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Friday, January 19, 2018

Politics 101: The Influence of Money on U.S. Foreign Policy. The Cases of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and “The New American Empire”)

 

 

 “I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. — And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.

U.S. Republican President George W. Bush (1946- ), in a conversion with a Palestinian delegation in July 2003, during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

 

They [the George W. Bush administration] liedThey said there were weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq]. There were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destructionWe spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives. ... Obviously, it was a mistake. George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.”

U.S. Republican President Donald Trump (1946- ), statement made during a CBS News GOP presidential debate, on Saturday, February 13, 2016.

 

“I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in the way.”

Benjamin Netanyahu (1949- ), current Israeli Prime Minister, in a video in 2001, addressing Israeli settlers.

 

[After 9/11 in 2001, I was shown] “a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”

General Wesley Clark (1944- ), in a video interview on Tues. Mar. 2, 2007 by journalist Amy Goodman.

 

Just as Republican George W. Bush invented the pretext of “weapons of mass destruction”, in 2003, to deceive Americans and the rest of the world and to justify a military invasion of Iraq, Donald Trump seems to follow on Bush’s footsteps in actively searching for a pretext for another military confrontation in the Middle East, this time against Iran. George W. Bush had even claimed, at the time, that religion was behind his military interventionism when he said, in the summer of 2003, in a bout of hubristic delusion, that God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq.”

 

Now another American Republican president, Donald Trump, appears to see himself on a similar mission, i.e. to attack another country, in violation of international law. This time the target of his nasty attack du jour is the country of Iran, a country run by theocrats, which is facing deep domestic problems, both economic and political. Indeed, for some time now, Trump has been making inflammatory remarks against that country’s domestic affairs, in the hope of provoking a response and thus justifying a military aggression.

 

According to Donald Trump, We Should Have Never Been in Iraq.”

 

Donald Trump’s attacks against Iran are all the more amazing and unreal because, on multiple occasions during the last U.S. presidential campaign, candidate Trump openly accused George W. Bush of lying to invade Iraq, adding during a CBS News GOP presidential debate, on Saturday, February 13, 2016, We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.” Is Donald Trump suffering from amnesia, or is he simply incoherent in his thoughts?

 

As a matter of fact, and despite the neocon propaganda to the contrary, the Bush-Cheney administration did destabilize the Middle East, and these politicians caused the death of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, and they created millions of refugees, many of them ending up in Europe. But possibly worse, from a U.S. and Israel point of view, the 2003 American military invasion of Iraq has resulted in significantly increasing the geopolitical influence of Shiite Iran in the region, by removing from power the Sunni government of Saddam Hussein (1937-2006) and by installing a Shiite government in its place.

 

This is a question that I raised in my book about the Iraq war, The New American Empire. In it, I not only questioned the legality of such a military invasion of a sovereign country, in violation of the U.N. Charter, but also its wisdom, since Iran was undoubtedly going to profit immensely from a newly installed Shiite government in Baghdad… as it did.

 

What is doubly amazing is that both Republican American presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, received the same uncritical financial and political support from the very same super rich American Zionist donors and from American Evangelical Christians, although Bush’s support was more widespread than Trump’s, due to the 9/11 attacks in 2001. This time around, however, Donald Trump is not only an abnormal president; he is also a minority president, staunchly supported by only about one third of Americans.

 

Money is King in U.S. Foreign Policy, Especially Regarding the Middle East

 

Nowadays, in American politics, money talks and big money talks even louder. In 2010, the partisan U.S. Supreme Court made sure that this be the case when it imposed its anti-democratic doctrine of Money Is Speech”, in a 5-4 decision. For instance, in 2016, because of huge campaign contributions from one-issue super rich donors (mega donors), nearly all GOP primary presidential contenders, Donald Trump in front, ended up promising to move the American embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem and to ring up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on their first day in the Oval Office, according to a Newsweek report.

 

So far, Donald Trump has already paid some of his political debt to his mega donors by announcing his willingness to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But even before his inauguration on January 20, 2017, Trump’s entourage was actively intervening on behalf of a foreign government, the Israeli government, at the United Nations.

 

Such subservience of American politicians to the wishes of big campaign contributors may partly explain why the United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts in its elections among modern world democracies. During the 2016 American Presidential election, for example, less than 56% of voting age citizens bothered to vote, a 20-year low. According to the Pew Research Center, among the 35 highly developed countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks 28th in terms of turnout in recent national elections. For example, electoral turnouts in Belgium (87%), Sweden (83%) or Denmark (80%) were much higher.

