Monday, August 29, 2016

The Brokenness of Hillary Clinton's Strategy: vibrant against Trump domestically, dangerous abroad


       1.  Is War against Russia/Putin and his rightist aficianados  anti-racist?

    In her campaign, Hillary Clinton is not directly discussing foreign policy, beyond being "tough" and "responsible," with the American  people.  But the theme of Putin/Russian dangerousness is now begin constantly used to deflect attention from criticisms and  attack Trump.  In addition, her entourage – as well as those who are striving for major appointment - sharply press plans for escalating war in the Ukraine and Syria.  These threaten larger war against a nuclear-armed opponent.  This is, to say the least, not smart; it is also, from the standpoint of democratic practices, deeply corrupt.  Hillary's new fan, Robert Kagan, Project for a New American Century leader, has spoken repeatedly of "guiding" a reluctant public, sick of crazy and unending wars, back into the belligerent fold.

***

        But note the manipulativeness from the  point of view of the very idea of a democracy of using being a "responsible National Security Candidate" versus the twitchy fingered, racist monster Trump to put over new - not publicized by the corporate media - wars.

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        Now in  contrast, Hillary's apt detailing of Trump's long career of racism Thursday at a community college in Reno is a breath of fresh air in the campaign. Listen here.

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        "Make America Hate Again." Trump brings the lynchers and attackers, "the white nationalists" or more aptly, white supremacists, out of the sewers into American streets, into the "mainstream." as Clinton underlined.  "Law and Order" - praise police who murder innocents.  At a high school basketball game in Iowa, racists chant "Trump," "Trump" while attacking players on the other team.

***

          But Hillary's only sour point in the Reno speech was to link Trump's fascism internationally, as puppet, to Russia/Putin.   In a way, this is a smooth move politically, since it wraps Putin's support of fascists/racists from Marine Le Pen in France to Golden Dawn in Greece, Nigel Farage in England, to Trump. And Trump chose Farage, a racist toward immigrants, to campaign with last week. 

       Now Trump and his previous aide Manafort are perhaps venally tied to - get a lot of business or pay from - Russia, or the previous, pro-Russian ruler in the Ukraine.

***

        Hillary was moving, her press flacks said, towards a Lyndon B. Johnson theme against Goldwater from 1964.  She claimed rightly to speak for “responsible” Republicans, even Ted Cruz whose father Trump imagined an assassin in virtue of being...Cuban.  She reached out to John McCain, whom she described, in contrast to Trump, as standing up to his supporters' racist illusions in 2008 about candidate Obama.

***

    But Hillary is no longer just reaching out to elite Republicans.  In this speech, she reached out to ordinary voters.  She has strong leads among suburban whites, particularly women, who do not support racism.  She has broad support among Catholics.  The Pope criticized the wall, and Trump disparaged him.  Many Catholics, Irish, Italian, Polish, Mexican, recall the bigotries their grandparents were subjected to.  They sympathize with poor Latinos who risk all to come to America.

***

  This aim to mobilize an anti-racist center to American politics is a good one to stake a campaign on.  Against Bernie Sanders, Hillary had no focus except deflection.  Sanders is much easier to like, particularly among young people (those under 40...), because he has stood for the same decent program all the way through.  And Hillary now has adopted a common good domestic program importantly because of the Bernie effect.  Further, she can’t mainly abandon it without losing black, Chicano, environmental support in the next election...

***

     Against Trump, she now has a telling theme: paranoia and prejudice.  Steven Bannon, the publisher of Breitbart “news” is now Trump’s manager.  Breitbart actually published bizarre headlines which Hillary read, including the odious fantasy that only “child actors” were killed at Sandy Hook.  And she wondered rightly what kind of creature could have so little heart…

***

       Hillary is, compared to Trump, “responsible” in national security.  But of course Hillary herself is no anti-racist internationally.  For instance, she extols the Israeli occupation and denounces both Palestinians and BDS - Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.   Jewish Voice for Peace and many other Jews, myself included, actively pursue BDS.  For Boycott is the same nonviolent tactic used by Martin Luther King in Montgomery. It is nonviolent where the Israeli government, the Democrats' funder Chaim Saban (Hillary wrote him a letter about BDS) and Clinton all denounce violence.  No Palestinian approach to lifting the occupation is acceptable to Hillary.

     Hillary is very good about Arabs and Muslims domestically, except on this fundamental issue.

