By Roger Annis, Nov 11, 2016
I wrote the following letter to Eric Reguly, Europe columnist of the Globe and Mail daily in Canada, in response to his column of November 11. It was titled, ‘Trump’s victory a win for populist parties abroad‘. My letter as published here is slightly edited from the original.
Below my letter are reports of the two days of protests by several tens of thousands of people in the United States following the Trump election victory.
November 11, 2016
Hello Mr. Reguly,
Your column today on foreign reaction to Donald Trump’s election was most welcome for eschewing rote slander against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nary a commentary on the subject of Trump’s election has been published in mainstream media without containing the bogus claim that the Russian government favored the election of Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Many reports slanderously liken the Russian government’s diplomatic message of congratulations to Trump to the celebratory welcomings by far-right parties in Europe. Your summary in the Globe on November 10 of foreign reaction to Trump’s election put the reaction from Russia simply and accurately (citing Associated Press):
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is ready to try to restore good relations with the United States. Mr. Putin said Wednesday that “we aware that it is a difficult path, in view of the unfortunate degradation of relations between the Russian Federation and the United States.” Mr. Putin says “it is not our fault that Russian-American relations are in such a state.”
Earlier, the Kremlin said Mr. Putin sent Trump congratulations, expressing “his hope to work together for removing Russian-American relations from their crisis state.”
Trump’s election spells trouble for the people of Russia and for those in the rest of the world. He will betray the wishful thinking of many by seamlessly continuing the threats and military buildup of NATO against Russia in eastern Europe. He will continue the imperialist regime change agenda in Syria.
This moment reminds me of Richard Nixon’s 1968 election promise to wind down the ‘American War’ in Vietnam. Once elected, Nixon quickly undertook an escalation of the war. This was exactly the pattern of his Democratic Party predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, following Johnson’s election in 1964.
There is much evidence, even, as documented by Robert Parry of Consortium News several years ago, that Nixon and his highest advisors committed treason in 1968 by sabotaging promising peace talks taking place between the U.S. government and the Vietnamese liberation forces. Parry believes that the heart of the 1973 Watergate scandal lay in Nixon’s efforts to destroy the documented record of his 1968 treason.
I have little doubt that the Russian government and president are keenly aware of the Trump danger and are preparing accordingly.
The case can easily be made that Trump is an equally dangerous foreign policy entity to Hillary Clinton. He will surround himself with hawks as advisors, not least because, by his own admission, he knows little or nothing of foreign policy. For example, he said in December 2015, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
At the second presidential debate on Oct 9, 2016, Trump said “I know nothing about Russia.” He then corrected himself with, “I know about Russia, but I don’t know about the inner workings of Russia.”
Trump’s proposals to expand the U.S. military were spelled out here in September 2016. His proposals would build upon the vast increases in U.S. military spending which have marked the years of the Obama presidency.
Trump will be beholden to those whom he appoints to advise him. Glenn Greenwald told Democracy Now! yesterday:
… It’s still very difficult to believe, very difficult to believe that Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States and will actually be president of the United States in two months. I don’t think we’ve even begun to process or analyze the actual repercussions of that.
And then, when you go to this sort of second-order horror, it’s almost like a wicked nightmare, like the worst—like Sarah Palin as the secretary of interior; or Rudy Giuliani, who I’ve long regarded as probably the most authoritarian and borderline fascist mainstream figure in American political life, to be the attorney general in charge of the prosecutorial power and the FBI; or Chris Christie, a lifelong prosecutor, in charge of the mechanisms of homeland security; or John Bolton, one of the most sociopathic warmongers on the planet, in charge of anything—these are genuinely terrifying prospects. And so, no, I don’t have much intelligent to say about that [Trump’s choices for cabinet] because I haven’t really started to even accept it yet.
Glenn Greenwald’s assessment of the Trump victory bothers me in one large respect, which is his likening it to the June 2016 Brexit vote in the UK. I devoted a commentary on November 10 to refuting that comparison. I concluded: “Militarism and the threat of war and nuclear weapons will not diminish until and unless a powerful antiwar, anti-nuclear movement is once again a factor in the politics of the United States and its allies.”
Two days of protests in the United States against the politics of Donald Trump
* Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin has penned a column on Friday, November 11 that begins, “How impressive were those protests across the U.S. on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Trump won? And he hasn’t even deported anyone yet. Imagine what will happen when he does.”
Salutin continues: “A mass movement of the — I don’t even know what to call it: left, progressives, people of good will — has to assume it implicitly represents or can win over the large majority of its fellow citizens. That was assumed by every great mass movement in U.S. history: civil rights, anti-Vietnam war, union drives in the 1930s, even the abolitionists of the 19th century. And they eventually did.
