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Poetry and Rancor: Donald Trump, America and the “Hollow Men”

Prof. Louis René Beres

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“We are the hollow men, We are the stuffed men”-T S Eliot, The Hollow Men  (1925)

Donald Trump did not emerge ex nihilo, from nothing. He was the predictable outgrowth of a society that generally loathes any serious thought. When Mr. Trump noted proudly during his 2016 campaign that “I love the poorly educated,” it was by no means an off-the-cuff or seat-of-the pants observation.

It was offered as a politically convenient affirmation of alleged kinship, a deliberate strategy nurturing his bond with a specific portion of the American electorate.

This targeted portion could have been called “hollow men” by poet T S Eliot. Currently, to be sure, this meaning must be taken to include both genders. In this regard, the president’s revealed sentiments were entirely “evenhanded.”

However regrettable and worrisome for other reasons, they were not intended as sexist.

What were these “other reasons?” To answer, we must first inquire: Where does Donald Trump’s conspicuous loathing of intellect and learning have its contemporary historical roots?  Significantly, this is not really a difficult question.

“Intellect rots the mind,” warned Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels at the Nuremberg rallies in 1935. This plausible historical resemblance or commonality need not suggest that the Trump administration is in any way genocidal, only that both regimes drew their “primal” nurturance from the poisonous font of a know-nothing populism.

Even in anti-intellectual America, the poet occupies a proper place. Sometimes,  he or she is all-seeing, even as a prophetic antecedent of what still lies ahead.  “This is the dead land…” laments T.S. Eliot, speaking of no one geographic place in particular.  Rather, he observes, in a presumptively generic “cactus land,” false images of wood and stone are raised by “hollow men” as suitable objects for veneration.

Just as in present-day Trump-era United States, compliant inhabitants will insistently welcome “the supplication of a dead man’s hand.”

By definition, of course, it is a profoundly self-destructive welcoming.

Today, still more precisely, such lethal surrenders are witnessed most often at Trump “rallies,” literally incoherent gatherings of the president’s faithful, replete with screams and ritualistic phrases chanted in loud and atavistic chorus.

For the United States, at least in principle, there still exist more promising supplications. But any such foreseeable entreaties would first require a society that can take itself seriously, not one that has wittingly exchanged banal observations and empty chatter for intellect and learning. Under no circumstances – absolutely none – could these sensible pleas be spawned by a society of “hollow men” or “hollow women.”

Never.

Now, actually meeting the requirements of a tangibly thoughtful and reasoning society is little more than a vague hope.Nonetheless, a simple though dignified model for improvement does remain available. To wit, before the poet Eliot’s revealing metaphors, Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson called upon his fellow Americans to embrace “plain living and high thinking.” Today, especially, it is evident that his sensible nineteenth-century plaint for enhanced equilibrium  (personal and social) went unheeded.

Widely unheeded.

No truth-based observation could ever be more obvious.

Now, in the glaringly rancorous “Trump Era,” there is no longer any plausible pretense concerning  mind or integrity. Today, both intellect and dignity are out of political fashion, strikingly out of fashion. At least in the most cantankerous public realms, truth is no longer regarded as meaningfully worthwhile or advantageous. For this president, who seemingly learned a great deal from de facto mentor Joseph Goebbels, it is plainly a liability.

A grievous liability.

Though not generally understood, looking behind the news is everyone’s first obligation of citizenship. Only here, in what is not immediately obvious, may we yet discover certain immutably core truths of American life. After all, even the tiniest hint of science or “high thinking” is treated by US President Donald Trump as an affront, as an epithet, as an unseemly sign of independent thinking.

Could anything else be more fittingly subject to mass-based spasms of public loathing, of duly “patriotic” American hatreds?

This corrosive subordination of intellect was by no means an original “contribution” of  Donald Trump  (American society has never been an example of obeisance to learning or enlightened considerations of “mind”),  but it remains a defiling signature of this rapidly dissembling American presidency.

