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Rupture ou continuité ?

US Foreign Policy of Chaos under Trump: the Wrecker and the Puppeteers

La politique étrangère du chaos sous Trump: le casseur et les marionnettistes
Pierre Guerlain

Résumés

L’article qui suit analyse les changements et continuités de la politique étrangère des États-Unis sous la direction (supposée) du président élu en 2016, Donald Trump. Il montre en premier lieu l’immense décalage entre la rhétorique de la campagne et les décisions prises effectivement depuis son arrivée au pouvoir. Puis il aborde la question de qui formule la politique étrangère et défend l’idée que Trump n’a pas les compétences nécessaires pour la faire lui-même ce qui l’expose à une quantité d’influences diverses. L’article aborde ensuite les domaines où le trumpisme n’est pas vraiment rejeté par des opposants inauthentiques et aborde la question du Russiagate (espionnage russe) qui semble être plus une construction intérieure mise en place par un parti démocrate qui refuse d’analyser son rôle dans la défaite électorale qu’un objet de relations internationales en tant que tel. La conclusion voit dans Trump le visage du déclin américain mais pas sa cause, car celui-ci, lié à l’extension des responsabilités impériales, a commencé bien avant son élection.

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Texte intégral

Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength.
Donald Trump, April 2016.

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and the fury like the world has never seen.
Donald Trump, August 2017.

  • 1 See Alain Joxe, L’Empire du chaos: les Républiques face à la domination américaine dans l (...)
  • 2 Stephen M. Walt, “Welcome to the Dick Cheney Administration,” Foreign Policy, March 23, 2018. <http (...)

1Nearly all observers of US foreign policy agree about one aspect of the Trump presidency: the rhetoric of the president elected in 2016 is inflammatory and totally at odds with how former presidents chose to express themselves publicly. The word “chaos” appears in many contexts to describe the Trump administration and is certainly justified after just more than a year and half in power. With Donald Trump nothing seems to be the same as before, yet even this impression created by Trump’s use of language, which evinces vulgarity and ignorance, needs to be assessed and analyzed. The word “chaos” had already been used before in relation to US foreign policy, notably when George W. Bush was the president but maybe not always “the decider.”1 Stephen Walt therefore quite aptly describes the Trump administration after the firing of Tillerson and the appointments of Pompeo, his former head of the CIA as the new Secretary of State as the “Dick Cheney Administration.” Dick Cheney was a forerunner of the “king of chaos” who legitimized torture.2 Yet the consensus about the nature of chaos is superficial and a major fault line exists between analysts who consider that Trump’s foreign policy is sui generis and the source of the current chaos and those who note the rhetorical outrages but point to many lines of continuity. This paper will adopt the latter interpretation.

  • 3 Joel Whitebook, “Trump’s Method, our Madness,” The New York Times, March 20, 2017: <https (...)

2In March 2017, a psychoanalyst analyzed the disorientation felt by Americans exposed to the lies and deceptions of their president.3 Personal confusion may not be of the same order as collective confusion but ways to deal with it are somewhat similar. Our task in order to analyze what one must call, for want of a better expression, Trump’s foreign policy, is to discover the method beneath Trump’s apparent madness. Before analyzing specific cases of US interaction with the world, an overview of the shifting positions taken by Trump while he was on the campaign trail and his decisions while president is in order.

From campaign trail demagoguery to presidential ineptitude

3During the campaign, Trump praised some countries or leaders and attacked others, often viciously. Thus he used the word “rape” in connection with Mexicans and China. As president, the list of his decisions shows a huge gap between his demagogic words and his presidential deeds. Trump praised Putin who, he thought, had respect for his intelligence. He even called on Russia to release the emails of his rival. This was a major departure from ordinary American presidential rhetoric which had mostly been suspicious of Russia or quite hostile to that country – except for George W. Bush who had praised the Russian president and had even claimed he had seen his soul. Trump’s apparent pro-Russian rhetoric worried many centers of power in the US and led to a major political development which came to be known as “Russiagate.” The decisions made by the Trump administration, however, do not indicate a rapprochement with Russia, on the contrary relations are worse than they were when Cold Warrior Reagan was in power. At the end of March 2018, the Trump administration expelled 60 Russian diplomats after an assassination attempt had targeted a Russian double agent in Britain.

  • 4 In a Facebook post he wrote: “Saudi Arabia and many of the countries that gave vast amo (...)

4On the other hand, Trump was scathing in his criticisms of Saudi Arabia that he accused of being behind 9/11, of killing gays and enslaving women.4 He also attacked the country which gave the Clinton Foundation significant amounts of money. Trump as a critic of homophobia and defender of women is not a topic that is very common but in relation to Saudi Arabia Trump, at times, sounded like Amnesty International or left-liberal thinkers. In May 2017, he visited the country and signed major weapons deals, he famously got along with the young prince called MBS short for Mohammed bin Salman. The war in Yemen was not even a bone of contention between the Crown Prince and the former scathing critic of the country supporting radical Islamic terrorism.

  • 5 The Mexican president who refuses to pay for a wall between the US and his country canc (...)

5Trump made racist and xenophobic statements about Mexicans and Mexico during the campaign and he is still talking about building a wall between the US and its major trading partner south of the border. He also wants to modify NAFTA but the shape of his relationship to Mexico is not clear.5

  • 6 See, among others Noam Chomsky, “NATO is a global intervention force run by the United (...)
  • 7 Pierre Guerlain, “OTAN : dépasser les oppositions superficielles”, Décodeurs 360, 17 ju (...)

6Trump also criticized NATO for being “obsolete”, sounding in this area like some people on the left or like an anti-war libertarian.6 This apparent anti-NATO stance worried both the neoconservatives and the liberal interventionists. However, when Trump went to Poland in July 2017, where he was greeted enthusiastically by the far-right government and the people in the streets, he strongly defended NATO and notably article 5 in the treaty which guarantees assistance to all members in case of an attack. However, in May 2017, he had criticized NATO partners for not spending enough on defense and therefore not sharing the burden fairly with the United States. In July 2018 he both criticized NATO and asked the European members to spend 4% of their GDP on defense, which amounted to making the alliance stronger, though maybe not more necessary.7 So the contradictions or contradictory statements are not limited to the campaign versus the presidency but also, in typical Trumpian style, pervade official statements from the president.

  • 8 “China accused of trade ‘rape’ by Donald Trump,” BBC News, May 2, 2016. <http://www.bbc.com/news/av (...)
  • 9 Tony Munroe & Christian Shepherd, “Trump heaps praise on ‘very special’ Xi in China vis (...)

7In relation to China, the wild rhetorical swings are also noticeable: from the country cheating or even “raping” the US,8 notably by intervening on the value of its currency, China became a valued ally in the North Korean crisis and its leader, Xi Jing Ping who lavishly welcomed Trump in the Forbidden City, was praised fulsomely. The president’s praise for the Secretary General of the Communist Party and for the country he leads had obvious Trumpian tones: “Who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit.”9 In other words, Trump was praising what he thought was a “China first” policy to legitimize his own “America first” policy. He thereby praised taking advantage of other countries, showing his own model of international relations based upon a win-lose approach and akin to a business deal or a sports game. Xi flattered him in order to better win the game as defined by Trump himself, exactly what the Saudis did too. In early March 2018, Trump even praised Xi Jinping for his “tenure for life’ presidency.”

8On Israel, there has been consistency between his rhetoric before and after the election and his campaign promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is being partially implemented. Both Clinton and Trump tried to outdo each other in support of Israel and went to the annual meeting of AIPAC and both had strong pro-Israel backers, Sheldon Adelson for Trump and Haim Saban for Clinton. In the US political landscape, positions in relation to Israel do not vary a lot and even Obama, who had a terrible personal relationship with Netanyahu, was a strong backer of that country.

9Some regions of the world hardly figured in Trump’s campaign speech, regions he did not even bother to insult but he made up for this oversight after entering the White House. Thus he referred to African countries and Haiti as “shithole countries” which showed his mastery of insulting language and his lack of diplomatic skills. Trump insults countries in which US special forces operate, sometimes unofficially. He creates chaos in the relations with countries where the US has specific interests, in Mexico for instance.

