|The Phony War, Trump, and the U.S. Ruling Class by Steve Jonas|
December 8, 2016
In the years leading up to the start of the Second World War in 1939, the Soviet Union tried vainly on several different occasions to get Britain and France to join together in an anti-German pact, in an attempt to deter Nazi aggression in Eastern Europe. For a variety of reasons, the two Western Powers declined to do so. Then on August 25, 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the “Nazi-Soviet Pact.” For the Nazis, the primary objective was to continue their “Drang nach Osten” (Drive to the East). Previously, the British and the French, refusing Soviet pleas to join in a pact to prevent the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, had strongly encouraged it with the Munich Pact in September, 1938. For the Soviet Union, the Pact was intended to buy time before the eventual German invasion that Hitler had been writing about since the publication of Mein Kampf in 1926. (That they made very poor use of the purchased time [and territory] is another story).
On September 1, 1939, using a false flag event, the German’s invaded Poland. Great Britain and France, citing hastily drawn-up treaty obligations to Poland, declared war on September 3. Germany rolled up its share of Poland (which included Warsaw) in about five weeks. The English and the French mobilized, The English sent an expeditionary force to France. There things stood, with very minor actions (including some at sea), until Germany invaded Norway and Denmark in April, 1940 and the Low Countries (Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg) on May 10, 1940. All of a sudden, the war in the West was on in no uncertain terms. That interim period on the Western Front, in which little or nothing happened, had been quickly labelled 'The Phoney War.' It was probably first given its name by the isolationist U.S. Senator, William Borah.
By all accounts, Hitler did not expect to be invading Poland with his Panzer divisions, opposed only by a Polish army heavily dependent on cavalry, in September, 1939. Thus, on the Western Front, the Phoney War. By all accounts, the Trumpites really did not expect to win the Presidency, although their hopes rose significantly upon the interference in the election by FBI Director, William Comey. But win they did. Unprepared and poorly organized for Transition as they apparently were (under the “leadership” of Chris Christie [who?]), I fully expected that Trump would do nothing more than issue his usual blusters on a periodic basis and also try to make nice, in a Trumpian sort of way, now and then.
Only after Inauguration would he then launch into full Trump mode, fully and openly in league with the reactionary forces that were increasingly gathering around him after the leading Far Rightist Steve Bannon, et al, joined the campaign in August. It happens that the “et al” included Trump’s first really big money outside man, Steve Mercer, a major factor in the “hedge fund” wing of the ruling class. Trump is rich (or at least he has claimed to be rich although declining to prove it through, let us say, release of his income tax returns), but he had never been a certified member of that class. Now it was becoming clear that Trump was beginning to seriously move towards it.
And so, I must say that I thought Trump would engage in his version of the Phoney War right up until January 21, 2017, and then Boom! But I was wrong. Trump is nothing if not a clever marketer, particularly of himself and his name. And so, almost since the election he has been engaging in a Trumpian Phoney War while also making it very clear what the Trumpian Real War will be like, once he takes power. And so, on the one hand he makes nice. “We all have to come together.” He meets with the top leadership of The New York Times and, after slamming them as hard as he could during the campaign, he says words to the effect of that The Times is a great and important news organization. (This, by the way, has to be seen in the context of his threatening libel suits and the “loosening of libel laws [which, by the way, cannot be done at the Federal level] during the campaign.)
He further makes nice with Megyn Kelly, Hillary Clinton, saying that she is a “nice person” and she shouldn’t be “locked up” (except when he threatens to try to do just that when she supports Jill Stein’s recount effort), Mitt Romney (a man of no principle whatsoever), Jeff Bezos, Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, even Al Gore (who reveals just how much of a DLC-er/neoliberal he really is by even agreeing to meet with Trump, who says he has an “open mind” on global warming/climate change, except that he has appointed a bunch of people who give the lie to that statement), and so on and so forth. “Making nice,” he doesn’t talk much about immigration policy or abortion rights, and so on and so forth on other Rightist policies too.
BUT, when it comes to his announced appointments, that’s where The Phoney War ends and the The Real War on — you name it — begins. BY HIS APPOINTMENTS THOU SHALT KNOW HIM. The only difference between now and Western Europe in 1939 is that they are both going on at the same time. Whether Trump does this consciously or haphazardly is impossible to tell, at least for an outsider. But it is happening. After disdaining it in broad brush-strokes during the campaign, he is now clearly lining up with the dominant sector of the ruling class, represented as it always has been by the Republican Party. And the agenda is the same: cut taxes for the wealthy, slash regulation, increase military spending (whether there are going to be more wars or not or just further pillaging of the treasury is still unclear), strengthen the “drug war,” slash the pitifully small “safety net,” expand fossil fuel production, and so on and so forth.