 For sensible and still-thinking Americans, there should be little residual ambiguity about what is unraveling. Beyond any reasonable doubt, this country now backs further and further away from any merit-based  standards of policy assessment. Locked fixedly into a regressive trajectory of political and cultural decline, America’s cumulative ambitions are continuously being reduced to narrowly shallow credos and correspondingly empty witticisms.

“I love the poorly educated” said candidate Trump back in 2016.

Pertinent policy examples abound. It hardly comes as a surprise that virtually all Americans are already victims of this president’s  vaunted “trade wars.” Ironically, the principal long-term beneficiaries of  this Trump-induced incoherence will be Russia and China. The only derivative question should be this: Why is such plainly injurious presidential irrationality still acceptable to millions of rhythmically chanting citizens?

What can they possibly be thinking?

Always, science must begin with tangible questions.  These core questions cannot be overlooked or ignored.  Americans, it follows, must much more sincerely inquire: “How can a US president so willfully ignore and accept his Russian counterpart as his puppet master?” Even in the wholesale absence of “high thinking” within the Trump White House, it should be unambiguous that one superpower president has become the all-too-witting marionette of the other.

At what point do Americans candidly acknowledge that in any measured comparisons with geopolitical reality, the current US presidency is effectively The Manchurian Candidate on steroids?

There are still more serious questions. As a nation, when shall we finally agree to bear truthful witness on Constitutional governance?[1] Can there be any doubt that there is much more to these founding principles than the Second Amendment?  Surely this country must ultimately be about much more than just the right to bear arms.

Is it not already obvious, patently, that what we now witness from moment to moment represents a more perilous American declension than even the most sensationalized fictional catastrophes?

Cultural context remains vital, even determinative. Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency did not arise ex nihilo, in a vacuum. What exactly has gone wrong with American  “high thinking?” How, more precisely, have we managed to allow a once-still-promising and steadily-rising nation to slide uncontrollably toward collective national misfortune?  

In the inherently unsteady nuclear age, such misfortune could sometime include irreversibly catastrophic human wars.  With such dreaded inclusion, we the people might even need to witness a wholly unprecedented fusion. This would be an explosive alloy of banality and apocalypse.

It’s not a pleasing fusion.

Before answering such queries – and properly serious replies must take special account of expanding nuclear proliferation – the genre we select must be exquisitely precise.  In this connection, whenever we speak of Donald Trump we dare not speak of authentic “tragedy.” “True” tragedy, unlike common buffoonery or self-induced misfortune, is ennobling.  Always.

From Aristotle to Shakespeare, true tragedy has demanded a victim, whether individual or societal, one who suffers undeservedly.

This demand has not been met today.

In this dreary and profane play directed by President Donald Trump, we Americans are not properly tragic figures. Surely we are not just the passive victims of a disjointed and contrived presidency effectively forced upon us in 2016. As long as we refuse to speak out at less  delicate levels of truth-telling – and this refusal means much more than just showing up to vote in 2020 – we will  deserve our consequent losses.

Richly deserve them.

In the nuclear age, it now bears repeating, such losses could be irremediable.

Even immediately, they would likely be unendurable.

At that late point we would surely not represent the tragic victims of some unstoppable national decline. Instead, we would appear the pathetic “spillover” of a palpable and once-preventable melodrama.

At that point our defining genre will have become parody and pathos.

In all likelihood, that finally expressed American genre would represent a dreadful and prospectively hideous farce.

Amid all these consequential “theatrical” matters, we may have less to learn from Aristotle or Shakespeare  than from the 20th century psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Even a cursory glance at the two seminal thinkers from Vienna and Zurich should remind us of the ever-present dangers posed by “horde” or “mass.” Both Freud and Jung were strongly influenced by the Danish Existentialist thinker Soren Kierkegaard (who personally preferred the term “crowd” to “horde” or “mass”) and by German-Swiss philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

 Without guile, Nietzsche spoke woefully of the “herd.”