Who shapes US foreign policy? The dangerous “adults” in the room

10The key question therefore is: is there a Trump foreign policy or a Trump doctrine? This question may be considered absurd when Trump has repeatedly shown his ignorance of major aspects of policy, both domestic and foreign. When his short attention span and thin skin are no secret for anyone, talking about a Trump doctrine might seem like a joke. Yet the Bush doctrine was also problematic on the same score and it is customary to talk about a doctrine as if the president himself and by himself has crafted it, which is rarely the case.

11In December 2017, a new National Security Strategy document was published with introductory remarks by Trump. In these remarks Trump states:

We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth. We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interest.10

  • 11 Ibidem, 12

12Here he is parroting the document itself which states (“China and Russia challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity”).11 Yet in the very next paragraph he commends Putin:

  • 12 Ibid.

As an example, yesterday I received a call from President Putin of Russia thanking our country for the intelligence that our CIA was able to provide them concerning a major terrorist attack planned in St. Petersburg, where many people, perhaps in the thousands, could have been killed. They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event, with no loss of life. And that’s a great thing, and the way it’s supposed to work.12

13It is quite clear that there is no logical continuity between the two paragraphs or between what the document actually argues and the spin put on it by Trump. China and Russia are presented as enemies who want to erode American power, but for Trump, an example of this is actually an example of cooperation with Putin.

  • 13 Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, “Neoconning the Trump White House,” The American Conservative, January 16, 2 (...)
  • 14 For a political portrait of John Bolton read: Medea Benjamin, “Ten Reasons to Fear John (...)

14One key question about the Trump administration is who shapes policy? Various answers are provided about who shapes what policy: Steve Bannon who conceived the Muslim ban but was fired in August 2017, James Mattis, the Defense secretary who was nicknamed “patron saint of chaos”, or even the UN representative Nikki Haley, who does not always seem to be on the same page as the president. They are – or have been before being fired –all shapers of foreign policy. General McMaster, the National Security Advisor, and General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are also two of the sources of doctrine and policies. Many neoconservatives, although they took stands against Trump during the campaign and belong to the so-called “never Trump” camp, have achieved influence in the administration and work well with Nikki Haley. Nadia Schadlow, for instance, is a neoconservative close to McMaster who had a prominent role in writing the National Security Strategy released in December 2017. A piece in the American Conservative confirms the rising influence of neoconservatives and is therefore entitled: “Neoconning the White House.”13 The firing of McMaster did not put an end to this neoconning, for John Bolton who replaces him as National Security adviser is a Bush administration neocon with well-known credentials.14

15Trump is not personally involved in the minutiae of policy and lets others do the work for him, in the way a CEO may give orders to his underlings. Since he is mostly interested in giving the impression “he is winning,” Trump delegates power to those working supposedly for him from whom he expects personal loyalty. This makes him the ideal puppet and explains the huge disconnection between what he says and what US policy really is. On Syria and Afghanistan, Trumps does the exact opposite of what he advocated for a long time before and during the campaign.

16With Pompeo at the State Department and Bolton as his adviser, he has already shown he is even more in favor of anti-Iran policies and actions but he will let others shape them. His tearing up the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 underlines the influence of these two close associates, and of the Israeli and Saudi governments, and the complete absence of influence of European allies, including the French president whom considers Trump as a friend. The end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) shows both Trump’s nuisance power (“although I do not know much about geopolitics, I decide without listening to my allies”) and reliance on others to determine and implement policies (Bolton, Pompeo, Netanyahu, MBS in Saudi Arabia). The violation of this accord not only shows the word of the US cannot be trusted, but it also kills two birds with one stone: the accord and European economic and diplomatic competition. European companies will have to toe the line of American law and European leaders who pleaded with Trump have all been humiliated and rendered almost powerless.

  • 15 “H.R. McMaster out, John Bolton in,” The Economist, March 22, 2018. <https://www.econom (...)
  • 16 Adam Garfinkle, “Exit Interview,” The American Interest, January 10, 2007. <https://www (...)
  • 17 “ …the only solution is to change the regime itself. And that’s—and that’s why, before (...)
  • 18 Rebecca Kheel, “Pompeo confirms ‘a couple hundred’ Russians killed in Syria,” The Hill, (...)

17Bolton is an anti-Russian hawk who declared: “Let Putin instead hear the rumble of artillery and NATO tank tracks conducting more joint field exercises with Ukraine’s military.”15 In an interview he declared: “I think part of the problem is that too many Americans don’t live in a climate of fear.”16 He favors changing the regime in Iran as he told a group of so-called Iranian opponents, Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), which is considered a terrorist organization by the US.17 He supported regime change in Iraq and was not chastened by the chaos and costs which resulted from this. Pompeo’s appointment adds to the general confusion. During his confirmation hearing, he bragged, about the number of Russians killed in Syria by US forces, which supposedly showed Trump’s toughness on that country.18 He was confirmed by a 57-42 vote which indicates that many Democrats share the military preference of the GOP and the Trump administration.

  • 19 National Security Strategy of the United States, op. cit., 24.

18The National Security Strategy document is a typical neoconservative text, which could have been released by the George W. Bush team. It even states: “Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies,”19 thus contradicting Trump who has consistently argued that there was no collusion between his team and Russia and does not accept the idea of Russia undermining the legitimacy of democracy.

19The question then is whether Trump actually read the document he prefaced. He quite likely relied on the hearsay of some advisers or members of his family about the contents of this document which, in effect, mocks him. At this stage, we could conclude that there is a doctrine but that Trump is not aware of it, and therefore US foreign policy has nothing to do with Trump who is ill-informed but easily manipulated. A Russophobic and Sinophobic policy can then coexist with a pro-Putin and pro-Xi personal policy. Some contradictions become easy to elucidate in this way.

20Yet Trump is not only a president who is manipulated by his advisors and secretaries, the so-called “adults”, he can change tack on major issues, and he is still an actor of US foreign policy. His ignorance and meddling play a part, for instance when his then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, tried to mediate between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in their recent fallout and Trump, apparently unaware that the US had a huge military base in Qatar, sided with Saudi Arabia. The Al Udeid Air Base is the largest in the region with 11,000 military personnel.

21A situation like this creates confusion among foreign leaders and political scientists who want to know who decides in order to know who has the real power. Sometimes a leader is bypassed and communication between secret services or between armed forces replace, or complement, official diplomatic communication. Yet Trump is a very interventionist know-nothing and his derogatory or insulting remarks cannot be ignored, they are a form of un-diplomacy or anti-diplomacy. The confusion among world leaders is of the same type as the confusion among Americans – created by Trump’s wild contradictory statements and lies.

22It did not take long for Russia to realize that Trump was not the prime mover of Russian-American relations. Not only were sanctions on Russia passed by Congress in such a decisive way that Trump could not impose his veto, but NATO was reinforced, military maneuvers took place close to Russia, diplomats expelled by the Obama administration were not invited back, other diplomats were expelled, and lethal weapons were sold to Ukraine. In Syria, US missiles targeted the régime of Assad, an ally of Russia, and US special forces still operate in conjunction with groups opposed to Assad and Russia. Whatever Trump says about Putin or Russia, the reality of US-Russian relations is so negative that political analysts talk about a new Cold War.

  • 20 James Mann, “The Adults in the Room,” The New York Review of Books, October 26, 2017: <(...)

23The neoconservatives and the military-industrial complex are in charge of relations with Russia and Trump erupts from time to time, feels cornered by the Russiagate investigation and both admires Putin and agrees with the hostile anti-Russian drift of his official strategy. Those in charge of relations with Russia are sometimes called the “adults” in the White House. An influential article in the New York Review of Books is entitled “The Adults in the Room”.20 Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, McMaster and John Kelly, the White House chief of staff since July 2017, are said to be these adults. These adults, apart from Tillerson who was the CEO of Exxonmobil and said to be close to Putin, are all generals and their “adulthood” is of the muscular type. John Kelly actually controls who gets access to Trump and maybe even what he reads or rather the pictures and graphs he glimpses at. Two of these “adults” were fired in quick succession in March 2018.

  • 21 Kim Sengupta, “Donald Trump can’t be trusted on foreign policy – and his top team know (...)
  • 22 Lauren Gambino, “Donald Trump boasts that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong-un (...)