***

        And contrary to Hillary, Russia is not a leading danger to the US.  Russia asked to join NATO in 1991, and the US and Europe refused. Instead, the US and NATO expanding right up to Russia's border have created the danger...

***

    In addition, attacking Russia and Iran in Syria and Iraq, instead of defeating Daeesh, will not make Americans or most people in the world safer.  

***

     This larger war internationally may seem superficially linked to domestic opposition to Trump’s racism.  For again, Hillary names Putin as the arch-authoritarian and racist villain behind Farage and Trump and Golden Dawn and Le Pen  (Le Pen has frighteningly a pretty good chance of becoming prime minister in France).  But Hillary's stance, in fact, provokes new,  perhaps nuclear dangers and probably strengthens – it certainly does nothing to defeat -Daeesh.  

***

      I have written a number of posts - see here, here and here -  on the sudden and bizarre transformation of official Democrats into a war party. The primary season, where Bernie Sanders pressed no-regime change as a policy and said in New York that Palestinians are human and deserve recognition, is no more...

***

     These "morning in America" Democrats are not the rank and file who shouted "No more wars!" at the Convention.  The latter were obscured by chants "USA" "USA" from Clinton delegates and panned away from /suppressed by CNN and MSNBC.

        Of course, in and beyond the Democrats and the corporate media, the anti-war American public, particularly young people, are all still here...


                    2.  Robert Kagan and Hillary’s coterie

     Hillary has most succeeded by converting/ being influenced by the Project for a New American Century's Robert Kagan.  Kagan fiercely campaigned for the aggression in Iraq.  He is almost as ugly in this regard as Bill Kristol.

***
     
         But Kagan has more recently had moments of decency, for example, being repelled by Guantanamo and torture, or denouncing Trump ("This is how fascism comes to America." from the Washington Post here).  He is a decent scholar on the massacres/genocide against indigenous people.  See Dangerous Nation, ch. 1,  "The First Imperialists."  Thus, Kagan traces the real history, full of massacres, of what he calls "liberal imperialism."  His view is easily superior to the stereotypical claim that the US was importantly “isolationist.”   But the liberalism here is racist and blood-soaked.  Even Lincoln in the West waged a war of genocide against indigenous people, while waging a war against bondage in the South.

***

       In genocides in the United States and aggressions in  Vietnam, and Iraq, in Guantanamo and throughout Latin America, inter alia, Kagan's term is an insult to liberalism.  Yes, "liberalism," in its very gradual emergence as a viewpoint,  has been historically tied to the murders of settler-colonialism, colonialism and aggression.  It is "dangerous" not just to the powers of "old Europe" but to millions of ordinary people...

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     But in contrast, liberalism is a public theory of how economic, social and political institutions which recognize the equal freedom or basic rights of each person enable the diverse flourishing of many individualities.  Individuality: each person chooses the life she sees fit and can change that conception at her own will, so long as she does not fundamentally harm others.  

    And a view that does not recognize all as human, casts away lives for Imperial advantage, is murderous, imperial, authoritarian and anti-liberal toward those it oppresses is not liberal.

***

         Kagan thinks that liberal "world order" in which he conjoins formal democracy, eventually some real protection of human rights,  and free markets, must be maintained and advanced by American power.  But are drones today and bombs, murdering civilians, "liberal imperialism"?   From the perspective of the powerful, are they even clever?  Kagan, the neo-con, thinks so.  

***

    In The World America Made (a robustly arrogant title), he asserts, "[The US's] efforts to root out Al-Qaeda have been remarkably successful, especially compared to the failures to disrupt terrorist networks and stop terrorist networks of the 1990s." (p. 124).   Note the faint, self-deluded praise merely by comparison.

***
     
     In fact, through its series of military sorties into the Middle East, including the latest aggression in Iraq, US efforts have steadily produced even worse dangers like Daeesh. Except for the slave patrols/KKK in the South and the American government's aggressions against  indigenous people, “terrorism” was not a problem in the US until the US invaded the Middle East.  Yet with each new infusion of bombs and troops, the wars stretch on, the dangers to Americans – and everyone else – increase. See Andrew Bacevich, America's Wars for the Greater Middle East: A Military History here.  Seymour Hersh, The Killing of Osama Bin Laden here.

***

      Even the formerly monstrous imperial strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski, now names the justice of Arab claims of abuse. In 2016, he has backed away from his vision of the US unipower. Brzezinski now sees the United States, instead as the most powerful, regional actor rather than making war everywhere.  See "Toward a Global Realignment," The American Interest here.