Whatever term we might decide to favor, one key point remains unassailable: When an entire nation and society abandon the most basic obligations of critical thinking and “reason” (this observation about “reason” should bring us also to the German post-War philosopher, Karl Jaspers[2]), we can expect incremental deformity and eventual tyranny.  Nietzsche, in his masterpiece Zarathustra, was more specific. “Do not seek the higher-man in the marketplace,” the prophet had warned presciently.

Translated into more prosaic terms of our current American presidential dilemma, this ought to remind us that mundane skill sets acquired in the worlds of real-estate bargaining and casino gambling do not “carry over” to high-politics and diplomacy.

Or as one might say here in Indiana, “Not hardly!”

Now, in essence, American national leadership desperately requires some serious figures of historical literacy and tangible erudition, not the crudely half-educated marketers of  “deals.”

In America, snake oil can still be sold under various different markings.

But it’s still just snake oil.

In the end, every society represents the sum total of its individual souls seeking some sort or other of “redemption.” This search is never properly scientific – after all, there can be no discernible or tangible referent for a human “soul” – but important answers may still occasionally lie outside mainstream scientific investigations.[3]

These sorts of “eccentric” answers ought not necessarily be disregarded.

At times, at least, they should be consciously sought and carefully studied.

Not only the blustering American “emperor,” but also those still awed  by his mind-stifling “parade,” are shamelessly “naked.” In President Donald Trump’s deeply fractionated American republic, we the people cheerlessly inhabit a stultifying “hollow land” of unending submission, crass consumption, dreary profanity and immutably shallow pleasures. Bored by the suffocating banalities of daily life and beaten down by the grinding struggle to stay hopeful amid ever-widening polarities of wealth and poverty, our weary US citizens – people who have every right to vote,  but not to keep their teeth[4] – now grasp anxiously for any available lifelines of distraction.

In 2016, this presumed lifeline was a false prophet of American “greatness.”

In 2016, legions of Americans unaccustomed to reading anything of consequence were easily taken in by a mountain of cheap red hats and starkly inane slogans.

For Donald Trump, cynical simplifications represented his planned path to electoral victory.

“Intellect rots the mind” said Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in 1935.

“I love the poorly educated” said US Presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016.

Such things considered, it is small wonder that the cavernous Opiate Crisis is already deep enough to drown entire libraries of a once-sacred poetry.

Small wonder, too, that in a nation of so much institutionalized pain and private desperation there exists a pervasively growing cry for “anesthesia.”

In part, because of the indifferent and ineffectual stewardship of America’s current president, both this singular nation and the wider planetary system of which it is a part are at significant risk. Where, then, shall we meaningfully seek any still-lingering public demands for human improvement and collective survival? Where might we still discover any usefully reinforcing visions of social cooperation and personal growth?  

In principle, at least, thoughtful concepts are de rigeur. Misdirected by the incessantly hollow claims of “American Exceptionalism” and “America First,” we have somehow managed to forget that world politics is a system.  It follows, among other things, that US prosperity is perpetually linked to the calculable well-being of other states and other societies.

It’s not terribly complicated. In brief, this is an historical moment where one simplifying gastronomic metaphor can actually make sense:  In essence, we are all in the “soup” together.

There is more. Until now, we have unceremoniously ignored the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s clear warning from 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. No element can move and grow except with and by all the others with itself.”

We have also ignored almost everything else of commendably real intellectual importance. Should there remain any sincere doubts about this indictment, one need only look at the current state of American higher education –  in many ways, now just another obvious expression of Nietzsche’s (Zarathustra’s) “marketplace.”