24These so-called adults are said to have a pact to control Trump and any foolish actions he might undertake,21 especially with his big nuclear button that is bigger than Kim Jung Un’s in North Korea.22 They are supposed to reassure Americans and foreign leaders that there is a consistent US foreign policy and leaders who can control childish moments of peevishness affecting the president. At one level it may work in this way: Trump threatens North Korea with “fire and fury” and at the UN, the one international body supposedly in charge of avoiding conflicts, he threatens to “totally destroy North Korea” which is, of course, a genocidal pronouncement, he insults the dictator ruling that country and taunts him (“little rocket man”) but the “adults” rein him in, they let him talk and brag while they carry out the real policy of the US. Trumps asks China for help, in exchange for abandoning a tougher stance on trade which underlines American powerlessness, and the “adults” make sure that there is no exchange of missiles. This may sound reassuring.

  • 23 “Trump transition: Who is General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis?,” BBC News, December 2, 2016. <http://www.bbc.c (...)
  • 24 Ben Norton, “Media Spent Months Lionizing General Who Defended Slaveholders’ Revolt,” F (...)

25Yet on other issues trigger-happy generals, who have relentlessly fought losing wars, are less reassuring. First, in a democracy elected civilian power is supposed to control the armed forces, not the other way around. Former generals are in charge of war and their track record is far from glorious. McMaster was responsible for the 2005 Tal Afar fiasco in Iraq which led to Petraeus’s “surge” two years later, another fiasco. Mattis is nicknamed “Mad Dog Mattis” and is famous for a piece of advice he gave his soldiers in Iraq: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” And another gem: “I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”23 John Kelly, an avowed admirer of the Confederacy and Robert E. Lee,24 shows his very peculiar conception of responsible adulthood in the following quote:

  • 25 Bruce Ackerman, “If ‘we don’t win anymore,’ why does Trump keep promoting generals?” Lo (...)

If you think this war against our way of life is over because some of the self-appointed opinion-makers and chattering class grow ‘war weary,’ because they want to be out of Iraq or Afghanistan, you are mistaken. This enemy is dedicated to our destruction. He will fight us for generations, and the conflict will move through various phases as it has since 9/11.25

  • 26 Office of the Secretary of Defense, The Nuclear Posture Review, CreateSpace Independent (...)

26So “the adults in the room” are enamored of wars and destruction without end, they were part of the wars that set fire to the world in Afghanistan and Iraq and they are in favor of more of the same. In short, they oppose war with North Korea because nuclear war leads to MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) and they know it, but “Mad Dog Mattis” and his two “adult” fellow generals might not see the madness of a war with Iran, a non-nuclear power, and see no reason to halt America’s permanent wars in Afghanistan or Syria or to reinvent a limited form of nuclear war.26 Bolton and Pompeo will not change this pattern, if anything they are even more in favor of military intervention, notably against Iran.

  • 27 See for instance: Charles M. Blow, “Trump’s Obama obsession,” The New York Times, June (...)

27Many analysts argue that Trump wants to undo everything that Obama achieved.27 This does not apply to Israel or the use of drones in illegal international killings but seems quite relevant in other areas. Iran is one of them. In 2015, the US, several European countries (France, Britain, Germany, Russia) and China signed an agreement with Iran that stopped Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It was the major achievement of the Obama administration: stopping nuclear proliferation and encouraging democratic forces in Iran in the hope that prosperity would come as a result of this agreement. Diplomacy rarely achieves such successes.

  • 28 Marc Lynch, “Gates: Saudis want to fight Iran to the last American,” Foreign Policy, De (...)

28Trump wanted to “tear up the accord” as he said in his campaign and he then proceeded to try to kill it. This time the so-called “adults” did not really restrain him. Hostility to Iran is supported by large centers of power in the US and abroad. Israel and Saudi Arabia are in a quasi-alliance, opposed to Iran, and would like to push the US into a new Middle East war. In 2010, the former defense secretary, Robert Gates, argued that the Saudis were ready to “fight the Iranians to the last American.”28 Israel is on the same line as AIPAC, the pro-Israeli lobby in the US. Major figures in the GOP, such as John McCain, who is usually very critical of Trump, are also very hostile to Iran. Trump was also very critical of Iran and the Iranian nuclear deal during his campaign, so in this case, the “adults” are on the same page as the ignorant bomb thrower – with the added bonus that it destroys Obama’s greatest achievement.

29From a geopolitical point of view, it might seem strange for a leader to supposedly be in the pocket of the president of a rival country, Putin, but close to war with one of his allies, Iran, and willing to impose sanctions on that country.

Going beyond superficial confusion

30In Trump’s “Alice in Wonderland” world, it might not be surprising for contradiction is the name of the game and for the neocons and the various military interventionists the contradiction does not matter: the president talks but policy is shaped by them. Russia is a major enemy which legitimizes increases in the military budget, whereas Iran is an enemy in the Middle East which is dangerous for Israel and Saudi Arabia, two close allies. There is consistency in the National Security State view and only rhetorical contradictions in Trump’s daily circus of uninformed statements. Trump does not formulate policy towards Iran any more than he does towards Russia, but his outbursts and demonizing are in synch with the ideas of his handlers.

  • 29 See Michael Grunwald, “The Trade Deal We Just Threw Overboard,” Politico, March/April 2 (...)

31As far as China is concerned, the contradictory statements by Trump reflect the battle between the so-called globalists versus the nationalists within the administration. Bannon was close to advocating war with China while Ivanka Trump and her husband who do business with China have a more traditional free trade approach. Trump keeps swinging from one pole to the other. He killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which pro-business forces in the GOP lamented but also made deals with China.29

32The nationalists around him have had some success in moving the administration away from neoliberal globalization towards a kind of nationalist capitalism. NAFTA will be renegotiated and here Trump’s zero sum game approach to trade seems to have won against free traders. Trump here, or rather the people who shape trade policy for him, is at odds with neoliberal elites and seems to be closer to critics of free trade deals on the left like Lori Wallach, the leader of Global Citizen’s Free Trade Watch. Trump campaigned on the devastation wrought by free trade and his message appealed to the losers of globalization. The explanation for this policy therefore differs from what motivates his support of Israel or his hostility to Iran. What Trump is doing though is not abolishing unfair competition with low-wage countries but repatriating the conditions of exploitation by cutting taxes on business and very wealthy people. Apple has decided to repatriate its taxes thus cheating the foreign countries of their legitimate revenue to benefit from the December 2017 tax cut law in the US. Trump is thus both implementing his nationalist zero-sum game theories and getting support from traditional tax-evading multinational companies. However, for many business sectors, such as Silicon Valley, Trump’s trade policies are not totally compensated by his plutocratic tax cutting policies. His anti-immigration stance is unpopular among some business sectors as well. Trump the plutocrat gives all his fellow plutocrats huge tax cuts and deregulation of the protection of the environment but not the trade policies some of them want.

  • 30 “US embassy cables: Hillary Clinton ponders US relationship with its Chinese ‘banker’,” (...)

33In this matter as in many others, his bark has proved fiercer than his bite: trade with China has not changed a lot and the scrapping of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has actually made China stronger. Obama used the TPP to isolate China and now it seems the US is frozen out of the emerging Chinese-dominated Pacific area. Trump does not seem to know how to deal with China and his actions actually reinforce the power of the tyrannical country which is also, in Hillary Clinton’s terms, America’s “banker.”30 The rise of Chinese hegemony may not be stoppable and the US is forced to cooperate with its rival on whom it depends for the financing of its deficit.

  • 31 Paul Blake, “Why Does Trump admire Strongmen leaders,” BBC News, 9 May, 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/n (...)
  • 32 John Roberts, “Trump: Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?,” Fox N (...)

34A pattern emerges in relation to China as well as to Russia: Trump admires strongmen31 such as Putin or Xi Jinping or Duterte, the murderous leader of the Philippines, or Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel but this admiration does not translate into specific policies. The US is close to Israel but it has always been so, Trump may have a better personal relationship with its leader but that is not a major factor in the geopolitical relationship between the two countries. Obama increased the annual military aid package to Israel to $ 3.8 billion, and except for one instance when he was a lame duck president, always shielded Israel from UN resolutions. In relation to Russia, Trump did say: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?”32 during the campaign, but then proceeded to restart the rhetorical Cold War and blamed Russia, while praising China, for their respective roles in the North Korea crisis.