All of his appointments, so far, represent the ruling class and ruling class interest, writ large. His Secretary of Education-designate, Betsy DeVos, is a long-time proponent of privatized public education and strong enemy of one of the last bastions of U.S. trade unionism that has any strength, that of the teachers. His pick for Commerce, the billionaire Wilbur Ross, made at least part of his fortune by buying distressed companies, stripping them of usable assets, and selling off the remainder and the jobs that went with it. (Sound familiar? Romney did that sort of thing with Bane Capital, too.) And the Treasury Secretary, another billionaire, comes from the same Goldman Sachs that Trump so maligned during the campaign, and as a banker (another Trump-maligned group, during the campaign) made tons of money from mortgage foreclosures during the last great (2008) financial crisis.
Rep. Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon who will be taking over Health and Human Services, wants to make over the health care delivery system to buttress the interests of the insurance companies and private-practice fee-for-service medicine already in place by Obama policy. This is now again and overtly at the top of the healthcare overhaul list. (And you can be sure that capping malpractice claims will be in there as well.) Jeff Sessions at Justice? Well it will become “Justice” in the usual sense of the word for such efforts as civil rights litigation (Sessions is against it), and he has vowed to reinvigorate the “Drug War” (marijuana, which kills practically nobody, as against tobacco products which are still killing about 480,000 persons per year, is such a dangerous drug, donchaknow) which will automatically expand mass incarceration, all of which benefits the private prison industry.
Then there’s Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao (talk about “draining the swamp,” ho, ho, ho), for Transportation (about which she apparently knows little), a former Secretary of Labor who made a name for herself with her anti-union policies. One could go on and on (an EPA policy guy who is a climate change-denier, a possible choice for Interior, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who wants to open up all Federal land to drilling and fracking, a strong anti-labor businessman for the Labor Dept.). And the CEO of Exxon for Sec. State? Can’t get any more ruling class running the State (at State) than that, can we?
But one has to finish up with Ben Carson. Not only is he one of the most poorly informed people ever to run for President (except possibly for Trump himself), but just think of a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who thinks that poverty is the fault of the poor. (Of course, that thought has been around since the time of the Elizabethan Poor Laws, so it does have something going for it.) Since he does come across as not particularly well-educated, he must have been a superb micro-carpenter and perhaps had something going for him that had nothing to do with medicine to become Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at one of the finest hospitals in the country, Johns Hopkins. I would love to know the inside story of how he ever got that appointment, but it’s unlikely that it will ever come out. And, just like the Vice-President-Elect, Carson is a Dominionist.
SO. While the Trump-makes-nice Phoney War is underway (except for his Tweetish rants, which we will not get into here), the Real Trump War on the Nation is well underway. And from Jan. 21, 2017, onwards, watch out U.S.
A couple of afterthoughts.
First, the well-thought-out beginning-of-the-abandonment of the One China Policy looks like it could be the beginning of a campaign to replace Russia as Enemy-No.-1 with China. As is well-known, Putin and Trump said nice things about each other during the campaign. We simply do not know how much Trump has invested in Russia and vice-versa. And as for “Russian aggression,” the Georgian excursion was to protect a Russian-speaking minority, and went no further, while the Crimean excursion was to protect a Russian-speaking majority in that province as well as to secure Russia’s only warm-water port. Not to mention the certified referendum vote was over 90% in favor of returning to the Russian fold. Thus, all this talk about Russia’s aggression”, or “Russia’s Crimea annexation” (smells of Hitler, doesn’t it?), or Putin’s Crimean land grab, is so much malicious poppycock.
And any Russian “designs on the Baltic States” are in the real world about as fake news as that put out by the son and close counsel of the incoming National Security Advisor concerning the Clintons and a child-sex ring, the by now notorious “Pizzagate”.
Second, as for Boeing, I think that the threat to cancel the contract for a new set of Air Force Ones may have to do with Trump’s wanting to have his own plane done over at government expense and then make money on renting it each time he flies anywhere. (That’s technically and security-wise impossible, of course. Conflict of interest aside, for one thing his Boeing 757 is much too small. But reality is not known to stop Trump much.) OR, it may be a clear indication that Trump is intent on cancelling the Iran Deal (to the extent that he can do that given that there are five other signatories who have indicated that they have no interest doing so) and that he (and his foreign policy people of course) are VERY unhappy about the done Boeing contract to sell 100 jetliners to Iran. And if you think that a Boeing lobbyist will be able to get in the door on that one, you have another think coming.
As if to highlight my description of what’s going on in the Trump-Transition, two days after he had the meeting on climate change that Al Gore, ever the DLCer/neoliberal (stupidly) agreed to --- part of the Phoney War --- Trump appoints as Director of the Environmental Protection Administration Scott Pruitt, global warming/climate change denier and mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry, as well as Attorney General for Oklahoma, home of the Fracking-Induced-Earthquake, who has spent tons of taxpayer money in his ongoing attempt to poison the air and water --- think non-regulation of water supplies and waste water contaminated by arsenic, lead, and mercury --- by demolishing the EPA and everything it does. What does the ruling class want more than that? Perhaps even more than it wants further tax-cuts-for-the-rich. Pruitt is perhaps the leading avatar of the Real Trump War on the Nation.
April 21, 2011
The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces -- coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other U.S. cities.