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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

“There’s no question this is a hard-power budget,” budget director Mick Mulvaney said of President Trump’s proposal to slash spending on diplomacy while increasing military spending. “It is not a soft-power budget….The president very clearly wants to send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is a strong-power administration. So you’ve seen money move from soft-power programs, such as foreign aid, into hard-power programs.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended the proposed 29 percent cut in his budget with the argument that “as time goes by, there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in.”

The idea seems to be that U.S. “hard power”—as articulated by Trump and bolstered by a $54 billion increase in military spending—will deter America’s enemies and result in fewer wars. So the United States will need less international involvement and fewer diplomats.

It’s a far-fetched argument, if not entirely bogus.

After all, Trump and Tillerson are not talking about withdrawing or winding down U.S. involvement in any of our five ongoing military conflicts (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia). In fact, early reports indicate that Defense Secretary James Mattis wants to put U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, which President Obama refused to do.

Nor is Trump talking about cutting back on the U.S Special Operations Command, which in 2015 was operating in a record 135 countries around the world, according to military analyst Nick Turse.

Trump’s budget cuts are not a harbinger of pacification, but an attack on the profession of diplomacy and the practice of international cooperation. They reflect White House adviser Steve Bannon’s agenda of dismantling America’s alliances built since the end of the Cold War.

The goal is to replace the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and other multinational organizations with a more transactional diplomacy. Trump and Bannon prefer bilateral deals with partners that are willing to take on the “civilizational struggle” against “radical Islamic terrorism.” The template is gendered: abandon the soft, feminized European Union and embrace the hard, manly Putin.

But before Trump and Bannon can wage that war they need to disarm the forces that might impede them. Bannon’s Strategic Initiatives Group has targeted European governments that support the European Union. The State Department and United Nations are targeted for the same reason.

The U.N. will bear the brunt of the cuts, reports Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy:

State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs, signaling an unprecedented retreat by President Donald Trump’s administration from international operations that keep the peace, provide vaccines for children, monitor rogue nuclear weapons programs, and promote peace talks from Syria to Yemen, according to three sources.

U.N. officials expect the United States to seek to eliminate funding for the U.N. Population Fund, which receives about $35 million a year from the U.S. for family planning programs, and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, according to Lynch.

Sub-Saharan Africa is also likely to suffer.

“We have U.N. warnings of famine in four countries,” said Bathsheba Crocker, who served in the State Department as assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs, referring to food crises in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. “It is only the U.N. agencies that have the scale and ability to get in and address these challenges.”

Another target: well-informed U.S. diplomats.

The Secretary of State typically has two deputies; Tillerson hasn’t filled either position. There are six open undersecretary slots and 22 unfilled assistant secretary positions. These jobs are typically filled by Foreign Service officers with regional experience, language skills and foreign connections.

These posts will probably remain unfilled. So when there’s an Ebola outbreak in Africa, or a tsunami in South Asia, or a climate change crisis in the Arctic, or a Zika epidemic in Latin America, or famine in Sudan, the U.S. government will be less able to provide medical expertise, disaster relief, scientific insight, medical supplies, or food. That’s the point: to prevent the exercise of so-called “soft-power.”

Thomas Countryman, a former senior State Department official who played a leading role in the Iran nuclear deal, told Public Radio International, “There’s a deliberate policy on the part of the White House to let the State Department and other agencies atrophy to ensure that there remains a vacuum in the analytical and leadership capabilities of State and other agencies.”

Those jobs are held by reality-based diplomats. Whatever their politics, they might insist that U.S. policymakers consider whether another land war in the Middle East is a good idea; whether demonizing Muslims makes Americans safer; whether hostility to Cuba makes sense; and whether climate change is real.