 

Because of the overwhelming importance of money in U.S. politics and because rich pro-Israel lobbies are very active and prominent political donors, American policies in the Middle East have been increasingly skewed in the direction dictated by the Israeli government and its lobbies in the United States. There seems to exist a de facto US-Israel axis, which often includes Saudi Arabia, as far as the Middle East is concerned.

 

Indeed, it’s impossible to understand what has been going on for decades in that part of the world, with its string of wars, destruction and deaths, without taking into consideration the overwhelming influence of that axis, which goes beyond partisan party lines in Washington D.C. [In a speech during the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, in April 2008, when she was a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton declared If I’m President, we will attack Iran… We would be able to totally obliterate them!]

 

A Joint U.S.-Israeli Operation Against Iran could now be in the Making

 

When the U.S. government wishes to undermine a foreign government and create the conditions for a regime change, one should be on the lookout for some false flag operations by well-funded so called “intelligence or covert organizations”, which are specialists in fomenting destabilization in a country, under the hypocritical cover of defending human rights.

 

As General Wesley Clark  (1944- ) revealed in 2007 (see quote above), Iran is the last country in a long list of countries, whose government the Pentagon had plans to overthrow. The fact that some superficial media fail to inform their readers and listeners about such well-known plans is nothing less than a journalistic scandal.

 

Such an overall plan would fit perfectly well with the recently announced American-Israeli “strategic plan” against Iran. It is a curious coincidence that the most important political protests in Iran since 2009 have come about just after a secret agreement was finalized between the U.S and Israel, (with the assistance of Saudi Arabia), to destabilize Iran. Indeed, in their relations with Iran, the United States and Israel seem to be acting as a single political entity.

 

This could also explain why President Donald Trump, against all logic, is so adamant in insisting that the Iranian government is not in compliance with the P5+1 nuclear deal, even though the U.N. and the five other nations in the deal (China, France, Russia, the U. K. and Germany) all agree that Iran is actually in compliance with the agreement. On January 12, Trump renewed his charges against the Iran Deal, without completely withdrawing his country from the deal, but by adding new conditions and economic sanctions against Iran, an act that is, in itself, a violation of the deal. The only government that is in violation of the Iran Deal is the Trump administration, not the Iranian government.

 

About Iran, it can be said that Donald Trump is dutifully following the long established neoconservative script, at the U.S. Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington D.C., to target this country for the same destabilization overall plan, which was implemented successfully against Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011 and Syria in 2013, without forgetting the coup in Ukraine in 2014.

 

It doesn’t matter much who sits in the White House or which political party controls the U.S. Congress, at a given time, the same political forces are dominant and the same neocon-inspired American foreign policy is implemented in the Middle East. The slight difference recently has been that Barack Obama was somewhat less enthusiastic in implementing the policy than George W. Bush or Donald Trump. The results, however, have been the same: governments have been overthrown and people have been killed.

 

Conclusion

 

In foreign affairs as in other matters, the Trump administration is going full speed ahead with improvised and dubious policies without fully considering all the consequences ahead. The crises will come later on.

 

COMMENTS (9)

 

_____________________________________________

Rodrigue TREMBLAY-100dpl

International economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of “The New American Empire.

 

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s site:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com.

 

Please visit his multi-language international blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm.

 

Posted, Friday, January 19, 2018, at 8:30 am

 

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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Economic Implications of Trump’s Trade & Tax Policies

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and “The New American Empire”)

 

 

We should be trying to foster the growth of two-way trade, not trying to put up roadblocks, to open foreign markets, not close our own.”

President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), in a radio address to the Nation on free and fair trade and the budget deficit, May 16, 1987.

 

“Genuine free traders look at free markets and trade, domestic or international, from the point of view of the consumer (that is, all of us), the mercantilist, of the 16th century or [of] today, looks at trade from the point of view of the power elite, big business in league with the government.”

Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), American economist, (in a 1983 article, ‘The NAFTA Myth’, Mises Daily, Nov. 30, 2013)

 

“…I do think we’re much safer and I hope that [another financial crisis] will not be in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will be.

Janet Yellen (1946- ), U.S. Federal Reserve Chair, (statement made on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in London U.K.)

 

Sudden changes in trade and tax policies, the likes of those considered by the Trump administration, could be very disruptive to macroeconomic equilibrium, especially if they result in a sudden burst of inflation and in rapid interest rate hikes. Indeed, raising taxes on imports, repatriating large corporate profits parked overseas and increasing the fiscal deficit, when the economy is running at close to full capacity, can result in both demand-led and supply-led inflation. This could come much faster than most people expect, if all these measures are implemented in the coming years.

