Thursday, October 31, 2019

WHAT HAPPENS NOW TO THE STRUGGLE FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE BETWEEN THE GLOBAL NORTH AND THE GLOBAL SOUTH? A Repost from 2015 in The Heartland Radical and Popular Resistance

(After serious defeats grassroots movements in Latin America, the Middle East, and South Asia are blossoming again. Progressives should never underestimate the magnitude and role of resistance in human history. ht)

Harry Targ

But the story of 21st century resistance is not just about countries, alliances, new economic institutions that mimic the old. Grassroots social movements have been spreading like wild fire all across the face of the globe. The story can begin in many places and at various times: the new social movements of the 1980s; the Zapatistas of the 1990s; the anti-globalization/anti-IMF campaigns going back to the 1960s and continuing off and on until the new century; or repeated mass mobilizations against a Free Trade Agreement for the Americas. (Harry Targ, “The Empire in Disarray: Global Challenges to the International Order,” The Rag Blog, April 10, 2013).

On Imperialism and Resistance

Theories of imperialism emphasize the role of capital accumulation, the drive for ever larger profits, the exploitation of workers and peasants, and the expropriation of land. The needs of the economic system are typically served by military force when profits cannot be gained through other means. Also social control in poor countries is achieved by building alliances between ruling classes in rich and poor countries.

This story of imperialism explains much of human history. But the pursuit of profit, the capacity to exploit, the conquest of land, and the institutionalization of policies that maximize the interests of the powerful generate resistance. That too is part of the story. In the twenty-first century, countries such as China, India, and Brazil are demanding that some of the rules of economic exchange be rewritten. Groups of marginalized nation-states have joined together to form political and economic organizations on every continent. Most importantly, social movements have emerged all across the globe around critical issues. And because of new technologies, movements in one geographic space are now visible to all.

Latin American Resistance and Counter-Resistance

Perhaps the most interesting and inspiring forms of resistance over the last 25 years have been observed in Latin America. Cuba, the long-isolated nation which has inspired revolutionary ferment in the Global South, has been joined by political regimes throughout the continent. In this century resistance has come from grassroots organizing and electoral processes. These have led many countries in the region to adopt radical reforms, economic populism, and visions of twenty-first century socialism. The Bolivarian Revolution, so named by Hugo Chavez, spread from Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, to Nicaragua. Modest adaptations of radical reform surfaced in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and for a time Paraguay and Honduras. These countries embraced some or all of the following:

--the construction of socialist parties to run candidates for local and national office.

--cooperation in the establishment of regional international organizations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), The Bank of the South, The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), The Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), and various bilateral agreements including Cuba’s exchange of medical practitioners for Venezuelan oil.

--the articulation of common Latin American responses to traditional United States and European global hegemony. This includes demands for change in European and North American control of voting power in international organizations such as the IMF, opposition to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas proposed by the United States, and demands that the United States normalize relations with Cuba.

--the establishment of alternative forms of local political power.

--the construction of agricultural and industrial cooperatives.

--the emergence of grassroots organizations.

--the recognition of indigenous rights.

--the realization that the distribution of wealth and power between and within countries needs to be changed.

In sum, theories of imperialism, hegemony, dependency need to be complemented by an understanding of the theory and practice of resistance. Mobilizations as varied as the thousands of groups attending the World Social Fora to the politics of the Bolivarian Revolution, to Arab Spring, to Occupy are all part of the story of the twenty-first century. However, narratives of imperialism and resistance must also be sensitive to “counter-resistance.” History does not move in a steady course. Conflict and struggle are experienced all along the way. And therefore theorists and advocates of twenty-first century socialism must be cognizant of and be prepared for counter-resistance and reversals in the progressive flow of history.

Counter-Resistance and Defeat in Venezuela

Recently peoples’ movements suffered defeats in elections in two countries: Argentina and Venezuela. In Argentina, a neoliberal opposition party candidate, Mauricio Macri, defeated the hand-picked choice of incumbent president Christina Kirchner in October.  And, in parliamentary elections in Venezuela on December 6, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) won two-thirds of the legislative seats over the incumbent Chavista party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). This latter defeat in particular will have significant consequences in the near-term future for policies, programs, and left movements throughout the region.

Why did the PSUV incur this first major loss since the rise to power of Hugo Chavez in 1998? The answer to the question involves both external and internal causes. Externally, the loss was influenced by United States programs initiated years ago to intervene in the internal affairs of Venezuela. The United States trained and funded opposition political forces, encouraged a military coup to oust Chavez from power, and gave support to the wealthy class, to do whatever would bring down the Bolivarian Revolution.

In addition, U.S. policy has pressured Latin American governments to resist collaboration with its Venezuelan nemesis. Its policy tilted more toward Venezuela’s historic adversary, Colombia. In 2010 the U.S. constructed seven new military bases in Colombia to exacerbate tensions between those two countries.

Also, the price of oil on the world market has dropped precipitously over the last four years, thus depriving the Venezuelan economy of its most lucrative export-earning commodity. 

Along with the 17-year United States campaign to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution throughout the region, internal forces impacted significantly on the December 6 election defeat of the PSUV. Although the Chavez/Maduro regimes have prioritized new grassroots political institutions and have encouraged the expansion of cooperatives, particularly in the rural areas, Venezuelans in some communities were frustrated by bureaucratic stifling of local initiatives and political corruption. Also, while there has been a radical redistribution of the right to healthcare and food, in recent years these benefits have become scarce and accessing them has become more time consuming. Finally, as a result of economic crises, inflation has skyrocketed and basic consumer goods have become unavailable or unaffordable. Venezuelan voters were frustrated by current economic crises even though the 17 years of Chavista rule has led to substantial declines in poverty and the Cuban doctors have made health care readily available to those who formerly  did not have access to it. 

