Trump Administration: New initiatives a rehash of past political moves.
Moves by the Trump administration to launch their National Security Strategy (NSS) together with tax reforms in December are not new initiatives, having been tried before by previous administrations. They also form a typical far-right approach to the dysfunctional political malaise which is of their own making.
There is also an interesting link into a far-right, secretive organisation which would appear to have been instrumental in rallying support for Trump during his presidential election campaign last year.
In December, the Trump administration launched their much publicised NSS. The rambling document of between 55 and 70 pages can be reduced to four main areas of interest: Defence of homeland doctrines, US prosperity, advancing US interests, Peace through Strength policies. The same week the administration also introduced moves to reform the US tax system, which will greatly benefit those in the corporate sector and a minority of middle-income earners.
The US has been greatly troubled with domestic terrorism in recent years, in part due to US cultivation of 'intelligence assets' and jihadists to disrupt Sh'ia governments in the Arab world and a failure to introduce effective domestic gun control: intelligence assets have come back to bite the hand which fed them, far-right political groups have successfully lobbied for increased access to firearms and have become a well-known part in the Washington corridors of power. Moves by the Trump administration to introduce defence of homeland doctrines are therefore unlikely to be effective. In fact, they are much more likely to be used as draconian legislation against political opposition figures.
Secondly, the notion of US prosperity is closely linked to moves to reform the tax system with a 570-page document, reducing company tax from 35 per cent to 21 per cent. The package has also delivered temporary tax cuts to about 23 per cent of US earners although only enforceable until 2025. (1) There are two further factors which have to be taken into consideration: while the reforms will allow a massive spur to the US economy, it will also be likely to add a further US$1bn to the present deficit over the next decade. (2)
The moves have taken place at a time when government spending is already exceeding income and a general decline in world GDP growth in the period from 1961 to 2016 of over four per cent to about half its previous level, with US rates dropping in the same period from 2.30 per cent to 1.49 per cent (3) The US economy is in long-term decline together with most advanced, industrial countries. It has only been the rapid rise of China which has given world economic statistics any real credibility for two decades.
Against a backcloth of declining US GDP, the statement by US Defence Secretary Jim Mathis that 'America's strongest weapon was its GDP' has remained curiously out-of-step with reality. (4) The country is, in his reckoning, only about half as strong as it was over half a century ago.
When making the statement 'our strategy is to advance American influence in the world, but this begins with building up our wealth and power at home', Trump looked out of touch with economic facts. (4) The world looks very different for the millions of working poor in the US dependent upon food banks and the dire position the US finds itself in across the world. In reality, their social-standing can only be described as dismal, and laughable. Trump, and his bizarre behaviour and attitudes have alienated even more support.
The notion of 'advancing US interests’ would also appear to have included to 'increase quadrilateral co-operation with Japan, Australia and India' as evidence the US is incapable of acting alone. (5) The economic rise of China has altered the traditional balance of forces, presenting a credible challenge to traditional hegemonic positions. In fact, the recent NSS document has stated the US must 'rally our allies and like-minded partners – to confront shared threats'. (6) And, it has already been acknowledged in Canberra the proposed quadrilateral diplomatic relations have been taken to 'vow the US will remain closely engaged in the Indo-Pacific'. (7) Serious questions arise about why allies should act to promote US interests which might not be in their best interests, and why the Australian Prime Minister boasts of being ‘joined at the hip’ to the imperialist overlords. ‘Allies’ are simply those who allow themselves to be bossed around by US imperialism.
Finally, the notion of Peace through Strength is the legacy of the Reagan period where a spurious coalition of the same name was linked to the American Security Council and 171 affiliate organisations linked to 'authoritarian, collaborationist and fascist Right' groups. (8) While the stated aim of those lurking behind the slogan was to bargain from a strong position, they were pursing far-right agendas. It was noted some of those behind the previous coalition 'represent the extreme politics of the national organisation' including those associated with the Lyndon LaRouche networks which 'frequently organise around anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi themes' including collaboration with the Ku Klux Klan. (9)
Both the NSS and tax reform documents reflect a growing credibility gap between the Trump administration and the vast majority of sensible people who view the exploits of those associated with the US presidency as evidence of dysfunction within the higher levels of the Republican Party and the corridors of power in Washington and the Pentagon. The mid-term elections are a year away, they are likely to provide a theatre of spectacular drama and not much else.
1. Tax bill gives Trump a win at last, Australian, 21 December 2017.
3. GDP Growth (Annual Per Centage), World Bank.
4. Prosperity is strength for Trump, Australian, 19 December 2017.
5. Tough-talking President takes a blunt instrument to the bullies of Beijing, Australian, 20 December 2017.
6. Trump strategy proves US not in Asia decline, Australian, 20 December 2017.
7. National Security Strategy, The Atlantic, 8 December 2017.
8. Tough-talking, op.cit., 20 December 2017.
9. Old Nazis, the New Right and the Republican Party, Russ Bellant, (Boston, 1988), page 30.
10. Ibid., page 50.