[Note to TomDispatch Readers: On a day when we have a powerful new piece by John Feffer, I just wanted to remind you to pick up a copy of his remarkable dystopian novel, Splinterlands, the latest in Dispatch Books' series of original works. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote of it: "A startling portrait of a post-apocalyptic tomorrow that is fast becoming a reality today. Fast-paced yet strangely haunting." If you've already bought a copy, then pick another up for a friend and give this website a bit of extra support in our future publishing endeavors. Alternatively, if you go to the TomDispatch donation page and contribute $100 ($125 if you live outside the USA), Feffer will send you a signed, personalized copy of the book. It's one hell of a novel, as well as a kind of owner's manual for the age of Trump. And keep in mind that, as you might imagine, TD needs all the help it can get in 2017.
Finally, if (like me) you happen to live in New York City, Feffer will be at the New School on the evening of February 16th to discuss Splinterlands with TD author William Hartung. Hope you'll join me there! For the details on that event, click on this link. Tom]
In a sense, the damage is already done and who can doubt that what follows will be a demolition derby -- with an exception almost too obvious to mention. In the pre-inaugural period, one simple fact of the Trumpian accession stood out boldly: just about every one of his appointees to a non-national-security post was prepared to rip his or her agency (or its mission) to shreds. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry essentially had to apologize for once claiming that he'd like to abolish the Energy Department, which he is now to head. Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, historically in the pay of big energy, is to take over the Environmental Protection Agency, which he sued 14 times in his home state and challenged fiercely about its desire to protect the environment. Betsy DeVos, prospective head of the Department of Education, would like to tear up those "failing government schools" and turn "public" education into a voucher-driven phenomenon. Tom Price, the soon-to-be head of Health and Human Services, not only wants to rip out Obamacare at the roots, but essentially cripple Medicaid and Medicare, too. And though we have no details yet on labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder's plans, given his record and his views (he'd like to replace workers with machines that don't take vacations), it's easy enough to guess that he will prove another dismantler.
And so it's likely to go in Donald Trump's version of America. The first news from his administration's budget front, for instance, indicates that an axe will soon be taken to the departments of commerce, energy, justice, transportation, and state. In addition, the Hill reports, "The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely."
As I mentioned, however, there is a major exception to all of this that fits well with essential Republicanism in these years -- a "small government" philosophy until you reach the oppressive powers of the state and then "big" doesn't even cover it. So the major exceptions to all this will be the U.S. military and the Department of Homeland Security (that wall!). At the inaugural concert, Donald Trump once again emphasized that money will indeed flow in ever-increasing amounts into reversing the supposed "very sad depletion of our military." ("We're going to build up our great military. We're going to build it up. We're going to strengthen our borders.") In other words: for the civilian side of the government, no, but for the Defense Department, it's thumb's up all the way.
If you thought Washington had a military-first policy in these last years, just wait. In essence, there may not be much left but the military to make policy with. Keep that in mind as TomDispatch regular John Feffer, author of the unforgettable new dystopian novel Splinterlands, the latest Dispatch Book, explores how Donald Trump plans to blow up the present world order, backed by that "great military" and that "big, fat, beautiful wall," and give birth to a new internationalism led by a global confederacy of oligarchs. It's a daunting vision on an increasingly daunting planet. Tom
Donald Trump Against the World
The Birth of a New Nationalist World Order
By John Feffer
Donald Trump is a worldly fellow. He travels the globe on his private jet. He's married to a Slovene and divorced from a Czech. He doesn't speak any other languages, but hey, he's an American, so monolingualism is his birthright.
His fortune depends in large part on the global economy. He has business interests in nearly two-dozen countries on four continents. Many of the products anointed with the Trump brand roll off a global assembly line: Trump furniture made in Turkey and Germany, Trump eyeglasses from China, Trump shirts via Bangladesh and Honduras (among other countries). Just as wealthy Americans often slight the role the domestic infrastructure has played in the making of their fortunes, Trump routinely disregards how much his depends on the infrastructure of the global economy.
The new president's cabinet nominees are a similarly worldly lot, being either generals or multi-millionaires (or both), or simply, like their president, straight-out billionaires. Rich people jet off to exotic places for vacations or to make deals; generals are dispatched to all points of the compass to kill people. With an estimated net wealth of more than $13 billion, Trump's cabinet could be its own small island nation. Make that a very aggressive island nation: the military men in his proposed cabinet -- former generals Mike Flynn (national security adviser), James Mattis (defense secretary), and John Kelly (head of Homeland Security), as well as former Navy Seal Ryan Zinke (interior secretary) -- have fought in nearly as many countries as Trump has done business.
As worldly as they might be, Trump's nominees don't look much like the world. Mostly rich white men, they look more like the American electorate... circa 1817. Still, the media has bent over backward to find as much diversity as it could in this panorama of homogeneity. It has, for instance, identified the nominees according to their different ideological milieus: Wall Street, the Pentagon, the Republican Party, the lunatic fringe.
In this taxonomy of Trumpism, the media continues to miss the obvious. The incoming administration is, in fact, united around one key mission: it's about to declare war on the world.
Don't be fooled by the surface cosmopolitanism of the new president and his appointees. For all their international experience, these people care about the planet the way pornographers care about sex. Their interactions are purely transactional, just the means to an end. There couldn't be less empathy for the people out there involved in the drama. It's all about the money and that piercing sense of conquest.
The Trump team's approach, a globalism of the 1%, benefits themselves even as it reinforces American exceptionalism. Their worldview is a galaxy distant from the sort of democratic internationalism that values diplomacy, human rights, and multilateral cooperation to address planetary problems like climate change and economic inequality. Such a foreign policy of mutual engagement is, in fact, exactly what's under immediate threat. As with Obamacare, the incoming administration wants to shred an inclusive project and substitute an exclusive one for it. In so doing, it will replace a collection of liberal internationalists with something worse: a confederacy of oligarchs.
For such an undertaking that so radically privileges the few over the many, the next administration needs a compelling rationale that goes beyond assertions that the status quo is broken, international institutions are inefficient, and the United States is the indispensable power on the planet. America isn't facing just any old crisis like failing banks or nuclear wannabe nations. For someone like Donald Trump, the threat has to be huge, the biggest ever.