***

       In contrast, Kagan's  theme is that "Superpowers don't get to retire" here.   His core idea is that a liberal world order requires often contentious, murderous exercises of power,

***

      Let us consider the current US arming/refueling of the Saudi bombing of Yemen.  Saudi Arabia bombs schools routinely as well as Doctors without Borders hospitals.  And Yemenis see American power as allied with the Saudi family (Saudi Arabia is named for this single family of rulers...).  Kagan crows about taking out Al-Qaeda leaders - with drones et al.  But has not the US, through this wanton bombing of civilians produced something that will worsen over time?  Will not the slaughter of Yemeni innocents - here and The New York Times' "America is Complicit in the Carnage in Yemen" here - lead to blowback over the next 20 years in the US...?

***

     Contrary to Kagan,  the "superpower" needs to retire at minimum from military destruction in the Middle East...

***

       But Hillary and even the wiser Barack have bought into Kagan's thesis, not just Kagan into Hillary.  This is dangerous, as Barack's conduct in office proves: reliance on drones which often kill civilians, including Americans,  refusal to set up an independent panel to prosecute officials who committed torture, harsh persecution of whistle-blowers, overthrow (at Hillary's instigation) of the elected government of Honduras and support of a military regime, murdering environmentalists, including, Berta Caceres, the heroic Lenca activist here, reliance on the torturer/killer John Brennan, bombing (or boots on the ground) in 8 countries, the latest in Sert, Libya, and the like.

***

      And Hillary lacks Barack's restraint.  She currently supports the treaty with Iran, but it is unclear she would have made it.  Hillary has constantly staked out positions to the right of Barack, on bombing Syria, for example.   Her Democratic Convention  - "USA!" "USA!" - is represented by marine General John Allen.  He brings the domestic decency and inclusion of her program together with more war against Putin.  Allen is now the symbol/spokesperson for a dangerous, imperial effort that hopes to include everyone.

***

     Hillary's move toward war is thus not just an electoral strategy - "Morning in America,"  Now, Hillary has seized "Reagan's themes,"  "the Democrats are now the Republicans on national security," Hillary is "tough and responsible" and Trump is, in fact, a twitchy fingered, sexist monster. Trump is patriarchally trying out the line Hillary "doesn't look well, Hillary doesn't have stamina" and screams ignorantly about bigotry.  "The Donald" should look in the mirror…

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   But Hillary also means to rely on force.

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       With the attack on all things Russian, Hillary moves American elite policy into a more warlike mode. See Glenn Greenwald,  "Democrats Tactic of Accusing Critics of Kremlin Allegiance has Long, Ugly History in U.S." here.

             3.  Victoria Nuland and Michelle Flournoy

     A main evidence of Hillary's push toward war - those who enthusiastically strive  for promotion in a Clinton administration - are Michelle Flournoy and Victoria Nuland.  Flournoy, future Pentagon Secretary, chairs the Center for a New American Security.  She is leading the charge for bombing Assad's forces and perhaps  Russian and Iranian targets in Syria, on behalf of Al-Nusra, an Al-Qaida affiliate, which only recently moved away from Daeesh.  Al-Nusra also detests America.  See here.

***
   
      Flournoy is echoed by chorus of "51" diplomats in the State Department whose memo in a not before publicized “backdoor” protest channel, was released to the New York Times here and printed in the main, front page column (top right).  It urged bombing with no specification of or even hope for negotiation.  It was, as it were, a signed application for advancement under Hillary...

***

     It was also the New York Times (largely a mouthpiece for the Hillary campaign) signaling what the new Presidency is likely to bring.

***

       In addition, Victoria Nuland, the person whom John Kerry named the only "Dick Cheney/Hillary Clinton alum," passed out cookies to Ukrainian democrats and called for the U.S. arming them.  Nuland opposes Obama's wiser policy, one more cautious about Russia  "escalation dominance."  For Ukraine borders Russia, and Russia has nearer weaponry and soldiers, is probably  more efficient there militarily than what the US can bring to bear.  Consider their swift intervention in Syria and un-US-like withdrawal.  Russia also has nuclear weapons.

***

       Nuland is married to Bob Kagan: "my Venus, my Mars, my earth," she says sweetly.  Bob never sends out a word she has not edited....

***

       Obama has concentrated on bombing Daeesh, including opening a new front in Sert in Libya.  Bombing, however, blows up many civilians and does little to suppress Daeesh.  That must be done through fighting.