In Donald Trump’s America, we the people are no longer shaped by any suitably generalized feelings of reverence or compassion, or, as has already been amply demonstrated, by even the tiniest hints of plausibly complex thought. Now, our preferred preoccupation, shamelessly unhidden, lies with a closely- orchestrated hysteria of indulgence in other people’s private lives and (with even greater and more visceral enthusiasm) their corollary sufferings. In German, there is a specially-designated word for this lethal pathology of the human spirit.

The Germans call this schadenfreude, or taking exquisite pleasure in the misfortunes of others.

For the most part,  this voyeuristic frenzy is juxtaposed against the always-comforting myth of American superiority. In the end, this particular myth, more than any other, is apt to produce further declension and despair. This is the case even when an American president chooses to physically wrap himself around the flag, a recent Trump embrace of rare and visually defiling repugnance.

I belong, therefore I am.”  This is not what philosopher René Descartes had in mind when, back in the 17th century, he had urged greater thought and expanding doubt. It is also a very sad credo. Unhesitatingly, it loudly shrieks that social acceptance is equivalent to physical survival, and that even the most sorely pretended pleasures of inclusion are inevitably worth pursuing.

There is much more. A push-button metaphysics of “apps” now reigns supreme in America. This immense attraction of smart phones and corresponding social networks stems in large part from our barren society’s machine-like existence. Within this increasingly robotic universe, every hint of human passion must be shunted away from any caring human emotions, and then re-directed along certain uniform and vicariously satisfying pathways.

Jurisprudentially, although international law obliges the United States to oppose all crimes of genocide and related crimes against humanity – and despite the fact that this binding international law is an established part of the municipal law of the United States[5] – America’s president remains irremediably silent on war crimes committed by both America’s allies and its adversaries. These terms of relationship must be bound together because  it has become substantially unclear in Trump’s inverted universe exactly who is friend and who is foe. When Trump says of North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un “We’re in love,” the rest of us are in real trouble.

We may still argue, and quite correctly, that human beings are the creators of their machines, not their servants. Yet, there exists today an implicit and hideous reciprocity between creator and creation, an elaborate and potentially murderous pantomime between the users and the used. Openly, our adrenalized American society is rapidly making a machine out of Man and Woman.

 In an unforgivable inversion of Genesis, it now seems plausible that we have been created in the image not of God, but of the machine.

Mustn’t we now ask, at least those residually few Americans who would courageously remain determined thinkers and doubters, “What sort of redemption is this?”

For the moment, we Americans remain grinning but hapless captives in a deliriously noisy and stultifying mass. By relentlessly disclaiming any dint of interior life, we are able to proceed with our lives, very tentatively, of course, and – in absolutely every existential sphere – at the lowest possible common denominator.

Expressed in more palpable terms, our air, rail and land travel is too often insufferable, especially when compared to other western democracies. Our universities, institutions in which I have lived exclusively for more than the past half century, are generally bereft of anything that might ever hint at serious learning. For the most part, they have obligingly become submissive adjuncts to the larger corporate and entrepreneurial worlds.

Now, they are dedicated more than anything else to private wealth accumulation and institutional self-promotion. In America, let us be candid: “You are what you buy.” Or in a grotesque inversion of Descartes, “I don’t think, therefore I am.”

In the blatantly anti-intellectual Trump Era, this already intolerable trend merely continues to worsen.

There is still more pertinent detail to consider. Across the beleaguered land, our once traditionally revered Western Canon of literature and art has largely been replaced by unhidden and more “practical” emphases on job preparation, loyalty-building sports, and “branding”(quantitative rankings.) Apart from their unhappy drunkenness and broadly tasteless entertainments, the once-sacred spaces of “higher education” have managed to become something wholly unrelated to learning. Most visibly, though rarely acknowledged, our universities have morphed into a vocational pipeline to nonsensical and unsatisfying jobs.

Sometimes, as in the case of onetime “Trump University,” they are incapable of meeting even these embarrassingly minimal expectations.