 

After 35 years of declining inflation and declining nominal and real interest rates since 1982, the tide is about to turn, partly as a consequence of the populist and protectionist policies of the Trump administration. With widely unexpected higher inflation rates and higher interest rates just around the corner, protectionist trade policies and higher fiscal deficits just as the Fed embarks upon a series of interest rates increases could have recessionary consequences. Moreover, since the end of the 2008-09 recession in June 2009, the influence of the 9.2 years economic cycle cannot be underestimated.

Let us see why.

 

1. Trump’s trade policies will be inflationary

 

For President Donald Trump and his advisors, international trade is some sort of a zero-sum game. It is, in their eyes, a win/lose proposition. When countries enter into multilateral international trade and investment agreements, some countries are said to “win” and some other countries are said to “lose”. Over time, such a trade theory has been completely discredited. Indeed, nothing can be further from the truth, because in most cases, international trade is a win/win proposition, in which workers, investors and consumers win on both sides.

 

International trade is what makes economies prosper, and all countries benefit from international trade, to various degrees. Most economists agree that, in the current state of economic development of most industrial countries, trade protectionism is a dead end, which can be dangerous for the U.S. economy and its trading partners, such as Canada.

 

However, what Donald Trump seems to believe in—judging by his pronouncements at least—is ‘managed international trade’ and government planning, preferably in a bilateral way, not in one particular economic sector for social and economic reasons, but for all sectors of the economy. Such a system was tried in the old Soviet Union, and that economic system collapsed in 1991. In fact, Donald Trump professes to want to repudiate sixty years of increased multilateral economic cooperation between countries, based on economic laws and macroeconomic accounting. His goal is to adopt a mercantilist and protectionist approach to international economic relations, i.e. develop a positive trade balance with other countries. Such an approach would be a throwback to a theory that was prevalent in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. In other words, this has been tried many times before.

 

If the Trump administration were to get his protectionist way and were allowed by the U.S. Congress to play the apprentice sorcerer with international trade and international investment, the latter will contract, labor productivity will fall and costs of production will rise, jobs will be lost, real incomes will decline even though some money wages would increase, inflation will rise and the same for nominal interest rates. It would only be a matter of time before there would be a return to a 1970-style stagflation.

 

2. Trade facts regarding the United States.

 

In 2016, total U.S. trade deficit in goods and services was $502 billion. Indeed, during that year, the U.S. imported for $2.711 trillion of goods and services while exporting $2.209 trillion.

 

In the same year, the U.S. registered a deficit in goods only totaling $750 billion, while realizing a trade surplus of $248 billion in service trade (financial, insurance and banking services, royalties and license fees, transport and business services, etc.). This is an indication that the U.S. service industry is very competitive in the global market and this has created a lot of jobs in the United States. This services trade surplus helps offset the deficit in goods.

 

3. Adjustments in the overall U.S. balance of payments

 

Of course, this is not the end of the story. The reason the U.S. economy can buy more goods than it makes, in a given year, is due to the fact that it borrows capital (savings) from other countries, on a net basis. Such net borrowings from foreign lenders helped cover its current account deficit and kept American consumption spending high. This also helped to finance part of the huge fiscal deficits registered year after year by the U.S. government. In 2016, for example, the U.S. government domestic fiscal deficit was $552 billion.

 

Thus, the main reason why the United States, as a country, has a trade deficit is because it overspends and does not save enough, especially its government with its multiple costly wars abroad (US$5.6 trillion spent on wars, directly and indirectly, since 2001).

 

The United States as a whole is spending more money than it makes. This results in a chronic domestic fiscal deficit, and this means also that the United States, as a country, must borrow from foreign lenders to finance its external deficit. In other words, the United States lives beyond its means. However, American politicians want to lower taxes by a whooping $1.5 trillion US, over the next ten years, and increase the central government’s fiscal deficit. They do not seem to see the link between their public dissaving and their external indebtedness and external trade deficit.

 

President Donald Trump professes to want to correct U.S. trade deficits in goods and services by unilaterally reducing American imports and by increasing exports. But international trade is a two-way street: countries pay for their imports with their exports. Such a beggar-thy-neighbor approach could easily lead to trade wars, and the result could be catastrophic. If this were to happen, indeed, the entire international trade system would contract and this would bring about a worldwide economic downturn from which no country would escape.

