Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

Opinion Editorials, February 2018

Share the link of this article with your facebook friends


Al-Jazeerah History


Mission & Name  

Conflict Terminology  


Gaza Holocaust  

Gulf War  




News Photos  

Opinion Editorials

US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)




Blackouts and Flashpoints in 2018 Trumpian America

By James Petras

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, February 1, 2018 



Trump flourishes his threats against the European Union and the World Trade
Organization and then hops on his jet to Davos to socialize with the German, French,
British and American ‘Free-Traders’.


Blackouts and Flashpoints in 2018

The prophets and forecasters for the coming year have already set out their global
vision ranging from rising economies to catastrophic global wars.

I want to argue from a different perspective, focusing on the increasing
subdivision of markets, the deepening autonomy of political action from economic
development, the greater threat of military interventions and increasing political
accommodation. I believe that we will experience a radical making and remaking of
political and economic integration, East and West, within and without nations states.
‘States Rights’ will re-emerge as an antidote to globalization. Big countries will compete
in regional wars with limited commitments but with global goals.

Catastrophic developments are unlikely but radical incremental changes will be
frequent and have cumulative consequences.

To understand these important trends, it is important to analyze and discuss the
major national actors in this panorama – starting with the United States.

Trends in the US

The present and near future of the US is and is not about the Trump Presidency
and its domestic opposition.

The struggles between the Congress and the President have not produced major
changes in the global position of the United States. The US continues to impose
sanctions on Russia, Iran and Venezuela. Its trade with China grows. The military
exercises and threats against North Korea raise the specter of nuclear war. In other
words, incremental and inconsequential activity accompany the fiery rhetoric.

Corporate economic policies benefit from the state’s largesse, but are divorced
from everyday politics. What is most significant, ‘markets’ have fragmented or
disconnected: Stocks rise, but productivity stagnates. Corporate debt skyrockets, but
high tech profits boom. Exports and imports move in opposite directions. Jobs increase
and wages decrease.

There are one, two, many markets, each operating on similar principles, all
deepening the concentration of wealth and the interlock of corporate directorates.
Just as there are several markets, there are multiple centers of political leadership.
Specifically, the US is a multi-polar ‘Presidency’. For all the talk about ‘Trump’, policy
and strategy are defined, promoted and opposed in many centers of decision making. In
general terms, the intelligence, military, media, financial, legislative, trade and
international policy elites are mired in rivalries as well as temporary alliances, making
strange bed-fellows. Moreover, new international power configurations have entered and
appropriated positions of power.


Who rules America?

This question should be rephrased to take into account the
plurality of authoritarian self-serving elites totally divorced from the majority of the
manipulated public.

Nominal ‘President’ Trump shifts foreign policy decisions according to the
interests of multiple domestic and overseas power centers. Trump argues against and is
opposed to multilateral trade agreements while favoring unilateral, US-centered pacts.
Despite his rhetoric, nothing of the sort has emerged. Trade with Asia, Europe and Latin
America has increased. China, Japan, India, Germany, Korea, Canada and Mexico
remain centers for US exports and imports. Bankers, multinational corporations, Silicon
Valley billionaires continue to over-ride Trump’s stated agenda.

Trump argued for reconciliation with Russia and was threatened with
impeachment. The Congress, the intelligence agencies, the legislature and NATO
contradict, reverse and redirect the US both toward and away from nuclear

Trump proposes to renegotiate trade with Asia, particularly with South Korea,
Japan and China. Instead, the Pentagon, the media, the neo-cons and the Japanese
militarist elite dictate nuclear confrontation with North Korea and threats against China.
(Japan’s Prime Minister Abe is the grandson of the ‘Butcher of Manchuria’ Kishi
Nobusuke.) The business, financial and Silicon Valley elite challenge the ‘America First’
ideologues, the Pentagon and local US manufacturers over China. Meanwhile thousands
of container ships carry raw materials and merchandise between China and the US, their
captains waving to the handful of US warships patrolling a few piles of rocks in the South
China Seas.