Again, it is time for candor.  For most of America’s young people, learning has become an inconvenient and burdensome commodity, nothing more. At the same time, as virtually everyone already understands, commodities exist for only one overriding purpose. They exist, like the newly minted college graduates themselves, to be bought and sold.

Beware, warns Zarathustra, of ever seeking virtue or quality at the marketplace. This is a place only for buying and selling, a venue for “deals.”

 Though faced with genuine threats of war, illness, impoverishment and terror, millions of Americans still choose to amuse themselves to death with assorted forms of morbid excitement, public scandal (remember Schadenfreude), inedible foods, and the stunningly inane repetitions of an illiterate political discourse. Not a day goes by that we don’t notice some premonitory sign of impending catastrophe. Still, our bewildered and  drug-numbed country continues to impose upon its exhausted and manipulated people a devaluation of challenging thought and a breakneck pace of unrelieved and unrewarding work.

Small wonder that “No Vacancy” signs now hang securely outside our psychiatric hospitals, childcare centers and ready-to-burst prisons.

In an 1897 essay titled “On Being Human,” Woodrow Wilson inquired coyly about the authenticity of America. “Is it even open to us to choose to be genuine?” he asked. This president (a president who actually read and wrote serious books) answered “yes,” but only if we would first refuse to join the misleading “herds” of mass society. Otherwise, President Wilson already understood, our entire society would be left bloodless, a skeleton, dead with that rusty corrosion of broken machinery, more disabling than even the sordid decompositions of an individual person.

 In all societies, Emerson had already understood, the care of individual “souls” is our most urgent responsibility. Conceivably, there could emerge  a betterAmerican Soul,”but not until we first agree to shun the variously inter-penetrating seductions of mass culture  –  that is, (1) rank imitation; (2) shallow thinking;  (3) organized mediocrity; and (4) a manifestly predatory politics of  ethnicity, race and class. Of course, any such far-reaching rejection will not be easy. It will take time.

 And time is something we no longer have.

The alternative would be for us to embrace an intolerably “hollow” future, one offering not a national life of any excellence or promise, but a “cactus land” –  a decaying country ever more willing “to receive the supplication of a dead man’s hand.” This would represent an unalterably lethal embrace, one earlier described (in generic terms, of course) by 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard as “a sickness unto death.”  In this cactus land, hope would inevitably give way to abject surrender and expanding despair.

Eventually, resembling the probable survivors of a future nuclear war (perhaps even  literally), the living could envy the dead.


[1] https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2017/07/Beres-president-trump-impeachment1/

[2] See especially Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952).

[3] Both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the very essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provides a precise definition of the term, but clearly it was not intended by either in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a still-recognizable and critical seat of both mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted decline of America by various express references to “soul.” Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (e.g., awareness of intellect and literature), and even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological misery. Per the following brief discussion of America’s rampant Opiate Crisis, he was most assuredly prophetic.

[4] One has to wonder just how many Americans can even afford to have essential dental care. As a practical matter, for a great many Americans (both poor and aged) teeth are simply no longer affordable.

[5] 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.”

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Leftists make a comeback in Latin America

Mohammad Ghaderi

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In Argentina and Uruguay, leftist candidates won the elections and Evo Morales could maintain his position as the president of Bolivia, but in Chile, people have protested against the U.S.-backed president.

The failure of the U.S.-backed candidate in the Argentinean election in recent days was a sign of the U.S. failure in Latin America. Leftist Alberto Fernandez, an opponent of U.S. interventionist policies, won about 48 percent of the vote in general election and was announced as the new president in the first round.

 This is while countries such as Venezuela and Cuba have maintained their anti-U.S. sentiment. Although the U.S. has made an unceasing effort in the last two years to overthrow the current regime in Venezuela, it has not succeeded. 

The New Left movement in Latin America, which was formed by the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chaves, has put Venezuela in many troubles but reduced U.S. influence in the region to the point that even experts suggested that Washington has lost its backyard.

