The Madness of King Donald

Jeff and Rose Roby are Florida activists who also publish in the Saint Petersburg Independents   and in The Green Party of Florida. Jeff here  looks at deeper trends.

The Green Party of the United States offers bold alternatives on many fronts.  The Democratic Party offers domestic reforms, as long as they don’t challenge fundamental corporate power.  Some Democratic presidential contenders call for a Green New Deal, but fail to engage such changes as replacing the sprawling highway system with comprehensive light rail.  Democrats have nothing like the Green Economic Bill of Rights which demands healthcare, housing, jobs, income, education, and more as fundamental Human Rights.

But it is in the area of “foreign” policy that the choices are even more stark — as stark as the difference between war and peace!  The Democratic Party which fought however tepidly to get the U.S. out of Vietnam, and eventually complained that the murderous invasion of Iraq should be ended forthwith, became upon the election of Barack Obama the party of WAR.The turnaround is stunning.  While Trump is a true imperialist warmonger, his moves to roll back Obama’s policies (Syria, Afghanistan, Cold War with Russia) meet with screaming condemnation from the Democrats.  Today, anti-Russia hysteria infects the Trump impeachment carnival.  As the Washington Post declares:

“We are supporting Ukraine to stop Putin.  If Russia succeeds in Ukraine, Moscow will use military aggression again.  Eventually, Russia could move against a NATO ally, which would almost automatically require us to go to war … [Ukraine President] Zelensky has also signaled that he wants to make peace with Russia.  If anything, Trump should have been increasing support to Ukraine so as to strengthen Zelensky’s negotiating hand with Putin.  Instead … he and his administration held up vital military assistance to Ukraine.”

And the next day’s lead headline:

“Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he wasn’t concerned about Moscow’s interference in election!”

The world arena is undergoing a profound sea-change.  The relationships among the Great Powers (U.S., Europe, Russia, China) are shifting with (in historical terms) stunningly accelerating speed.  Corporate media as usual would try to cram events into the old and bursting containers.  But we Greens need to “see the whole world with fresh eyes.”  While it is tempting to fall into unremitting gloom, let us pierce that gloom and see the underlying forces in motion.

First, a stroll down Memory Lane.

I wrote the following a few years back, as the Pussy Hat Brigades agonized over “Where did Hillary go wrong?”

“By most accounts, that Napoleon was a pretty smart fellow.  Riding the crest of the energy unleashed by the French Revolution, he revolutionized how war was fought.  Year after year, La Grande Armée laid low the feudal armies arrayed against him.  His Napoleonic Code established a New World Order.

“Going a country too far, he invaded Russia, that adventure leading to the slaughter of his army and bitter exile for himself.

“He escaped exile and made his way back to Paris.  The French people rallied to his banner, and La Grande Armée marched to his drums once again.  But it had been fatally scarred by the Russian debacle, and his foes had studied Napoleon’s methods all too well.  There would be no replay of the glory days as the armies of Europe assembled against him.

“It has been written that Napoleon’s Waterloo campaign was marked by blunder after blunder, as he lurched first one way then another, charging ahead while wracked by indecision.  Indeed.  Was the Napoleon of 1815 less smart than Napoleon the Conqueror?  Not a relevant question.  At root, the material conditions were completely different, as were the possibilities.  The Old Guard marching to its doom at Waterloo was not the same Grande Armée that had once terrorized the crowned heads of Europe.”

“The Guard dies, it does not surrender.”

Today the punditry dwells endlessly on the Madness of King Donald, a drama still unfolding.  What do Hillary Clinton, Napoleon and Donald Trump have in common?  All three have had to play a losing hand.  Until fairly recently, the punditry’s script went something like, “This crazy policy of Trump will damage the economy and bring on a recession.  Tsk tsk.”  Or “ This flailing around will alienate allies and reflects Trump’s mental instability.  Tsk tsk.”