 

The Trump administration should avoid making rash decisions regarding the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took years to be negotiated and implemented. The very idea of killing a successful and functioning trade agreement in the hope of starting from scratch is a most hazardous proposition. It could have dire economic and political consequences. Such a rash decision would carry a lot of risks and would not be a wise move.

 

Basically, if a particular country really wants to reduce its trade deficit with other countries, it would need to borrow less and save more. Tinkering with border excise taxes and other protectionist policies would not change the basic underlying cause of the foreign deficit.

 

4. The U.S. dollar role as an international currency could be in jeopardy

 

Part of the U.S.’s annual trade deficit with the rest of the world results from the fact that a big chunk of multilateral international trade is financed in U.S. dollars and that the U.S. dollar is used as a reserve currency by many countries. Other countries pay the United States for using banking services in U.S. dollars. Such external revenues are called seigniorage. This allows the United States to import more goods than it exports and to borrow funds from abroad at a subsidized rate.

 

Indeed, the United States, because of the size of its money and capital markets, is the owner of a global reserve currency, the American dollar. This ensures a strong demand for U.S. dollars and for U.S. debt instruments. Imagine what the cost of imported goods in the U.S. would be if there was a drop in the demand for the U.S. dollar?

 

Some countries have attempted recently to use other currencies to finance their international trade. For instance, China has pressed Saudi Arabia to accept its currency, the yuan, as a mode of payment for its oil imports. In addition, the International Monetary Fund presently recognizes the Chinese currency as an international reserve currency. If the U.S. were to withdraw from its policy of international economic cooperation, its economic and financial influence would decline and some other country could likely pick up the relay.

 

5. Tax policies can be inflationary if they over-stimulate an economy already running at full capacity

 

The Trump administration and its allies in Congress would like to substantially reduce personal and corporate taxes and seem willing to accept a substantial rise in the yearly fiscal deficit and in the U.S. public debt. Ironically, if this fiscal policy were to lead to more U.S. foreign borrowings, it would partly contradict the objectives pursued with the trade policy. Indeed, such increased borrowing abroad would strengthen the foreign exchange value of the U.S. dollar, and would encourage imports while hurting exports. A larger fiscal deficit would also put pressures on interest rates. Financial markets (bonds and stocks) would suffer and this would have a recessionary effect on the economy.

 

All this would happen, when income and wealth inequalities in the U.S. are the highest in a century and when the huge speculative bubble in the financial markets could burst at any moment.

 

Conclusion

 

I would recommend that the Trump administration coordinate its trade and tax policies. It should be careful not to upset the economic apple cart when it deals with the existing system of international trade and investment, and it should be careful not to overheat an economy running at close to full capacity. Otherwise, it may be sowing the seeds of the next economic recession.

 

COMMENTS (4)

 

__________________________________________________________

Rodrigue TREMBLAY-100dpl

 

Economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of “The New American Empire.

 

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s site:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com

 

Please visit his multi-language international blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm

 

Posted, Friday, November 17, 2017, at 8:30 am

 

Email to a friend:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/tremblay=1186.htm

 

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_____________________________________________

© 2017 by Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay: The New American Empire Blog.

 

 

 

Friday, September 1, 2017

The American military empire: Is Trump its would-be emperor?

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and “The New American Empire”)

 

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood, … in which a massed-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.” Robert Paxton (1932- ), American historian, (in his book The Anatomy of Fascism, 2004)

 

When and if fascism comes to America, it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, “Americanism.” Halford Edward Luccock (1885–1961), American Methodist minister and professor, (in Keeping Life out of Confusion, 1938)

 

Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.” Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), German-born, Jewish-American political theorist, (in The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951)

 

By now, most observers have finally realized who President Donald Trump really is. After close to eight months in the White House, Trump has clearly demonstrated that he has serious character defects in his public role as an American “showman” president. His behavior, so far, has been more than bizarre. It has been clearly aberrant and frightening.

 

For example, people are accustomed to be lied to by politicians, but Donald Trump seems to have elevated the art of lying to new heights. He speaks and acts as if he were living in some sort of permanent fantasyland, and his first natural instinct is to invent lies. This goes hand in hand with another art that Trump has cultivated and developed to the utmost, and it is the art of bullying to get his way, with anybody, members of Congress, foreign leaders, even his own staff and subordinates, from whom he enjoys extracting public praise regarding his own persona.

