Trump/Pence Ratchet Up War Threats—Democrats Second the Motion

March 5, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


From North Korea and Iran, to Russia, China, and beyond, the Trump/Pence regime—largely backed by the Democrats—is belligerently escalating its “America First” military, economic, and political threats. Global tensions are rising as other reactionary powers react and make their own moves. Flashpoints where conflicts could break out are intensifying. The danger of unimaginably cataclysmic war is looming larger and larger, with millions, if not billions, of lives potentially at risk.

In the last week alone, some of the key flashpoints have intensified:

Geostrategic threats: The U.S. has identified China and Russia as rising geostrategic threats.

The Obama administration saw China as a rising capitalist power and competitor that needs to be “contained” within U.S.-dominated world order, and aimed to shift U.S. attention to dealing with this. Now, with Trump, this growing rivalry is moving into even more dangerous and uncharted waters. This has manifested in increased military exercises and challenges to China’s territorial claims in the strategic shipping lanes of the South China Sea, escalated U.S. war threats against North Korea (which has historically been an ally of China), and Secretary of Defense Mattis’s urging this week that new proposed trade restrictions and tariffs be targeted to make exceptions for America’s “national security allies”—in other words, target China—not countries like Canada.

Most ominous this week was the response of the U.S. ruling class to an announcement that the Chinese Communist Party would consider lifting the term limits on current President Xi Jinping, enabling him to rule indefinitely. This was uniformly interpreted as a serious escalation and signal that China was not going to back down in the face of U.S. threats or play by U.S. rules, but would pursue its own interests even more assertively. According to reportage in the New York Times, liberal sections of the U.S. bourgeoisie are united with—and even more, demanding—a more aggressive response from Trump against China.

At the same time, these sections, including the Democrats, are criticizing Trump for “ignoring” threats from Russia. However, the regime’s National Security Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review actually both target Russia as a major rival and a growing military threat. This is leading to a new arms race, focused on modernization of nuclear weapons, and escalating conflicts for influence in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The Korean Peninsula: The clouds of war are darkening. (See revcom’s virtual teach-in for articles on North Korea.) As soon as the Olympics in South Korea ended, the Trump/Pence regime announced new sanctions, and edged closer to an economic blockade of North Korea. Such a blockade means the U.S. Navy would board, search, and possibly seize ships headed to North Korea. This is something that North Korea—and perhaps China itself—could regard as a declaration of war.

The momentum toward war was underscored and heightened this week by the resignation of the lead State Department negotiator with North Korea, who had been somewhat at odds with Trump’s bellicose approach. Republican senator Jim Risch, second in line at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned last week that Trump is ready to start a war with North Korea, that would “be probably one of the worst catastrophic events in the history of our civilization ... [with] mass casualties the likes of which the planet has never seen. It will be of biblical proportions.”

The Middle East: Already deeply embroiled in the conflicts of the Middle East, the U.S. has further heightened its threats against Iran. The latest U.S. threat is demanding that the European imperialists—France, Germany, and Britain—rewrite the nuclear deal they all signed with Iran in 2015. These European imperialists are trying to preserve the treaty—which Iran has NOT violated—by going along with some U.S. demands to impose onerous new conditions on Iran, including extending stringent restrictions on its civilian nuclear program. These conditions could unravel the nuclear deal, and put the U.S. and Iran on a trajectory toward confrontation and possibly war.

At the same time, the U.S. has stepped up its support for both Israel and Saudi Arabia, key rivals to Iranian influence in the region and proponents of a much more aggressive approach to Iran, including tearing up the nuclear deal. The U.S. continues to give full backing to Saudi Arabia’s murderous—genocidal—assault in Yemen, and to a kind of coup that concentrated power in the hands of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is putting Saudi Arabia on a more aggressive footing, including considering the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

This escalation—in aggressive posturing, rhetoric, and acts from this fascist regime—is increasingly fraught with grave danger for all humanity.

The Evolving Trump Doctrine

The Trump/Pence regime is an extreme concentration of capitalism-imperialism and a response to its driving compulsions.