Now, after the “tsk tsk,” they are adding, “Whoa Nellie!  Maybe his actual plan is really to bring on a recession, then use that as a whip to stir up a race war he thinks the white supremacists can win, or to force an even more brutal austerity regime on the country.”  Or maybe, “Trade war with China may wreck the American economy, but it’ll wreck the Chinese economy more.  The American people, after all, are merely collateral damage in the war for full spectrum dominance.”  Lurking beneath the surface is the bipartisan fear that “the American Empire is on the way down, so maybe better to go full jihad now.”  In chess, it’s called, “knock over the whole board.”

Trump doesn’t act in a vacuum.  He is indeed an imperialist war-monger, but whichever brand of New World Order is ascendant at any given moment, they won’t let Trump “dial it down” even where he wants to.  It’s just that his particular mix of aggressions and accommodations may not be the mix that the New World Order has in mind.  There is now a constant state of intra-capitalist infighting.  Pundits howl that Trump is a vacillator, an appeaser.  And a maniac.  But their howls obscure the precarious state of the entire World Order, New or Old.

It’s up to us to cut through the fog and look at the fundamentals — the current state of capitalism, the array of contenders, the balance of forces in motion.  The Empire’s options.  And our own.

You might consider this post one Green’s modest stab at it.

The Centre cannot hold.

Back in June, I posted a piece The Centre cannot hold — European Edition on the European Union (EU) elections.  The upshot was that both the Left (including Greens) and the Right had made substantial gains, and that further destabilized the EU nations because it seriously chipped away at the centrist parties’ ability to form stable ruling coalitions.

French President Macron’s En Marche was beaten by rightist Marine La Pen’s National Rally which got 23.31% of the vote to Macron’s En-Marche-led Renaissance 22.41% and European Green Party’s Écologie Les Verts rose from 8.9% to 13.47% of the vote.

Italy’s attempt to form an effective government (the Right/Left, League/5Star alliance) has broken down, and Politico Europe reports:

“Greens in the European Parliament agreed to start ‘fact-finding’ talks with the [left] 5Star Movement that could lead to the Italian governing party joining their bloc, according to a statement.”

As Greece still reels from its economic woes, a new player enters the Greek mainstream, Greek Solution leader Kyriakos Velopoulos.  With 10 seats in the national parliament (and one in the European Parliament), the newcomer is a TV telemarketer who sells, among other things, copies of hand-written letters signed by Jesus Christ himself.  (I hopethey aren’t typed!)  But his Greek Solutions is stepping into the vacuum left by the collapse of the far-right Golden Dawn.

Germany is the powerhouse of Europe.  Germany’s economy is slow-walking into a recession, while Chancellor Merkel, head of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), will not run again for chancellor next year after her party dropped 11% of the vote while their ally, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), dropped 11%

The U.S.’s favorite lapdog Great Britain is best described as dysfunctional.  Britain has voted for Brexit and is pledged to leave the EU.  Their latest Prime Minister Boris Johnson — a grotesque caricature of Donald Trump — is now a laughing stock, unable to either form a stable majority or craft an acceptable plan to carry through with Brexit.

Europe has long been America’s economic and political bulwark against the rest of the world.  But with Trump running amok, that relationship has been breaking down.  Trump exited the Joint Agreement to de-nuclearize Iran and declared Chinese telecom giant Huawei a threat to U.S.  “national security.”  Trump has been flinging threats of sanctions against any company, country or individual dealing with Iran or Huawei.  Among those threatened is former staunch ally Germany for proceeding with a deal with Russia to build the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

Politico Europe headlines, “Trump poised to hit EU with billions in tariffs after victory in Airbus case.”  Subsidies had been granted to European aerospace giant Airbus, not unlike the support the Chinese government has given to Huawei, and Trump has prepared a list of EU exports worth a total of $21 billion.”

Stepping into the surreal, Trump is now threatening sanctions against California for “over-regulating” emissions and vehicle safety standards, and has singled out San Francisco for its homeless problem.  Baghdad by the Bay has not rendered the homeless sufficiently invisible.

How the U.S. gets away with it.