 

What may be the most frightening realization of all, for an American president with such responsibilities, in charge of nuclear weapons, is the fact that Donald Trump seems to be a person who adopts the views of the last person he talks to, be it somebody from his immediate family who has been appointed to an official rank in his administration, or one of the generals whom he has appointed close to himself. — He seems not to have any firm political ideas of his own.It all depends on whether or not he’s reading from a teleprompter.

 

On the last point, Trump may have reached a Summum of irresponsibility, for a democratic leader, when he transferred basic military policy on important foreign policy decisions to the military brass. I suspect that is a ploy to shed responsibility for future failures, for which he could conveniently blame the military.

 

This points to the fact that President Trump will be the puppet of his military junta in the coming months, as the besieged president retreats into his cocoon. He will be happy to let generals run the show in near complete secrecy, and with hardly any input from Congress, as the representatives of the people. The pretext this time around: America’s enemies must never know our plans”, says Trump. Indeed, an empire cannot be democratic and open. It must be run in secrecy, with no, or hardly any, democratic debate.

 

As for now, the Pentagon has divided the world into six separate geographic so-called Unified Combatant Commands to oversee and impose by force a global “Pax Americana”. For instance, Canada is assigned to the USNORTHCOM, and countries such as Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and France are assigned to the USEUCOM, Japan and China are assigned to the USPACOM, as well as tiny Vanuatu, etc. According to Pew Research and government statistics, the U.S. still has 73,206 troops in Asia, 62,635 troops in Europe, and 25,124 troops in the Middle East and North Africa.

This is the basic infrastructure. Then, there are operational plans to use it.

 

Of course, such a global military development requires a lot of resources, which have to be diverted from other domestic uses. This creates the type of  military-industrial complex”, which establishes a symbiosis between U.S. military industries and the Pentagon. That is precisely what President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the American people against, in his farewell speech of January 17, 1961.

 

The transformation has been long in the making. But with Trump as a would-be autocratic emperor, it is a fait accompli, notwithstanding what the U.S. Constitution says or calls for, in terms of checks and balances and the division of powers, and notwithstanding the basic wishes of the American people.

 

The conclusion is inescapable. Americans must recognize that the United States has become a de facto military empire, even if not yet a de jure empire, and Donald Trump is its current megalomaniac figurehead, a near neo-fascist would-be emperor. Where that will lead is anybody’s guess, but this is most unprecedented and most ominous.

 

Empires are very costly to maintain

 

However, as with any empire in quest of global hegemony, the ultimate danger is overextension. Military empires are very costly to maintain and they are subject to the law of diminishing returns, i.e. military investments result in lower and lower net economic returns, as negative reactions increase and the cost-benefit ratio rises. The collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991 can serve as a reminder of such a scenario. Sooner or later, indeed, the same cause and effect equation is bound to confront the current neocon-inspired American adventure as a world empire.

 

Considering the above, it is not surprising that little leeway is left in the U.S. fiscal budget for social programs on the domestic front. In the short run, this may hardly matter, since Donald Trump does not seem to be talking to anybody in Congress, after having insulted most of its leaders and having created a vacuum around himself and his office. In the long run, however, this could be a harbinger of social troubles ahead.

 

Currently, Donald Trump is bound to accomplish very little as far as domestic policies are concerned. Trying to bully the Senate with ludicrous threats to shut down the U.S. government if the former does not vote his way in appropriating $1.6 billion in border wall money, may insulate Trump even more, even if such irresponsible talk pleases his electoral base. Indeed, if the President were to carry out his threat of closing down our governmentby vetoing any spending bill that does not include funding for his pet project of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, this would represent some dangerous brinkmanship rarely seen in politics.

 

Also, with the ominous threat of a possibly devastating report from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller, sometime late in the fall or in early 2018, a president-under-siege’s main political way out may be to coach his generals into launching or expanding overseas wars. Indeed, this could be in the Middle East and/or in Asia, or even against Venezuela — it doesn’t much matter — while hoping that his unsophisticated political base, establishment journalists and the U.S. media in general will appreciate the show, and that the public’s attention can be somewhat diverted from his ineptitude.

 

Conclusion

 

All this is to say that with Donald Trump in the White House, the United States is marching more or less blindly toward a series of major crises, politically, economically and militarily. Which one will come first and how serious it will be is hard to predict. In any case, you can expect that it will be most disruptive.

 

COMMENTS (13)

 

 

Rodrigue TREMBLAY-100dpl

 

Economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of “The New American Empire.

 

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s site:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com.

 

Please visit his multi-language international blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm.

 

Posted, Friday, September 1, 2017, at 8:30 am

 

Email to a friend:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/tremblay=1185.htm

 

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N.B.: This article can be reproduced with permission or license from the author. This article is not intended in any way as personal advice of any sort.