Finally, PSUV victories and the passion for Venezuela’s peaceful revolution drew substantial support from its charismatic leader, Hugo Chavez. With his death, a less appealing Nicholas Maduro was not able to maintain the authority of his predecessor.

Lessons Learned

What are some of the lessons to be drawn from the defeats in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela?

First, history reveals that successful resistance over imperialism and domination often leads to reaction, or what might be called “counter-resistance.” Activists should be aware that reversals in the face of organized reaction are likely and they therefore should not despair.

Second, progressives in the United States should continue to oppose militarism, subversion, and economic strangulation targeted against regimes that challenge traditional hegemony. In addition they might more effectively explain how communities and nations in Latin America are constructing alternative institutions such as workplace and agricultural cooperatives and alternative organizations of peoples’ power.

Third, the consequences of the election for Venezuela itself are unclear. But it can be assumed that MUD will use its two-thirds majority in the parliament to reverse the policies of economic populism, political change, and Venezuela’s positive relationships with other countries, particularly Cuba. Maduro, however, is still president and he will resist efforts to reverse the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Fourth, ultimately the future course of the country will be determined by the grassroots formations already created by the Bolivarian Revolution. If the people stand up to protect their cooperatives, their alternative local decision-making bodies, their new lives, then MUD (a fractious coalition of center-right and right-wing forces) will have limited powers to reverse the last seventeen years of the construction of twenty-first century socialism. And the level of intensity of the defense of the Bolivarian Revolution is relevant to observe throughout Latin America as well.

Fifth, MUD will probably prioritize a reversal of Venezuelan/Cuban relations and the other agreements Venezuela has made to provide oil for resource poor nations. The ramifications for the economies of these countries might be large, as would the loss of Cuban doctors to the Venezuelan people.

Sixth, and of more long-term consequence, poor countries have to figure out ways to construct  
vibrant and diverse economies that do not depend on a single temporarily valuable natural resource for export.  History is replete with accounts of countries which gained temporary wealth because of gold, silver, nickel, or singular agricultural commodities such as sugar or tobacco. They then became victims of conquest and vulnerable to declines in global demand. In the case of oil, extraction means environmental devastation. In countries such as Ecuador and Brazil oil exploration, even if the profits derived from it are shared with the population at large, generates justifiable anger among indigenous people who object to policies that destroy local communities and their ecology.

Finally, most regimes that have come to power through struggle have gained legitimacy from charismatic figures. In Latin America, Simon Bolivar, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and most recently Hugo Chavez, for example, have excited the imagination and enthusiasm of their people. Charismatic authority has been both a blessing and a curse as people struggle to build a better future. Twenty-first century socialism will be built on passion and enthusiasm but it is more likely to endure if that passion and enthusiasm is based on all those who construct it, not a small number of  leaders.



Monday, October 28, 2019

On United States Foreign Policy:MR Online, Popular Resistance, and Portside

United States Foreign Policy: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

The contradictory character of Trump foreign policy has left the peace movement befuddled. Perhaps the task is to include in the project of building a progressive majority ideas about challenging the US as an imperial power.

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Just before the Korean War started in 1950, post-World War key foreign policy advisers to President Truman threw their support behind recommendations made in a classified document, National Security Council Document 68, which recommended a dramatic increase in military spending. NSC-68 also recommended that military spending from that point on should be the number one priority of the national government. When presidents sit down to construct a federal budget, the document recommended, they should first allocate all the money requested by military and corporate elites and lobbyists concerned with military spending. Only after that the military advocates receive all they request should government programs address education, health care, roads, transportation, housing and other critical domestic issues. When the United States entered the Korean War, in June, 1950, Truman endorsed the recommendations of NSC 68 and used the war on the Korean peninsula as justification. In Andrew Bacevich’s words the United States fully committed to a “permanent war economy.” As political scientist, Hans Morgenthau wrote about that time; there was no turning back from the new war economy and a “Cold War” against the former Soviet Union. Each subsequent president expanded on the war economy and the narrative of a dangerous world that justified trillions of dollars of spending. According to Chalmers Johnson (BlowbackSorrows of Empire), between 1947 and 1990, the permanent war economy cost the American people close to $9 trillion. Ruth Sivard (World Military Expenditures) presented data to indicate that over 100,000 U.S. military personnel died in wars and military interventions during this period. And, in other countries, nearly 10 million people died directly or indirectly in wars in which the United States was a participant.
Seventy years later, Trump era military budgets have reached record highs, $738 billion dollars in the 2020 fiscal year and a projected $740 billion in 2021. As William Hartung wrote: “The agreement sets the table for two of the highest budgets for the Pentagon and related work on nuclear warheads at the Department of Energy since World War II (in Jake Johnson, ‘Unprecedented, Wasteful, and Obscene’: House Approves $1.48 Trillion Pentagon Budget,” Common Dreams, Friday, July 26, 2019). Including past and present military-related spending the War Resisters League estimates that the 2020 federal budget will consist of 48 percent of all spending, exceeding non-military spending by six percent. Just one weapon, the notorious F-35 latest generation fighter plane is costing, by conservative estimates, $1.5 trillion. (Manufacturing facilities for the plane are found in 433 of 435 Congressional districts).

