USA: How foreign policy elites are losing all contact with their citizens
by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
[This article posted on 1/13/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, USA: Wie die Außenpolitik-Eliten jeden Kontakt zu ihren Bürgern verlieren.]
Foreign Policy Talk with Anne Applebaum, Christine Amanpour, Eliot Cohen on CNN. Image: CNN screenshot
Americans' approval of a continuation of the Ukraine war is crumbling. But the establishment in Washington declares their opinion irrelevant. Not for the first time, as a look at Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq shows.
What does Washington really think of public opinion in the United States?
For years, the policy establishment, the so-called Beltway insiders in Washington, have been desperately trying to disprove the notion that their representatives are actually elites: out of touch with what ordinary Americans want and need, while acting as slaves to conventional foreign policy doctrine and dogma.
But it's wartime again, and that's when the masks come off. It began with a stream of articles by political analysts Eliot Cohen and Anne Applebaum in the wake of the Russian invasion, demanding that Americans see the war in Ukraine as our fight, a fight for democracy and the liberal world order. If Americans are not ready for that, they say, there is something wrong with them, they have failed morally.
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is senior advisor at the Quincy Institute and editorial director of Responsible Statecraft.
This heavy-handed action fits the tactics of the neoconservatives, as they have tried the same thing in the global "war on terror," contributing in large measure to the Iraq war lasting nearly a decade and the one in Afghanistan lasting a full 20 years.
In addition to the destruction of two countries, trillions of squandered dollars, a massive refugee crisis, a new generation of U.S. war veterans in need of lifelong assistance, and countless dead as well as wounded, these "elites" are largely responsible for the distrust of Washington that has eaten culture and politics in this country to the core.
Poll after poll shows that trust in American institutions, including the once vaunted military, is dwindling. That's what a war based on lies, distortions and rhetorical bullying will do to an already tense and divided society.
Add to that the financial collapse of 2008, which the U.S. government met with an unprecedented bank bailout while homeowners and workers struggled to survive. This sets the stage for major populist movements - on both the left and the right.
The rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump has been fueled in part by lingering skepticism about ongoing wars and elites at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. These policies are increasingly perceived as self-serving and disconnected from American interests.
One would think that the elites would have learned their lesson.
But the war in Ukraine has revived ignorance. Once again, the views and needs of the American public are being sidelined while citizens are being patronized. A commentary by Gian Gentile and Raphael S. Cohen, the last deputy director of the Army Research Division of the Rand Corporation and the Air Force Strategy and Doctrine Program, respectively, says it all.
The article, entitled "The Myth of America's Ukraine Fatigue," is clearly aimed at the Beltway establishment in Washington. It propagates at the same time that one should not care about polls or even public opinion in the United States. Ukraine's (and indeed Washington's) long war will continue no matter what the hoi polloi, the common people, think or feel, the message goes.
In war, from a purely political point of view, it is usually safer for politicians to stay the course. Perhaps this is why democracies in armed conflict are quite good at fighting even longer. From ancient Athens during the Peloponnesian War to the present day, democracies have not generally been the fickle, shriveled violets that their opponents like to portray them. In the United States, the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan were all ultimately extremely unpopular. Yet the United States fought for three years in Korea, for nearly nine years in Iraq (before withdrawing after the initial pullout), and for nearly 20 years in both Vietnam and Afghanistan. In all of these campaigns, far more American blood and assets were invested than the U.S. involvement in Ukraine has required to date.
The authors refer to a number of recent polls that show that Americans' unconditional support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion is reaching its limits and, in some cases, weakening.
Americans increasingly opposed to long war and in favor of negotiations
Cohen and Gentile now say that Americans support Ukrainian sovereignty and the fight for it. That is absolutely true. But what the authors fail to mention is that the polls suggest that the public is concerned about a protracted war that could lead to more deaths and a direct U.S. confrontation with the Russians.
U.S. citizens are also relatively unenthusiastic about supporting Ukraine "for as long as it takes." And they are more and more interested in negotiations to end the war as early as possible, even if that ultimately means concessions for both sides.