  • 33 Jason Horowitz, “U.N., European Union and Pope Criticize Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement (...)

35Trump announced that the US would move its embassy to Jerusalem, a decision which was criticized by many international scholars and leaders for it is illegal in international law (though Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy law in 1995 but presidents chose not to act on it).33 This major departure from traditional US policy is not the result of a shift orchestrated by Trump alone or even by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a friend of Netanyahu and supporter of so-called Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer claimed he had recommended the move to the president and had advised him to declare Jerusalem the “undivided capital of Israel”, thereby erasing any Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem. There is clearly bi-partisan support for this policy which makes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even harder to tackle. Trump’s “madness” is therefore, in some cases, the madness of many. Criticism of the Trump decision was muted in the US and very vocal abroad.

36In Afghanistan, Trump reversed his campaign pledges and, like Obama before him, decided to send more troops and prolong this unwinnable asymmetrical war. Like his predecessor, he bowed to the pressures of the military-industrial complex so well represented in his Generals-filled Cabinet, and even tested a new super bomb called MOAB (Massive Ordinance Air Blast), quickly dubbed “mother of all bombs.” Here there is an unacknowledged continuity with the Obama administration and a clear delegation of power to the generals in charge of the war. On Iran, Trump makes a big show of his differences with Obama, but when there is continuity induced by the military-industrial complex, the rhetoric is quite different.

  • 34 See Pierre Guerlain, “Bernie Sanders et les pseudo-opposants à Trump,” Recherches inter (...)
  • 35 Fareed Zakaria, “Trump just became president,” CNN, April 7, 2017. <http://edition.cnn.com/videos/p (...)

37Trump’s zest for wrecking everything both domestically and internationally is greatly aided and abetted by either the GOP alone (tax cuts, environmental disaster) or by both parties, which are basically in agreement when it comes to increasing the defense budget. In September 2017, the Senate increased the defense budget by more than the Trump administration required. It is now officially close to $ 700 billion and 41 Democratic Senators approved the increase which, by itself, is the equivalent of the Russian defense budget.34 Trump’s military “madness” is shared by most Democrats, the same Democrats who, along with liberal pundits supposedly opposed to Trump, applauded his use of missiles in Syria in April 2017. For Fareed Zakaria, the author of The Post-American World and CNN anchor, Trump becomes president of the US when he indiscriminately bombs Syria.35 The enablers of the wrecker cannot blame him for his supposed madness.

  • 36 Gregory Wilpert & Doug Henwood, “Fire and Fury: Insights into the Fights Within the US (...)

38Doug Henwood called Trump a “bomb-thrower” in an interview about the book Fire and Fury to explain why professional politicians and moneyed elites were wary of him. He is also a literal bomb-thrower, like other presidents before him, notably George W. Bush who sowed chaos in the Middle East and fostered terrorism instead of fighting it.36

Russia, spying and the uses of Russiagate

  • 37 Mark Landler, “Trump, the Insurgent, Breaks With70 Years of American Foreign Policy,” T (...)
  • 38 Adam Johnson, “Trumpwashing 70 Years of Crimes: Under Guise of Criticizing President, T (...)

39Here we come to a parting of the ways among analysts of Trump’s foreign policy. Liberal analysts are involved in a re-writing of history and write as if Trump inaugurated a totally new page in the history of the US interactions with the world. Thus Mark Landler, a New York Times journalist in charge of foreign policy, wrote: “Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable.”37 This is the liberal view, the preferred one among Democrats, but it is problematic for it totally erases the many instances of US military interventions which did not respect the rules: in Iran, against a democratically elected leader (1953); in Vietnam, after the corrupt leader put in power by the US, Diem, was assassinated with the support of the US (1963); in Iraq, on the basis of the lie about weapons of mass destruction (2003); in Libya (2011), where the UN resolution was immediately violated…. When you throw in black sites, extraordinary renditions and Guantanamo, not much is left of the US as a respecter of the “liberal, rules-based international order.” As Adam Johnson argues, this is “Trumpwashing 70 Years of Crimes.”38

40Trump the wrecker, the liar and the narcissistic ignoramus, is indeed busy destroying everything he turns his attention to; he is not only helped in his destruction by many of his nominal critics, he is the latest in a long line of wreckers, more vulgar and undiplomatic, but not totally novel in his techniques. We could here paraphrase Polonius in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t”. The method in his madness has long American historical roots, roots Trump probably is not aware of, even if he and his military-industrial complex and neoconservative handlers act in accordance with them.

41Although Trump represents a mostly rhetorical departure from past presidents on some fronts and is a typical member of the War Party, although he has asked generals and neoconservatives to join his Cabinet, although Trump the plutocrat gives other plutocrats most of what they want except on free trade, Trump is hated by many members of the élite who much preferred Hillary Clinton, a military interventionist and a typical neoliberal in economics. The hatred of Trump has to do not only with his brash, rude style, his racism, sexism and xenophobia, his so-called populism or faux populism, that is his art of demagogic speech making, which enabled him to relate to the losers of globalization before he forgot about them. The neoconservatives who claimed to be in the “never-Trump” camp and joined with liberal interventionists did not totally overcome their distrust of the “King of chaos” even when on Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel and China, he adjusted his rhetoric to join them. His discourse about Russia intrigued and frightened them. Russia is America’s best enemy and Trump’s demagogic rhetoric deviated too much from the standard discourse.

  • 39 Matt Taibbi, “Putin Derangement Syndrome Arrives,” Rolling Stone, April 3, 2017. <https://www.rolli (...)
  • 40 Tom Engelhardt, “Donald Trump and the White Ford Bronco Presidency,” Common Dreams, Mar (...)

42Russia spies on the US, it is obvious, the US spies on everyone as we know since Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA, China spies on the US, Israel also spies on its best friend. There is and always has been an espionage war between all the powers. Russiagate however is something different though it is linked to this spy war. A strange case of what Matt Taibbi calls “Putin derangement syndrome” took over media discussion.39 The media that usually oppose Trump are going along with his circus game and following his every pronouncement so that it is, as Tom Engelhardt argues, “all Trump all the time” and “Big Brother isn’t watching you, you are watching him.”40

  • 41 Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, “The FBI hand behind Russia-gate,” Consortium News, (...)
  • 42 Matt Apuzzo, “Report Criticizes Comey but Finds no Bias in FBI Decisio Clinton,” The Ne (...)
  • 43 John Solomon, “Opinion: One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every Am (...)

43Russiagate, the suspicion of collusion between Trump and Russia, was fed by Trump’s incredibly incautious and boastful rhetoric about Putin and Russia. Even before the election when every expert and pundit (and Trump himself) was sure Clinton would win, US secret services were worried about a Trump victory. We know that inside the FBI some agents were preparing plans to stop a Trump victory, thanks mostly to the private exchange of emails between two FBI agents, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who communicated privately by text messages on official phones.41 Their messages were explicit: Mr. Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Ms. Page wrote. “No,” Mr. Strzok wrote. “No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”42 Both Strzok and Page testified to Congress (House Judiciary and Oversight/Government Reform Committees) and one message by Strzok to his lover is very explicit: these two agents knew that as far as collusion between Trump and Russia: “There’s no big there there”, in other words they knew Russiagate was a politically motivated red herring.43

  • 44 See Jeremy Scahill “More Than Just Russia—There’s a Strong Case for the Trump Team Coll (...)

44Then when Clinton’s stunning defeat happened, the candidate and her close allies started looking for reasons why she had not won as expected but immediately started looking for an explanation outside the US. We can also reasonably assume that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have colluded with the Trump campaign and we know they have had far more success than Russia in getting the policy decisions they wanted from the Trump administration.44

  • 45 Greg Palast, “GOP Stole 2016 Election Using Voter Suppression, Purging Ploys,” Truthdig(...)

45The key factors why what Michael Moore called the “Molotov cocktail” of the Trump candidacy worked were all domestic: the electoral system is antiquated and it enabled the candidate with almost 3 million fewer popular votes to win in the electoral college, the purging of voter rolls was “the fraud of fraud” which purged more than a million voters notably in swing states and most of the purged voters were African Americans, Asian Americans or Latinos. Greg Palast has studied this theft of the election in detail and he claims, with solid statistical evidence that the GOP stole the election, not Russia.45 This in itself is enough to explain why Clinton was cheated of her victory. Strange then that the anti-Trump people in the “Resistance” are not fighting tooth and nail against this blatant form of racism and voter suppression.

