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Friday, June 22, 2018

Noam Chomsky on Democrats’ Hypocrisy in the Trump Era and Trump's “We are America, bitch” Foreign Policy



Noam Chomsky is as dumb as your average Trump supporter when it comes to economics but he is very good on the overall political scene. Below a snippet from his interview with Truth Out:


Truth Out: Noam, I want to start by asking for your reading of what took place at the Singapore summit, and the way this event was covered in the US media.
Noam Chomsky: It’s reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark. What was important was what didn’t happen. Unlike his predecessors, Trump did not undermine the prospects for moving forward. Specifically, he did not disrupt the process initiated by the two Koreas in their historic April 27 [Panmunjom] Declaration, in which they “affirmed the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord” (repeat: on their own accord), and for the first time presented a detailed program as to how to proceed. It is to Trump’s credit that he did not undermine these efforts, and in fact made a move toward facilitating them by cancelling the US-South Korean war games, which, as he correctly said, are “very provocative.” We would certainly not tolerate anything of the sort on our borders – or anywhere on the planet – even if they were not run by a superpower which not long before had utterly devastated our country with the flimsiest of pretexts after the war was effectively over, glorying in the major war crimes it had committed, like bombing major dams, after there was nothing else to bomb.
Beyond the achievement of letting matters proceed, which was not slight, no “diplomatic skills” were involved in Trump’s triumph.
The coverage has been quite instructive, in part because of the efforts of the Democrats to
outflank Trump from the right. Beyond that, the coverage across the spectrum illustrates quite well two distinct kinds of deceit: lying and not telling relevant truths. Each merits comment.
Trump is famous for the former, and his echo chamber is as well. Liberal commentators exult in totting up and refuting Trump’s innumerable lies and distortions, much to his satisfaction since it provides the opportunity for him to fire up his loyal — by now almost worshipful — base with more evidence of how the hated “Establishment” is using every possible underhanded means to prevent their heroic leader from working tirelessly to defend them from a host of enemies.
A canny politician, Trump surely understands well that the base on which he relies, by now almost the entire Republican Party, has drifted to a surreal world, in part under his influence...
one technique is simply lying, honed to a high art by the Maestro. Another technique is not telling parts of the “whole story” that matter.
To illustrate, consider the analysis of “Trump’s claims about the North Korea deal” by the expert and highly competent fact-checker of The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler. His article originally ran under the title of “Not the Whole Story,” with the title presented in extra-large letters to emphasize the ignominy. Kessler’s acid (and accurate) critique of Trump’s distortions and inventions opens by declaring (again correctly) that “North Korea has a long history of making agreements and then not living up to its obligations,” citing the most crucial case, the September 2005 US-North Korea agreement (under six-power auspices), in which, in the official wording, “The DPRK [North Korea] committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards.”
As Kessler points out, the North Koreans did not live up to these promises, and in fact, soon returned to producing nuclear weapons. Obviously, they can’t be trusted.
But this is “Not the Whole Story.” There is a rather significant omission: Before the ink was dry on the agreement, the US undermined it. To repeat the unwanted facts from our earlier discussion of the matter, “the Bush administration broke the agreement. It renewed the threat of force, froze North Korean funds in foreign banks and disbanded the consortium that was to provide North Korea with a light-water reactor. Bruce Cumings, the leading US Korea scholar, writes that ‘the sanctions were specifically designed to destroy the September pledges [and] to head off an accommodation between Washington and Pyongyang’.” The whole story is well-known to scholarship, but somehow doesn’t reach the public domain.
Kessler is a fine and careful journalist. His evasion of “the whole story” appears to be close to exceptionless in the media. Every article on the matter by The New York Times security and foreign policy experts is the same, as far as I’ve seen. The practice is so uniform that it is almost unfair to pick out examples. To choose only one, again from a fine journalist, Washington Post specialist on Korea Anna Fifield writes that North Korea “signed a denuclearization agreement” in 2005, but didn’t stick to the agreement (omitting the fact that this was a response to Washington’s breaking the agreement). “So perhaps the wisest course of action,” she continues, “would be to bet that it won’t abide by this one, either.” And to complete the picture with a banned phrase, “So perhaps the wisest course of action would be to bet that [Washington] won’t abide by this one, either.”
There are endless laments about the deceitfulness and unreliability of the North Koreans; many are cited in Gareth Porter’s review of media coverage. But it would be hard to find a word about the rest of the story. This is only one case.
I don’t incidentally suggest that the deceit is conscious. Much more likely, it’s just the enormous power of conformity to convention, to what Gramsci called hegemonic “common sense.” Some ideas are not even rejected; they are unthinkable. Like the idea that US aggression is aggression; it can only be “a mistake,” “a tragic error,” “a strategic blunder.” I also don’t want to suggest this is “American exceptionalism.” It’s hard to find an exception to the practice in the history of imperialism.
