Feature, not Bug: Trump’s Chaos Theory of Government

Jacek Rostowski | (Project Syndicate) | – –

WARSAW – In the weeks since Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States, it has become clear that he intends to roll back the progressive-egalitarian agenda that is commonly associated with “political correctness” to the starting block – not just in the United States, but globally. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s White House Svengali and former CEO of the extreme right Breitbart News, has long pursued this ideological project, and we now know that what he or Trump says must be taken both seriously and literally.

Trump’s transition was initially reassuring, because he nominated many undeniably serious (if also seriously well-heeled) people to his cabinet. But, after the inauguration, all hell broke loose as Trump and Bannon began to implement their project in earnest.
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First, Trump appointed Bannon to the National Security Council’s highest body, the principals committee. Then he nominated Ted Malloch, an obscure business studies professor at the University of Reading, in England, as US Ambassador to the European Union. Malloch recently expressed a desire to “short the euro,” and predicted that the currency will not survive another 18 months. Trump has also increased the likelihood of a trade war with Mexico, and he has been willing to confront major US corporations over his executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The ideological project that Trump and Bannon will seek to carry out could have far-reaching geopolitical and economic implications that should worry not only progressives, but also dyed-in-the-wool conservatives like me. To understand how far they are willing to go, one must understand their ultimate aims.

Most disturbingly, Trump and Bannon’s agenda seems likely to entail policies to weaken, destabilize, or even ultimately dismantle the EU. No motive other than ideology can explain Trump’s open hostility to the bloc, his bizarre ambassadorial appointment, or his notorious question to EU President Donald Tusk: “What country is next to leave?”

In conventional geostrategic terms, the EU is almost a costless extension of US political and military power. Owing to NATO’s significant military superiority, and the EU’s role as a barrier to Russian expansion, the US can avoid becoming entangled in a “hot war” with Russia. Meanwhile, the EU – together with Japan – is a dependable economic and military ally, whose friendship allows the US to speak for the “international community.”

There are no circumstances in which dismantling the Western international order is in America’s national interest – even when perceived through a nationalist lens. A truly “America first” administration would rightly expect its allies to pull their weight within NATO, and to defer to US foreign policies on non-European issues. But it would never gratuitously dismantle an essentially free multiplier of US power, as Trump’s foreign policy threatens to do.

If I am right about Trump and Bannon’s ideological agenda, we can expect them to find a way to support far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election this year, and to encourage a “hard Brexit” for the United Kingdom (only to leave it in the lurch afterwards). Trump will also likely lift the sanctions that the US imposed on Russia after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. After all, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bannon are ideological twins.

Moreover, we should not put much stock in any security assurances that Secretary of Defense James Mattis may have offered to South Korea and Japan during his East Asia trip. Such promises are worth as little as Trump’s pledge to Polish President Andrzej Duda that “Poland can count on America.”

Domestically, Americans should be prepared to watch the administration dismiss officials who do not defend its agenda, and disregard court orders that inhibit its actions. In fact, we have already seen early signs of this when complaints emerged that immigration agents in New York were ignoring a federal judge’s emergency stay on Trump’s travel ban.

The prospects for business are just as sobering. Sooner or later, Trump’s destabilizing foreign policy will lead to global economic turbulence, uncertainty, and reduced investment – even barring full-scale trade wars. And domestically, his weakening of the rule of law will negate any potential economic benefits from tax cuts and deregulation.

Implementing this project is undoubtedly a dangerous strategy for Trump. By polarizing the American public to such an extent, he and the Republicans could suffer defeat in the 2018 midterm elections or in the 2020 presidential election; and he could even expose himself to the risk of impeachment.

There are two possible explanations for why Trump would take these risks. The first is that divisiveness has worked for him so far, by winning him the Republican nomination and the presidency. Politicians tend to stick with what works – until it fails.
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The second explanation is that Bannon is calling the political shots, and is more interested in building a permanent populist “movement” than he is in getting Trump reelected. If Bannon wants to transform the American political landscape, an impeached or defeated Trump could become an ideal martyr for his movement.

That may not bode well for Trump himself; but, in this scenario, Trump’s fate will not weigh heavily on Bannon, who has set his sights on achieving goals that will leave America and the world very different from how he and his putative boss found them.

Jacek Rostowski was Poland’s Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister from 2007 to 2013.

Licensed from Project Syndicate


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Ring of Fire: “Steve Bannon Played Trump, Now Trump Is Struggling For Legitimacy”

5 Responses

  1. The US voice does not represent the “international community” or anything like it. It doesn’t represent China, Russia, India or the Arab world for a start. Nor increasingly does it represent European populations. The “international community” is a mantra, one of several, whose purpose appears too often to be to justify US actions, by which I do not mean such actions are wrong, simply that they are not the universal priorities the word implies. Dismantling the ‘Western international order’ may not be in America’s national interest but it does not follow that is is not in the interests of other nations. Marine Le Pen does not need input from Trump or Bannon to gain traction in the French Presidential election, in fact it would likely be counterproductive. Nor does the EU need any transatlantic contribution to its disintegration, it is doing a good job all on its own. The same applies to the Eurozone and NATO. The Polish government benefits economically from being regarded as a bastion against Russian aggression though I doubt the populace much relish innumerable tanks etc. rolling down their village streets night and day.

