Friday, April 1, 2016

Juan Cole on Trump's Fascism

Juan Cole details what makes Donald Trump a fascist on his excellent blog Informed Comment.

Anderson Cooper’s interview with Donald Trump on Tuesday evening had the advantage of allowing come-backs and close questioning. At one point Cooper pointed out to Trump that he sometimes behaved like a 5-year-old, as with his attacks on Heidi Cruz. At another, he wondered why Trump did not take responsibility when he retweeted or repeated something an audience member said.

It was painful to have such an intense exposure to the cobwebs in Trump’s flighty mind. But if we tried to analyze his roller-coaster stream of consciousness, what general principles could we find that drives his discourse?

First, he is uninterested in civil rights. He does not even understand what a constitutionally protected right is. He never, ever, brings up rights. His world is an instrumental one. If you have some purpose in mind and achieving it requires riding roughshod over people, then you ride roughshod over people. It doesn’t matter that they putatively have rights. The rights must be set aside.

Trump went on to complain that Parisians are not all walking around like Wyatt Earp with six-shooters hanging off their hips. Then he alleged that the Muslim community of San Bernardino knew very well that two of their members were stockpiling weapons and bombs for an attack (a lie on Trump’s part). Then he blamed Obama for getting out of Iraq. Then he again called for a Muslim exclusion act. Then he alleged that Syrian refugees were coming into the United States with no paperwork (this is not true– they are vetted for 18 months, there aren’t very many of them, and they haven’t been nearly as much trouble for the country as Trump himself).

Trump never got around to saying how he would guarantee rights for Jews, Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus in an atmosphere that he is creating of ethnic hate and scapegoating toward one minority group, the Muslim-Americans. That is because he cannot conceive of people other than himself having rights. As a narcissist, only he matters to himself. He must get what he wants at all costs.

So Trump does not have a concept of civil rights, which he dismisses as “politically correct” (i.e. inconvenient). He can do anything he wants to anybody he wants any time he wants. The law, the Constitution then become irrelevant. He can frame his actions as a “war” and justify them.
This position, that rights don’t even exist, is why Trump is correctly called a fascist. Part of what fascism is, is a subjugation of individuals to reasons of the State at the whim of state officers, with no pretense of law or legality. Fascist states even just stripped millions of citizenship. If you aren’t a citizen then you don’t have rights. You don’t even have a right to have rights. Trump in his own mind has stripped Muslim-Americans of their citizenship. But he could easily do it to other groups in society if they got in his way. In some ways he has already demoted Latino Americans to being second class citizens, alleging that they are disproportionately a criminal element (which is the opposite of the reality).

Aside from the abolition of civil rights, a second plank of the Trump doctrine is that US security interests are supreme and must be achieved at all costs. The main purpose of the state in his view is the provision of what he calls security. Again, this conception of the government is a fascist one.
Some of his calculation of US interests is economic. He maintains, for instance, that NATO is costly and that the US bears the brunt of the costs, and therefore it should be mothballed. Moreover, since he identifies the interest of the state with security and his main conception of security is counter-terrorism, he sniffs at NATO for not being about counter-terrorism.

This position is breathtaking. Donald Trump does not know about the Afghanistan War. He does not know that NATO troops fought and died along US ones for long years in Afghanistan. France, Canada, the others lost men there fighting the Taliban. They were there as part of NATO. Donald Trump does not know this.
The US supports NATO economically. But it also spends ten times more annually on its military than the most militaristic of the other NATO countries (Britain) and many times that more than most other European countries. Trump thinks the US spends too little on its military and that the US military is a shadow of its former self.

Part of the reason for abolishing NATO is an insistence on allies’ self-reliance. Thus, he wants Europe to deal with the Ukraine and Crimea crises with Russia. Not the US. That is, in the end, Trump does not have the concept of an ally. It is part of his narcissism. There are no civil rights at home, we have no allies or responsibilities abroad.

Thus, his stated desire for Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons. Insofar as they are not really US allies (given that in his mind the US never has any responsibilities to other countries and so has no allies), then they should provide their own security. Since North Korea has a nuclear weapon, the only way they can do so is to nuclearize themselves.

Cooper pointed out to him that this is nuclear proliferation on a massive scale, which Trump says he is against. But Trump deflected the criticism on the grounds that it has to be done. The instrumental always takes precedent in Trump’s self-regarding mind over principle. Trump does not think in terms of principles but of interests. He is the ultimate Realist. If an interest requires that something should be done, it should be done. No framework of treaties or constitutional law or first principles or logic must be allowed to get in its way.

And that is the Trump doctrine. And that is American fascism.

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