“In fact, there is majority support for most advances the Trumpians want to destroy. So the appeal to the broader society will be based on a moral challenge, as it was on issues like slavery, women’s suffrage and civil rights…”
* “Not My President”: Tens of thousands in the U.S. take to streets, report on Democracy Now!, Nov 10, 2016
“Not My President”—that was the chant at protests across the United States on November 9 as tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the election of Donald Trump, who surged to victory over Hillary Clinton.
In California, at least 13 people were arrested as hundreds blocked traffic on two major highways. Thousands more gathered at Los Angeles City Hall, waving Mexican flags and burning a giant effigy of Donald Trump.
In nearby Santa Ana, police fired rubber bullets and pepper spray at hundreds of protesters after the crowds took over major intersections. In Oakland, police also deployed tear gas and flashbang grenades against crowds of thousands of protesters.
In Seattle, thousands took to the streets for a protest called by Socialist Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, while in Chicago thousands rallied outside Trump Tower. where at least five people were arrested.
Protests were also held in Portland, Oregon; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Richmond, Virginia; Austin, Texas; Boston and Philadelphia. Here in New York, as many as 10,000 people surged through streets and surrounded the barricaded-off Trump Tower, where Donald Trump lives. At least 65 people were arrested…
* High school students across the country stage walkouts to protest Donald Trump, by Naomi LaChance, The Intercept, Nov 9, 2016 (with extensive photos and Twitter reports)
High school students across the country staged walkouts today to protest Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States…
* Civil rights a major concern on second day of anti-Trump protests, by Reuters, Nov 10, 2016 (excerpts)
Demonstrators took to the streets across the United States for a second day on Thursday [Nov 10] to protest against Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, voicing fears that the real estate mogul’s triumph would deal a blow to civil rights.
On the East Coast, protests took place in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, while on the West Coast demonstrators rallied in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland in California, and Portland, Oregon.
The protests were for the most part peaceful and orderly, although there were scattered acts of civil disobedience and damage to property…
At least 35 were arrested in a protest in downtown Los Angeles, where demonstrators blocked traffic and sat in the street, local media reported. Dozens in Minneapolis marched onto Interstate 94, blocking traffic in both directions for at least an hour as police stood by. A smaller band of demonstrators briefly halted traffic on a busy Los Angeles freeway before police cleared them.
Baltimore police reported that about 600 people marched through the downtown Inner Harbor area, with some blocking roadways by sitting in the street. Two people were arrested.
In Denver, a crowd that media estimated to number about 3,000 gathered on the grounds of the Colorado state capitol and marched through downtown in one of the largest of Thursday’s events. Hundreds demonstrated through Dallas.
Thursday’s gatherings were generally smaller in scale and less intense than Wednesday’s, and teenagers and young adults again dominated the racially mixed crowds…
Police pitched security barricades around two Trump marquee properties that have become focal points of the protests – his newly opened Pennsylvania Avenue hotel in Washington and the high-rise Trump Tower in Manhattan, where he lives.
About 100 protesters marched from the White House, where Trump had his first transition meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday, to the Trump International Hotel several blocks away. At least 200 people rallied there after dark, many chanting “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!” and carrying signs with such slogans as “Impeach Trump” and “Not my president”…
More anti-Trump demonstrations are planned for the weekend.
* More anti-Trump action planned after second night of protests across U.S., The Guardian, Nov 10, 2016
* Statistical analysis from the 2016 U.S. presidential election:
U.S. elections: Trump’s ‘big victory’ with 26% support, by Phil Duncan, Redline (New Zealand), Nov 11, 2016
While Trump’s victory is certainly an indication of widespread alienation from the political establishment in the United States, it is far from the main sign of alienation revealed by the election.
The total number of people in the USA eligible to vote is 231,556,622. Of these, 99,815,122 didn’t vote. That’s over 43%. That’s by far the dominant form that alienation takes.
Donald Trump received 59,791,135 votes. He actually received almost two million fewer votes than Mitt Romney, the unsuccessful Republican candidate in 2012, although there may be some late totals which bring Trump a bit closer. And, of course, he received several hundred thousand fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, who took 60,071,781.
Of those eligible to vote in the election, Trump received about 25.8% of the vote.
What happened, primarily, was that Clinton lost votes compared to Obama in 2012. She received almost 7 million (6.8 million to be precise) fewer votes than Obama did in 2012. So the second main sign of alienation was the decline in the Democratic Party vote.