***
    
    Even then, a defeated Daeesh could still recruit terrorists - they use in Europe, after all, films of torture at Abu Ghraib, of indefinite detention at Guantanamo,  of US aggression against Iraq (a large Middle Eastern oil producer, including destruction of civilians uncounted from "Shock and Awe" on - Rumsfeld, haughtily, kept no count of Iraqi casualties...), and the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing of Palestine.  

***

    Escalation and militarism are and create horrors ("blowback").

***
     
     The bipartisan, transadministration American campaign of aggression, torture and occupation drives some young people to oppose injustice mistakenly by joining or tolerating horrific organizations.  Brzezinski's latest retreat, in this regard, is wise.  Doing something actively to help the Palestinians, remove the radically unjust Israeli occupation would be wiser still.

***.

         Now Russia's intervention in Syria and Iran in Iraq are, in fact, allied with America to suppress Daeesh.  Obama's treaty with Iran - taking on pro-Israel Republican and Democratic frenzy/stupidity - gives the US some new leverage for diplomacy, some independence from the reactionary Saudi Arabia-Israel alliance.  It permits what John Mearsheimer, "America Unhinged" in The National Interest,  has intelligently called off-shore balancing rather than trying, through bombing or invasion, to control everything.

***

     It is the first step away from American invasions and militarism.

***

       But if Hillary and her coterie open up a two front war with Assad and Russia, and Iran, watch Obama's attempts to do something better in the Middle East and extract the US from  quagmires go up in smoke. Daeesh will gain more maneuverability.  Another, larger war with Russia will escalate.  For Hillary's campaign/the corporate press aggravate war fever, as in the coverage even of the Olympics, against Russia...

***
   
        Here is a recent quote from Robert Kagan, in his own mind, mocking Obama:

     “I know Hillary cares more about Ukraine than the current president does,” Kagan replied. “[Obama] said to me [that he wouldn’t arm Ukraine because] he doesn’t want a nuclear war with Russia,” he added, rolling his eyes dismissively. “I don’t think Obama cares about Putin anymore at all. I think he’s hopeless.” - Robert Kagan speaking at a Democratic fundraiser for Hillary here.

***

         Yes "Superpowers must not retire," Kagan proclaims, even if it means nuclear extinction...

          Oops, even Bob Kagan and Toria Nuland won't make it through that...

     4.  Hillary’s denunciations of Russia, silence about specific war plans

         Now Joe Conason is an intense Hillary supporter, my cousin, and a fine reporter for the Nation. Peter Minowitz nitpicks, often justly, opponents of Leo Strauss though he often fails to write about the main issues in his own voice. Both have rightly protested: "But Hillary is not on record (just yet, for public consumption, in this campaign) supporting escalations against Russia in Syria or in the Ukraine..."

***


            They do not quite hear what they are saying.   Though converting the Democrats into a war party and surrounding herself with advisors who urge diversionary wars, Hillary is not leveling with the American people about what her anti-Russian campaign means. The Center for a New American Security articles, the "backdoor complaint" of 51 State Department officials, Nuland inside and Kagan at the Hillary fundraiser about the Ukraine are the advice coming from her coterie and those who vie to be in it.  

      And Kagan merely draws the implication of Hillary's speeches, even the latest one in Reno

***

        That "3:AM" Hillary, who uses the rhetoric of belligerence - Putin is master of all European and American fascists -  does not encourage these efforts needs to be shown.  It will probably take a new, anti-War movement from below, starting now, to do ao.

                  5.  The dark side of the LBJ comparison

          Now Hillary has a monster opponent, someone one does not want to be on the same planet with, odious, oozing all kinds of racism, a freaky man-child, stiffing even his own investors and of course those who work for him, calling at his own rallies for the beating up his critics, particularly nonwhite ones, perhaps hoping to fire a cruise missile against "Morning Joe" and Mika, or the rest of us, a spinning casino man, the  easily tweet-baited Trump.  And the establishment has treated ordinary people here so horribly that Trump can capitalize, to some extent, on "damn the establishment" sentiment.  That sentiment, when misguided or thoughtless, can be an ingredient in fascism.

***
   
      So Hillary is, in fact, responsible in national security compared to Twitchy Fingers.  Her line "Do you really want someone who can be set off by a tweet with his fingers on the nuclear security codes" ought to have finished him.  And that was before Trump disgraced himself by denouncing Khizr and Ghazala Khan.