Instead of recognizing the nuances and giving credit to the Americans for considering the implications of another long war (whether or not the U.S. is directly involved on the ground), the authors blame the media, which they say is playing up the negative messages of the polls. They also point out that-referring to Vietnam and our recent wars-conflicts will continue (and rightly so, in their view) no matter what public opinion is.
With respect to past conflicts, and assuming that current trends continue, it could be years before declining support among the American public actually leads to a change in policy ,
... according to the authors. In doing so, Cohen and Gentile (much like their counterparts in the Iraq and Afghanistan war eras) belittle those who "reinforce the narrative of Ukraine fatigue." They package the "bad-mouthers" into manageable categories: 1) "America First" Republicans who prefer to focus on domestic issues, 2) "reflexive" antiwar activists on the left, and 3) those who "may genuinely sympathize with Russian arguments" that Americans are growing weary of war.
Meanwhile, "some Americans may genuinely believe they are paying a higher price for the conflict than is actually the case, but that is based primarily on perceptions rather than facts."
That's right. That's exactly what Fred Kagan, the American Enterprise Institute neoconservative who helped craft the Iraq war plan, said in 2008 in a long article for National Review magazine titled "Why Iraq matters: Talking back to anti-war party talking points," using the following silly platitude:
Americans have a right to be weary of the conflict and to want to see it through. But before we prefer the wrong but comfortable path to the right but rocky one, we should examine more closely the two core assumptions underlying current antiwar arguments: that we are losing this war because we cannot win it at any acceptable cost, and that it is better to lose than to keep trying to win.
The irony is that Colonel Gian Gentile was one of the few brave people in active military service at the time who openly opposed Fred Kagan's "troop surge" and counterinsurgency delusions that were prevalent at the time. He was a fierce critic of Washington's over-the-top war PR and selective distortion of history. It is surprising that Gentile now simplifies the impact of public opinion on the current wars - implying that they are relatively unimportant - while making extremely weak arguments for "business as usual."
Leaders of the free world need to remind their publics of what is at stake in Ukraine - not just for European and global security, but for democracy in general.
... Gentile exclaims in his recent opinion piece co-authored with Cohen.
And this from a historian who, in his 2013 book "America's Deadly Embrace of Counter-Insurgency," not only tackled the myths of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also picked apart the slogans of U.S. counterinsurgency in Vietnam and the British military's "success" in Malaya (1948-60).
Gentile's commentary on the "myth of Ukraine fatigue" is elitist thinking that reads like a pep talk for the Washington establishment in light of recent polls. For everyone else, it shows that the same people who didn't want ordinary Americans thinking about foreign policy during the Iraq War are still in charge, whether they call themselves "elites" or not.
The article appears in cooperation with the U.S. magazine Responsible Statecraft.
An "uncertain and turbulent decade"
by the editors of Sozialismus.de
The WEF's Global Risk Report 2023
[This article posted os 1/12/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, Ein »unsicheres und turbulentes Jahrzehnt«.]
From January 16 to 20, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos will once again be the international meeting place for economic and political elites. It was founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab, an economics professor at the University of Geneva, with the aim of discussing modern management concepts.
Only since 1994 have politicians also attended the meeting, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) also scheduled to participate this year. Since 2015, the WEF has officially had the status of an international organization.
However, over time its importance for global elites has declined. At the same time, the dominance of Western capital-oriented leaders has also been lost as cross-system dialogue has become increasingly fragile. The financial crisis, Donald Trump's tenure as U.S. president, the U.S.-China trade war and, finally, Russia's invasion of Ukraine have undermined the goal of an integrated and globalized world.
Just before the Davos meeting, the WEF presents an annual study on the international situation. In this year's Global Risk Report 2023, the WEF paints a grim panorama of risks and dangers. The report is based on an analysis of responses from 1,200 scientists, politicians and risk managers.
"The first years of this decade have heralded a particularly disruptive period in human history. The return to a 'new normal' after the COVID-19 pandemic was quickly interrupted by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which ushered in a new set of food and energy crises - and triggered problems that decades of progress had sought to solve."