Rationalizing the Permanent War Economy

A factional dispute among foreign policy elites began to emerge in the 1970s about the best strategies and tactics which should be pursued to maximize the continued global economic, political, and military dominance of the United States in the international system. The dispute was not over whether the United States should continue to pursue empire but rather how to continue to achieve it. The debates were occasioned by the rise of the countries of the Global South, the societally wrenching experience of the Vietnam War, the growth of power and influence of the former Soviet Union, and since its collapse, the emergence of China as a new global economic, political and military power. In addition, the new international economy was becoming more global, that is to say more interconnected. Debates about strategy, tactics, surfaced between the neoliberal globalists who emphasized so-called free trade, financial speculation, and the promotion of a neoliberal agenda that advocated for the privatization of all public activities by states and the development of austerity policies that would shift wealth from the many to the few. The international debt system would be the vehicle for pressuring poor and rich countries to transform their own economic agendas. This faction dominated United States foreign policy making for generations, particularly from Reagan to Clinton to Obama. In political/military terms, they have sought to push back challengers to neoliberal capitalism: Russia, China, populist Latin American countries, and they have advocated advancing US economic interests in Asia and Africa. Many of the institutions of the neoliberal globalists, sometimes called the “deep state” include the CIA, NSA, and other security agencies.
The other faction represented by President Trump and some of his key aides prefer economic nationalism, restricted trade, building walls, avoiding diplomacy, and they are driven by a deeply held white supremacist ideology. They believe, as political scientist Samuel Huntington argued, that we are engaged in a civilizational conflict with Islam, a fourth world war. The neoliberal globalists undermined Ukraine, put more NATO troops in Eastern Europe and want to depose Putin and weaken Russia. This is not on the Trump agenda.
The forbearers of the current generation of Trumpian economic nationalists, came from the so-called “neo-conservatives,” historically organized around the 1990s lobby group, The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and in the 1950s and 1970s of The Committee for the Present Danger (CPD). Both the neoliberals and the neoconservatives share a common vision of a global political economy controlled by the United States but the former prefer selective use of military force and greater use of economic and diplomatic pressure and covert interventionism while justifying policy on humanitarian grounds, including expanding democracy. Since, they say, the United States represents the hope of democracy in the world, it is as Madeleine Albright called it. “the indispensable nation.” The neoconservatives, in a sense more frank, argued that with the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the United States was the hegemonic power. With that power PNAC argued, the United States should have imposed a world order and state regimes that comported with US interests and ideology. Over the years, the policies of the two factions converged; hence economic penetration, covert interventions, occasional wars, and support for expanding military spending. But, often for reasons of domestic rather than international politics, conflicts between the two factions resurface. That is the case in 2019.

The Ruling Class Agenda for the United States Role in the World: Before the 2016 election

From a Washington Post editorial, May 21, 2016:
HARDLY A day goes by without evidence that the liberal international order of the past seven decades is being eroded.China and Russia are attempting to fashion a world in their own illiberal image…This poses an enormous trial for the next U.S. president. We say trial because no matter who takes the Oval Office, it will demand courage and difficult decisions to save the liberal international order. As a new report from the Center for a New American Security points out, this order is worth saving, and it is worth reminding ourselves why: It generated unprecedented global prosperity, lifting billions of people out of poverty; democratic government, once rare, spread to more than 100 nations; and for seven decades there has been no cataclysmic war among the great powers. No wonder U.S. engagement with the world enjoyed a bipartisan consensus.
The Washington  Post editorial quoted above clearly articulates the dominant view envisioned by US foreign policy elites for the years ahead: about global political economy, militarism, and ideology. It in effect constitutes a synthesis of the “neocon” and the “liberal interventionist” wings of the ruling class. First, it is inspired by the necessity of 21st century capitalism to defend neoliberal globalization: government for the rich, austerity for the many, and deregulation of trade, investment, and speculation. (Neoliberal globalization, the latest phase in the development of international capitalism is described in an important recent book, Jerry Harris, Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Democracy, Clarity Press, 2016).
Second, the Post vision of a New World Order is built upon a reconstituted United States military and economic hegemony that has been a central feature of policymaking at least since the end of World War II even though time after time it has suffered setbacks: from defeat in Vietnam, to radical decolonization across the Global South, and to the rise of competing poles of power in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and even Europe. In addition, despite recent setbacks, grassroots mass mobilizations against neoliberal globalization and austerity policies have risen everywhere, even in the United States. The Washington Post speaks to efforts to reassemble the same constellation of political forces, military resources, and concentrated wealth, that, if anything, is greater than at any time since the establishment of the US “permanent war economy” after the last World War.
Historian, Michael Stanley, in an essay entitled “‘We are Not Denmark’: Hillary Clinton and Liberal American Exceptionalism,” (Common Dreams, February 26, 2016) points to the ideological glue that is used by foreign policy elites, liberal and conservative, to justify the pursuit of neoliberal globalization and militarism; that is the reintroduction of the old idea of American Exceptionalism, which in various forms has been used by elites since the foundation of the Republic.
The modern version, borne in the context of continental and global expansion, serves to justify an imperial US role in the world. Along with posturing that the United States is somehow special and has much to offer the world, American Exceptionalism presumes the world has little to offer the United States. The only difference between Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy is whether the exceptionalism still exists and must be maintained or has dissipated requiring the need to “make America great again.” Leaders of both parties, however, support the national security state, high military expenditures, and a global presence—military, economic, political, and cultural.

“Innovation and National Security: Keeping Our Edge:” Council on Foreign Relations 2019

