Notes on the Revolution / Column #62
January 27, 2020
Trump’s geopolitical strategy seeks to make America great again
By Charles McKelvey
The United States of America is no longer that great power that Donald Trump knew when he was a child and youth. He broke into the national political landscape in 2016, speaking in the language of what we used to call “the common man,” proclaiming that he can “make America great again.” During the first three years of his presidency, under the influence of a revolving door of advisors of the extreme Right, a geopolitical strategy has unfolded. In today’s episode of Notes on the Revolution, we look at the geopolitical vision of the Trump administration.
Trump’s global plan is premised on the acceptance of the relative economic decline of the United States with respect to Western Europe and East Asia. It pushes merely for greater European contribution to the military costs of the NATO alliance, and for a more beneficial terms of trade, especially with China, in order to reduce the long-standing tendency of U.S. balance of trade deficits. On the other hand, the Trump administration has sought to regain control of the states and natural resources of the Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean, two regions of the world that the United States dominated through client states when it was at the height of its power. It has significantly increased military expenditures in support its renewed and aggressive imperialism with respect to these regions, which contributes to the tendency of recent decades of accelerating state budget deficits.
In the Middle East, the Trump administration has continued the militarist, imperialist policies of his predecessors. However, Trump has initiated new aggressions against Iran. This makes sense from an aggressive imperialist point of view, because Iran is an important regional player in the Middle East. Since 1979, Iran has developed political, economic, and social structures on a philosophical foundation of Islamic theology, an important alternative to the structures of the Western-dominated world-system. The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979 following a revolution that overthrew the U.S. backed dictator, the Shah of Iran, whose regime had been established by a 1953 CIA-backed coup d’état. During the first two decades of the twenty-first century, the Islamic Republic of Iran increasingly has been developing an internationalist orientation beyond the Islamic world. It has become an active member of the Non-Aligned Movement, serving as its President from 2013 to 2016; and it has developed relations with Venezuela and China, among other nations.
The Trump administration, of course, does not appreciate what Iran means to the region. It understands only that it is a regional power that is obstacle to U.S. imperialist objectives. The recent targeted assassination of a beloved Iranian general only fuels anti-imperialist sentiment in the region and unifies the Iranian revolution.
With respect to Latin America, the strategy of the Trump administration has been to target Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia for regime change. These states, all declaring themselves to be constructing socialism, have been in the vanguard of the movement for Latin American and Caribbean union and integration, seeking to develop intra-regional economic cooperation as an alternative to neocolonial structures under U.S. direction.
The Trump administration targeted Nicaragua in 2018, supporting violent gangs to promote political instability. But with the support of the people, rooted in its significant economic and social gains, the Sandinista Revolution was able to effectively resist.
In late 2019 in Bolivia, U.S. support of the oligarchy and political forces of the Right was central to the fall of the government of Evo Morales, even though Morales has enjoyed strong popular support for fourteen years, and in spite of the fact that the government of the Movement toward Socialism has implemented effective strategies for the control of natural resources and the social and economic uplift of the people. The key dynamic appears to have been the disloyalty of the armed forces, whose highest officials were more loyal to money and to the oligarchy than to the constitution and the president. Thus far, the de facto government has been adopting anti-popular and repressive measures, with U.S. backing, which is not likely to be sustainable in the long run.
Since 2014, the United States has waged what Cuban scholars call “unconventional war” against Venezuela, initiated by the Obama administration and continued with Trump. Unconventional war includes extensive use of local actors, use of the media to disseminate false claims, and support of sabotage. And it includes economic war, involving a financial and trade embargo. In the context of the economic difficulties and political conflicts that resulted from the unconventional war, the Trump administration recognized as president Juan Guaidó, the President of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, who declared himself president of Venezuela on dubious constitutional grounds.
However, the Guaidó strategy has failed. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was able to reach agreement with the moderate opposition, in which the opposition would recognize the constitutional legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency, and steps would be taken to reintegrate the National Assembly into the political process. Said Assembly did not reelect Guaidó as its President, which prompted him to engage in a show of resistance to the moderate opposition. Having been reduced to the minority of the opposition to the constitutionally elected president, Guaido nonetheless continues to be recognized by the Trump administration as president of the country.
The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, launched by Hugo Chávez in the late 1990s, has had considerable gains in obtaining control of the nation’s natural resources, developing social programs for the benefit of the people, and playing a leading role in the forging of Latin American unity and integration. The Trump administration has overplayed its hand in supporting the opposition, thus making apparent that the opposition allies itself with imperialist interests and with foreign control of the nation, thereby undermining popular support within Venezuela.
With respect to Cuba, the Trump administration during 2019 intensified the blockade. It activated Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Law, and it has been threatening governments and shipping and insurance companies with sanctions, seeking to block the arrival of petroleum to Cuba. The intention of the Trump administration in intensifying the blockade of Cuba was to foster a popular opposition to the government. But the effect has been the opposite; the unity and commitment of the people became stronger.
Trump’s vision of reestablishing control over the states and resources of the Middle East and Latin America is logical. Such control was central to its power in the 1950s, a power that Trump wants to restore. However, the vision is unreasonable, because it is dated. Historically, the global powers came to be great by conquering lands and peoples that previously were beyond the territorial limits of the world-economy; but during the course of the twentieth century, the world powers ran out of new lands and peoples conquer. During that same time, the conquered and colonized peoples developed the capacity to resist, to defend their own rights as an inseparable part of humanity. Imperialist policies; which by definition seek to control the natural resources, states, and market of other lands; can no longer be imposed on the peoples of the world, without generating huge costs in lives and economic resources for all concerned.
As Trump tries to reimpose what is no longer possible, his misguided policies only function to reinforce the unity of the revolutions in Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. They continue to resist, and they are cooperating with another and with China in a quest for a more just, democratic, and sustainable world. The aggressive militarist imperialism of the Trump administration can destroy the world that they are building, but it cannot reestablish the neocolonial domination that these nations have left behind.
Since 1980, the United States has fallen ever more deeply into the depths of aggressive imperialism. It could possibly in the future follow an alternative road of cooperation with other nations in the building of a more just world, if it were to learn how to redefine the meaning of greatness.
This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.
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