_____________________________________________

© 2017 by Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay: The New American Empire Blog.

 

 

 

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Thought for the Fourth of July: Can the U.S. Constitution Accommodate a Rogue President?

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and

 The New American Empire)

 

"I have described him [Donald Trump] as an impostor and a con man and a would-be dictator. But he's only a would-be dictator because I'm confident that the [U.S.] Constitution and the institutions of the United States are strong enough. ... He would be a dictator if he could get away with it, but he won't be able to." George Soros (1930- ), Hungarian-American billionaire, (in an interview, Thurs. Jan. 19, 2017)

 

He [FBI Director James Comey] was fired because he was investigating the White House… This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies. Jeffrey Toobin (1960- ), legal analyst and former U.S. federal prosecutor, on CNN, Tues., May 9, 2017

 

 “I’m trying to avoid the conclusion that we’ve become Nicaragua.” General Michael Hayden (1945- ), former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, Wed., May 10, 2017

 

War is too serious a thing to be entrusted to military men.” Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), French Prime minister, 1906-1909 and 1917-1920, in 1932

 

On Monday, June 12 2017, in his first public cabinet meeting, Trump is seen accepting a North-Korean-style pledge from his sycophant Cabinet members, on live television, after he had praised himself profusely. This was eerie: Watching all these secretaries humiliating themselves in lavishly praising the self-appointed ‘Great One’. They all echoed Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus who said: "We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda." This was quite a totalitarian show, rarely seen in a democracy, but common in a dictatorship.

 

These secretaries (billionaires, CEOs, generals, etc.) were not saying that they were serving the people of the United States and its Constitution, to the best of their capabilities. No, instead, in a junta-like style, they said that they were serving the person of Donald Trump, above all, not unlike the Cabinet appointees in North Korea are serving dictator Kim Jong-un. And, what is even worse, maybe, none of them thought of resigning, after being asked to shred any sense of self-respect in public, in the most servile manner.

 

This marked the day when the most skeptical among political observers had to realize that president Donald Trump is officially a would-be dictator in the making. As the popular saying goes, “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Very soon after his inauguration, Donald Trump began governing in authoritative way, issuing decree after decree, while attacking the press and the courts that stood in his way. Now, he seems to want the entire U.S. government to be at his personal service.

 

On February 17, I wrote a piece entitled “The Imperial Presidency of Donald Trump: a Threat to American Democracy and an Agent of Chaos in the World?” — Indeed, scandal after scandal, outrageous statements upon outrageous statements, insults after insults, falsehoods after falsehoods, and self-serving idiosyncrasies after self-serving idiosyncrasies, Trump has confirmed the apprehensions of many, and he has clearly become “a threat to American democracy and an agent of chaos in the world”. One has to be blind or fanatically partisan not to see that.

 

A Possible Challenge to the U.S. Constitution

 

The U.S. Constitution was adopted officially on September 17, 1787, 230 years ago, and came into force in 1789. That makes American democracy one of the oldest in the world. Its constitution’s main idea is the separation of powers and the rule of law, with checks and balances, a political doctrine originating in the writings of 18th century French social and political philosopher Montesquieu (1689-1755). More precisely, the U.S. Constitution states that the president, for example, can be removed for treason, bribery, or “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” under the authority of the U.S. Congress.

 

However, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 469/470 BCE–399 BCE) was reported to have said to Plato (428-348 B.C.): “Tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty”.

 

What Socrates meant by these words, of course, is that democracy, notwithstanding its merits, is not a permanent form of government, but it is always threatened in its existence by the advent of tyranny, by autocratic or authoritative rule by a single person, a would-be dictator, by an oligarchy, which is the tyranny of a minority, or by the tyranny of a majority against minorities, when there are no legal protections for the individual or for groups, and it thus requires a constant vigilance on the part of citizens.

American Father of the Constitution George Mason (1725-1792) was also worried about democracy “when the same man, or set of men, holds the sword and the purse.” He feared that this could mean “an end to Liberty”.

 

Nevertheless, the writer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), was more optimistic. He was confident that the U.S. Constitution was strong enough to prevent a would-be dictator or an oligarchy to usurp absolute power when he wrote, in 1798: in questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution”.

 

Was Thomas Jefferson too optimistic regarding the constraints a constitution imposes on people in power when the latter control money and the means of propaganda? Did he underestimate the possibility that political partisan interests, when a president is of the same political party that controls Congress, could, in fact, grant a sitting president, in advance, a statutory authority to violate the constitution at will, to govern by decree, or to wage wars of aggression abroad, at his discretion, without congressional due process?