The influential Council on Foreign Relations issued a Task Force report in September, 2019, on national security. Task force members included representatives of prestigious universities, large corporations, and staff from the CFR. In the forward, the report pointed out that the United States had led the world in technological innovation and development since the end of World War Two. But, it said, “…the United States risks falling behind its competitors, principally China.” It goes on to propose that the United States “…needs to respond urgently and comprehensively over the next five years and put forward a national security innovation strategy to ensure it is the predominant power in a range of emerging technologies such as AI and data science, advanced battery storage, advanced semiconductor technologies, genomics and synthetic biology, fifth-generation cellular networks (5G), quantum information systems, and robotics.” The report calls for increases in federal support for basic research and development. This would include investments in higher education, selective immigration of skilled scientists, and reform of military institutions to more effectively incorporate new technologies into military capabilities.
Major findings of the Task Force included the following:
  • Technological innovation leads to economic and military advantage.
  • US leadership in science and innovation is at risk.
  • US federal funding for research and development has stagnated for years.
  • US leadership in STEM education is declining
  • The Defense Department and the intelligence community risk falling behind “potential adversaries” if they do not employ more technologies from the private sector.
  • The defense community “faces deteriorating manufacturing capabilities,” and “insecure” supply chains, while depending on other nations for technologies.
  • There is a ”cultural divide” surfacing between technology and policymaking communities weakening connections between the defense and intelligence communities and the private sector.
    And, as to our major competitor China:
  • China is investing significantly in new technologies and will be the world’s biggest investor by 2030.
  • China is closing “the technological gap” with the United States, and it and other countries are approaching the US as to artificial intelligence (AI).
  • China is “exploiting” the openness of the US to secure valuable innovation by violating intellectual property rights.
While praising President Trump for some of his efforts the report says that increased budgets have been too “incremental and narrow in scale.” The Administration has inadequately moved to develop new communications technologies, and to respond to the challenge of Huawei’s global expansion.
Therefore the United States must:
  • restore federal funding for research and development.
  • attract and educate a science and technology workforce.
  • support technology adoption in the defense sector.
  • bolster and scale technology alliances and ecosystems.
In short, “during the early years of the Cold War, confronted by serious technological and military competition from the Soviet Union, the United States invested heavily in its scientific base. Those investments ensured U.S. technological leadership for fity years. Faced with the rise of China and a new wave of disruptive technological innovation, the country needs a similar vision and an agenda for realizing it.” (9)

Where Does the Foreign Policy of Donald Trump Fit?

Taking “the long view” of United States foreign policy, it is clear that from NSC-68; to the response to the Soviet challenges in space such as during the Sputnik era; to global wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq; to covert interventions in the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, the United States has pursued global hegemony (and is suggested in the CFR statement). It is also clear that the pursuit of empire has of necessity involved the creation of a permanent war economy, an economy that overcomes economic stagnation by the infusion of enormous military expenditures.
It is also clear that justification for empire and military spending has necessitated the construction of an enemy, first the Soviet Union and international communism; then terrorism; and now China. The obverse of a demonic enemy requires a conception of self to justify the imperial project. That self historically has been various iterations of American exceptionalism, the indispensable nation, US humanitarianism, and implicitly or explicitly the superiority of the white race and western civilization.
In this light, while specific policies vary, the trajectory of US foreign policy in the twenty-first century is a continuation of the policies and programs that were institutionalized in the twentieth century. Three seem primary. First, military spending, particularly in new technologies continues unabated. And the CFR report raises the danger of the United States “falling behind,” the same metaphor that was used by the writers of the NSC-68 document, or the Gaither and Rockefeller Reports composed in the late 1950s to challenge President Eisenhower’s worry about a military/industrial complex, the response to Sputnik, Secretary of Defense McNamara’s transformation of the Pentagon to scientific management in the 1960s, or President Reagan’s huge increase of armaments in the 1980s to overcome the “window of vulnerability.”
Second, the United States continues to engage in policies recently referred to as “hybrid wars.” The concept of hybrid wars suggests that while traditional warfare between nations has declined, warfare within countries has increased. Internal wars, the hybrid wars theorists suggest, are encouraged and supported by covert interventions, employing private armies, spies, and other operatives financed by outside nations like the United States. Also the hybrid wars concept also refers to the use of economic warfare, embargoes and blockades, to bring down adversarial states and movements. The blockades of Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran are examples. So the hybrid war concept suggests the carrying out of wars by other, less visible, means.
Third, much of the discourse on the US role in the world replicates the bipolar, super power narrative of the Cold War. Only now the enemy is China. As Alfred McCoy has pointed out (In the Shadows of the American Empire, 2017), the United States in the twenty first century sees its economic hegemony being undermined by Chinese economic development and global reach. To challenge this, McCoy argues, the United States has taken on a project to recreate its military hegemony: AI, a space force, biometrics, new high tech aircraft etc. If the US cannot maintain its hegemony economically, it will have to do so militarily. This position is the centerpiece of the recent CFR Task Force Report.
Recognizing these continuities in United States foreign policy, commentators appropriately recognize the idiosyncrasies of foreign policy in the Trump era. He has reached out to North Korea and Russia (which has had the potential of reducing tensions in Asia and Central Europe). He has rhetorically claimed that the United States must withdraw military forces from trouble spots around the world, including the Middle East. He has declared that the United States cannot be “the policeman of the world,” a declaration made by former President Nixon as he escalated bombing of Vietnam and initiated plans to overthrow the Allende regime in Chile. For some of these measures, Trump has been inappropriately criticized by Democrats and others. Tension-reduction on the Korean Peninsula, for example, should have been encouraged.
However, while Trump moves in one direction he almost immediately undermines the policies he has ordered. His announced withdrawal from Syria, while in the abstract a sign of a more realistic assessment of US military presence in the Middle East was coupled with a direct or implied invitation to the Turkish military to invade Northeast Syria to defeat the Kurds. Also, at the same time he was withdrawing troops from Syria, the Defense Department announced the United States was sending support troops to Saudi Arabia. He withdrew from the accord with Iran on nuclear weapons and the Paris Climate Change agreement. Time after time, one foreign policy decision is contradicted by another. These contradictions occur over and over with allies as well as traditional adversaries. Sometimes policies seem to be made with little historical awareness and without sufficient consultation with professional diplomats. (One is reminded of the old Nixon idea, the so-called “madman theory.” Nixon allegedly wanted to appear mad so that adversaries would be deterred from acting in ways contrary to US interests out of fear of random responses).
The contradictory character of Trump foreign policy has left the peace movement befuddled. How does it respond to Trump’s occasional acts that go against the traditional imperial grain at the same time that he acts impetuously increasing the dangers of war? How does the peace movement participate in the construction of a progressive majority that justifiably seeks to overturn the Trump era and all that it stands for: climate disaster, growing economic inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, and hybrid war? Perhaps the task for the peace movement is to include in the project of building a progressive majority ideas about challenging the US as an imperial power, proclaiming that a progressive agenda requires the dismantling of the permanent war economy. These are truly troubled times, with to a substantial degree the survival of humanity and nature at stake. The war system is a significant part of what the struggle is about.
Harry Targ is a retired Professor of Political Science, Purdue University. He has written books and articles on US foreign policy, international political economy, and issues of labor and class struggle. He blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