The U.S. economy is huge but fragile.  Its manufacturing base has been rotting away from the inside for years, but it is still the financial center of the world.  Most international transactions still go through SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) using the U.S. dollar.

With the latest round of sanctions against Iran, Sigal Mandelker, the top Treasury official on terrorism finance, can warn that all governments are now “on notice that they are risking the integrity of their financial systems by continuing to work with the Iranian regime’s arm of terror finance, its Central Bank.”

There is a fast-growing legion of countries who chafe under this brazen intimidation, and even seek roundabout ways to circumvent the system.  A united Europe could openly challenge the U.S. but the EU is going the other direction, towards fragmentation.  They can still be bludgeoned one-by-one into some degree of submission.  Of course, Iran and Venezuela are the ones paying the real price, even as the Europeans wish they had someplace else to go than the U.S. financial system.

At the same time, China and Russia are day-by-day creating that “someplace else.”

MarketWatch reports:

“Like Trump, China plays hardball.  But unlike Trump, it thinks long-term.  Beijing chafes at American dominance and American rules.  Its ultimate strategy is to eventually establish its own version of the World Bank, its own version of the International Monetary Fund and so forth — and at a minimum establish a Beijing-dominated financial system to rival that of America’s.”

Per Sputnik News:

“Russia has already taken a set of measures to reduce its dependence on the US dollar, including dumping its US bond holdings, increasing gold reserves, and switching to transactions in national currencies that mitigate external economic and political risks for Moscow.”

RT adds that back in 2014 Moscow started working on its own payment service, dubbed the SPFS (System for Transfer of Financial Messages), amid threats that it could be cut off from SWIFT.

Setting up new supply chains and all that will take a while.  But the direction is unmistakable and inexorable.  U.S. finance — Trumpian or Neocon alike — is painfully aware of this.  Blustering machismo — played to an ill-informed American public — is used to mask some very cold-blooded calculations.

“A distant ship, smoke on the horizon”

To be sure, China and her development partner Russia are market economies.  But both have experienced socialist revolutions, and that heritage of state-directed economies has not been erased.  Yearly balance sheets are not the only bottom line, and they can offer better deals.

China’s power move is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  As the Council on Foreign Relations relates:

“In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, infrastructure development and investment initiatives that would stretch from East Asia to Europe. … one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived.”

BRI has partnerships with 18 Arab countries, and as Wikipedia describes:

“African countries, just like Arab, see the BRI as a tremendous opportunity for independence from the foreign aid and influence. More than half the continent has already signed partnerships with the Middle Kingdom.”

Newsweek adds:

“Of the 54 nations in Africa, some 39 have signed documents pledging cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative, through which [Chinese President] Xi has vowed to expand his country’s economic footprint by paving new corridors through Asia, Africa, Europe and as far as Latin America.”

China’s total trade volume in the countries along the Belt and Road exceeded $3 trillion, along with 180,000 jobs, between 2014 and 2016.

Russia and China have altogether 150 common projects for a Eurasian Union and China.  These projects include gas transmission systems, gas refinery plants, vehicles manufacturing, and heavy industries.  The BRI is now making inroads into Europe, with Italy, Greece, Croatia and 14 other Eastern European countries (countries not recovered from the 2008 economic crisis) operating within its framework.

Political battlefield.

The VOA headline blares:  “US General Warns of Russian, Chinese Inroads in Africa.”  Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser’s alarm echoed:

“similar statements from top intelligence officials who testified last week that the U.S. is facing a ‘toxic mix’ of threats, including a synergistic approach from Russia and China to gain influence in Africa at Washington’s expense.  ‘The Chinese bring the money and the Russians bring the muscle.’”

USAID duly brags about Trump and America’s …

“vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which all nations are independent, strong and prosperous. Spanning from the U.S. west coast to India’s west coast, the Indo-Pacific region embracing Australia, Japan, India and the US is home to the world’s fastest growing markets and offers unprecedented potential to create U.S. jobs while also lifting economies and communities in Asia and around the world.”