  • 46 See the account given by the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee: Donna Br (...)

46There are other reasons to explain why many Obama voters stayed away from the election or even voted for Trump although they knew about his many character flaws. Clinton’s closeness to Wall Street, her insensitive remarks about “deplorables” voting for Trump, her spending more time with Hollywood donors (including Weinstein a major Democratic donor) than campaigning in Rust Belt states. Clinton chose to explain her defeat by blaming mostly Russia and never explained why the democratic Party had cheated to stop Sanders in the primaries.46 She had called Trump “Putin’s puppet” during the campaign and she resorted to the same trope to attack him after the election.

  • 47 Mallory Shelbourne, “Schumer: Trump ‘really dumb’ for attacking intelligence agencies,” (...)
  • 48 Tim Hains, “Former CIA Official Phil Mudd Warns Trump: ‘Think Again’ About War With Int (...)

47Trump is involved in a war with the secret services and he is constantly shooting himself in the foot, lambasting the very services that work for the president and using the same simplistic rhetoric for his enemies in the secret services as he is with his deprived supporters. Chuck Schumer declared that Trump was really dumb to take on the secret services and he warned him: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”47 A former CIA official, Philip Mudd, was even more explicit in his threats, he declared while addressing the president, officially his boss: “You’ve been around for 13 months. We’ve been around since 1908. I know how this game is going to be played. We’re going to win.”48

48The “six ways from Sunday” are still developing. There is a special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, the former FBI director in charge of an investigation after Trump fired the previous director of the FBI, James Comey. The former administration had a report published in January 2017 though the public version was only part of it and an “assessment” only. There has so far been no proof of collusion, but since Trump’s business dealings are also under investigation, it is likely that the FBI will find numerous shady dealings, some of them with Russians. Trump might also be accused of obstruction of justice even if there are no signs of collusion. His reckless words and actions do amount to stupidity and confirm Schumer’s judgment.

49Jackson Lears, a Professor of history at Rutgers who published a most interesting analysis of Russiagate, aptly writes:

  • 49 Jackson Lears, “What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking,” London Re (...)

We can gauge the corrosive impact of the Democrats’ fixation on Russia by asking what they aren’t talking about when they talk about Russian hacking. For a start, they aren’t talking about interference of other sorts in the election, such as the Republican Party’s many means of disenfranchising minority voters. Nor are they talking about the trillion dollar defence budget that pre-empts the possibility of single-payer healthcare and other urgently needed social programmes; nor about the modernisation of the American nuclear arsenal which Obama began and Trump plans to accelerate, and which raises the risk of the ultimate environmental calamity, nuclear war – a threat made more serious than it has been in decades by America’s combative stance towards Russia.49

50An academic study produced by three professors on the vexed question of the 2016 election comes up with strong arguments against the story of massive Russian interference. The authors argue that: “on the evidence thus far it seems likely that the number of minds changed or immobilized by any Russian trolls could not have been large by comparison with all the other sources bombarding voters.” Clearly a case of a mountain made out of a molehill for partisan reasons.50 Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst (for 27 years), argues there is evidence that the CIA itself planted bugs in the computers of the DNC (Democratic National Council) which started the whole Russiagate affair.51

51Trump, like all other presidents, is contained and dictated to by the Establishment or “double government” he rails against. John Kennedy’s reputed speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, explained in an article in 1967:

  • 52 Theodore Sorensen, New York Times Magazine, “You Get To Walk To Work,” May 19, 1967. <h (...)

Presidents rarely, if ever, make decisions – particularly in foreign affairs – in the sense of writing their conclusions on a clean slate.… The basic decisions, which confine their choices, have all too often been previously made.52

  • 53 Michael J. Glennon, National Security and Double Government, New York: Oxford Universit (...)
  • 54 James Bovard, “Seymour Hersh and the Disappearing Iconoclast,” The American Conservativ (...)
  • 55 Pierre Guerlain, “Russiagate ou comment casser la gauche,” Recherches internationales, <https://www (...)

52Michael J. Glennon documents several such cases in his 2015 book, notably how Obama’s drone policy was imposed upon him by four hold-overs from the Bush administration (Gates, Brennan, Blair, Morell). 53 Yet as James Bovard argues: “The mainstream media continues to pursue Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential campaign like Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick.”54 Russiagate has one main purpose: to destroy the Left and really progressive ideas.55

The face of decline, not the cause of it

53Liberal analysts, who tend to forget the past crimes of the US and now even lionize George W. Bush for his criticism of Trump, also make a mistake about diplomacy and international relations. Diplomacy is not a morality tale and it involves or should involve not escalating tensions, avoiding wars or the destruction of the planet. So the nature of various régimes cannot be the only factor in relations.

  • 56 See John Feffer, “North Korea, The Costs of War, Calculated,” Common Dreams, December 1 (...)
  • 57 See Sarah Lazarre, “Liberals Are Criticizing the Korea Summit From the Right. Here’s Wh (...)

54Russia is an autocratic régime where there is little freedom of the press, China is a tyranny with a huge bank account, Iran is a theocracy with some democratic elements, North Korea is a terrible dictatorship, Saudi Arabia a tyrannical theocracy, Israel a democracy that constantly flaunts international law like the US. Yet today, what should matter is not régime change, however ugly the régime is, as the North Korean assuredly is, but what the human, economic, environmental costs of wars and their impact on various populations are.56 Trump flip-flopped several times on North Korea, finally meeting Kim Jong Un on June 12 and signing a communiqué which seems to lead to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in exchange for an absence of military exercises in South Korea. This peace overture was welcomed by some across the political spectrum but, of course, nothing indicates how long the posture will last. Bolton threatened North Korea with a Libyan scenario and this might return after Trump trumpeted his big success after meeting Kim Jong Un. Democrats and liberals often attacked Trump from the right, totally disregarding what South Koreans feel about the whole issue.57

  • 58 Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, “Costs of War,” Brown University(...)
  • 59 See the Alliance for Securing Democracy website: <http://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/te (...)
  • 60 In 2014 Jacob Heilbrunn already noted the ideological proximity between Hillary Clinton (...)

55The costs and dangers of recent American attempts at régime change and so-called “democratization” are known: in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of people died, war has become permanent and extremely costly, close to $5 trillion as of September 2016,58 terrorism is boosted and countries are devastated. Régime change in Libya was not the triumph of democracy over dictatorship but the triumph of chaos, the creation of a refugee crisis, thousands of innocents killed and no hope for a stable democratic régime. The new alliance between the neoconservatives and the liberal interventionists in the Alliance for Securing Democracy proposes to go on with the interventionist policies of the past and perpetuate America’s permanent war.59 It signals the ideological victory of the neoconservatives who mostly supported Hillary Clinton against Trump.60 The chief flip-flopper in the White House has now shifted to a neoconservative approach to foreign policy.

  • 61 On Trump being good for CBS: Jim Naureckas, “Trump: Bad for America, Good for CBS,” FAI (...)
  • 62 Glenn Greenwald, “The Same Democrats Who Denounce Donald Trump as a Lawless, Treasonous (...)
  • 63 Thomas Frank, “We’re still aghast at Donald Trump – but what good has that done?,” The (...)

56Trump is indeed, as Nathan Robinson argues, a “monstrosity” in every respect; he is also, as Naomi Klein says, a “master of disaster”, but he is an American product manufactured by many people and institutions who now superficially criticize him. The media which are now apparently totally opposed to him gave him free publicity and often consciously so.61 The Democrats, who now vote for the defense budget or the reinforced powers of the NSA and the surveillance state, do not seriously oppose him; their resistance is a sham.62 They are what Thomas Frank calls “the parade of the aghast” but not so aghast that they do not agree to military budget increases.63

57Some on the radical left (Norman Solomon or John Pilger) or among libertarians (Justin Raimondo) seem to believe that Trump really wanted to improve relations with Russia and genuinely wanted to put an end to America’s permanent wars to focus on domestic problems. There is no reason, however, to believe that the demagogue meant what he said during the campaign and though his pro-Putin and pro-Russia rhetoric certainly frightened the military-industrial complex and the neoconservatives, it does not mean that Trump was serious or that he actually knows or can effectively run foreign policy, with Russia or any other country. His flip-flops on China are actually a proof of his ineptitude with Russia too. He has proved so far that he has no competence in any political area, does not want to learn and does not read books, hardly listens to his advisers. He is a clueless flame-thrower, a bull in a China shop, so he would also have been a clueless bull in the Russia shop too.