As 2023 begins, he said, the world faces a set of risks that are both entirely new, "and feel eerily familiar. We have seen a return of 'older' risks - inflation, cost-of-living crises, trade wars, capital outflows from emerging markets, widespread social unrest, geopolitical confrontations, and the specter of nuclear war - that few of this generation's business leaders and public policymakers have experienced. These are compounded by comparatively new developments in the global risk landscape, including unsustainable levels of debt, a new era of low growth, low global investment, and deglobalization, a decline in human development after decades of progress, rapid and unchecked development of dual-use (civilian and military) technologies, and the growing pressure of climate change impacts and ambitions in an ever-shrinking window of opportunity to transition to a 1.5°C world. Together, these are converging to shape a unique, uncertain, and turbulent decade."
In the next two years, he said, the cost-of-living crisis will dominate, followed by natural disasters and extreme weather events, and geo-economic confrontations. In the medium term, climate change and environmental hazards rank at the top. These long-known risks are exacerbated by exploding debt, low growth and de-globalization.
The chances that the world can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times are considered slim. "Climate change is an existential threat to the planet, and the window to achieve net zero is closing," more needs to be done, if not to prevent future global warming, at least to adapt to climate change.
Risk of a "poly-crisis"
Over the next ten years, respondents see six environmental threats among the top ten risks, including prominently the threat of a dramatic loss of biodiversity, the extinction of animal and plant species. In addition, there is a shortage of natural resources. There is a risk that all the factors will come together to form a "poly-crisis" around the year 2030.
All in all, the new "Global Risk Report" paints a very gloomy picture. The ideological drifting apart of different cultures will also fuel conflicts between countries and increase the risk of armed conflicts. This could make economic warfare the norm, with increasing clashes between global powers.
Growing demands on public and private sector resources from other crises will reduce the pace and scale of mitigation efforts over the next two years, as will insufficient progress on adaptation support needed for communities and countries increasingly affected by climate change impacts.
As current crises divert resources away from medium- to longer-term risks, stresses on natural ecosystems will increase given their still underappreciated role in the global economy and the health of the planet. This is because loss of nature and climate change are inextricably linked - failure in one area will impact the other.
The consequence feared by respondents is that instead of promoting trade and cooperation among nations, an escalating cycle of mistrust and decoupling of markets is emerging. The more geopolitics dominates the economy, the more inefficient production becomes. Technology will exacerbate inequalities, it said, while risks from cyberattacks will become a permanent problem.
The report stressed that while climate and environmental risks are already clearly visible and tangible, the world is inadequately prepared for them. The lack of progress on climate goals makes it clear how deep the gap has become between what needs to be done and what is currently politically feasible.
Those who will suffer most, he said, are the world's poorest: "The knock-on effects will be felt most acutely by the weakest sections of society and already fragile states, contributing to rising poverty, hunger, violent protests, political instability and even the collapse of states."
Trade wars instead of globalization
The World Risk Report also concludes that trade wars could become the norm in the future, "with increasing clashes between global powers and state intervention in markets over the next two years." The rapid development of technological innovations also plays a role in this, they said, as societies' increasing reliance on technological connectivity makes them vulnerable to attack, especially with regard to critical infrastructure.
The authors of the report therefore call on the heads of state and government to take collective action. The scenarios presented should help to understand and anticipate the uncertain interactions. Action could then be taken to contain the negative impact of the "poly-crises" before they have their full effect.
But there is still a window, he said, to create a more secure future through more effective preparedness. This would require pushing back on the erosion of trust in multilateral processes to improve the collective capacity to prevent and respond to emerging transnational crises. This would strengthen the guardrails that already exist to manage risk.
Beyond that, further measures would need to be taken to mitigate risk. As worsening economic prospects bring tougher trade-offs for governments facing competing social, environmental, and security concerns, investments must focus on solutions that address multiple risks simultaneously.