The problem, though is that:

“According to the Asian Development Bank, fiscal reforms [austerity] could help bridge about 40% of Asia’s infrastructure financing gap.  But the remainder depends on the private sector, which would need to increase its funding by about 300% compared to current levels.”

Whoops!  Meanwhile, the Chinese and Russians proceed with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, (SCO) or Shanghai Pact, a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance including Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan, with observer states Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia.

This year’s 23rd St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) held in St. Petersburg, Russia had some 19,000 participants from 145 countries and 7 heads of state, including China’s Xi Jinping.  It is reported that 520 participants were from the U.S., with 2,500 Russian companies and 1,300 countries from around the world.

Tass reported that participants concluded 650 agreements for 3.1 trillion rubles ($47.81 billion).

Western pundits regularly mock the decline of the Russian economy, but Patrick Armstrong, writing in the highly-respected Sic Semper Tyrannis quotes Awara:

“In a global recession, no country is safe, but Russia looks to have quite a lot going for it in terms of economic advantages … by far the lowest debt of all major countries. All economic actors … are economically solid and minimally leveraged … government virtually debtless, but it has again replenished its spectacular forex and sovereign wealth fund reserves … hefty budget surplus … Russia runs the world’s third biggest trade surplus … We also need to point out that Russia has an enormous strength by way of being the world’s most self-sufficient major country. Russia has the by far lowest level of imports relative to GDP of all countries. … Secondly, measuring Russia’s GDP in US Dollars is useless – Russia is a full-service economy. … China and Russia are economically stronger than ever.”

U.S.S. Lexington, 1942.

The situation is tense, to say the least.  The old alignments are breaking down, but the new ones are not quite fully aborn.  The U.S. empire is deteriorating inexorably.  Europe is likewise deteriorating and is seeking alternatives in the East.  But the newly emerging power bloc of Russia and China is not yet ready to fill the vacuum.  Does the U.S. strike pre-emptively?  That is also fraught with risk, as the U.S. military has languished.  (Said a Russian General, “The Pentagon develops weapons to make Wall Street rich.  We make weapons to kill people.”)  In a move that restores the power of Mutual Assured Destruction, the pillar of world peace that Trump thought he ended by tearing up all the Nuclear control treaties, the Russians have generated a fleet of “hypersonic” missiles that are unstoppable, at much cheaper cost than the U.S. arsenal.  The cost of the Pentagon’s latest aircraft carrier ran over $13 billion.  The Russians point out that their carrier-killing anti-ship missiles ($1.5 million apiece) cost less.

A rough bi-polarity is maintained amidst a dangerous equilibrium.

“The shot heard round the world.”

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flags to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

… and suddenly a shot rang out.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the “embattled farmers” of South Yemen (pop. 2.585 million) set the Saudi Arabian oil industry aflame.  For 5 years, Saudi Arabia has pursued a deliberate course of genocide through starvation and destruction of infrastructure against the Houthis as part of the U.S. proxy war against Iran, with 233,000 dead based on UN reports.  The U.S. backs the Saudis to the hilt, while the “international community” at best wrings its hands.

Utilizing low-cost, garage-assembled drones and Radio Shack-level GPS systems, a squadron of at most two dozen drones hit two major Saudi oil facilities and Saudi oil production was cut in half.

There used to be a saying in the American Old West, “God created men, and Sam Colt made them equal,” meaning that Colt’s mass-produced 6-shooter was the great equalizer of the American West.

The GPS-directed drone is the equalizer of today.  The so-called Great Powers no longer control the terms.  The Wretched of the Earth step ever closer to the center stage of world power.

Strategic Culture now reports a Second shot:

“On Saturday 29 the Houthis and the Yemeni army conducted an incredible conventional attack lasting three days that began from within Yemen’s borders.  The operation would have involved months of intelligence gathering and operational planning. … forces of the Saudi-led coalition were lured into vulnerable positions and then, through a pincer movement conducted quickly within Saudi territory, the Houthis surrounded the town of Najran and its outskirts and got the better of three Saudi brigades numbering in the thousands and including dozens of senior officers as well as numerous combat vehicles.”