Trump and Bannon know the best way—the only way—they can win such debates is not to have them. They want a vacuum in which Trump will be free to escalate the struggle against “radical Islamic terrorism.” The State Department budget cuts are not intended as a prelude to peace as Tillerson suggested, but as preparation for the “clash of civilizations” Bannon yearns for.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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4 responses to “Trump Is Waging War On Diplomacy Itself”

  1. A war-like trait so common throughout America has been picked up by Trump—it’s a tendency that one may deduce is a result of the “warrior” complex inherent in all humans, and took on a more ominous role, once the Pilgrims landed.

    A short review should make this clearer: Upon landing at Plymouth, the Pilgrims saw fit to massacre a group of Native Americans who had earlier assisted them to learn new skills in order to survive; a systematic plan to eradicate the Indigenous peoples was carefully and clearly spelled out by the Church in it’s infamous “Doctrine of Discovery” which gave explicit permission to exterminate the indigenous peoples encountered wherever the “tribes” from Europa in their explorations encountered “foreign” peoples.
    Later, Jefferson felt the need to wage war on the environment by helping to lay down policies for massive land clearing to facilitate settling the East and in expanding westward; then, the advancement of weaponry allowed for government officials to expediently clear America of unwanted Native peoples, while in the meantime, Jefferson and others carried out minor conflicts, by selectively raping women held in bondage—another form of warfare(psychological and physical) carried out in the bedrooms, despite the distaste and abhorrence of the generally accepted anti-miscegenation stance which the American immigrants established as policy and as a law.

    This war-like nature would only ramp up, and it became just a normal way to approach any problem from a war-like stand-point— which the GOP would expand to include a “War on Crime”, “War on Drugs”, “War on Opioids(a new drug war)”, “War on the Media”, as Steve Bannon likes to put it, and Trump’s war on immigrants and on Muslims. This destructive cycle can’t be reversed given status quo structures already firmly established in America, in nearly every sphere of activity and influence.

    Something untainted by this hostile belligerent tincture needs to be resorted to for resolving problems.

    • Independent1 says:

      Aaron, I’m not sure that Trump got his dictator/war-like traits from what may be “common throughout America”; unfortunately, I think he’s gotten it from reading ‘Mein Kampf’ which I had understood was one of his favorite books that he kept by his bedside. The above article makes me even a bit more nervous that we’re starting to see more of the ‘Hitler trait’ coming out in Trump.

      • Since Trump is notorious for not reading, I think he got his war-like mentality, like many others, from watching too much Cowboy shows, and by osmosis with no filters.
        Bannon, FOX, and just being raised up with little, if any, guidelines for proper behavior, are main contributors since adulthood.

        The nation is infused with too much background “radiation” from ill-behavior, and unless you have some sort of shielding, you get fried.

        • Independent1 says:

          Aaron, I sure don’t disagree with your comments about Cowboy shows, Fox, Bannon, etal but I do think Trump got a lot of his fascist leanings from reading Mein Kampf. Although he may not read much these days, I believe he has read Mein Kampf; his parents may have used it as a reference when they were brainwashing him to believe he has superior genes; and he may have taken to it because he and Hitler have similar inherent fascist mindsets.

          In any case, see these articles:

          Donald Trump Admits There’s A Lot Of Great Ideas In Mein Kampf

          AMERICAN presidential hopeful Donald Trump has admitted to drawing on the measured and reasoned writings of Adolf Hilter’s manifesto Mein Kampf in an effort to find a solution to the ‘Muslim problem’.

          Speaking at a Republican rally, Trump endorsed proposals such as collating a database on US citizens who happen to be Muslim, and perhaps issuing them with a unique ID, much to the derision and disgust of many American citizens.

          And this:

          Donald Trump’s ex-wife once said Trump kept a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bed

          According to a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, Ivana Trump once told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that her husband, real-estate mogul Donald Trump, now a leading Republican presidential candidate, kept a book of Hitler’s speeches near his bed.

          “Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed … Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist,” Marie Brenner wrote.

          Hitler was one of history’s most prolific orators, building a genocidal Nazi regime with speeches that bewitched audiences.

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