  • 64 Julian Borger, “World’s confidence in US leadership under Trump at new low, poll finds, (...)
  • 65 See William J. Astore, “Donald Trump Is a Symptom of America’s Dark Side,” The Nation, (...)
  • 66 Video and text of Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam speech,” April 4, 1967. (...)
  • 67 See the article by Harvard Professor Jack Goldsmith, “The ‘deep state’ is real. But are (...)
  • 68 Michael J. Glennon, National Security and Double Government, New York: Oxford Universit (...)
  • 69 Samuel P. Huntington, American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony, Cambridge: Bellknap (...)
  • 70 Patrick Cockburn, “The appointments of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo in the US bring us c (...)
  • 71 Lewis Lapham, Age of Folly, America Abandons Its Democracy, London: Verso, 2017, p. X.
  • 72 Quoted by whistleblower John Kiriakou, “Gina Haspel Debate Spotlights America’s Soul Si (...)
  • 73 John Feffer, “The Bolton Administration Has Already Begun,” Foreign Policy in Focus, May 16, 2018. (...)

58The neoconservatives and traditional military interventionists, who now contain him somewhat and mostly devise his policies, cannot control his tweets or his impulsive statements which often prove to be an embarrassment with bad consequences, notably in terms of the global image of the US.64 Yet now everyone in the White House, but also on the international stage, knows that he is not the decider, that he is a multiple puppet, a blowhard who brags about his big nuclear button but cannot devise or even understand policy. He has the power of nuisance and can be a spoke in the wheels of diplomacy, but he is still the tool or the useful windbag of the National Security State. He epitomizes everything that is bad or abject in the US;65 he is the embodiment of what Martin Luther King called the “deeper malady within the American spirit”, that is “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.”66 He makes the rhetoric of the neoconservatives harder to believe and disseminates and worsens the chaos that they are adept at generating themselves. In this sense, he can be considered as the poster boy of American decline. The Trump phenomenon has long historical roots. The decline caused by extreme defense spending started long before him but he is its perfect embodiment. Trump carries a big stick and talks furiously, but like his predecessors, he has toed the line of what Obama calls the “Washington playbook” or the “blob” that others, including Edward Snowden, call the Deep State67, the National Security State or “double government” to use Michael Glennon’s expression borrowed from the English political theorist Walter Bagehot.68 The formula of this undemocratic form of unelected power was given by Samuel Huntington in 1981: “The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen. Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.”69 With Bolton and Pompeo, “super-hawks replacing hawks”70, and torturer Haspel (also confirmed by the Senate with some Democratic votes) at the head of the CIA, the decline and chaos are reaffirmed. Lewis Lapham expressed the core view of this paper eloquently: “To regard Trump as an amazement beyond belief is to give him credit where none is due. He is undoubtedly a menace, but he isn’t a surprise.”71 During the campaign, Trump declared that “torture works” although all university specialists deny this. According to a 2016 opinion poll, a majority of Americans support the use of torture, thus making Trump mainstream though totally unethical.72 As John Feffer writes, “Trump is a very powerful boat with no rudder” and his new rudder, John Bolton, is a well-known chaos provider who now enjoys the support of another wrecker at the State department and a torturer at the CIA.73 It is likely that Trump will accelerate American decline and therefore promote the rising hegemony of China and not really fight for “America first.”

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SCAHILL Jeremy, “More Than Just Russia—There’s a Strong Case for the Trump Team Colluding With Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE,” The Intercept, June 10, 2018. <https://theintercept.com/2018/06/10/more-than-just-russia-theres-a-strong-case-for-the-trump-team-colluding-with-saudi-arabia-israel-and-the-uae/>, accessed on June 11, 2018.

SENGUPTA Kim, “Donald Trump can’t be trusted on foreign policy – and his top team know it,” The Independent, October 5, 2017. < https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-north-korea-rex-tillerson-moron-mattis-kelly-foreign-policy-a7984946.html>, accessed on July 29, 2018.

SHANE Scott, “Mike Pompeo, a Hawk Who Pleased the President, Moves From Spying to Diplomacy,” The New York Times, March 13, 2018. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/23/welcome-to-the-dick-cheney-administration/> , accessed on March 27, 2018.

SHELBOURNE Mallory, “Schumer: Trump ‘really dumb’ for attacking intelligence agencies,” The Hill, January 3, 2017. <http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/312605-schumer-trump-being-really-dumb-by-going-after-intelligence-community>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

SOLOMON John, “Opinion: One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every American,” The Hill, July 20, 2018. <http://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/397902-opinion-one-fbi-text-message-in-russia-probe-should-alarm-every-american>, accessed on July 29, 2018.

SORENSEN Theodore, New York Times Magazine, “You Get To Walk To Work,” May 19, 1967. <https://www.nytimes.com/1967/03/19/archives/the-presidency-is-backbreaking-and-there-is-far-more-burden-than.html>, accessed on July 29, 2018.

TAIBBI Matt, “Putin Derangement Syndrome Arrives,” Rolling Stone, April 3, 2017. <https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/taibbi-putin-derangement-syndrome-arrives-w474771>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

WALT Stephen M., “Welcome to the Dick Cheney Administration,” Foreign Policy, March 23, 2018. <https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/23/welcome-to-the-dick-cheney-administration/>, accessed on July 29, 2018.

VLAHOS Kelley Beaucar, “Neoconning the Trump White House,” The American Conservative, January 16, 2018. <http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/neoconning-the-trump-white-house/>, accessed on July 8, 2018.

WHITEBOOK Joel, “Trump’s Method, our Madness,” The New York Times, March 20, 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/opinion/trumps-method-our-madness.html>, accessed on March 27, 2018.

ZAKARIA Fareed, “Trump just became president,” CNN, April 7, 2017. <http://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/04/07/fareed-zakaria-trump-became-president-syria-newday.cnn>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

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Notes

1 See Alain Joxe, L’Empire du chaos: les Républiques face à la domination américaine dans l’après-guerre froide, Paris: La Découverte, 2004.

2 Stephen M. Walt, “Welcome to the Dick Cheney Administration,” Foreign Policy, March 23, 2018. <https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/23/welcome-to-the-dick-cheney-administration/>, accessed on July 29, 2018. Walt also refers to the appointment of Gina Haspel who ran a torture site as the head of the CIA. On Pompeo: Scott Shane, “Mike Pompeo, a Hawk Who Pleased the President, Moves From Spying to Diplomacy,” The New York Times, March 13, 2018. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/23/welcome-to-the-dick-cheney-administration/> , accessed on March 27, 2018.

3 Joel Whitebook, “Trump’s Method, our Madness,” The New York Times, March 20, 2017: <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/opinion/trumps-method-our-madness.html>, accessed on March 27, 2018.

4 In a Facebook post he wrote: “Saudi Arabia and many of the countries that gave vast amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation want women as slaves and to kill gays.” <https://www.facebook.com/DonaldTrump/posts/10157164318560725>, accessed on March 28, 2018.

5 The Mexican president who refuses to pay for a wall between the US and his country canceled a visit at the end of February 2018. Philip Rucker, Joshua Partlow & Nick Miroff, “After testy call with Trump over border wall, Mexican president shelves plan to visit White House,” The Washington Post, February 24, 2018.

6 See, among others Noam Chomsky, “NATO is a global intervention force run by the United States.” Activism, May 26, 2016. <http://www.activism.org/en/latest/noam-chomsky-propaganda-und-nato/>, accessed on March 28, 2018 or Michael Klare: “The United States and NATO Are Preparing for a Major War with Russia,” The Nation, July 7, 2016. <https://www.thenation.com/article/the-united-states-and-nato-are-preparing-for-a-major-war-with-russia/>, accessed on July 29, 2018.