Trump’s was still an impressive achievement, as most of the U.S. establishment appears to have been against him. However, there simply was no big surge of support for the billionaire tax evader with a string of bankrupt companies and straying hands.
Stephen Kinzer is justifiably recognized as an informed, foreign policy analyst in U.S. mainstream media. In the enclosed commentary, he voices wishful thinking for change in U.S. foreign policy under Donald Trump. On what does he base that? On throwaway comments by Trump during an overheated election campaign. He calls them “highly promising”.–Roger Annis
Could Trump reform U.S. foreign policy?
By Stephen Kinzer, The Boston Globe, Nov 10, 2016
DONALD TRUMP’S VICTORY in our presidential election set off many convulsions, but few were as shattering as the one that dynamited the Washington foreign policy elite. Almost every member of this incestuous band of Beltway bombers supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign. They had reason to do so, since she has spent her career promoting their aggressive, we-know-best approach to the world. Now they face four years in the wilderness. Voters have driven a stake not only into the heart of the Clinton machine, but also into the heart of the American foreign policy establishment. Now we will see something new — or will we?
Several months ago, an evidently frustrated President Obama lamented that American foreign policy comes from a playbook that says Americans have a duty to shape the rest of the world. Today it is tempting to believe the playbook has been thrown into the Potomac. That is too optimistic. The ability of presidents and Congress to shape foreign policy is overstated. Deeply vested interests control the sprawling national security bureaucracy and make real change all but impossible. No one knows this better than Obama. He began his presidency by winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but his foreign policy legacy is dominated by war in Afghanistan, chaos in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, targeted killings, Guantanamo, and a trillion-dollar program to build a new nuclear arsenal.
To say that Trump’s foreign policy ideas are unformed would be an understatement, but he has a few. Three sound highly promising. First, he wants to de-escalate our spiraling conflict with Russia. For whatever reason, he has rejected the playbook view that President Vladimir Putin is a mad thug whose policies threaten our national security. If he remains firm and pulls us out of the spiral of US-Russia confrontation, he will be stepping back from the conflict that has seemed more likely than any other to explode into nuclear war.
Trump’s unorthodox view of Russia leads to his second wise foreign policy instinct, about the horrific war in Syria. Here his ignorance is an asset. Instead of reading the piles of reports that have gushed from the think-tank world in recent months, all of which demand military escalation, he is using common sense. It tells him that Syria poses no threat to the United States, and that our priority there should be crushing ISIS, not overthrowing the government. Get Todays Headlines in your inbox:
The third way Trump’s foreign policy may break with the playbook has to do with his view of NATO and the other alliances through which we project military power. During his campaign, he said he would ask our European and Asian partners to pay for their own defense. He doesn’t seem to like the idea that the United States could be dragged into great-power war over a local dispute in the Baltic or the South China Sea. His election could allow NATO to escape from American control and pursue the less aggressive policies that France, Germany, and Italy would prefer.
That’s the good news. Alongside it are depressing indications that in important ways, Trump will be just as eager to double down on failed policies as Hillary Clinton would have been. The common sense with which he sees Russia and Syria fails him when he views Iran. He also looks suspiciously on Cuba, even though it is poor, weak, and no threat to us. His anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim tirades have alienated huge numbers of people. He has dismissed climate change as a hoax invented by the Chinese to weaken our economy. His approach to deal-making — squeezing everything you can out of an adversary — may work in business, but it is the opposite of diplomatic negotiation, which succeeds only when all parties walk away with some success.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump’s approach to foreign policy was shaped by an odd contradiction. He declared his willingness to break from orthodoxy in shocking ways, but the few major political figures who supported him are charter members of the bomb-’em-all club. Newt Gingrich, said to be a likely candidate for secretary of state, is unreservedly pro-Israel and anti-Iran. Nonetheless, he is not a classic militarist. He has called himself a “cheap hawk,” and might look dubiously at the corporate welfare program known as the defense budget. Foreign aid also leaves him cold: “You ought to start off with zero and say, ‘Explain to me why I should give you a penny.’?” His views on climate change are as dismissive as Trump’s, but he is less anti-trade and anti-China. Some of his musings even suggest that he might be willing to pull our troops out of the Afghanistan quagmire.
The end of the Cold War obliged the United States to adopt a new foreign policy to deal with new realities. We never did. Instead we lashed out in ways that have weakened our security while wreaking havoc on unfortunate countries. Large numbers of Americans reject this aggressive approach to the world. They want us to concentrate on rebuilding our own declining country. It would be a delicious irony if Trump gives us the post-Cold War foreign policy that we should have adopted a generation ago.
Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Follow him on Twitter @stephenkinzer.