Operation American Greatness

2016November11-29
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11-27

In the terms coined by Walter Russell Mead, Obama is a Jeffersonian, while Trump is a Jacksonian: The former believes that the United States should perfect its own democracy and go “not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” whereas the latter believes that “the United States should not seek out foreign quarrels” but that it should clobber anyone who messes with it. What unites Jeffersonians and Jacksonians, in spite of their substantial differences, is that both support quasi-isolationism — or, if you prefer, noninterventionism — unless severely provoked.

Obama has been intent on pulling the United States back from the Middle East.Obama has been intent on pulling the United States back from the Middle East. The result of his withdrawal of troops from Iraq and his failure to get more actively involved in ending the Syrian civil war has been to create a vacuum of power that has been filled by the likes of the Islamic State and Hezbollah. Undaunted, Trump has said he wants not only to continue the pullback from the Middle East (he wants to subcontract American policy in Syria to Putin) but also to retreat from Europe and East Asia. He has suggested that he may lift sanctions on Russia and pull U.S. troops out of countries (from Germany to Japan) if he feels they are not paying enough for American protection. It is quite possible, then, that Trump’s foreign policy would represent an intensification rather than a repudiation of Obama’s “lead from behind” approach.

American power survived eight years of an Obama presidency, albeit in diminished form. If the president-elect governs the way he campaigned (which, admittedly, is not necessarily a safe assumption), there is good cause to wonder whether U.S. ascendancy will survive four to eight years of Trumpism. The post-American age may be arriving sooner than imagined, ushered in by a president with an “America First” foreign policy.

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11-26

Observers from center right to left, and including recognized security experts as well as pundits or political intellectuals, are now claiming that the Russian government under Vladimir Putin made war upon the United State of America; that the government and people of the United States, under the presidency of Barack Obama, failed to offer a serious defense; and that we in America as well as friends and allies have suffered an historic defeat.

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11-20

Deliberate disregard of language poses a worse danger to political discussion and to the public realm than do ignorance and lies. Ignorance can be met with education. Falsehood and deception can be called out as illusion; they can be challenged in the name of what actually appears to be. Even insults can be acknowledged and addressed. When, by contrast, speakers and hearers routinely disavow or neglect the utterances that they hear or make, they cast words adrift, and language no longer shows us a shared or common world in which to take our bearings.

Such indeed is the situation in the U.S. in the days of disorientation, unease, and unrest following the election of Donald Trump as President. Regardless of what kind of president Trump turns out to be, or of the policies he puts in place, the rhetoric of this election season has shaken our faith in the possibility of meaningful public exchange. This is not because persons are afraid to speak, although some will be. Nor is it because mainstream media has missed or mischaracterized the story, although it has. Our faith is shaken because to deny one’s words is to disregard what is. When this disregard coincides with more talk than ever before, the upshot is a mistrust in the possibility of genuine public exchange.

From: When Words Cease to Matter – Amor Mundi – Medium

(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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11-16

Questioner: What do you think is the major threat today, to the Judeo-Christian Civilization? Secularism, or the Muslim world? In my humble opinion, they’re just trying to defend themselves from our cultural invasion. Thank you.

[Question restated by Harnwell]

Bannon: It’s a great question. I certainly think secularism has sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals, right?

If you go back to your home countries and your proponent of the defense of the Judeo-Christian West and its tenets, often times, particularly when you deal with the elites, you’re looked at as someone who is quite odd. So it has kind of sapped the strength.

But I strongly believe that whatever the causes of the current drive to the caliphate was — and we can debate them, and people can try to deconstruct them — we have to face a very unpleasant fact: And that unpleasant fact is that there is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global. It’s going global in scale, and today’s technology, today’s media, today’s access to weapons of mass destruction, it’s going to lead to a global conflict that I believe has to be confronted today. Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it, will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act...

From: This Is How Steve Bannon Sees The Entire World - BuzzFeed News

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11-13

[T]he broader failure of the left was the same one made in the lead-up to 1914 and the Great war, when, in the apt phrase of the British-Czech philosopher, Ernest Gellner, a letter sent to a mailbox marked “class” was mistakenly delivered to one marked “nation.” Nation almost always trumps class because it is able to tap into a powerful source of identity, the desire to connect with an organic cultural community. This longing for identity is now emerging in the form of the American alt-right, a formerly ostracised collection of groups espousing white nationalism in one form or another. But even short of these extremists, many ordinary American citizens began to wonder why their communities were filling up with immigrants, and who had authorised a system of politically correct language by which one could not even complain about the problem. This is why Donald Trump received a huge number of votes from better-educated and more well-off voters as well, who were not victims of globalisation but still felt their country was being taken from them. Needless to say, this dynamic underlay the Brexit vote as well.

So what will be the concrete consequences of the Trump victory for the international system? Contrary to his critics, Trump does have a consistent and thought-through position: he is a nationalist on economic policy, and in relation to the global political system. He has clearly stated that he will seek to renegotiate existing trade agreements such as Nafta and presumably the WTO, and if he doesn’t get what he wants, he is willing to contemplate exiting from them. And he has expressed admiration for “strong” leaders such as Russia’s Putin who nonetheless get results through decisive action. He is correspondingly much less enamoured of traditional US allies such as those in Nato, or Japan and South Korea, whom he has accused of freeriding on American power. This suggests that support for them will also be conditional on a renegotiation of the cost-sharing arrangements now in place.

The dangers of these positions for both the global economy and for the global security system are impossible to overstate.

From: US against the world? Trump’s America and the new global order

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11-11

Late on election night, after the matter and the immediate after-matter had passed, I turned, only a little drunkenly, to the latest episode of Aftermath on my DVR. The production is far from the level of premium TV product like, among newish shows, Quarry and Westworld, but the scenario and its development seem even more timely now than they did before 11/9...

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11-05
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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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