling love (a perverse sentiment he also applied several times to his personal relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un) in the offhanded way Trump has stubbornly mishandled American testing and tracing for the Corona virus. Moreover, in late May 2020, this president announced plans to withdraw from the long-stabilizing Open Skies Treaty with Russia, another worrisome example of favoring gratuitous international belligerence (chaos) over any correctly law-based patterns of international cooperation.[12]

Every four years, We the people – we ina nation which had once been nurtured by American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Platonic call for high thinking and by Henry David Thoreau’s complementary (and similarly Platonic) plea to “consider the way in which we spend our lives” –  push aside any still-recognizable  serious thought. Obediently, as a deformed society that loathes complexity and looks ever anxiously for simple explanations, we Americans may yet again reduce complex US policy issues  to a crass assortment of numbing clichés and empty witticisms. Whatever else one might say about the rapidly-approaching election, choosing an American president will once again be fraught with abundantly delusionary expectations, and with conspicuously uninformed or incoherent policy platforms.

 Endlessly, in our quadrennial presidential election contests, the celebrity politician draws huge audiences and generous donors in spite ofan ineffable absence of substance. Always, in our infantile and banal national politics, less intellect is more pragmatic. Now, with Donald Trump still able to be taken seriously by so  many Americans, less discernible intellectual substance still spells tangible candidate advantage. With this starkly benighted incumbent, outright buffoonery has often become indisputable electoral advantage.

Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers. “I believe because it is absurd.”

 There is more. The harshly demeaning and dangerous Trump presidency  bears witness to America’s unprecedented national decline  – a declension of both the electorate and the Republic for which it stands. Now, whenever the sitting president’s words seethe with altogether evident worthlessness, a still-adoring crowd rushes in from the wings to applaud. Mixing desperation with a curiously self-imposed absence of memory and learning, it nods approvingly, en masse, and in more-or-less compliant “social distancing,” cheerlessly celebrates what it presumptuously calls “American Exceptionalism.”  The celebrations are without authentic joy because any tangible evidence that America is “great again” would be preposterous prima facie.

If it were in any way identifiable, it would then represent a glaring contradiction in terms.              

Once, many of our national heroes, including those who could and would actually read, were created by something other than marketing and crude commerce.[13] Today, a “normally” incoherent American president has become an embarrassing pitchman, a circus-announcer fashioned by careful manipulation and persistently meticulous misrepresentations. Far more ominously, of course, America trusts this sitting president with life or death nuclear command decisions,[14] a complex set of expectations that is always subject not only to willful deviations, but also to wholly unpredictable episodes of decisional irrationality.[15]

Let us finally be candid. The American “emperor” is more than just occasionally mistaken. He is hideously and very plainly “naked.” Most worrisome, in this regard, especially for any still-remaining American national future, is an election process that will likely remain shabby and demeaning, that will gratuitously mock all elements of genuine learning, and that proves shamelessly refractory to all residual hints of American intelligence and virtue.

 In principle, somehow, this ill-fated election process can still be civilized and transformed, but only after critical personal meanings in America can finally be detached from a ubiquitously craven and vulgar commerce. The American Republic, it must then be acknowledged, represents significantly more than just another gaming or real estate deal fashioned by Babbitts and politicos who have never heard of Plato or Jefferson or Blackstone, and have no clue as to what is actually discoverable in the US Constitution. Soon, governing this democracy, it must be acknowledged, will require more than another blustering and self-promoting illiterate buffoon.

Much more.

 We must now finally be candid. Plato’s prescriptively high standard of political leadership remains unassailably out of America’s ordinary reach. Still, this guiding standard may serve to remind us just how far we have already managed to descend from the Republic’s original expectations and how far we will need to advance to fully rescue and restore the imperiled United States. No one can reasonably expect Donald Trump or even the other party’s presidential candidate to become another Thomas Jefferson, but we should still hold every presidential aspirant to some at least minimal standards of intellect, seriousness and learning.

Sustaining and expecting some rudimentary intellectual life in the United States is hardly a dispensable option. In the final analysis, a more far-reaching American respect for a genuine life of the mind is required not “merely” for national physical survival, but also for the most fragmentary implementations of virtue. In the seventeenth century, Blaise Pascal, in his eternally elucidating Pensées, effectively summarized Plato: “All our dignity, then, consists in thought. It is upon this that we must depend, not on space and time, which we would not in any case be able to fill. Let us labour then, to think well (emphasis added): this is the foundation of morality.”[16]

There is one last and prospectively overriding point left to make. It is that the manifold derelictions of an anti-intellectual American society must inevitably “spill over” into the wider global arena, sometimes “synergistically,”[17] and thus weaken this country’s overall position in world politics. Accordingly, it was modern French thinker and poet, Guillaume Apollinaire, who understood the corresponding bit of  wisdom better than most: “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.”[18]

Now, beleaguered by plague as well as by the more “ordinary” hazards of foreign affairs – war, terrorism and genocide – Americans could do worse than consciously resurrect certain core principles of Plato’s Republic.

