John Chuckman



“Trump Stuck Between Campaign Promise to End Wars and His Hawkish Megadonors

“The purchase price of the entire US democracy? A modest $250 million”


I find this a rather feeble effort to defend Trump on war and violence. A kind of “if only” or “the devil made me do it” approach. Not convincing.

The case against Trump is much stronger than the writer makes it. I actually find it overwhelming.

Yes, money dominates American politics. The Supreme Court has ruled “money is free speech,” a Supreme Court all of whose members were appointed over time by politicians who themselves benefitted from money-driven politics.

I’ve written very pointedly on the topic, as here:

A man who was genuinely driven by motives for peace and important changes in the world would have managed to do something to make them manifest, but Trump has not, not at all. Just a few little public affairs gestures here and there.

For a start, he might seek political money from other quarters. Everyone knows from the outset the price, in terms of conflict in the Middle East, of taking large sums from Sheldon Adelson or the other American Oligarchs cited (Paul Singer and Bernard Marcus), but Trump keeps going back to the same well. If his intentions were sincere enough, he might just find other sources of campaign money.

At worst, a dedicated man might settle on becoming a one-term president who had achieved something worthy rather than a two-term yes-man.

When weighing the worth of his earlier campaign words, it helps to recall other things Trump has said in his time on the world’s stage, things outside the sphere of war and peace, and to reflect on his approach to them. I believe the exercise is revealing.

The best start is in his signature slogan of, “make America great again.” What this goal really is about is doing something literally impossible, turning back the clock to the 1950s, to the time of “the American Dream.” The notion is nothing but day dreams and patriotic hot air. It is ignorance passing for ideas. But it is a goal Trump now pursues fiercely with dangerous rhetoric and activity.

What we actually see is a man ripping to shreds the world’s international legal and organizational structure – the infrastructure, if you will, of world trade and economics – and working hard to steal value in trade from others, much as he stole oil from Syria.

His effort literally is founded on a notion that world trade is a zero-sum game – that is, that it is an activity, like holding oil fields, where either one party or another is in possession. Besides being an inherently aggressive notion, it is just plain wrong.

Trade is not like that at all, something any elementary textbook in economics can readily explain. The wider trade expands, the wealthier the group of participants in that trade becomes. There are synergies which make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Just look at the world’s largest free-trade bloc, the European Union. Despite its many problems, especially political ones, there are always nations lined up either to join it or to form associations with it, and that is so because there are inherent great economic strengths in such arrangements.

Trump’s effort is founded on still another notion, and that is that America should always be on top, always be first – in effect, that America is somehow exceptional or entitled or blessed beyond others. There is no rational basis for such a view. It is a form of religious belief or superstition, sometimes bordering on hysteria.

The nations of the world do not and cannot accept religious convictions or superstitions as a basis for trade and commerce. Indeed, I think it easy to see how dangerous it can be, injecting that into what should be rational arrangements and well-intentioned efforts.

In Trump, we have a kind of contemporary Don Quixote figure, one with rhetoric as outlandish as his dyed-orange hair, charging at windmills as though they were dragons. Only his activity isn’t funny or touching, as were the antics of Don Quixote. And he isn’t a character in a story, he is real, and he is damaging things everywhere.

In all international economic and trade matters, too, we have to keep in mind the immense military power of the Pentagon and how easy it is for nations arguing and threatening over trade to slip into something else.

America’s Founding Fathers were not wrong about the inherent dangers of standing armies. Historians can cite many examples of wars having been the result, at least in good part, just of the existence of large standing armies. WWI, a great pointless bloodbath, was a powerful example, and it led directly to WWII, an even greater bloodbath.

And on that point, Trump’s position is unmistakable. Huge and increasing resources are to go for an already bloated Pentagon. It certainly is not the view of a man concerned with peace, but it is not the view either of a man seriously concerned with international trade and economics.

We all ultimately will be poorer by virtue of Trump’s efforts. The only reason I believe he is not stopped by America’s establishment is that they see his effort as war by another means, war to assure America’s “full-spectrum dominance” as the official Pentagon “mission statement” goes.

Many of Trump’s acts in the economic and trade sphere do represent just another kind of war, further evidence of Trump’s extremely belligerent personal impulses.

Nothing ever issues from Trump’s mouth about competitiveness or efficiency or hard work or improved management or reduction of colossal, unproductive American waste (such as the military-security complex itself which helps drive destructive empire abroad) or about smarter government.

Nothing about infrastructure, much of which in America is in terrible shape, or about improving education or the sad state of great swathes of America’s cities with tens of millions of people trying to survive on next-to nothing. Nothing for sure about the damning inequalities of wealth and power that America’s taxation and imperial system of government have generated, inequalities which tend to act in self-reinforcing ways through the political dominance of those with great means.

Just as there is never a word about all the other societies now striving to share a place in the sun as America enjoyed for so long after WWII. America’s relative decline in the world, say, since the 1950s has nothing to do with others taking anything from it.

It is about others rising, some with new and better ways of doing things, and it is about America’s habits and expectations from a unique golden era having rendered it in many ways uncompetitive. It is also about such titanically wasteful enterprises as the Pentagon and CIA consuming resources, redirecting them away from investments in new and better ways to do things, and supporting an entire class of privileged, unproductive people who believe they have a right to determine the fates of other nations.

It is that same sense of exceptionalism and entitlement we see in Trump. The blind leading the blind, really.

That postwar result wasn’t the outcome of zany plans like Trump’s “make America great” or of religious beliefs in America’s exceptionalism and entitlement. It represented the sheer good fortunes of war with America left standing, its industries humming, behind the defensive walls of two vast oceans, relatively unscathed while competitors and potential competitors were flattened.

Photos of Germany or Japan or China or Russia in the 1940s searingly tell the tale. Many cities, the centers of most human enterprise, had been reduced to rubble with armies of ghost-like refugees wandering through them.

The nations now striving towards their places in the sun are not stealing. They are not warring. They are competing and working hard and smart, something a great deal of America has forgotten how to do. Trump thinks he brings unique enterprise and leadership through belligerence and threats and sanctions. His thinking just could not be more wrong.


Here are recent, related words about war and peace and Trump:

Posted December 26, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized


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