The New Leftist governments emerged in Latin America in the late 20th century. Leftist leaders have distanced from some of traditional principles, but maintained the fight against American hegemony, just like their predecessors. Latin America, with rich sources of oil, gas, and uranium, as well as great opportunity for investment, has been of particular importance from a geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic perspective. The U.S. has put control over Latin America on its agenda since 1823 when then president James Monroe offered his plan known as the “Monroe Doctrine”.

The Monroe Doctrine emphasized that as long as the U.S. had not achieved real power and growth, it cannot be considered as an active element and main actor in world politics, thus it should obtain necessary economic growth in Western Hemisphere. The doctrine also stated that South America and Caribbean are areas with high security priority whose fate is tied to the U.S. fate, and the U.S. must have a strong influence in the region to provide its own growth and development.

In the late 20th and early present century, Latin America has witnessed new developments, including the New Left movement. The New Left in Latin America was founded and developed as leaders such as Chavez in Venezuela, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua came to power.

 Opportunities and threats

The U.S. is concerned about the presence of its rivals, especially Russia and China, in Latin America and the cooperation of these two countries with leftist states in the region. To counter China and Russia’s influence, the U.S. has launched various plans to undermine leftist governments through economic crises and put its allied right-wing figures into power.

Washington’s comprehensive effort to topple the Maduro administration in Venezuela is an example. On the other hand, China and Russia’s approach to Latin America and the tendency of New Left countries to ally with Beijing and Moscow can be a major deterrent to the implementation of the U.S. plan in the region.

This is while the Trump administration is trying to redefine U.S. role and position in Latin America. From Trump’s point of view, the wrong policies of previous governments and developments have caused the U.S. to lose its control over Latin America and the Caribbean, and instead increased the influence of U.S. rivals, including China, in the region.

In an interview with Foreign Policy, following his recent visit to Colombia, Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said that the Trump administration is making a push to strengthen alliances across Latin America as part of an effort to counter rising Chinese and Russian influence in the United States’ backyard.

Goldfein said Colombia and other Latin American countries risked being locked out of U.S. and allied operations if they stopped buying military hardware from the United States and turned to other markets instead.

China has invested heavily in the region to reach Latin America’s oil reserves. Beijing has now become the largest trading partner of some Latin American countries, including Brazil, Chile, Cuba and Uruguay.

Russia also continues to sell billions of dollars in arms to Latin American countries. Unlike China, which seeks to use Latin American natural resources for its economic growth, Russia’s interests in this region are more strategic.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Democrats take a gamble on Trump’s impeachment

Javad Heirannia

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Despite all ups and downs, Democrats finally brought impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump to the House of Representatives, a move which made Trump’s prediction come true.

The House of Representatives passed a resolution on Thursday to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump, thereby making formal investigations against him possible. The resolution was approved by a vote of 232 to 196.

Accordingly, the House of Intelligence Committee carries out the investigations into the impeachment and reports its findings to the Judiciary Committee that comments on the process of impeachment.

Trump has said that the House will get enough votes to impeach him, but he is certain that the Senate will acquit him of charges.

Investigations into Trump’s impeachment began on September 24 following the official order of Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

The order came after reports about Trump’s telephone call with Ukrainian president for investigation into his possible rival Joe Biden.

During the conversation Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor”. He pressured Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, his possible Democratic rival for the 2020 presidential election, and his son Hunter Biden who was on the board of a Ukrainian oil and gas factory.  At the time, Trump had suspended $400 million military aid to Ukraine as a quid pro quo.

Why Nancy Pelosi risks?

It should be noted that some Democrats have called for Trump’s impeachment since his first months of his presidency. The impeachment inquiry was popular among Democratic voters, with a recent poll showing that %73 of them favoring the impeachment.

But Republicans are strongly opposed to impeachment, and the country generally relies on Republicans. That is why Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats were first reluctant to officially begin an impeachment. Their calculations have so far revealed that impeachment against Trump will not have much effect on the opinion of Republicans and his supporters, a situation which will make it more difficult to remove him from the 2020 election.

