NEW DELHI/SAN FRANCISCO: Editors Note: US Domestic and Foreign Policy Analyst Mark Mason speaks to The Citizen on the current Trump administration and its world view, with specific focus on West (Iran) and South (India,Pakistan) Asia. Mark Mason offers analyses of United States domestic and foreign policies for the international news media. He was trained as a biological anthropologist educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and recently engaged in the Occupy and bioregional green and peace social movements. His recent publications include Demystifying US and Israeli Power. This interview is the first of an irregular series of conversations between The Citizen and scholars in different parts of the world. Feedback is very welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. [DS added the link.]
Response to The Citizen:
In India we often find ourselves discussing whether Trump’s foreign policy is any different from Obama’s. What do you think? Are there any nuances we should be aware of?
We know the outcome of the Obama administration. At the outset, Trump’s administration is far more dangerous than was Obama’s with respect to international relations. Trump has increased the use of deadly drones in Yemen and Somalia, but recent arms sales to Saudi Arabia were approved under the Obama administration. The potential for accidental nuclear war, and the potential for conventional military conflicts increased under Trump.
His brash bullying tactics are publicly confrontational, yet we should compare Trump with the polite but deadly Bill Clinton and George Bush whose terms in office, combined, culminated in 1.5 million Iraqi deaths. In one year, Trump has managed to weaken NATO and has turned most of the western European elites against his administration. European members of NATO are not catering to the US imperial commands as swiftly.
The recent vote in the UN on the question of the status of Jerusalem was another manifestation of the failure of brute bullying foreign policy. Europeans and others who pay tribute to the American Empire do not like having their noses ground into the dirt by Emperor Trump. They like the US government to pretend that there is no empire. They want to be told that they are all one happy, smiling, chummy love fest of friends of the US.
What transpires next year will tell us what we need to know. If Trump continues insulting everyone in sight such demeanor will weaken US political influence — a very good thing — or alternatively, his governance may convert the potential for a major war into a reality. If he continues insulting enough Europeans, we may witness further weakening of the Euro-American colonial NATO alliance, a development that would decrease global tensions.
We should be less frightened of President Trump, while more concerned about how willing US power elites are to dare pushing blatant demands for obedience to US economic interests. US elites want more payment in tribute. The lack of cohesion manifested in Trump’s foreign policy is a manifestation of divisions within the US corporate elite.
One segment of the economic elites recognizes that pushing for immediate subservience to US power weakens long-term US economic interests, whereas another sector, that includes banking and oil, seem prepared to risk world war and world ecosystem collapse in the interest of increasing short-term corporate profits. The US government that includes the President, Congress, and the courts, are under US plutocratic control.
The USA is not a democracy. The President has little power. Trump is learning the limits to Presidential power.
Iran of course is a departure point, Obama sought peace, Trump is back to war. How serious are the threats in real terms?
Obama sought business deals with Iran, not peace. Peace is not something any ambitious capitalist empire seeks. Peace is the end of war profiteering. Let us examine the geopolitics of Iran in the context of the geo-economics of Iran. What applies to Iran, applies globally as the template for US foreign policy. As long as we accept that military arms are manufactured by capitalist corporations for the purpose of selling arms to generate corporate profits that go into the private pockets of a tiny power elite, then peace will be an illusive goal. Few elites profit from peace, and thus we have no peace. War profiteering is a lucrative business model that conflicts with significant sectors of the civilian economy.
What power elites want, they get through their control of every kind of modern state. Complexities arise when giant, powerful US corporations such as Boeing manufacture goods for war and for civilian markets. The context for international conflicts is driven, not directly between the US and Iran, but internal to Boeing Aircraft and other giant corporations. Taking Boeing as an example, both the war and the civilian aircraft divisions of Boeing are in conflict with respect to US policies toward Iran. The geo-economics of Iran is grounded on the foreign policy question: should Boeing make profits by selling military aircraft such as the new MQ-25 drone to the US government for the purpose of bombing Iran, or should Boeing focus attention on selling Iran profitable Boeing 737 Max civilian aircraft? Boeing can’t do both. US oil companies want to strike civilian business deals with Iran, and Russia, also, but are confronted with the power of the military-industrial corporate sector that profits elites from international conflicts. US elites are driving an economy with one foot on the gas pedal of war while the other foot is pressing the brake pedal of war. The economy serves the narrow interests of elites in India, as well as the USA.