Capitalism-imperialism is driven by ruthless competition for strategic advantage and accumulation of capital. Blocs of capital are rooted in their particular nation or “homeland,” even as they are driven to operate and compete globally, and with each other. This gives rise to military and political rivalries—and wars—between different states, especially the world’s dominant imperialist powers, such as the bloodbaths of the two world wars. In the last few decades, these rivalries have mainly played out in the form of wars in and against nations oppressed by imperialism, popularly known as the Third World. And now, they manifest as great power rivalry over control of trade routes, access to markets, key resources, and strategic regions such as the Middle East and East Asia.

The U.S. imperialists have dominated this system since the end of World War 2 . But that dominance is increasingly being challenged by rising regional and global powers. The U.S. rulers now talk of “a return to great power competition” with Russia and China as they have “advanced their military capabilities to act as global powers.”

In this context, this regime has adopted a much more aggressive America-first strategy, downplaying notions of working in alliances and multilateral institutions as part of the imperialist “international community” that Obama and other imperialists loved to evoke. Articulating this contrast, Gary Cohn, the director of Trump's National Economic Council, and H.R. McMaster, the national security advisor, wrote of this regime’s “clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.” (Emphasis added.)

Translation: in a world of each against all, it is America First, consequences be damned. This is in line with the fascist logic of “Make America Great Again”—with its triad of white, male, and American global supremacy. This demands breaking through the growing challenges and obstacles that confront U.S. imperialism—China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

All this is propelling this regime toward military threats, aggression, and war—completely unchallenged by the Democrats, even spurred on by them. Indeed, the only thing the Democrats say about foreign affairs is their one-note symphony that Trump is not tough enough against Russia! A Democratic victory in 2018 midterm elections is not going to change anything in this regard. The latter brings to mind Obama’s memorable phrase to Trump, capturing a worldview and standpoint, “We’re all on the same team,” especially when it comes to American dominance in the world system of capitalism-imperialism. Any approach that relies on electing Democrats to stop Trump will, at minimum, set people up to go along with the most oppressive and horrific outrages against the people of the world and perhaps grease the skids for nuclear catastrophe.

Fascism and War

The consolidation of fascism requires overcoming obstacles posed by other sections of the ruling class—and from the people. The Trump/Pence fascist regime confronts many obstacles even while they are barreling ahead in remaking society and the state in a fascist direction. War, at least at its outset, can potentially significantly help this process.

The regime will try to win the people to “rally around the flag,” relying on and reinforcing spontaneous American chauvinism. Staunch opponents of this regime and the crimes of this empire will face increased persecution, repression, and attempts to silence them.

Meanwhile, Trump’s ruling class critics and opponents will almost all likely put aside their differences in the interests of the country over its “enemies.” Look not only at the Democrat’s current stance as the “true patriots,” but their near-unanimous support for the PATRIOT Act and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which provided a blank check for everything from the invasion of Iraq to murder by drone of anyone that the U.S. president placed upon his “kill list” (and yes, Obama had a much longer kill list than Bush did).

Those who are taking comfort in the chaos of the Trump White House should beware: Trump and others at the core of this regime may seek to deal with the chaos and make a leap in consolidating fascism through some kind of dramatic move, which could include a military attack or war. Such a move could be pre-meditated, or it could be a response to events that gets out of hand and escalates into a major crisis or war.

Those who think the “adults in the room” like “the generals”―Mattis, McMaster, Kelly―and others are going to check these moves toward war should note that none of them has broken ranks as Trump has busted one norm after another—praising the white supremacists in Charlottesville as “fine people,” threatening—at the UN no less―to “totally destroy” North Korea, and too many more to list here. Even with their differences, they are part of this regime—with an overall coherence in its fascist agenda.

The danger of war is surging yet again—wars that could well involve nuclear weapons and “mass casualties the likes of which the planet has never seen.” The future of billions of people, and perhaps humanity itself, is being threatened by a gang of fascist monsters headed by a maniacal bully with his finger on the nuclear trigger. Now, more than ever—this is the time to act, in our millions, to oust this regime from power!


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