ESSAYS ON THE CRISIS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION


NEOLIBERALISM, PRIVATIZATION, AND THE CRISIS OF EDUCATION (posted on November 14, 2015)
Harry Targ

Introduction

In August, 2015 12 parents in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago launched a 34 day hunger strike to protest the closing of a neighborhood high school. Their demands, along with its reopening, included the establishment of a green jobs oriented curriculum that would train young people for the needs of the 21st century.

In Seattle, Washington in September, 2015 teachers went on strike to demand fair wages and working conditions in their new contract.

In the summer, 2014 again in Chicago, the teachers union went on strike to push back against school closings, stagnant teacher wages, and closed-door policymaking to consciously limit the influence of parents in the community. This strike had the support of teachers, parents, and children.

During the spring, 2015, parents all around the state of Indiana were keeping their children home during school days as a mark of their resistance to painful, frustrating, ill-conceived, and misused batteries of tests that state/federal policymakers were imposing on young people.

These are just a few examples of rising anger at the threat to the tradition of public schooling, big corporate efforts to privatize schools for profit, the denial of communities of parents any influence over educational policy, and campaigns to destroy teachers unions. A key component of the struggle to save our schools has been to defend the rights of all children to quality education not limited by race, class, gender, or ethnicity.

The neoliberal design

In the 1970s powerful economic and political elites began a sustained campaign to shift more of the wealth of society from the many to the few. A new policy agenda, sometimes called neoliberalism or austerity, was initiated that called for a variety of attacks on government policies that had been instituted over the prior thirty years.

In general, the neoliberal policies called for downsizing government (except for the military), cutting public services and programs to provide for the human needs of the population, deregulating banks and corporations, and privatizing public institutions. Roads, libraries, parks, prisons, and particularly schools were being shifted from public ownership and control to private corporations, mostly to make a profit. While these policies have encountered public opposition and have not been fully implemented, they have dramatically affected the quality of our public life and our communities.

The Threat to Public Schools

Since the dawn of the twentieth century the anchor of most communities in the United States, has been its public schools. Schools help raise, nourish, mentor, and educate the youth of America. Parents, as best they can, participate in supporting school systems and provide input on school policy. Teachers and school administrators sacrifice time and energy to stimulate the talents of young people. And teachers through educational associations and trade unions organize to protect their rights in the workplace, always mindful of the number one priority; serving the children and the community.

Beginning in the 1970s, various special interest groups, many well-funded, began to advocate for the privatization of education. Looking at aggregate data showing some failing school performance, they argued that private corporations, charter schools, could educate children better. They blamed the lack of marketplace competition for waste of taxpayer dollars for poor performance. The arguments ignored the fact that failing schools were schools underfunded by state legislatures and were often in communities where resources were scarce because of inequalities of wealth and income. Most often under-performing schools were underfunded schools: underfunded because of racism and patterns of segregation.

The neoliberal answer was to shift public funds, formerly from public schools, to private corporate charter schools. Along with the creation of charter schools, voucher systems were established by state legislatures and school districts allowing parents to place their children in any school they could find; often difficult to access and sometimes far from the child’s neighborhood. The introduction of charter schools and vouchers began the process of shifting resources from public education to private schools. 

Shifting resources from the public to the private sector served to destroy adequately performing public schools and weakened nearby communities.

The data on the shift from public schools to charters is shocking. For example in Detroit between 2005 and 2013 public school enrollment declined by 63% and charter school enrollments rose by 53%; in Gary the decline in public schools was 47% and the rise in charter school enrollment rose by 197%;  and in Indianapolis the decline in public school enrollments totaled 27% and the rise in charter schools was 287%. 

This historic transfer of public funds for education to privatization would often be sped up by local crises. The biggest crisis in an American community in decades occurred in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck that city in August, 2005. In its aftermath 100,000 citizens were forced to leave the city because their homes were demolished. Over 100 public schools were destroyed in the disaster. Subsequently virtually all those schools were replaced with charter schools, run by private corporations for a profit, devoid of teachers’ organizations and parental participation in the revitalization of educational institutions. Commenting on the New Orleans experience Secretary of Education Arne Duncan suggested that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to the educational system of New Orleans. 

The human tragedy of Katrina was also a metaphor for what was to follow all across the nation: powerful forces swept away vibrant publicly controlled and accountable educational institutions, replacing them with new profit-driven, non-transparent, non-union, corporate schools that did not serve the needs and desires of the remaining members of the community. Public education is being uprooted, transformed, and destroyed all across the United States.  

To facilitate the privatization of schools cities everywhere have begun to close public schools. Detroit, New York, and Chicago have closed over 100 schools per city in recent years. Several cities have closed at least 25 schools in recent years. In Philadelphia, municipal funds for a prison came from the closure of 50 schools. The impacts of school closings is reflected in the essay “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” produced by the Journey for Justice Alliance: “Closing a school is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a community; it strikes at the very core of community culture, history, and identity and…produces far-reaching repercussions that negatively affect every aspect of community life.” www.empowerdc.org/uploads/J4JReport-Death_by_a_Thousand_Cuts

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IMPACTS OF THE PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION (posted on January 11, 2016)
Harry Targ

The political economy of public sector failure is wholly ignored when schools are declared failing and threatened with closure. Further, parents, guardians, community members, educators, and youth are systematically excluded from decisions to close schools and plans to redesign their replacements. The cover story about saving communities from educational crisis grows a bit suspect when the very communities presumably being saved are kept out of the process--and their children are often denied admission to the replacement schools. (Michael Fabricant and Michelle Fine, Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover of Public Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, 2012, p. 98. These comments were made about New York but are relevant almost everywhere. ht).