    The domestic scene does appear to be headed for upheaval. To an outsider it can appear increasingly anarchic although I am sure from within it is about standing up for enshrined and hard earned freedoms and values. Is it possible Trump/Bannon will prove the catalyst to a renewed level political awareness? That would be a very good outcome and strengthen rather than weaken US/European interests

  2. Rich Wood

    What about holy war angle vs Muslims and traditionalist Catholics by Bannon, invited to speak at Vatican by Cardinal Burke…

    • Rich – the only “holy war” of real concern is the on-going power grab by the Seven Mountains Mandate Dominionists. The seven mountain mandate aka the “seven mountain prophecy” is a faux-Christian political movement which gained a following in large screen Charismatic and Pentecostal churches. Those who follow the seven mountain mandate believe, in order for Christ to return to earth, the Dominionists must take complete control of the seven major spheres of influence in society for the glory of Christ. Once the world has been made subject to the kingdom of God, Jesus will return and rule the world. Dominionists are intent on controlling our:

      1) Education
      2) Religion
      3) Family
      4) Business
      5) Government/Military
      6) Arts/Entertainment
      7) Media

      How many maladministration and Cabinet members are part of the faux-Christian political movement? Start with Vice President Mike Pence and go from there.

  3. Sticking to the EU issue, since that’s the least discussed at this forum.

    Bannon could find the EU threatening on several cranky fronts.

    1. despite its current corporatism, the EU has the means to be reformed if voters had the will to demand it, and that’s a win for universal concepts of civil rights. I had argued in past years about the hypocrisy of American right-wingers in supporting NATO was that all our European allies were guilty of “Communism” by GOP standards – universal health care being just the tip of the iceberg. Well, that bastard Bannon took me up on that. Wreck the EU and its social safety net, and the US gets to pose as the sole major model of liberal democracy. Sorry, Canada or New Zealand won’t inspire too many folks in the rest of the world. All we have to be is less bad than Russia and China.

    2. Even if the EU remains corporatist, it is a challenge to US capitalist hegemony. Cheney’s neo-cons explicitly said that America must destroy any challenger to its hegemony – they didn’t say anything about form of government.

    3. Now for the big one: the White Bloc. We can’t yet prove this, but at the very least Bannon is a Victorian nostalgic, whose people sound like that monster Cecil Rhodes when talking about the destiny of White/Christian/English-speaking people to impose their civilization on the whole world. Well, let’s say he wants his 1914 back. Anglo-American economic hegemony was real. The globe was effectively divided between White empires (except for Japan and China). Those empires were, in truth, beginning to turn on each other like predators who have run out of prey. But in Bannon’s diseased mind, they may still shine as Caucasian cousins, sworn never to spill White blood, always ready to help each other in the specific case of a rebellion by dusky natives.

    In this way, you reconcile the contradictions between White nationalist/separatist isolationism and Classical liberal imperialism, meaning in modern politics, the Buchanan/Wallace racist populists versus the neocons. You see that contradiction every day when you see racists flip back and forth between loving militiamen who want to collapse government down to county-size fiefdoms and wanting Washington to enslave and annihilate the Moslem world. You can’t have both, but both represent an idea of White supremacy, which is still taboo in national discourse. Taboo ideas get parceled out to surrogate ideas covered by codewords, like States’ Rights on one hand or “Christian civilization” on the other.

    Bannon is laboring to revoke the taboo. He needs, if even only for himself, the old fantasy that there are homelands endowed by God unto the different races, talk once common among nationalist activists trying to secede from earlier empires. But of course, the minute these nationalists got their homeland, they began scheming to steal the lands of others.

    The Nazis even re-enacted that hypocrisy in super-speed. Their early ’30s rhetoric was the same victimization spiel seen among those nationalities genuinely enslaved by empires. In only a couple of years, they’d moved to the “liberate our enclaves behind enemy lines” phase. By 1939, they were ready to toss all that national homeland for everybody crap and proclaim their right to be the enslavers.
    Of course, by then the Brownshirts’ anarchistic talk of abandoning the cities and tearing down centralized institutions like the Army was long erased. No need for isolation once the masses regain their confidence they can get away with more.

    Thus it is with the far-right crank jabbering on the Internet. He’s confused enough about the actual lines of authority in America that he can be an agrarian militiaman one day and a cheerleader for the Pentagon the next. The key is disguising the hated big govt. bureaucracy as something that strikes an emotional chord. That’s where fascists thrive. A federation of backward, ruralized, theocratic sovereign states that just happens to spend $700 billion a year on a global military? Sure, why not? A brotherhood of the White races, each respecting the other’s right to enslave a certain sector of the Global South without all those old entanglements of international law or climate treaties or human rights? As long as I trust my tribal chieftain to get me my share of the booty, I’m ready to believe that.

    So no EU, because the Italians and Croats and Hungarians don’t fit in his 19th century schema. They are part of the enslaved South.

  4. The new White House which includes Herr Bannon amounts to a slow-motion Coup D’ete attempt. 45 is attempting to include “Turn on the Hate” Bannon in the reshuffled the National Security Council.

    link to usatoday.com

    For a Coup D’ete attempt to be successful, the rank and file of the local police and uniform military must be willing to take orders from the new government leaders once the coup is underway.

    The maladministration Criminal Mexican and Radical Islamic Terrorist Make America Great Defense Taskforce will serve that purpose here in the U.S., real soon.

    link to realnewsrightnow.com

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