 

Indeed, a constitution is a living document, which, as political history indicates, can be amended, circumvented or changed to fit the needs of power hungry men, when the circumstances are favorable to them. The U.S. Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of constitutional changes, can also be subverted, or filled with persons hostile to the very principles they are sworn to uphold.

 

In other words, a constitution is as good as the people in power who believe in its principles. If people in power no longer believe in its principles, they will find a way to change it or circumvent it. This is major lesson of the history of democracy: Democracies do die and they can be replaced by tyrannies.

 

During troubled political times or dire economic times, indeed, it can be feared that charlatans, demagogues, impostors, and would-be dictators could have a field day promising the people in distress easy and quick fixes for the lingering social and economic problems, in exchange for relinquishing their freedom.

 

Two historical cases of “elected” dictators: In Italy in the 1920’s and in Germany in the 1930’s

 

Italian newspaper editor Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) ruled Italy as Prime Minister and de facto dictator for more than twenty years (1922-1943). He was elected to the Italian Parliament on May 15, 1921, and his party, thanks to an alliance with rightist parties, gained thirty-five seats. From then on, Mussolini used violent and intimidating tactics to gain power. His Fascist blackshirt-followers launched a campaign to unseat the Italian government and they organized a “march to Rome”. On October 28, 1922, the then King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, turned down the existing government’s request to declare martial law to prevent a fascist revolution. This led to the resignation of the elected government.

 

Then, in a most controversial decision, the King asked Mussolini to form a new right-wing coalition government, with the support of the military, and of the wealthy industrial and agrarian Italian establishments. Mussolini's political objective was to eventually establish a totalitarian state, with himself as “Supreme leader”. Mussolini legally became dictator through a law passed on December 24, 1925, which declared him “head of the government, Prime minister and State Secretary”, with no responsibility to Parliament, but only to the King. Armed with absolute powers, Mussolini then proceeded to progressively dismantle all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power. The rest is history.

 

Let us also consider the case of Germany, some 85 years ago, a European democracy and the most advanced economy at the time. On January 30, 1933, in a Germany still mired in an economic depression, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was named German Chancellor and head of a coalition government, even though his political party, the National Socialist German Workers Party (the Nazi Party) had not won a majority during the 1932 elections. Nevertheless, he had profited politically from the general dissatisfaction of voters with the way things were in Germany, politically and economically, and had promised an ‘effective’ government, besides promising to stimulate the economy by rearming Germany and by establishing new alliances.

 

Hitler became a de facto legal dictator on March 23, 1933, when the German Parliament (the Reichstag) adopted a law (the Enabling Act), giving Hitler's cabinet the power to enact ‘executive orders’ without the consent of the Reichstag for four years. —In effect, Hitler could govern by decree. —He became a true dictator on August 19, 1934, when a German plebiscite approved the merger of the presidency with the chancellorship, thus making Hitler Head of State and Supreme Commander of the armed forces in that country. Hitler could then freely prepare the German economy for war.

 

A 1934 article published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette in the U.S. explained the political rise of Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) in these terms: “Adolf Hitler… tооk advantage of the groans. Hе told people that he would make Germany ‘great’ again. Hе blamed Jews, Socialists, Communists, and others for the troubles of the land. Hіѕ blazing speeches gained followers for his ‘cause’.”

 

Can Donald Trump Override the U.S. Constitution?

 

Since the inauguration on January 20, 2017, incumbent President Donald Trump has shown a clear bent toward autocratic rule and has indicated his goal of boosting the U.S. military-industrial complex. For example, he declared on Thursday Feb 23, 2017, that he wants to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the “top of the pack,” claiming that the United States has fallen behind in its atomic weapons capacity.

 

In my book, The New American Empire, I wrote, “The same simplistic populism, the same anti-intellectualism, the same aggressive isolationism, the same xenophobia, the same militarism, and the same scorn of international laws and institutions are found in some U.S. Republican leaders today. The United States is perhaps in greater danger than many think.” (p. 224).

 

I believe that these words could appropriately apply to the current Trump administration. In the coming months, the United States may face its most important democratic test ever.