In a prior essay, I discussed the connections between the neoliberal agenda characteristic of the changing political economy since the 1980s, the move toward privatization of public institutions, and the threat to public schools. www.heartlandradical.blogspot.com/2015/11/neoliberalism-privatization-and-crisis.html

In this essay I discuss some impacts of these policy changes in the United States and proposals for mobilizing for policy change in Indiana. 

First, the shift of scarce state budget funds from public to charter schools has meant a significant decline in resources to maintain and improve public schools. If funds for new charter schools and increased money for vouchers are transferred from adequately performing public schools to under-performing charter or religious schools the changes in educational policy would lead to a decline in the quality of education provided to all students. For example, in the 2014-2015 Indiana budget, $115 million was diverted by the state legislature from public education to the growing voucher program.

Therefore, as money is withdrawn from K-12 public education the traditional schools have reduced resources with which to do their job. This leads to declining performance. Then privatization advocates call for further reduction as well as school closings, rather than increasing resource allocation to public schools. 

Second, a high percentage of school closings occur in poor and Black communities. These closings create what the Journey for Justice Alliance calls “education deserts.” Parents have to find adequate, affordable schools elsewhere in the cities in which they live. Oftentimes charter schools refuse to admit particular students because of biased estimates of their probability of success, disabilities they may have, insufficient English language proficiency or other reasons. “Charter schools use a variety of selective admissions techniques, such as targeted marketing strategies, burdensome application processes, imposing academic prerequisites, and the active discouragement of less-desirable candidates.” (Journey for Justice Alliance, Death By a Thousand Cuts, May, 2014, pp.11-12). In some cases parents cannot find adequate schools for their children anywhere near their community. 

The closing of schools, the struggle for admission to new schools, the increased class sizes of new schools, the adjustment to a new school culture, along with the inexperience of new teachers, all impact in negative ways on the educational experience of children. Education writer, Scott Elliott reported that of the 18 charter schools operating in Indianapolis in 2015, half of them had test scores in 2014 that registered a “fail” in state examination of their children. The failing charter schools served children from poorer backgrounds and/or were children with special needs such as language training. Several of these failing charter schools had been operating for several years and some had been part of national charter networks.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability summed up studies of the impacts of voucher programs on educational performance: ‘None of the independent studies performed of the most lauded and long standing voucher programs extant in the U.S.--Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.--found any statistical evidence that children who utilized vouchers performed better than children who did not and remained in public schools.”

Third, as parent and student protests in Chicago, in various cities and towns in Indiana, and elsewhere suggest, there is an inverse relationship between the spread of charter schools and voucher systems and citizen input into educational policy-making. Historically, while many parents chose not to participate in school board decision- making, the prerogative existed for parents, and even students, to provide input into educational policy. It was assumed that members of communities had the right and the responsibility to communicate their concerns to school administrators, elected school boards, and teachers. Most school districts have active parent organizations. 

The documentary Education Inc. demonstrated cases in which the frequency of public school board hearings was reduced and meetings were summarily adjourned to avoid debate on controversial issues. And legislatures, such as in Indiana, have prohibited state executive or legislative bodies from regulating the “curriculum content” of private schools that accept vouchers.

Fourth, the neoliberal design referred to in the prior essay is based upon the proposition that institutional and policy success is best measured by the profit accrued to the corporate bodies involved. In the field of education, neoliberal policies seek to shift accountability from the public to the private sector; from professional skills to market skills; and from participation by the professional and union organizations of teachers, parent groups, and engaged students to corporate executives of private corporations. The neoliberal design regards educational professionalism and training and teachers advocacy associations as impediments. 

Therefore the full force of state educational policy includes transferring status, respect, adequate remuneration from long time public school teachers to marginalized, under-trained new workers in charter schools. Also the charter school movement is avowedly an anti-teachers union movement. 

Documentaries on education such as Rise Above the Mark and Education Inc. illustrate that career teachers find demoralizing the repeated and dysfunctional testing of children, declining resources for their schools, and repeated public statements devaluing and demeaning teachers. Educational spokespersons in these films speak in the most glowing terms about the passion to teach, commitment to children, and talent of staffs under their leadership. School superintendents in these documentaries also speak about the contributions which teachers unions make to the enhancement of school performance.   

The sum total of the thirty year effort to transform the educational system under the guise of “reform” are the following: the tradition of public education is being destroyed; access to quality education is becoming more difficult and more unequal; transparency and parent input into policy making is becoming more difficult; and the attack on professionalism and teachers unions is making it more difficult to teach.

How to respond?

The November 14, 2015 essay and this one only begin to tell the story about the attacks on the educational process and quality education. Other issues need to be discussed including testing, evaluations based on dubious metrics, charging parents for text books, inequitable access to school supplies by district and by public versus private schools, inadequate funding, the development of curricula appropriate for a twenty-first century educational agenda, and the need to combat the “school to prison pipeline” that seems to undergird much of urban education. Responses to protect and enhance the quality of educational life for children require the following:

Creating an educational movement in the state of Indiana that says “enough is enough” to those advocates of so-called education “reform.” That means developing inside strategies that include running and electing legislators and executives who believe in public education. It means lobbying at the State House during the legislative season. It means launching litigation when politicians and educational privateers violate the Indiana constitution’s guarantee that all children have a right to a quality education.