7 Pierre Guerlain, “OTAN : dépasser les oppositions superficielles”, Décodeurs 360, 17 juillet 2018. <https://decodeurs360.org/international/faut-il-renforcer-l-otan/>, accessed on July 28, 2018

8 “China accused of trade ‘rape’ by Donald Trump,” BBC News, May 2, 2016. <http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-36185275/china-accused-of-trade-rape-by-donald-trump>, accessed on March 28, 2018.

9 Tony Munroe & Christian Shepherd, “Trump heaps praise on ‘very special’ Xi in China visit,” Reuters, November 9, 2017: <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-trump-asia-china-bromance/trump-heaps-praise-on-very-special-xi-in-china-visit-idUSKBN1D91C8>, accessed on March 28, 2018.

10 National Security Strategy of the United States, The White House, December 2017. <https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4332186/12-2017-National-Security-Strategy.pdf>, accessed on March 28, 2018.

11 Ibidem, 12

12 Ibid.

13 Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, “Neoconning the Trump White House,” The American Conservative, January 16, 2018. <http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/neoconning-the-trump-white-house/>, accessed on July 8, 2018.

14 For a political portrait of John Bolton read: Medea Benjamin, “Ten Reasons to Fear John Bolton,” The Independent, March 27, 2018. <https://independent.org/2018/03/10-reasons-to-fear-john-bolton/>, accessed on March 28, 2018.

15 “H.R. McMaster out, John Bolton in,” The Economist, March 22, 2018. <https://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2018/03/thunder-bolton>, accessed on March 28, 2018.

16 Adam Garfinkle, “Exit Interview,” The American Interest, January 10, 2007. <https://www.the-american-interest.com/2007/03/01/exit-interview-john-bolton/>, accessed on March 28, 2018.

17 “ …the only solution is to change the regime itself. And that’s—and that’s why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran.” Amy Goodman et al, “Trump Pulls United States Out of Iran Nuclear Deal, Dramatically Escalating Threat of War with Iran,” Democracy Now!, May 9, 2018. <https://www.democracynow.org/2018/5/9/trump_pulls_united_states_out_of>, accessed on May 10, 2018.

18 Rebecca Kheel, “Pompeo confirms ‘a couple hundred’ Russians killed in Syria,” The Hill, April 12, 2018. <http://thehill.com/policy/defense/382864-pompeo-defending-trumps-russia-policy-confirms-a-couple-hundred-russians>, accessed on April 13, 2018.

19 National Security Strategy of the United States, op. cit., 24.

20 James Mann, “The Adults in the Room,” The New York Review of Books, October 26, 2017: <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/10/26/trump-adult-supervision/>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

21 Kim Sengupta, “Donald Trump can’t be trusted on foreign policy – and his top team know it,” The Independent, October 5, 2017. <https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-north-korea-rex-tillerson-moron-mattis-kelly-foreign-policy-a7984946.html>, accessed on July 29, 2018.

22 Lauren Gambino, “Donald Trump boasts that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong-un’s,” The Guardian, January 3, 2018. <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/03/donald-trump-boasts-nuclear-button-bigger-kim-jong-un>, accessed on July 29, 2018.

23 “Trump transition: Who is General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis?,” BBC News, December 2, 2016. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38056197>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

24 Ben Norton, “Media Spent Months Lionizing General Who Defended Slaveholders’ Revolt,” Fair, November 2, 2017. <https://fair.org/home/john-kelly-robert-e-lee-confederacy-media-moderate/>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

25 Bruce Ackerman, “If ‘we don’t win anymore,’ why does Trump keep promoting generals?” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2017. <http://beta.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-ackerman-trump-military-falling-upward-20170301-story.html>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

26 Office of the Secretary of Defense, The Nuclear Posture Review, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, February 2018. The document refers to low yield nuclear bombs and tries to sidestep MAD. One sentence summarizes this new nuclear strategy: “Expanding flexible U.S. nuclear options now, to include low-yield options, is important for the preservation of credible deterrence against regional aggression.” Found at: <https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872877/-1/-1/1/EXECUTIVE-SUMMARY.PDF>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

27 See for instance: Charles M. Blow, “Trump’s Obama obsession,” The New York Times, June 29, 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/29/opinion/trumps-obama-obsession.html>, accessed on July 27, 2018

28 Marc Lynch, “Gates: Saudis want to fight Iran to the last American,” Foreign Policy, December 1, 2010. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2010/12/01/gates-saudis-want-to-fight-iran-to-the-last-american/>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

29 See Michael Grunwald, “The Trade Deal We Just Threw Overboard,” Politico, March/April 2017. <https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/trump-tpp-free-trade-deal-obama-renegotiate-nafta-214874>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

30 “US embassy cables: Hillary Clinton ponders US relationship with its Chinese ‘banker’,” The Guardian, December 4, 2010. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/199393>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

31 Paul Blake, “Why Does Trump admire Strongmen leaders,” BBC News, 9 May, 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-39852695/why-does-trump-admire-strongmen-leaders>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

32 John Roberts, “Trump: Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?,” Fox News, 31 janvier 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HC0OBggX3d4>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

33 Jason Horowitz, “U.N., European Union and Pope Criticize Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement,” The New York Times, December 6, 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/world/europe/trump-jerusalem-pope.html?mtrref>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

34 See Pierre Guerlain, “Bernie Sanders et les pseudo-opposants à Trump,” Recherches internationales, Décembre 2017. <https://www.recherches-internationales.fr/chroniques/2017-Bernie-Sanders-pseudo.pdf>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

35 Fareed Zakaria, “Trump just became president,” CNN, April 7, 2017. <http://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/04/07/fareed-zakaria-trump-became-president-syria-newday.cnn>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

36 Gregory Wilpert & Doug Henwood, “Fire and Fury: Insights into the Fights Within the US Ruling Elite?,” The Real News Network, January 15, 2018. <http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=20895>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

37 Mark Landler, “Trump, the Insurgent, Breaks With70 Years of American Foreign Policy,” The New York Times, 28 December 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/us/politics/trump-world-diplomacy.html>, accessed on July 6, 2018. The wording echoes that of the official National Security Strategy. An example of this can also be found in Steward Patrick, “How U.S. Allies Are Adapting to ‘America First’,” Foreign Affairs, January 23, 2018.

38 Adam Johnson, “Trumpwashing 70 Years of Crimes: Under Guise of Criticizing President, Times Pushes Pro-US Ideology,” Common Dreams, December 31, 2017. <https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/12/31/trumpwashing-70-years-crimes-under-guise-criticizing-president-times-pushes-pro-us>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

39 Matt Taibbi, “Putin Derangement Syndrome Arrives,” Rolling Stone, April 3, 2017. <https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/taibbi-putin-derangement-syndrome-arrives-w474771>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

40 Tom Engelhardt, “Donald Trump and the White Ford Bronco Presidency,” Common Dreams, March 27, 2018. <https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/03/27/donald-trump-and-white-ford-bronco-presidency>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

41 Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, “The FBI hand behind Russia-gate,” Consortium News, January 11, 2018. <https://consortiumnews.com/2018/01/11/the-fbi-hand-behind-russia-gate/>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

42 Matt Apuzzo, “Report Criticizes Comey but Finds no Bias in FBI Decisio Clinton,” The New York Times, June 14, 2018, quoting the report of the Inspector General of the Justice department. <https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/us/politics/fbi-inspector-general-comey-trump-clinton-report.html>, accessed on July 29, 2018.

43 John Solomon, “Opinion: One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every American,” The Hill, July 20, 2018. <http://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/397902-opinion-one-fbi-text-message-in-russia-probe-should-alarm-every-american>, accessed on July 23, 2018.

44 See Jeremy Scahill “More Than Just Russia—There’s a Strong Case for the Trump Team Colluding With Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE,” The Intercept, June 10, 2018,<https://theintercept.com/2018/06/10/more-than-just-russia-theres-a-strong-case-for-the-trump-team-colluding-with-saudi-arabia-israel-and-the-uae/>, accessed on June 11, 2018.

45 Greg Palast, “GOP Stole 2016 Election Using Voter Suppression, Purging Ploys,” Truthdig, November 17, 2017. <https://www.truthdig.com/articles/investigative-reporter-greg-palast-gop-stole-2016-election-using-voter-suppression-purging-ploys/>, accessed on June 11, 2018. See also Greg Palast, “Bombshell: Election Stolen — But NOT By Russia!,” October 25, 2017. <http://www.gregpalast.com/election-stolen-but-not-by-russia/>, accessed on June 11, 2018.