Some of the risks described in this year's report are on the verge of a tipping point, it argues. Therefore, it makes the case for acting collectively, decisively, and with a long-term perspective to shape a path toward a more positive, inclusive, and stable world. It remains to be seen how many participants and fellow discussants in Davos will then adopt this vote in their economic and political actions.
No one should rely on the state to defeat the radical right. A commentary on the situation in Brazil
[This article posted on 1/13/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.marx21.de/brasilien-kein-verlass-auf-den-staat/.]
Thousands of supporters:inside of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and the Palácio do Planalto, the seat of government, on Sunday. At midnight (Central European Time), Brazilian police said they had removed most of the mob. But the threat from Bolsonaro's forces is not over and will not be eliminated by elections and parliamentary maneuvers.
Brazil: following in the footsteps of Donald Trump
Organized fascists were at the center of the anti-democratic coup attempt. On television, they could be seen tearing down roadblocks and pushing back the few police officers. Although the police used pepper spray and stun grenades, they could not stop the attackers.
Following the script of Donald Trump's supporters, they too lied that recently elected President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had only won through electoral fraud and was bent on installing a communist regime.
A planned attack
Bolsonaro, who is currently in the United States, has never accepted his electoral defeat. So did the core of his supporters. After the elections, there were protests orchestrated by radical right-wing networks and organizations against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's election victory. Tens of thousands of supporters demanded that the military intervene. In some cities, such as Belo Horizonte and Recife, demonstrators marched in front of military barracks and blocked highways with burning barricades. At the time, Bolsonaro called on his supporters to be vigilant, claiming to still be "the supreme head of the armed forces": "I am sure that one of my duties guaranteed by the Constitution is to be the supreme head of the armed forces. The armed forces are fundamental in every country in the world. I have always said during these four years that the armed forces are the last obstacle to socialism," he asserted.
Lula called those behind the storming of Congress "fanatical fascists" who represented "everything abominable" in politics. He announced, "All the vandals will be found and punished. We will also find out who financed them." He said, "These fanatics have done something that has never been done in this country." Lula condemned parts of the police force. "The police did nothing at all. They just let the protesters in," he said.
But it is with these state forces and the elites who support them that Lula has compromised and tried to appease. His first cabinet included nine members of the right-wing Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), the Brazilian Union and the Social Democratic Party (PSD). The MDB was instrumental in the 2016 ouster of President Dilma Rousseff, which Lula's Workers' Party (PT) called a coup. The Brazilian Union emerged from a merger of the party that elected Bolsonaro in 2018 and the party of the former military dictatorship.
In contrast to Lula's withdrawal, his opponents:inside continued to organize and then mobilize. After Lula's election victory, Bolsonaro supporters:in set up camps in several cities in Brazil - many of them in front of military barracks. They pleaded for the military to intervene. Brazil was ruled by a U.S.-backed military dictatorship for two decades, from 1964 to 1985 (Read the marx21 article here: Who will stop Bolsonaro? - Brazil and the fascist danger).
No trust in the state
More than 60 million people voted for Lula, including overwhelming majorities of wage earners and their families. But Lula still relies on state forces rather than his own electorate:inside to deal with the radical right. The left and workers should not have confidence in state forces, which can defect to the coup plotters at any time. Instead, workers must organize independently, take to the streets and launch a general strike to demand serious action against the leaders:inside the radical right. There must be no amnesty for Bolsonaro and his henchmen.
Reactions of the USA
The imperialist governments and sections of the capitalist:inside have not openly supported Lula's ouster. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Sunday evening, "We condemn today's attacks on the Brazilian presidency, Congress and Supreme Court. The use of force against democratic institutions is unacceptable in any case. We join Lula in demanding an immediate end to these actions."
They calculate that a Lula government is currently the best environment for their economic trade relations. But the U.S. government and bosses will switch sides if they believe Lula will not stop the resistance of workers:inside.
A coup victory would be a disaster for Brazil's workers and poor. It would also give an enormous boost to the radical right everywhere.
The surest garnet against the mobilizations of the radical right is the self-organization of the many. In the past, the labor movement in Brazil has demonstrated this capacity for resistance. It is this strength that will matter in the coming months.