So far, at least, Trump has kept from disrupting the agreement of the two Koreas. Of course, all of this is accompanied by boasts about his amazing deal-making abilities, and the brilliance of his skillful tactics of threatening “fire and fury” in order to bring the dictator to the negotiating table. There are many accolades by others across the spectrum for this triumph — which is about on a par with the standard claims that Obama’s harsh sanctions forced Iran to capitulate by signing the joint agreement on nuclear weapons, claims effectively refuted by Trita Parsi (Losing an Enemy). Whatever the factual basis, such claims are necessary to justify harsh measures against official enemies and to reinforce the general principle that what we do is right (with occasional tragic errors).
In the present case too, there is good evidence that the truth is almost the opposite of the standard claims, and that the harsh US stance has impeded progress toward peaceful settlement. There have been many opportunities in addition to the 2005 agreement. In 2013, in a meeting with senior US diplomats, North Korean officials outlined steps toward denuclearization. One of those who attended the meeting, former US official and Stimson Center Senior Fellow Joel Wit reports that, “Not surprisingly, for the North Koreans, the key to denuclearization was that the United States had to end its ‘hostile policy’.”
While the US maintains its threatening stance, the North Korean leadership — “not surprisingly” — has sought “to develop a nuclear arsenal as a shield to deter the US while they moved to develop the economy.” The North Korean government, in June 2013, “issued an important new pronouncement that it was open to negotiations on denuclearization,” Wit writes, adding that, “The Obama administration dismissed it at the time as propaganda.” He adds further that “the North Koreans have given a great deal of thought to denuclearization and almost certainly have a concrete plan of action for the upcoming [Singapore] summit, whether the White House does or not.” In fact, at the 2013 meetings, “the North Korean officials actually laid out a concrete plan to achieve denuclearization,” Wit reports.
Not the only case. China’s “double freeze” proposal, supported by Russia, Germany and others, has been on the table for years, rejected by Washington — until the Singapore summit.
Trump’s diplomacy, such as it is, has been subjected to withering attack, especially by liberal opinion: How could the US president agree to meet on friendly terms with a brutal dictator? How could he fail to demand that North Korea end its human rights violations, which are indeed horrendous?
Willingness to look at “the whole story” suggests some other questions, of course unasked — in fact, unthinkable: How could Kim agree to meet on friendly terms with the head of the state that world opinion overwhelmingly regards as the greatest threat to peace? How could North Korea fail to demand that the US end its human rights violations, also horrendous? Has North Korea done anything remotely like invading Iraq, the worst crime of this century? Or destroying Libya? Has it been condemned by the ICJ [International Court of Justice] for international terrorism (“unlawful use of force”)? And a lot more that is easy enough to reel off.
It made perfect sense for North Korea not to bring up US crimes as a condition for moving forward. The proper goal of the meeting was to expedite the efforts of the two Koreas to pursue the directions outlined in their April 27 Declaration. And the argument cuts both ways.
Interestingly enough, while Trump seeks to appease his political doppelgänger in Pyongyang, he has succeeded in alienating most of the US’s major Western allies, including Canada, France and Germany. Is this the consequence of his alleged foreign policy doctrine “We are America, bitch”?
There are extensive efforts to try to discern some coherent doctrine that guides Trump’s behavior, but I suspect it’s a fool’s errand. A very good predictor of Trump policy is [his fixation on] … reversing anything associated with the despised “Kenyan Muslim” he replaced: in foreign policy, tearing up the successful Iran deal and accepting the long-standing possibilities for addressing the serious North Korea crisis (proclaiming to have created an astonishing breakthrough). Much the same is true of other actions that look like random shots when the driving forces are ignored.
All of this has to be done while satisfying the usual Republican constituencies: primarily the business world and the rich. For Trump, that also means unleashing the more brutal wing of the Republican Party so that they can dedicate themselves even beyond the norm to the interest of private wealth and corporate power. Here the technique is to capture the media with attention-grabbing antics, which can be solemnly exposed while the game goes on — so far, quite effectively.
Then comes the task of controlling the so-called “populist” base: the angry, frightened, disillusioned white population, primarily males. Since there is no way for Trumpism to deal with their economic concerns, which are actually being exacerbated by current policy-formation, it’s necessary to posture heroically as “standing up” for them against “malevolent forces” and to cater to the anti-social impulses that tend to surface when people are left to face difficult circumstances alone, without institutions and organizations to support them in their struggles. That’s also being done effectively for the time being.


2 comments:

  1. I do find it depressing how both sides seem to be SOO much more concerned with “winning” than with good policy. So much so that Democrats advocating war and Republicans are advocating economic central planning. These are especially dangerous developments because there’s virtually zero principled opposition (in DC anyway) to these stances.

    I’m still waiting for any Democrat to acknowledge the PC left’s contributory role in provoking Trump’s ascent with their witch hunts of mostly-innocuous heretics. I fear that post-Trump there will be a redoubling of the crackdown, under the pretext of “never letting another Trump happen” which will in turn provoke further right-wing reaction. It’s not obvious where this chain can break, as it seems to be the natural course of democracy aka the weaponization of political opinion.

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  2. While Trump's foreign policy might be "We're America, bitch," the Europeans' foreign policy has historically been "We're America's bitch."

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