The educational movement must also embrace an outside strategy, building a social movement. It should include education, agitation, and organization. Pamphlets, speakers, videos, and other public fora need to be organized all around the state. Educators and their supporters need to rally and protest so that the issue of quality education is discussed in communities and the media.

And organizationally, an educational movement should draw upon the militancy, passion, and expertise of educational organizations around the state that are already engaged in this work. Strengthening the movement for quality education is more about bringing existing groups together than creating new ones. That is the vision of Indiana Moral Mondays and the idea of “fusion politics.” Assemble those who share common values and a vision and build a mass movement such that as the old slogan says: “The People United Shall Never Be Defeated.” 

What Specific Policies and Programs to Support?

1.Increasing, not decreasing, federal, state, and local funding of public education.

2.Prioritizing the funding of traditionally under-funded schools in economically disadvantaged communities. Resources should include salaries to encourage experienced teachers to remain in disadvantaged communities. Funds should provide equal technologies, including libraries, computers, and other tools, for schools in lower income communities equal to those provided for wealthier communities. Resources should provide for language training, math education, and programs in the arts.

3.Policy-making bodies in all branches of government should be open and transparent so that parents, teachers, and students can observe and participate in decision-making.

4.In school districts where teachers choose to form unions or other professional associations these organizations should be recognized partners in the policy-making process.

5.Assessments of school performance should be determined by teachers, school administrators, and parents, not politicians or educational corporations. Teachers should not be forced to “teach to the tests.”

6.The goal of the educational process should be the full development of the potential of each and every student irrespective of race, gender, class or other forms of discrimination.








Sunday, October 20, 2019

UNITED STATES FOREIGN POLICY:YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW

Harry Targ

Just before the Korean War started in 1950, key foreign policy advisers to President Truman threw their support behind recommendations made in a classified document, National Security Council Document 68. The document recommended a dramatic increase in military spending and it also proposed that military spending from that point on should be the number one priority of the national government. When presidents sit down to construct a federal budget, the document said, they should first allocate all the money requested by military and corporate elites and lobbyists concerned with military spending. Only after the military advocates receive all they request should government programs address education, health care, roads, transportation, housing and other critical domestic issues.When the United States entered the Korean War, in June, 1950, Truman endorsed the recommendations of NSC 68 and used the war on the Korean peninsula as justification. In Andrew Bacevich’s words the United States fully committed to a “permanent war economy.” As political scientist, Hans Morgenthau wrote about that time; there was no turning back from the new war economy and a “Cold War” against the former Soviet Union.

Each subsequent president expanded on the war economy and the narrative of a dangerous world that justified trillions of dollars of spending. According to Chalmers Johnson (Blowback, Sorrows of Empire), between 1947 and 1990, the permanent war economy cost the American people close to $9 trillion. Ruth Sivard (World Military Expenditures) presented data to indicate that over 100,000 U.S. military personnel died in wars and military interventions during this period. And, in other countries, nearly 10 million people died directly or indirectly in wars in which the United States was a participant.

Seventy years later, Trump era military budgets have reached record highs, $738 billion dollars in the 2020 fiscal year and a projected $740 billion in 2021. As William Hartung wrote: “The agreement sets the table for two of the highest budgets for the Pentagon and related work on nuclear warheads at the Department of Energy since World War II (in Jake Johnson, ‘Unprecedented, Wasteful, and Obscene’: House Approves $1.48 Trillion Pentagon Budget,”  Common Dreams, Friday, July 26, 2019). Including past and present military-related spending the War Resisters League estimates that the 2020 federal budget will consist of 48 percent of all spending, exceeding non-military spending by six percent. Just one weapon, the notorious F-35 latest generation fighter plane, is costing, by conservative estimates, $1.5 trillion. (Manufacturing facilities for the plane are found in 433 of 435 Congressional districts).

Rationalizing the Permanent War Economy 

A factional dispute among foreign policy elites began to emerge in the 1970s about the best strategies and tactics which should be pursued to maximize the continued global economic, political, and military dominance of the United States in the international system. The dispute was not over whether the United States should continue to pursue empire but rather how to continue to achieve it. The debates were occasioned by the rise of the countries of the Global South, the societally wrenching experience of the Vietnam War, the growth of power and influence of the former Soviet Union, and since its collapse, the emergence of China as a new global economic, political and military power. In addition, the new international economy was becoming more global, that is to say more interconnected. Debates about strategy and tactics surfaced.

Neoliberal globalists emphasized  so-called free trade, financial speculation,  and the promotion of a neoliberal agenda that advocated for the privatization of all public activities by states and the development of austerity policies that would shift wealth from the many to the few. The international debt system would be the vehicle for pressuring poor and rich countries to transform their own economic agendas. This faction dominated United States foreign policy making for generations, particularly from Reagan to Clinton to Obama. In political/military terms, they have sought to push back challengers to neoliberal capitalism: Russia, China, populist Latin American countries, and they have advocated advancing US economic interests in Asia and Africa. Many of the institutions of the neoliberal globalists, sometimes called the “deep state” include the CIA, NSA, and other security agencies.

The other faction represented by President Trump and some of his key aides today prefer economic nationalism, restricted trade, building walls, and avoiding diplomacy. They are driven by a deeply held white supremacist ideology. They believe, as political scientist Samuel Huntington argued, that we are engaged in a civilizational conflict with Islam, a fourth world war. The neoliberal globalists undermined Ukraine, put more NATO troops in Eastern Europe and want to depose Putin and weaken Russia. This is not  a priority of the Trump agenda.