46 See the account given by the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee: Donna Brazile, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC,” Politico, November 2, 2017. <https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-brazile-hacks-2016-215774>, accessed on June 11, 2018.

47 Mallory Shelbourne, “Schumer: Trump ‘really dumb’ for attacking intelligence agencies,” The Hill, January 3, 2017. <http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/312605-schumer-trump-being-really-dumb-by-going-after-intelligence-community>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

48 Tim Hains, “Former CIA Official Phil Mudd Warns Trump: ‘Think Again’ About War With Intel Community, ‘We’re Going To Win’,” Real Clear Politics, February 28, 2018. <https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/02/04/phil_mudd_warns_trump_in_war_with_intelligence_community_were_going_to_win.html>, accessed on June 27, 2018.

49 Jackson Lears, “What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking,” London Review of Books, vol. 40, n° 1, January 4, 2018. <https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n01/jackson-lears/what-we-dont-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-russian-hacking>, accessed on July 6, 2018. See also Serge Halimi, “Donald Trump débordé par le parti antirusse,” Le Monde diplomatique, October 2017. He argues along the same lines. <https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2017/09/HALIMI/57889>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

50 Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, “Industrial Structure and Party Competition in an Age of Hunger Games: Donald Trump and the 2016 Presidential Election,” Institute for New Economic Thinking, Working Paper 66, January 2018. <https://www.ineteconomics.org/uploads/papers/Ferg-Jorg-Chen-INET-Working-Paper-Industrial-Structure-and-Party-Competition-in-an-Age-of-Hunger-Games-8-Jan-2018.pdf>, accessed on March 29, 2018.

51 A video of McGovern: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q75RKjfJ18M&feature=youtu.be> and an article by the same former CIA analyst: Ray McGovern, “Still Waiting For Evidence of a Russian Hack,” Consortium News, June 7, 2018. <https://consortiumnews.com/2018/06/07/still-waiting-for-evidence-of-a-russian-hack/>, both accessed on June 9, 2018.

52 Theodore Sorensen, New York Times Magazine, “You Get To Walk To Work,” May 19, 1967. <https://www.nytimes.com/1967/03/19/archives/the-presidency-is-backbreaking-and-there-is-far-more-burden-than.html>, accessed on July 29, 2018.

53 Michael J. Glennon, National Security and Double Government, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

54 James Bovard, “Seymour Hersh and the Disappearing Iconoclast,” The American Conservative, August 17, 2018. <https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/seymour-hersh-and-the-disappearing-iconoclast/>, accessed on August 23, 2018.

55 Pierre Guerlain, “Russiagate ou comment casser la gauche,” Recherches internationales, <https://www.recherches-internationales.fr/chroniques/2018-04-Russiagate.pdf>, accessed on August 21, 2018.

56 See John Feffer, “North Korea, The Costs of War, Calculated,” Common Dreams, December 14, 2017. <https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/12/14/north-korea-costs-war-calculated>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

57 See Sarah Lazarre, “Liberals Are Criticizing the Korea Summit From the Right. Here’s Why They Have it All Wrong,” In These Times, June 13, 2018. <http://inthesetimes.com/article/21210/liberals-are-attacking-trump-from-the-right-on-north-korea.-heres-why-they>, accessed on June 24, 2018.

58 Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, “Costs of War,” Brown University, September 2016. <http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/economic>, accessed on July 6 2018.

59 See the Alliance for Securing Democracy website: <http://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/team/advisory-council>, accessed on July 6 2018.

60 In 2014 Jacob Heilbrunn already noted the ideological proximity between Hillary Clinton and the Neocons. See Jacob Heilbrunn, “The Next Act of the Neocons,” New York Times, July 5, 2014. “Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels; likened Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy.” <https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/opinion/sunday/are-neocons-getting-ready-to-ally-with-hillary-clinton.html>, accessed on July 6 2018.

61 On Trump being good for CBS: Jim Naureckas, “Trump: Bad for America, Good for CBS,” FAIR, April 2016. <https://fair.org/home/trump-bad-for-america-good-for-cbs/>, accessed on July 6 2018.

62 Glenn Greenwald, “The Same Democrats Who Denounce Donald Trump as a Lawless, Treasonous Authoritarian Just Voted to Give Him Vast Warrantless Spying Powers,” The Intercept, January 12, 2018. <https://theintercept.com/2018/01/12/the-same-democrats-who-denounce-trump-as-a-lawless-treasonous-authoritarian-just-voted-to-give-him-vast-warrantless-spying-powers/>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

63 Thomas Frank, “We’re still aghast at Donald Trump – but what good has that done?,” The Guardian, November 12, 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/12/aghast-donald-trump-thomas-frank>, accessed on July 6 2018.

64 Julian Borger, “World’s confidence in US leadership under Trump at new low, poll finds,” The Guardian, January 18, 2018. <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/18/us-leadership-world-confidence-poll>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

65 See William J. Astore, “Donald Trump Is a Symptom of America’s Dark Side,” The Nation, January 26, 2017. <https://www.thenation.com/article/donald-trump-is-a-symptom-of-americas-dark-side/>, accessed on July 28, 2018. See Pierre Guerlain, “Trump ou le politiquement abject,” Libération, 9 octobre 2017. <http://www.liberation.fr/debats/2017/10/09/donald-trump-ou-le-politiquement-abject_1601919>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

66 Video and text of Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam speech,” April 4, 1967. <http://www.aavw.org/protest/homepage_king_beyond.html>, accessed on July 6, 2018.

67 See the article by Harvard Professor Jack Goldsmith, “The ‘deep state’ is real. But are its leaks against Trump justified?,” The Guardian, April 22, 2018. <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/22/leaks-trump-deep-state-fbi-cia-michael-flynn>, accessed on April 22, 2018. See also Mike Lofgren, The Deep State, The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, New York: Viking, 2016. Snowden declared: “There’s definitely a deep state. Trust me, I’ve been there.,” in an interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel & Stephen F. Cohen, “Edward Snowden: A Nation Interview,” The Nation, October 28, 2014. <https://www.thenation.com/article/snowden-exile-exclusive-interview/>, accessed on July 6, 2018. The fact that Trump uses the expression in no way indicates that it does not exist.

68 Michael J. Glennon, National Security and Double Government, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

69 Samuel P. Huntington, American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony, Cambridge: Bellknap Press of Harvard U.P., 1983, 75.

70 Patrick Cockburn, “The appointments of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo in the US bring us closer to war in the Middle East,” The Independent, March 29, 2018.

71 Lewis Lapham, Age of Folly, America Abandons Its Democracy, London: Verso, 2017, p. X.

72 Quoted by whistleblower John Kiriakou, “Gina Haspel Debate Spotlights America’s Soul Sickness,” Truthdig, May 8, 2018. <https://www.truthdig.com/articles/gina-haspel-debate-spotlights-americas-soul-sickness/>, accessed on July 6, 2018. The poll results can be found at: <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-torture-exclusive-idUSKCN0WW0Y3>, accessed on May 10, 2018.

73 John Feffer, “The Bolton Administration Has Already Begun,” Foreign Policy in Focus, May 16, 2018. <https://fpif.org/the-bolton-administration-has-already-begun/>, accessed on May 25, 2018.

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Pierre Guerlain, « US Foreign Policy of Chaos under Trump: the Wrecker and the Puppeteers », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XVI-n°2 | 2018, mis en ligne le 25 septembre 2018, consulté le 16 novembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/10208 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.10208

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Auteur

Pierre Guerlain

Pierre Guerlain is Emeritus Professor of American Studies at Université Paris Nanterre, France. His fields of research are US foreign policy and Intercultural Studies. He has published a book about the mutual perceptions of the Americans and the French: Miroirs transatlantiques: la France et les États-Unis entre passions et indifférences, and chapters in many books edited by various authors. He co-edited the publication of Argent, pouvoir et représentations, Presses universitaires de Paris Nanterre, 2017. He has published articles in Revue Française d’Études Américaines, Recherches internationales, South Atlantic Quarterly, JAST (Journal of American Studies in Turkey), Amerikastudien (Germany) and REDEN (Revista Española de Estudios Norteamericanos, Spain). He has also published several articles in various online journals such as Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, GRAAT and EJAS.

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