The Enemy of My Enemy

by Berry Friesen (March 7, 2017)

 "The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” 

Are progressives now hawks?

Certainly the Democrats are.  It was their presidential candidate who wanted the US military to get even more engaged in the war against Syria; who supported regime change in Iraq, Libya and Ukraine; who amped up the hostility toward Russia.  Now, the Democrats are demonizing Russia’s President Putin,* pushing nonsense about Russia subverting the US election, pretending pre-inauguration communications by the Trump team with Russian officials were unlawful. With their recent selection of Tom Perez as National Committee Chair, the Democrats have doubled down on hawkishness.**

According to a new CNN poll, 51 percent of Democrats consider Russia to be a very serious threat, compared to 24 percent of Republicans.  That’s a reversal from last spring, when only 15 percent of Democrats held such a view, as compared to 30 percent of Republicans.

If you despise Donald Trump, then it’s tempting to jump on whatever bandwagon seems to be weakening him.   Enemies of my enemy are my friends, right?

Wrong.  Here’s Glen Greenwald breaking it down in his latest column, “Democrats Now Demonize the Same Russia Policies Obama Long Championed."

“This is why it’s so notable that Democrats, in the name of ‘resistance,’ have aligned with neocons, CIA operatives and former Bush officials: not because coalitions should be avoided with the ideologically impure, but because it reveals much about the political and policy mindset they’ve adopted in the name of stopping Trump. They’re not ‘resisting’ Trump from the left or with populist appeals—by, for instance, devoting themselves to protection of Wall Street and environmental regulations under attack, or supporting the revocation of jobs-killing free trade agreements, or demanding that Yemini civilians not be massacred.

“Instead, they’re attacking him on the grounds of insufficient nationalism, militarism, and aggression: equating a desire to avoid confrontation with Moscow as a form of treason.”

As I’ve said before, the tug-a-war unfolding among the imperial elite these days is more complicated than I can understand.***  But the core dynamic is clear enough.  The construction of the US-led empire over the past 75 years has entailed lots of illegal—and criminal—activity.  Information about this activity is now in the hands of a political maverick—a real estate developer/promoter who doesn’t respect the political elite, doesn’t need their money, isn’t loyal to their team.  The establishment is in a panic about all that Trump’s election has put at risk; it will do anything to bring him under their control.

So I am sure of one thing:  being against Donald Trump does not make you virtuous or wise, no more now than it did during the recent presidential campaign.

Of course, it’s also true that denouncing what the neo-cons have done to the world—six countries destroyed, two million people killed, many millions of refugees, $6 trillion wasted—doesn’t make you virtuous or wise either.  Trump is an imperialist too; I’m not giving him a free pass!

But Trump has spoken out against the horror of US foreign policy these past 15 years. That makes him worthy of our attention.  The mainstream media has not done that, nor the Democrats, nor the intelligence services.****  They have all failed us, deliberately and in major ways.  Why would we believe them now instead of Trump?

So no, an enemy of Donald Trump is not necessarily my friend.

In “Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas,” columnist Mike Whitney brings us back to where progressives stand on all of this.  He begins by commenting on a New York Times column from Nicolas Kristof, “How Can We Get Rid of Trump?

“The reason the Times wants Trump removed is because Trump wants to normalize relations with Russia, which threatens to undermine Washington’s effort to project US power deeper into Central Asia.

“Trump’s decision to normalize relations with Moscow poses a direct threat to Washington’s broader imperial strategy to control China’s growth, topple Putin, spread military bases across Central Asia, implement trade agreements that maintain the dominant role of western-owned mega-corporations, and derail attempts by Russia and China to link the wealthy EU to Asia by expanding the web of pipeline corridors and high-speed rail that will draw the continents closer together creating the largest and most populous free trade zone the world has ever seen.

“This is what the US foreign policy establishment and, by inclusion, the Times are trying to avoid at all cost. The economic integration of Asia and Europe must be blocked to preserve Washington’s hegemonic grip on world power. That’s the whole deal in a nutshell.”

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know where progressives stand in this imperial struggle.  They rarely speak about war and militarism anymore.  Instead, personal autonomy, social equality and the environment get most of their attention; economic goals are a distant fourth.  It’s pretty easy to meld all of that with the imperialist view that the USA is exceptional and indispensable.  And we’re seeing it happen—the melding of the progressive agenda with imperialism—right before our eyes.

That’s depressing, beyond a doubt.

Yet let’s not miss the opportunity here.  As Trump scrambles the conventional political categories in the US, a desire to turn away from imperialism and war is breaking free.  As anti-imperialists, we have potential allies in all of the conventional political camps, if only we will take the time to notice.
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*    Vladimir Putin is an oligarch, like Donald Trump. Neither man is an ideologue; each subscribes to the rule of money.  What makes Putin remarkable is his success in leading Russia to restored national pride and purpose, notwithstanding a third-tier economy and a second-tier military.  In his forays into international affairs (Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria), Putin has sought not imperial expansion, but stable conditions for trade and respect for national sovereignty.  In contrast to US presidents, he seems genuinely opposed to Salafist terrorism.  Unsurprisingly, he is very popular with the Russian people.
 
**  See Glen Ford’s “Sheep-dogging Through Trumpland” and Bruce K. Gagnon's "Who Will Lead the Growing Anti-Trump Movement?"

*** See Robert Parry's "Official Washington Tips Into Madness" as a generally reliable source for what is happening in the Washington tug-of-war.

****See Andrew Bacevich’s “Trump and the Six-Trillion-Dollar-Question.”