Trump has described the impeachment as “fake”.  Pelosi said that Trump has affirmed that he had asked the Ukrainian president to take actions in favor of his political position, claiming the measures of Trump’s administration were undermining U.S. national security.

“The release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms that the president engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security,” Pelosi said in a statement.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff also said that the president should prioritize national interests rather than his personal interests. Schiff added that they will study whether Trump has exploited military aid to Ukraine to meet his demands. 

Consequences of Trump’s impeachment

Experts argue that Trump’s impeachment and lack of a decisive leader will make the U.S. more vulnerable to other countries’ plots. As Robert W. Merry recently said in The National Interest magazine, “When the president is weakened at home, then America is weakened abroad.”

However, Washington’s friends and enemies consider U.S. foreign policy insignificant due to political infighting at home. Instead, the great power players are seeking to limit the influence of the country rather than cooperating with it.

The recent accusations against Trump can be easily stated as a national security issue, which needs to be reformed immediately. Theoretically, military aid will be provided only if U.S. officials become convinced that they can achieve main security objectives of Washington. Therefore refusing to provide aid because of political reasons is a serious wrongdoing, showing that the personal interests of the president is superior to U.S. national interests. 

Will the impeachment inquiry get the necessary vote?

Now that the House has launched an impeachment inquiry into the president, the Senate will play an important role in the process. In this case, the Senate will act as a court that decides on Trump’s dismissal or survival.

To oust Trump, the votes of 67 members of the Senate is needed, which would be two-thirds of their population. Currently, there are 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats in the Senate. Therefore, Democrats need the support of 20 Republican senators.

Since the Republicans have not supported Trump’s impeachment, it is highly unlikely that Trump’s impeachment leads to his dismissal.

Impact of the impeachment on the 2020 presidential election

The impact of Trump’s impeachment on the presidential election depends on his defense and the credibility of accusations against him. Democrats are well aware that accusing Trump of corruption and incompetence will not affect American voters. Democrats probably knew that those allegations were not strong enough to undermine Trump, but on the contrary they would undermine their positions.

By stating an issue related to U.S. national security, Democrats took the risk of impeachment. To make the impeachment strategy successful, Democrats should prove that the president has endangered U.S. national security and he may do the same in future. This claim can go beyond party politics and put unbearable pressure on Trump, Republicans and uncertain voters.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Russian Involvement in Venezuela is Troublesome for Western Hemisphere

Todd Royal

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) “projects that natural gas consumption in Asia will continue to outpace supply.” With the future growth of natural gas consumption concentrated in Asia the EIA “expects ‘non-OECD Asia’ to consumer 120 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) by 2050, outpacing regional production by 50 Bcf/d.” China’s natural gas consumption will “triple between 2018-2050.” Most long-term natural gas infrastructure, global liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal(s) import and export, and demand projections are based on Asian growth.

Late October reporting in Russian media confirmed Russian energy conglomerate, Rosneft had plans to consolidate Venezuela’s National Oil Company PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela) under Rosneft’s corporate structure in exchange for debt relief. This counters U.S., Canadian and Mexican oil and natural gas firms from satisfying natural gas demand from non-OECD Asia. Additionally, it allows Moscow to use Rosneft acquiring Venezuelan natural gas as a geopolitical, soft power coercion tool by acquiring some of the largest recoverable oil and natural gas reserves in the world.

Venezuelan government sources, Rosneft and the Kremlin all denythe potential for a takeover of PDVSA energy assets to satisfy Russian bank loan requirements to the Madero regime. Russian energy experts have visited PDVSA to analyze the possibility of merging with Rosneft. The Russian energy giant buying out Venezuela’s best source of hard currency and domestic economic driver illustrate the “hard-hitting impact of U.S. sanctions.” The Venezuela regime-based economy predicated on oil and natural gas production is on the verge of collapsing.