***

      And yet, Hillary also resembles LBJ in a much uglier way.  In 1964, President Johnson told Barry Goldwater at Goldwater's security briefing that he was going to send many more troops to  Vietnam in 1965.  In the subsequent November 1964, election, Johnson let Barry take the fall for being a war-monger, for being irresponsible, for being "outside the establishment."

***

      LBJ had a famous commercial mocking Barry of a little girl pulling daisy petals: a countdown to a nuclear explosion.  LBJ was a man "of Peace" against Goldwater, pretty much as Hillary is, against Trump.

***

     Now Hillary's anti-racism is, once again, a breath of fresh air against Trump, and in certain ways, better than LBJ domestically (her programs are not likely to be as strong without a huge push from below, as LBJ was pushed by the civil rights movement and uprisings in American cities).

***

      But Martin Luther King had LBJ's number.  See "Breaking the Silence" here which is, sadly, as true today as when Vincent Harding wrote the first draft and King gave it.  See here.  King's words are as true of Hillary's militarism.

***

    Without mass protest, extending more powerfully the fierce "No More Wars" chants at the Democratic Convention and  starting now, Hillary will be no better than LBJ.  Obama's naïve adoption of the bipartisan, aggressive  policy of pushing NATO into the Ukraine, right up against Russia, was a terrible mistake, mirroring what the Soviet Union did in Cuba in 1962.  See here and John Mearsheimer, "Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West's Fault: the liberal delusions that provoked Putin," here.

***

     Mearsheimer rightly suggests making the Ukraine a neutral buffer state.  This would give a fighting chance for democrats from below to succeed there.  Nuland/US maneuvering against Russia, not so much...

***

     Pushing right up to Russia's borders in the Ukraine, Nuland  hoped to overturn Russia with a comparable popular uprising.  This is not, in itself, a bad hope - as 1848, Vietnam, Arab spring, the uprisings in Eastern Europe and Occupy, among others, show, there are real solidarities between popular uprisings from below.

***

      But Nuland's imperial hubris/blatant intervention rarely goes well with democratic revolt.  For Sophocles, Socrates and Thucydides, the hubris of leaders was to imagine themselves gods, do wanton killings, and fall. 

***

   Hubris about the color uprisings - the State Department/International Republican Institute backed the uprising in Serbia (silencing any attempt for democratic discussion from below beyond opposing a tyranny).  That success leads directly to the US's belligerence in the Ukraine.

***

    It all works if you believe, as those in the narrow circle of American power often do, that any enemy will be cowed by US force.  Such hubris is  dangerous.

***
   
     The post-Cold War era is characterized, as Bob Kagan also likes to underline, by even more American wars. That the US, with its dependence on militarism (an over a trillion dollars a year military-industrial-Congressional-academic-think tank-intelligence-foreign bases-foreign militaries armed to the teeth, as in Saudi Arabia, with US weaponry complex), seeks peace more today than it did during the Cold War, does not survive naked eye inspection...

***


     Hillary/Flournoy/Nuland/Kagan et al will, perhaps tragically, make the provocation of Russia far worse.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Daily Beast article on "Wild West, Wild East" was the most read cultural article Sunday in the US according to Real Clear Books


     My Daily Beast article on Karl May and Hitler's "Frontier": Wild West, Wild East - he liked to refer to "Ukrainian redskins" - was apparently the most looked at article on books in American media on Sunday - as listed in RealClearBooks.com..  The article itself  reflects some 5 years of work (other scholars have been on to this issue quite  a bit since 2012, particularly Carroll Kakel and Kristin Kopp) and breaks a lot of new ground on how genocide toward indigenous people comes back to haunts its perpetrators (and in addition, many, many ordinary people...). Who would have thought, after all, that the Wild West was the model for Lebensraum and World War II?  

      All the best,
       Alan

Real Clear Books Monday

Morning Update
The Cowboy Novels that Inspired Hitler - Alan Gilbert, The Daily Beast
Man's Journey from the Hollers - Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Apache Wars - Fred J. Eckert, The Washington Times
3 Memoirs For Labor Day Reading - Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times
These Spies Are Really Spooks - Jason Sheehan, NPR
The Suitable Inheritor - Stacey Chillemi, The Huffington Post
Journey Into Acceptance - Juliet Russo, The Roanoke Times
Phishing for Phools - Lisa Goldberg, CFA Institute
Second-hand Books Are Big Business - Jonathan Margolis, Financial Times
Looking to Improve Your Writing? - Kristin Wong, Lifehacker