Trump flourishes his threats against the European Union and the World Trade
Organization and then hops on his jet to Davos to socialize with the German, French,
British and American ‘Free-Traders’.

The big decisions are the non-decisions. The continuities of policies and the
elites, at best simply deepening the prior policies that promote financial markets, depress
wages and multiply local wars and military confrontations. The decisive decisions of
2018 are those which are not made by Trump, but by his allies and adversaries at home
and abroad.

Trump’s Marginal America First

A close-up of the marginal decision-making, bypassing Washington would
include: the North-South Korea conciliation; Russia-China agreement over US sanctions;
Israel’s overt power grab against the Palestinians; Iran’s challenge to the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia; and the Pakistan-Taliban ‘covert’ alliance.

Washington’s marginalization is evident in the economic spheres. The US stock
market booms but productivity declines; profits surge but worker life expectancy drops;
immense concentration of wealth parallels a rise in maternal and infant mortality;
American youth have the highest chance of dying before adulthood among all
industrialized countries. Mortality has replaced mobility.

Washington is the center of intense warfare over inconsequential issues.
Beyond US marginalization, new regional power centers have emerged and successfully
annihilated or neutralized US clients. Turkey is a striking example. Ankara has attacked
and undermined the Pentagon’s plans for an armed Kurdish client force controlling
Northern Syria. Iraq has over-run the US-Israeli backed Kurdish militias under the
Barzani warlords in Kirkuk. The Taliban are moving from the Afghan countryside and
mountains and staging almost daily uprisings in the urban centers and capital Kabul. The
Venezuelan government has effectively defeated the US-backed uprisings in Caracas and
other cities. The US puppet regime in Kiev has failed to conquer the ethnic Russian
separatist enclaves in the Donbas region where a de facto government operates with
Russian support.

Let us recognize that marginality, retreats and defeats do not spell the ‘end of
Empire’; but let us also admit that the competing sectors of the US economy (stocks,
bonds, technology and profits) are in a dynamic phase, even if they are heading for a
major correction. The probable reason is because the economy operates independent of
the political system, the turmoil in Washington and the US marginality abroad. The mass
media-propagates domestic partisan conflicts thru scandal-mongering. Its vision of an
impending collapse and demise of Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China have not a whisper of
influence on the real dynamics of global market forces. China grows by 7% and all the
major US-EU economic players from Airbus to Amazon, fight to join Beijing’s multi
polar markets. Markets ignore, if not flourish with, government shutdowns. Markets
ignore the latest eruptions from the Pentagon, ‘The New Military Strategy’ against China
and Russia. South Korean businesses embrace US markets while seeking to secure
access to North Korea’s skilled labor force.

Washington’s decisions to deny the reality that the future requires increasing
productivity via a skilled, healthy and well-paid domestic labor force dooms the US to a
downward spiral of political marginality, military futility and robust bombast. The
media, the pundits and political elite ignore the fragmentation of US power and the
separation of military and market forces – each going its own way. Class inequalities and
rising working class mortality rates may encourage immigration but it also undermines
the foundation of American influence. A ruling class rules by linking a unified state to a
dynamic market, producers to the consumers, importers to exporters and increasing
wealth to rising wages.

Trump and anti-Trump antics are irrelevant at best and a destructive sideshow at
worst. The foundations of the US state and its markets are substantial but crumbling.
What is important is not the status quo, but its direction and structures. Prolonged wars at
the margins of state power or Secretary of Defense Mattis’ threats of global conflicts with
world powers, like Russia and China
, to ‘protect the US standard of living’ will inevitably
and inexorably lead to deeper fissure between the US economy and the militarist state.
US political institutions, President or Congress, utterly fail to come to terms with the real
economic dynamics of the existing world market. They still confuse rising stock prices
and profits with the long-term factors of growth and stability
. Let’s think about ‘death on
the installment plan!’ 


Share the link of this article with your facebook friends




Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & &