This is not about me, of course, but my leftist friends (and I mean the actual friends) often accuse me of “making excuses for Trump.”
It’s true that I often argue that there are many things coming out of the White House that do not really reflect Trump’s perspective, aims, or agenda.
There are many enemies of that agenda in the White House and in what I argue cannot in fact be called an “administration.” When people then say that “Trump picked this person” (e.g., John Bolton) and the like, I respond that it would help if they would look into how power and bureaucracy works at the highest level of U.S. government.
Let’s stop forgetting that there is a ruling class and that there are other institutions and mechanisms that often operate behind the scenes, and sometimes in complete secrecy, that have their own interests and that take on a life of their own. This is the larger “swamp,” and it ought to be considered amazing that Trump has gotten as far as he has in the midst of it—mostly by way of Twitter.
It may sound like an excuse, too, to say that, at this moment in the middle of the impeachment nonsense (basically of everyone, including the so-called “Left,” the “resistance,” etc., getting behind the Democratic Party, and even behind Joe Biden — whether they understand that this is what they are doing or not), that the CIA and the Deep State is taking the opportunity to deal with some longstanding problems for U.S. capitalism, including countries in “our hemisphere” not taking their marching orders seriously enough and the attempts that China is making to gain a stronger foothold in Latin America.
However, these things being said, the coup in Bolivia is completely unacceptable, and the role of Donald Trump in this is unacceptable as well.
This coup should be resisted and exposed by all people of good will, and every effort should be made to overturn this coup.
Trump may have had his hand forced in this, as I think he has in a number of other major instances. There may have been no stopping the CIA, the Deep State, horrible institutions such the horrible “School of the Americas” (near Atlanta) in what they did, but Trump did not have to make the statement that he did (unless he did have to make it under some specific threat from the Deep State, which is not at all out of the question), which goes against one of the two main pillars for supporting Trump’s agenda: bringing to an end the endless wars and interventions, and stopping or at least bringing attention to the hollowing out of the working class, or working people more broadly, in the U.S., through the various facets of the neoliberal globalist agenda.
Again, not about me, but I’ve been criticized for arguing that Trump’s main value, as a disruptor and clarifier, is “rhetorical” — and I do think this has been remarkably effective, given the opposition to it by almost every element of the establishment, but here I will concede that, here was a chance to resist interventionism when it really mattered, and Trump failed on this score.
Supposedly the final straw between Trump and General James Mattis had to do with Trump’s having called back a retaliatory strike against Iran for the supposed downing of a U.S. drone. Upon learning that the strike would likely kill 500 Iranian soldiers, Trump said that the response was far out of proportion.
Undoubtedly, he also wanted to avoid entering an outright state of war with Iran, which, even from a purely strategic and pragmatic perspective, would be a very bad idea. (Here again Trump is out of line with most Democrats and most Republicans, at least at the power-player level.)
If Trump could oppose this military intervention against Iran, why did he at least not present public support for the coup in Bolivia—a coup which is not at all a fair accompli at this point, it should be added? Indeed, in publicly-supporting the military coup-makers in Bolivia, Trump is actively aiding the consolidation of the post-coup “government” (military dictatorship).
One could talk about the bigger picture in which this coup has taken place, including the following factors:
- the role of lithium and other “resources” that capitalists in the United States want, and that capitalists and governments of other countries (Germany stands out here) want as well;
- mostly significantly in this respect is competition between the United States and China, and that Evo Morales was closing a deal with China for access to the lithium resources;
- the related role that advanced battery technology will play in economic and military matters, and of course in the storage of energy, in the coming decades;
- the fact that leading representatives of the mainstream neoliberal globalist agenda of the Democratic Party, such as Warren, Biden, and Buttegieg, in having said nothing against the coup, clearly support it;
- the fact that Trump is in a weakened position, with the elements of the Deep State, especially the “intelligence community,” coming out against him;
- both relating to and representing this last point, the current show-trail stage of the “impeachment process.”
All of these factors have additional elements that are significant, perhaps the most important one being how the United States will deal with the People’s Republic of China as it continues to rise in the international sphere and to more and more directly challenge the global hegemony of the United States—and vice-versa, of course: how the PRC will deal with the continued military superiority of the United States.
What we have in the case of Bolivia is something that has been seen many times before: a situation where the United States uses its military strength and its intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, to advance economic interests that were otherwise going to lose out when considered in purely commercial terms.
This kind of thing is completely wrong and unacceptable, and it has to be rendered unacceptable in practical terms—through the emergence of a new anti-interventionist movement.
At the same time, even as we should always try to understand the larger forces that are at work in the world, we cannot simply let these forces allow us to engage in crude realpolitik and abridgement of fundamental principles. “Geopolitics” became somehow acceptable to too many people in the Unites States (and elsewhere, of course) when it came to the U.S. invasion of Vietnam.
Even today people will say that somehow this invasion and the fantastically-horrible means that were employed to attempt to defeat the Vietnamese struggle for independence were justified by the fact that the Soviet Union supported the communist insurgents. As has been pointed out many times, this is “gangster logic,” as if somehow the horrors of napalm, Agent Orange, and the rest of what was rained down on the people of Vietnam “make sense” if put in the “larger context.”
One of the worst aspects of this murder and grievous harm to literally millions of people is that the justification took the form of theodicy (everything makes sense in terms of some “divine plan,” and this plan has to do with an epic struggle between good and evil), which appeals all too much to “our Christian nation.”
Left out of this conception of justice and justification is the fact that the Vietnamese people never did a goddamn thing to the United States or its people. And of course the same thing can be said about the people of Bolivia, and, for that matter, the peoples of many, many other countries that have been invaded and terrorized by the United States and other “great world powers.”
There is no question that President Donald Trump bears some responsibility here; in my mind, this is especially because he has played the important role of disruptor to and clarifier of the way that things have been working in post-Vietnam War America, in this case especially concerning the neoconservative – neoliberal consensus regarding military matters — represented well by the actions of Hillary Clinton regarding Libya and Ukraine, and the “never Trump” efforts of William Kristol in terms of the imperialist-interventionist march from Afghanistan, through Iraq, then Libya, then Syria, and ultimately to Iran.
One of the principal reasons to support Trump against both the neoliberal Democrats and the neoconservative Republicans is to pull back from the endless stream of wars and interventions.
Trump has spoken to this issue in strong terms, and not only in tweets. What other president has referred to “foolish wars” in the State of the Union address, and elsewhere to “endless, senseless wars”? What other president, in response to complaints about the supposed expansiveness of another major power, has said, “Are we so innocent?” And the tweets and the circumstances in which they occur are not to be dismissed, either, as simply “rhetoric.”
Certain statements, which made in certain circumstances by a speaker placed in a certain way, have a “performative” quality to them, they aren’t “just words.” (This is a gloss on an argument made decades ago by the philosopher J. L. Austin.) But then, the same principles apply to the president’s statement in support of the military takeover in Bolivia.
Supporters of Bernie Sanders, and of some of the other “socialists” in the Democratic Party have been quick to point out that Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others have condemned the coup—and good on them, I say. However, one hopes that those who have praised Sanders on this point will deepen their division with those in the Democratic Party, who in fact are the mainstream of the party and who are the ones who appeal to the “blue no matter who”-section of ordinary Democratic voters.
We’ll see if these people will vote for Sanders if he somehow gets the nomination (which seems to me a near impossibility); otherwise, these “blue people,” as I call them, don’t care any more about Bolivia than the Democrats about which they are enthusiastic. They didn’t care about what Hillary and crew did to Libya or Honduras, either.
This fits with the general drift of the impeachment nonsense, too—the things that actually matter in the world, to the far greater part of the world, don’t matter to the base of the mainstream of the Democratic Party.
Indeed, all of these people can get positively ginned-up about foreign interventions, and I can’t help but think that there is a connection to the fact it’s the deplorables, the “Wal-Mart people” (like the ones in El Paso who quickly became uninteresting to most Democrats and Leftists the moment they were no longer useful for pressing forward with the brave anti-Trump Resistance), if you will, who are the fodder for such interventions.
What we hear about instead is how Trump supposedly did something to undermine a “political opponent”—it’s hard to think of a better gag line than that.
The coup in Bolivia is something that has been in the works for at least six years, if not ever since Evo Morales was first elected in 2006. The State Department under Hillary Clinton had already fomented a coup in Honduras in 2009, and was looking to undermine the government of Hugo Chavez and then Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
Certainly these actions cannot be laid entirely at the feet of Obama and Clinton, they are part of a longstanding CIA-led effort to undermine any leftist or redistributionist governments or movements in Central and Latin America. The same can be said about the coup in Bolivia, except that here it has happened under the beleaguered “administration” of a president who is at odds, supposedly, with the CIA and the “intelligence community” and with interventionist policies.
Obviously, it is a bit much to ask of Trump that he oppose a CIA-engineered coup in Bolivia, especially against a self-declared socialist (let’s just leave aside for now discussions of what is “real socialism”), when he is staring down a coup-attempt from the same source in the U.S. But that is exactly what he should do, both for moral and strategic reasons.
It is a sad and also bad thing that much of Trump’s social base, especially the part that constitutes the forgotten and disdained working people of the United States, are also not very aware of what is going on in Bolivia. This is somewhat more excusable in their case than in that of “educated” liberals who are not struggling daily and hourly just to keep minimally afloat.
They will become much more aware if some pretense for military intervention (some “incident”) is found, which will almost assuredly happen if the protests against the coup continue and build further.
Strategically, too, Trump has to know that the CIA and other institutions of intervention, coup-making, etc., in the U.S. will not only not be satiated by the removal of Morales, but instead will now want to take things much further.
It seems likely that Iran is the larger goal, but Venezuela seems quite likely to be the next step—the ejection of Venezuelan diplomats from La Paz is an ominous sign. “The war machine keeps turning” — and the goal is to return to a more aggressive military stance in the world, for the sake of U.S. hegemony — which is what the neoliberal globalist agenda of the Democratic Party and the larger part of the Republican Party is about, it’s not some ethically-motivated position on cosmopolitanism or multiculturalism.
Evo Morales’s party, the Movement for Socialism, gained 52% of the vote in the last election; the party that has now assumed power, under U.S.-puppet Jeanine Anez (who considers indigenous Bolivians subhuman) obtained 4.7%.
Even if there was some corruption or fraud involved in the election, clearly the president and the party that has now been installed by the Bolivian military has no popular support. It seems very likely that protests will continue, as will violence by the military to put down the protests, and therefore some occasion for U.S. intervention will arise—which is what the CIA and the Deep State wants.
And this may even be what Trump wants, because of the China and lithium issues. Perhaps he even fears handing something else to the Democrats that they can use against him, just as they have used the attempt to get out of Syria against him (as did a large part of the Republicans in Congress.)
If any of these things are the case, this has to be understood in no uncertain terms to be unacceptable, just as the statement that Trump already made in support of the Bolivian military is unacceptable.
Trump is of course right to worry about handing the Democrats, and perhaps even more the Republicans, something they can use against him, since obviously the point of this impeachment nonsense is not to actually boot him from office, but to try to weaken him on the way to the November 2020 election.
There is an opportunity here, which I wish Trump would pursue vigorously—indeed, two opportunities: 1) To pull the curtain back further on the Deep State and how power really works in the United States; 2) To show what it would mean to take opposition to endless wars and interventions beyond rhetoric, as valuable as the rhetoric may be.
I’m not overly hopeful, especially regarding the second opportunity. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, the moment Trump tried to stir people up for anti-interventionism vis-à-vis Bolivia and elsewhere, one would expect to see a red dot on his forehead.
None of this makes the Democrats look any better, or any kind of alternative. The leadership of the Democratic Party remains clearly in the camp of the Deep State—indeed, they are more and more open about this so-called “fourth branch of government” that is going to “save the world from Trump.” Within the contours of the existing system, the Trump disruption and clarification remains better than any “alternative” represented by either the Democratic or Republican parties.
Even so, support for the coup in Bolivia, especially coming from the president, is wrong and inexcusable.
Bill Martin is a philosopher and musician, retired from DePaul University. He is completing a book with the title, “The Trump Clarification: Disruption at the Edge of the System (toward a theory).” His most recent albums are “Raga Chaturanga” (Bill Martin + Zugzwang; Avant-Bass 3) and “Emptiness, Garden: String Quartets nos. 1 and 2 (Ryokucha Bass Guitar Quartet; Avant-Bass 4). He lives in Salina, Kansas, and plays bass guitar with The Radicles.
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