Earlier versions of this essay appear in Counterpunch and Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity
Photo by Jim Mattis | CC by 2.0
Much has been written about our Twitterer-in-Chief and the tortured response to his presidency, particularly within the GOP. As a recent example, Frank Bruni of the New York Times lamented the fate of Senator Lindsey Graham, who has now become one of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders on mainstream shows such as “Meet the Press”. Bruni, however, reminds us that during the presidential campaign of 2016, Graham described then candidate Trump as the “world’s biggest jackass”, even as he now praises POTUS, thereby personifying “his party’s spastic, incoherent, humiliating response to Trump across time and its fatally misguided surrender.”
Appearances to the contrary, Bruni actually has got it “bass ackwards”. In reality, Trump is well into the process of surrendering his presidency to the GOP establishment and what one of us has termed the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex” (MICC ). It’s worth recalling that Senator Graham, along with his erstwhile colleague, John McCain, have consistently acted as leading supplicants for the Department of Defense, as well as staunch Cold Warriors who long opposed Trump’s attempts to shift US foreign policy in a more Russo-friendly direction. They (like Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign) also reacted with horror to the views expressed by Trump during the campaign when he questioned NATO’s eastward thrust, the power transformation in the western Pacific, Syria, Iraq, the Middle East altogether.
But for all of the talk of “Russia-gate” and collusion with Putin, Trump has in fact quietly been shifting US foreign policy in a direction which if anything is becoming decidedly more hawkish and militarized than has occurred under any American presidency since the early days of the Reagan Administration. Just last December, Trump Administration officials confirmed that the State Department approved a commercial license authorizing the export of Model M107A1 Sniper Systems, ammunition, and associated parts and accessories to Ukraine. These weapons were requested as early as 2014, but were long rejected by President Obama, who saw the sale as a needless risk elevation in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. (Ironically, Trump also initially resisted the inclusion in the GOP Platform of selling said weapons to the Ukraine, and this was subsequently cited by many as further “proof” of Boss Tweet’s collusion with Russia.)
More recently, the President directed the Department of Defense to conduct a new “Nuclear Posture Review January 2018” (NPR). The mission statement of the draft review, recently leaked to the Huffington Post, is:
[T]o ensure a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent that safeguards the homeland, assures allies, and deters adversaries. This review comes at a critical moment in our nation’s history, for America confronts an international security situation that is more complex and demanding than any since the end of the Cold War. In this environment, it is not possible to delay modernization of our nuclear forces and remain faithful sentinel s of our nation’ s security and freedom for the next generation as well as our own.
The NPR draft, then, opens the door wider for using “precision” limited nuclear options in response to conventional and cyber threats. In effect, this NPR, if signed into policy by Trump, locks in Obama’s massive nuclear modernization program, as well as expanding it significantly by putting small “precision-guided” nuclear warheads on SLBMs, among other things.
If Boss Tweet signs the NPR, he also will be approving and entrenching the political engineering of new SLBMs and ICBMs, the new Bomber, a new missile launching nuclear submarine, a new nuclear cruise missile, a whole panoply of new nuke-hardened space-based C3ISR systems, a new family of nuclear warheads, the addition of precision guidance to the B-61 “dial-a-yield” bomb, a massive modernization of the nuclear lab infrastructure, and much more.
So much for being Putin’s poodle! The implementation will certainly formalize the restart of the Cold War by adopting the precision nuclear strike mentality envisioned in the January 1988 report entitled Discriminant Deterrence, just as the Cold War was ending. This report was published by the Commission on Integrated Long Term Strategy, co-chaired by the noted Cold Warriors Fred Iklé and Albert Wohlstetter, and whose members have included, inter alia, the likes of Henry Kissinger (now apparently advising Jared Kushner after advising HRC during the 2016 campaign), Samuel Huntington, and the recently deceased Zbigniew Brezinski.
Once the political engineers are done spreading the nuke contract dollars to most, if not all, congressional districts, the whole program, currently estimated to be in excess of $1 Trillion, will be locked in for up to 50 years. Any attempt to reverse this will be met by the usual tricks of the Pentagon: selective leaks to sympathetic journalists at the NYT & WaPo, along with threats to cut back at domestic bases, as well as the contracts themselves, which will be important sources of employment and political patronage in local Congressional districts. If this was indeed Mr. Putin’s gambit in 2016, then he has seriously miscalculated.
About the only possible silver lining in the restart of the Cold War is that the MICC no longer needs to use the cover of the global war on terror to prop up its long term budgets. [see Domestic Roots Perpetual War] The endless cycle of military budget one-upmanship which characterized most of the Cold War will reassert itself because both Moscow and Beijing are bound to respond, regardless of what Boss Tweet says his intentions are.
These are but a few examples of Trump’s policy reversals, along with the absurd notion that he would “drain the swamp”, introduce a “fantastic tax reform” that would largely benefit the middle class, give us a great healthcare system, and finally, develop a foreign policy that would allow the US to enjoy a closer and more collaborative relationship with Russia. Many of the very same people who once fretted about Trump and nuclear codes now applauding as he signs off on missiles and bombs and an escalation of the conflict in the Ukraine.
So to come back to Frank Bruni’s point: There is method to the apparent mad about-face by Graham and others in the GOP. As for the so-called #TheResistance, most are still so obsessed with the Mueller investigation that they have failed to see that a soft coup has already taken place under their collective noses (indeed, with their recent approval of the FISA courts, it appears that the Democrats’ cries of alarm about the fate of our Republic are but crocodile tears). Why impeach Boss Tweet when he is so good to the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex (MICC) and the economic Oligarchs, while providing distracting entertainment to the masses and the press? If it takes a new Cold War and a further subversion of our democracy to kneecap Donald Trump, well, one is all for it.
In short, Boss Tweet* has become the DC Swamp’s useful idiot and he will do as he is told with the help of Republicans in Congress, like Lindsey Graham (as well as many complicit Democrats – who have been sucked into the vortex of the renewed Cold War, in part by virtue of their opportunistic embrace of “Russiagate” – not to mention the corrupted intelligence community). Trump can eat all of the Big Macs he wants, release his inner Klansman to his heart’s content, amuse himself by watching “Fox & Friends”, and enrich his family, so long as he plays ball with “his generals”, the Koch Brothers, Wall Street, Big Pharma and the rest of the One Percenters. So long as James Mattis gets to feed the big bucks to the MICC unhindered, or Charlie Koch gets a free ride by the Environmental Protection Agency, life will remain good at the White House for the First Family. There will be no impeachment or invocation of Article 25, because the president has been neutered.
No doubt, the press will continue to express abhorrence with every new obscenity or controversial tweet, lament the decline of our political parties, and the Mueller investigation will continue to act as a major distraction. Meanwhile, the constitutional safeguards that have long been the bedroom of the republic will continue to be eviscerated. Welcome to Versailles on the Potomac!
* "Boss Tweet" is a term of art ingeniously coined by Paul Street in this article: “An Idiot Surrounded by Clowns”: Why Trump (Still) Sits in the White House