 

An ominous danger: Leaving important war and peace decisions to the military

 

A most reckless decision by Donald Trump was to grant American military chiefs overall control of U.S. military policy in Syria, thus leaving the U.S. military to operate in a political vacuum. Such a decision has greatly increased the risk of a military confrontation between the two main nuclear powers, the United States and Russia. A good example is the shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace, on Sunday June 18, 2017. This was presumably done to prevent the Syrian Army from getting directly involved in the liberation of Isis’s improvised capital Raqqa. The Syrian government is winning against the terrorist organization Isis, and that does not please the Trump administration at all.

 

Whatever the objective, besides the obvious hypocrisy, such an act of military aggression was clearly a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and a flagrant violation of not only international law, but also of U.S. law. It was, in fact, a premeditated act of war against a sovereign nation, with no involvement by the U.N. Security Council or by the U.S. Congress, as both international law and U.S. law require. And this was after Trump bombed, also illegally, a Syrian government air base, on Friday, April 7, 2017, on a false flag pretext. If this does not remind you of Hitler bombing Poland’s air fields on September 1st 1939, what does? Indeed, would-be dictators do not like the rule of law, domestic or international. They always look for pretexts to launch wars of aggression to fit their agenda.

 

The truth is that Syria does not represent a threat to the USA—just as Poland did not represent a threat to Germany in 1939—and it has not attacked the United States, just as Poland had not attacked Germany. If this conflict were to degenerate into something even more serious, Donald Trump would have to take full personal responsibility for the chaos and the human disasters to follow.

 

Is it necessary to point out that Russia is legally in Syria, a member of the United Nations, having been officially invited by the legitimate Syrian government to defend itself against external aggression, while the U.S. has no legal basis whatsoever to be in Syria, has no legal right to conduct military operations in that country, and, therefore, is in clear violation of Syria's sovereignty. Why is Donald Trump anxious to escalate the civil war conflict in Syria, with the help of al Qaeda terrorists, a conflict that could evolve into WWIII? Do ordinary Americans really approve of such incoherence, knowing that al Qaeda was behind 9/11 and 3,000 American deaths?

 

This is another example of Donald Trump’s brinkmanship and irresponsibility in international relations. This is also a far cry from the U.S. Constitution, which vests war decisions in Congress. It is true that, since WWII, the power of the U.S. President to wage war on his own has grown appreciably. —This is no progress. But Donald Trump, who has brought numerous generals into his administration (Marine general James Mattis, Marine general Joseph F. Dunford, Marine general, John F. Kelly), is now transferring basic war decisions to military commanders. Notwithstanding the fact that the latter are clearly in a conflict of interests on this score, because the more wars they start, the more promotions they receive.

 

That coterie of generals now forms a sort of parallel government in the Trump administration. Donald Trump may want to hide behind them to shift the political conversation from his domestic predicaments in Washington D.C. And, a war abroad is often a convenient rallying point for an American politician who is low in the polls. In other words, an escalating war in Syria could be in Trump’s short-term personal political interest.

 

The main losers from Trump’s policies: the poorest among Americans

 

Moreover, after a presidential campaign during which he promised to help disadvantaged voters and improve social programs for the poorest Americans, once in power, Donald Trump did pretty much the reverse of what he promised. Indeed, his nominations and his policies have mostly been designed to enrich large corporations, the Military-Industrial complex and, through planned tax cuts, the super rich among Americans, while depriving average and poorer Americans of health care, education and other essential social services.

 

In fact, states and counties where candidate Trump received the largest backing from voters are precisely the ones set up to loose the most from the Trump administration’s proposed cuts in welfare programs. On this regard, it can be said that politician Trump could be considered an impostor, defined as “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others.”

 

The newly elected president has also shown a serious lack of transparency and openness. He has tolerated that his immediate family’s wealth-seeking activities received favorable treatment from foreign governments, anxious to draw favors from the new administration. Similarly, he has not severed himself from obvious personal conflicts of interests, and he has not even released his tax returns as previous American presidents have done.

 

As a consequence of all of this, if the Democrats were to gain control of the House of Representatives in 2018, it is a virtual certainty that President Trump would be subjected to an impeachment procedure. Whether it will succeed is another matter. What is certain is that this will be most destabilizing for the economy.

 

Conclusion

 

Therefore, yes, a would-be dictator can be elected, most often, as history shows, with a minority of the votes. And no democratic constitution in the history of the world is totally protected against violations of its principles, if an oligarchy in power tolerates or welcomes them and when a substantial part of the population approves of them. That is why it would presumptuous for Americans to believe otherwise.

 

COMMENTS (9)

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Economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of “The New American Empire.

 

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s site:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com.

 

Please visit his multi-language international blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm.

 

Posted, Friday, June 23, 2017, at 8:30 am

 

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