With this Houthi offensive and the assassination of the Saudi king’s personal bodyguard days ago, Saudi politics is now being thrown into turmoil.

Bringing it all back home …

So we have the three pillars of the Empire, the governments of the United States (impeachment), Great Britain (Brexit), and the latest events in Saudi Arabia, in degrees of disorder.  The equilibrium remains as dangerous as ever, if not more so.

The U.S. and Saudis claim this has caused no real oil shortage, and repairs are being made apace.  Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo could hardly wait for the smoke to clear before they were pointing fingers at Iran.  Hawks like Lindsey Graham are ready for the U.S. to start launching missiles.  Trump roars like a wounded beast.  But does not pull the trigger.

The world arena is indeed undergoing a profound sea-change.  The major international relationships (U.S., Europe, Russia, Africa, China, among others) are shifting with (in historical terms) stunningly accelerating speed.  The corporate media is doing its usual job of cramming events into the old and bursting containers.  But the impact is not measured in barrels of oil or dollars or casualty figures.  It is political.  It is a gnawing realization that the old rules no longer apply, and they don’t know what the new rules are.  What traditionalists call the “superstructure” is shaking.  The discussion itself has changed, even in how they cover King Donald.

Media certainly want to frame everything in terms of Republicans and Democrats.  But now policy choices are being thrust forward.  Now there are both Democrats AND Republicans on EACH side.  Same old headlines, to be sure.  But now is a good time to be looking at some of the “Comments” sections.  The political arena is being discussed in terms of policy choices rather than psychology.  Anxieties are turning into outright fright.

With it no longer the case that the “Republicans think this,” and the “Democrats think that,” the bi-polar paradigm is breaking down.  It might be a stretch to think that the Green Party is responsible for this, but the Green Party is certainly going to have to deal with it.  We Greens need to take our own look.

The Democrats protesteth too much …

You may notice that the “Anybody but …” argument has never reached such a feverish pitch.  We’ve had “Anybody but Reagan.”  “Anybody but Bush.”  “Anybody but Bush again.”  “Anybody but McCain.” “Anybody but Romney.”  Now, anybody but Trump, chapter 2.”  Now what they used to call the “Permanent Government” has emerged from the shadows in all its obscene nakedness, to foil any move Trump might make to pull back from any corner of the Empire.

And while the Democrats (even Obama) have managed to present themselves as more or less the nominal peace party, at this point there is clearly no peace party, nominal or otherwise!  A few individuals may be a little better, and a few may be a little worse.  But I repeat, there is no peace party!

And come November 2020, that will be more evident than ever.

The imperative is upon us.  The Green Party must become THE peace party.  Can we live up to the task?

— jeff roby
October 7, 2019



1-Continuous Wars 

2-Cautionary Tales by Jeff and Rose Roby 

3-Jeff Roby on Strategy and Tactics 

4-Continuous Wars 

5-So You Say You Want a Political Revolution by Jeff Roby

6-An Interesting Conversation on the Way Forward by Rose Roby

7-There are no "Safe Choices"! by Jeff Roby

8-The Centre Cannot Hold by Jeff Roby 

9-The Democratic Party is the More Effective of Two Evils by Rose Roby and two others   

10-Hands Off Syria! by Jeff Roby 

11-An Interview with Don DeBar about Jill Stein's Strange Support of Clinton by Jeff and Rose Roby 

12-We, too, are “Deplorables” (Part 2 of An Interview with Don DeBar about Jill Stein's Strange Support of Clinton) by Jeff and Rose Roby 

13-The Sickness of Healthcare in the U.S. by Rose Roby 

14-“Syria - the latest example of continuous war”  by Jeff Roby 

15-Black is Back! — and so is the anti-war movement by Jeff and Rose Roby   

16-In 2016 the Democrats had their chance. Now it’s our turn! by Jeff and Rose Roby   

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