Far worse.

So long as we wittingly ensconce Plato’s “supreme authority” in the hands of a manifestly unfit American president, we should rightfully expect no quarter from adversaries of  any kind or magnitude, no reassuringly Platonic “deliverance from evil.”

None at all.


[1] “There is something inside all of us,” writes twentieth century German philosopher Karl Jaspers, “that yearns not for reason, but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought but for the whisperings of the irrational….” See: Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time, Archon Books, 1971, p.67.

[2]Generally, the pertinent obligations of international law are also obligations of US law. In the words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).Moreover, the specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US

Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[3] See, by this author, at The Daily Princetonian : https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[4] Says French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the  extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.” Nonetheless, at the international level, Trump has amplified the competitive nature of America’s Covid19 policies, a brand of “vaccine nationalism” that is the reductio ad absurdum of his more generally belligerent stance in world politics.

[5] Says Albert Camus in The Plague (1947): “At the beginning of the pestilence and when it ends, there’s always a propensity for rhetoric….It is only in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth, to silence.”

[6] See Edward S. Corwin, THE “HIGHER LAW” BACKGROUND OF AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW (1955);  Alexander P. D’Entreves, NATURAL LAW: AN INTRODUCTION TO LEGAL PHILOSOPHY (1951). Additionally, Blackstone’s COMMENTARIES recognize that all law “results from those principles of natural justice, in which all the learned of every nation agree….”  See William Blackstone,  COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND,  adapted by Robert Malcolm Kerr  (Boston; Beacon Press,  1962),  Book IV,  “Of Public Wrongs,”  p. 62  (Chapter V.,  “Of Offenses Against the Law of Nations.”) Still earlier, a century before Demosthenes, Antigone’s appeal against Creon’s order to the “unwritten and steadfast customs of the Gods” had evidenced the inferiority of human rule-making to a Higher Law.  Here, in the drama by Sophocles, Creon represents the Greek tyrant who disturbs the ancient harmony of the city state.  Aristotle, in his RHETORIC, quotes from Sophocles’ ANTIGONE when he argues that “an unjust law is not a law.”  See RHETORIC 1, 15,  1375, a 27 et seq.

[7] In just one example, during his May 21, 2020 tour of a Ford plant in Michigan, Trump refused to wear a mask. Though his explanation for this legal violation was that he didn’t want to give the press “the satisfaction” of seeing him in a mask (what that should actually mean is anyone’s guess), more likely he thought that wearing a mask would project an image of weakness, and – as everyone must already know – Der Fuehrer  is not subject to the normal rules of biology and infection (just as he is allegedly immune to any normal expectations of law). In essence, Trump’s refusal implies that he stands all-powerful, conspicuously “above biology,” just as he allegedly stands uniquely and brazenly “above the law.”

[8] “I tested very positively,” Trump said confusedly on the South Lawn of the White House on May 21, 2020,. “So this morning, yeah, I tested positively toward negative, right? So no, I tested perfectly this morning. Meaning, meaning I tested negative. But that’s a way of saying it, positively toward the negative.” To be charitable about describing such telling presidential confusions, Trump has also had some “trouble” in the past offering proper terminology concerning his medical test results.

[9] https://www.yahoo.com/news/answers-va-given-hydroxychloroquine-1-220636232.html

See also: https://www.yahoo.com/news/massive-study-coronavirus-patients-shows-140100072.html

[10] Professor Beres is the author of some of the earliest books on nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, including Terrorism and Global Security: The Nuclear Threat (1979); Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (1980); and Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (2016). His pertinent writings on this topic have been published in The New York Times; The Atlantic; Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (West Point); The War Room (Pentagon); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon) International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; and The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

[11] “The mass man has no attention to spare for reasoning,” warns 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gassett in The Revolt of the Masses (1930), “he learns only in his own flesh.”

[12] Trump’s proposed withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty (1992/2002) mirrored the U.S. decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia in August 2019.

[13] Sigmund Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. He most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this country’s “shallow optimism” and its seemingly corollary commitment to a disturbingly crude form of materialism. America, thought Freud, was very evidently “lacking in soul.” See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[14] See, by Professor Beres, at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/

[15] Expressions of decisional irrationality in world affairs could take assorted and overlapping forms, and need not be a function of “madness.” These forms include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and the internal dissonance generated by any structure of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of pertinent individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a single or unitary national decision maker).

[16] This is taken from Chapter XXIII of Pascal’s Pensées, “Grandeur de l’Homme.”

[17] Synergistic intersections are those that are “force-multiplying;” more precisely, ones wherein the “whole” is effectively greater than the more-or-less calculable arithmetic sum of its “parts.”

[18] See Guillaume Apollinaire’s “The New Spirit and the Poets,” 1917.

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