US foreign policy has lacked cohesion since the collapse of the Soviet Union. An empire such as the US needs to sell empire to the American public by claiming that some country is an existential threat. The US has no credible enemy — none. Iran, North Korea, Russia again, Venezuela, and China off and on, are presented to the American people as justification for a trillion-dollar military budget. The lack of cohesion in US foreign policy is a manifestation of the collapsing capitalist economy within the US, as power elites become divided due to different sectors of the US elite seek conflicting economic goals. We are witnessing an economic system in collapse, and as a result US foreign policy lacks cohesion.
How serious are the war threats from Trump? What Trump says should always be taken seriously, while also observing how fast the US imperial controls are also being damaged by “imperial over-reach.” We are witnessing the last, desperate gasp of the American Empire. Emperor Trump will either bring down the empire as we witness collapse, or he may trigger world war. The consequences of the Trump presidency may be characterized as most likely the last American presidential administration. Whatever comes of his administration it will likely be the end of the American experiment in capitalist parliamentary government. The charade, the fake democracy, is coming to an end— with a whimper or a bang.
American presidents are particular people with particular personalities and particular personal interests in state power, but observing them over the decades, in direct observation, the evidence indicates that the range of domestic and foreign policies is narrowed to a variety of capitalist schemes that harm both the domestic population and people in distant lands subjected to US imperial abuses of power. Which village gets hit by drone missile attacks ordered by the president is a fearful, existential crises for individuals, but the American system of capitalist domination and exploitation remains little changed over the past two centuries. The American presidency is both boring in its predictable quest for corporate-capitalist hegemony, while it is of the most intense concern for powerless individual victims. If you didn’t like the British Empire, you won’t like the American Empire, either. The only consolation I can offer is that the US Empire will experience the same fate as the British Empire, and be it not so distant in the future.
In the Syrian quagmire, Washington seemed to have found a good friend in Erdogan, but no longer it seems. Is this a setback for its West Asian policy?
Empires have no friends.. Empires have client states that pay tribute to the imperial center, and empires have enemies yet to conquer: no friends. Erdogan understands this truth. US West Asian policy is to smash up stuff and to create cultural chaos. Chaos is good for profits, and it maintains divisions among people who have much in common and thus who would otherwise unify against US imperial domination of the region. Chaos is good because chaos results in more arms sales to the region, and it is used as a bludgeon to keep the local tyrants in line. The US invasion of Libya under Obama served some European and US oil interests, but the primary purpose from the prospective of US foreign policy was to send a message to other African and Middle Eastern states as a demonstration of what happens when the local dictator doesn’t follow orders from Washington.
Erdogan intends to rebuild the Ottoman Empire under his authority. He has his own personal power ambitions. Such people, driven by personal power, are easily manipulated.
India seems to be enjoying a good relationship with the US. As we did with President Bush as well. China and the market, or more than that?
All appearances of good relations are just that: temporary appearances. Indeed, a primary goal of the US government in appearing to cultivate friendship with India is to create a division between India from China. South Asian regional unity must be avoided by the US. Also, Trump and Modi have much in common. They both are servants of corporate power. Prime Minister Modi has been invited to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos next month for the very reason that he has demonstrated allegiance to the US and European colonial banking system.
Is Pakistan a friend, or not a friend? For Afghanistan?
Pakistan is a fractured client state of the US Empire. The government follow orders, more or less. Pakistan allows the US to fly deadly drone missions inside Pakistan, although offering occasional tepid protest. Pakistan allowed the CIA to build and operate bases in Pakistan for the purpose of training the Mujahideen which were given passage into Afghanistan for the purpose of destabilizing the pro-Russian government during the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Trump has been verbally bashing Pakistan recently which will erode political relations with the Pakistani government. Let us keep in mind that the US gives Pakistan billions of dollars each year in military aid. Pakistan cannot complain too much about being a servant of US power.
As for Afghanistan, it is now a US colony. The US will not leave, not before the collapse. US mining corporations are poised to plunder the wealth of the nation. US colonial military presence will also serve to drive a political wedge between Pakistan, India, Russia, Afghanistan, and Iran. More chaos. All this is imperial folly. Much human suffering will ensue from US foreign policy, and then the empire will collapse.
One must put these important immediate deadly-serious conflicts into perspective. All this manufactured human suffering that is due to imperialist domination of the region by the American capitalist plutocracy will soon end. Empires come and go, and this one is on the way down. Global warming, global ecosystem collapse, and the globally inherent instability of parliamentary governments that were long ago captured by capitalist concentrations of wealth portend global collapse.
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