Rosneft’s offer is the best way outside of western help for Venezuela to mitigate damaging sanctions, and “debt relief for a country that owes over $156 billion to external parties – and Venezuela’s debt is 740% higher than the value of its exports.” This is four times more than what is typical in emerging markets and economies according to The World Bank.

U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliot Abrams has pointed to Rosneft having joint projects with PDVSA where it took leading minority stakes, and how these ventures do not “breach” U.S. sanctions. This is positive news for average Venezuelan citizens suffering under economic malaise. Caracas’ debt to Moscow seemingly is being forgiven under the auspices of U.S. blessing. However, the Trump administration has been clear in its maximum pressure “sanctions policy towards Venezuela” that mirrors the sanctions-strategy towards Tehran. Retaliation from the U.S. could be the future of Washington-Moscow-Caracas tri-lateral relations if Rosneft tries to liquidate PDVSA assets, and release thousands of employees to skirt U.S.-led western sanctions.

The Maduro regime will also need to navigate the “$20-$60 billion in debt owed” to China. Will the Chinese have a stake in PDVSA? If so, how does that play into the current U.S.-China trade negotiations? What these geopolitical decisions points towards is a Rosneft-PDVSA merge bringing up more questions than answers.

It makes sense for Russia to be the power broker in Venezuela. This is similar to how Russia is the safe diplomatic choice in the Middle, post-Syrian civil war. According to Foreign Affairs, Russia is now “the Indispensible Nation in the Middle East.” Military troops and hardware were used to save the Assad regime, and now in Venezuela it will be oil, natural gas and petrochemicals that gives Russia a solid foothold in the western hemisphere. PDVSA is one of the “world’s most prolific oil companies” with the largest extractable oil and gas reserves in the world – estimated at 300 billion barrels and PDVSA’s estimated worth is “approximately $186 billion.”

Putting this energy portfolio under Kremlin influence gives Rosneft and other energy firms aligned with Moscow solid footing to control price and supply for global oil and petrochemical markets. The Maduro government wants to stay with previous joint venture contracts between PDVSA and Rosneft, and if the merger takes place, wants to “hand control over to Rosneft without having to go through privatization.” Financial questions arise from this arrangement; who is responsible for terms of debt, how is China able to value the deal, and would equity be defined as a public, private or some form of public-private entity? These are some of the larger issues that would need to be resolved.

Maduro can possibly work around these issues when he took over Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice. This allows Maduro to ignore the democratically elected Legislature, the opposition-controlled National Assembly, and its leader, Juan Guaido. Mr. Guaido claims he is the legitimate leader of Venezuela, but likely Rosneft with Moscow’s backing will only negotiate with the Maduro government. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice can overrule the Assembly to assist the merger towards completion. Debt repayment is important to the Maduro regime, and return to financial health.

Citgo, a U.S. based company that is a valued asset for PDVSA is another area of concern for the proposed merger in tandem with U.S. sanctions.

American officials have implemented a freeze on all Venezuelan assets based in the U.S. Washington implemented an executive order coinciding with sanctions protecting “bondholders and other parties” mulling asset sales and seizures for unpaid debts. The international desire among government and financial officials is this move by the Americans facilitate diplomatic solutions over asset seizure. The downside is it strengthens Maduro over the elected Venezuelan legislature and Assembly leader Guaido.

Debt holders who own Citgo then have to negotiate with Venezuela and Rosneft. This will be tough for bondholders to receive repayment, or will it, as this could mean tougher going for international credit markets to lend money for future Rosneft/PDVSA projects. A Moscow-Caracas alliance is something Washington could believe will increase geopolitical tension between all three countries. Debt relief for Caracas, and control over the world’s largest oil reserves are likely to be the final push for Rosneft to acquire PDVSA over escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington with Caracas stuck in the middle.

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