The forbearers of the current generation of Trumpian economic nationalists, came from the so-called “neo-conservatives,” historically organized around the 1990s lobby group, The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and in the 1950s and 1970s of The Committee for the Present Danger (CPD). Both the neoliberals and the neoconservatives share a common vision of a global political economy controlled by the United States but the former prefer selective use of military force and greater use of economic and diplomatic pressure and covert interventionism while justifying policy on humanitarian grounds, including expanding democracy. Since, they say, the United States represents the hope of democracy in the world, it is as Madeleine Albright called it. “the indispensable nation.” The neoconservatives, in a sense more frank, argue that with the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the United States was the hegemonic power. With that power PNAC argued, the United States should have imposed a world order and state regimes that comported with US interests and ideology. Over the years, the policies of the two factions converged; hence economic penetration, covert interventions, occasional wars, and support for expanding military spending. But, often for reasons of domestic rather than international politics, conflicts between the two factions resurface. That is the case in 2019.

The Ruling Class Agenda for the United States Role in the World: Before the 2016 election

From a Washington Post editorial, May 21, 2016:

Hardly a day goes by without evidence that the liberal international order of the past seven decades is being eroded. China and Russia are attempting to fashion a world in their own illiberal image…This poses an enormous trial for the next U.S. president. We say trial because no matter who takes the Oval Office, it will demand courage and difficult decisions to save the liberal international order. As a new report from the Center for a New American Security points out, this order is worth saving, and it is worth reminding ourselves why: It generated unprecedented global prosperity, lifting billions of people out of poverty; democratic government, once rare, spread to more than 100 nations; and for seven decades there has been no cataclysmic war among the great powers. No wonder U.S. engagement with the world enjoyed a bipartisan consensus. 

The Washington Post editorial quoted above clearly articulates the dominant view envisioned by US foreign policy elites for the years ahead: about global political economy, militarism, and ideology. It in effect constitutes a synthesis of the “neocon” and the “liberal interventionist” wings of the ruling class. First, it is inspired by the necessity of 21st century capitalism to defend neoliberal globalization: government for the rich, austerity for the many, and deregulation of trade, investment, and speculation. (Neoliberal globalization, the latest phase in the development of international capitalism is described in an important new book, Jerry Harris, Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Democracy, Clarity Press, 2016). 

Second, the Post vision of a New World Order is built upon a reconstituted United States military and economic hegemony that has been a central feature of policymaking at least since the end of World War II even though time after time it has suffered setbacks: from defeat in Vietnam, to radical decolonization across the Global South, and the rise of competing poles of power in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and even Europe. In addition, despite recent setbacks, grassroots mass mobilizations against neoliberal globalization and austerity policies have risen everywhere, even in the United States. The Washington Post speaks to efforts to reassemble the same constellation of political forces, military resources, and concentrated wealth, that, if anything, is greater than at any time since the establishment of the US “permanent war economy” after the last World War.

Historian, Michael Stanley, in an essay entitled “‘We are Not Denmark’: Hillary Clinton and Liberal American Exceptionalism,” (Common Dreams, February 26, 2016) points to the ideological glue that is used by foreign policy elites, liberal and conservative, to justify the pursuit of neoliberal globalization and militarism; that is the reintroduction of the old idea of American Exceptionalism, which in various forms has been used by elites since the foundation of the Republic.

The modern version, borne in the context of continental and global expansion, serves to justify an imperial US role in the world. Along with posturing that the United States is somehow special and has much to offer the world, American Exceptionalism presumes the world has little to offer the United States. The only difference between Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy is whether the exceptionalism still exists and must be maintained or has dissipated requiring the need to “make America great again.” Leaders of both parties, however, support the national security state, high military expenditures, and a global presence—military, economic, political, and cultural.

“Innovation and National Security: Keeping Our Edge:” Council on Foreign Relations 2019 

The influential Council on Foreign Relations issued a Task Force report in September, 2019, on national security. Task force members included representatives of prestigious universities, large corporations, and staff from the CFR. In the forward, the report pointed out that the United States had led the world in technological innovation and development since the end of World War Two. But, it said, “…the United States risks falling behind its competitors, principally China.” It goes on to propose that the United States “…needs to respond urgently and comprehensively over the next five years and put forward a national security innovation strategy to ensure it is the predominant power in a range of emerging technologies such as AI and data science, advanced battery storage, advanced semiconductor technologies, genomics and synthetic biology, fifth-generation cellular networks (5G), quantum information systems, and robotics.” The report calls for increases in federal support for basic research and development. This would include investments in higher education, selective immigration of skilled scientists, and reform of military institutions to more effectively incorporate new technologies into military capabilities.

Major findings of the Task Force included the following:

-Technological innovation leads to economic and military advantage.
-US leadership in science and innovation is at risk.
-US federal funding for research and development has stagnated for years.
-US leadership in STEM education is declining
-The Defense Department and the intelligence community risk falling behind “potential adversaries” if they do not employ more technologies from the private sector.
-The defense community “faces deteriorating manufacturing capabilities,” and “insecure” supply chains, while depending on other nations for technologies.
-There is a ”cultural divide” surfacing between technology and policymaking communities weakening connections between the defense and intelligence communities and the private sector.

And, as to our major competitor China:

-China is investing significantly in new technologies and will be the world’s biggest investor by 2030.
-China is closing “the technological gap” with the United States, and it and other countries are approaching the US as to artificial intelligence (AI).
-China is “exploiting” the openness of the US to secure valuable innovation by violating intellectual property rights.

While praising President Trump for some of his efforts the report says that increased budgets have been too “incremental and narrow in scale.” The Administration has inadequately moved to develop new communications technologies, and to respond to the challenge of Huawei’s global expansion.

Therefore the United States must:

-restore federal funding for research and development.
-attract and educate a science and technology workforce.
-support technology adoption in the defense sector.
-bolster and scale technology alliances and ecosystems.

In short, “during the early years of the Cold War, confronted by serious technological and military competition from the Soviet Union, the United States invested heavily in its scientific base. Those investments ensured U.S. technological leadership for fity years. Faced with the rise of China and a new wave of disruptive technological innovation, the country needs a similar vision and an agenda for realizing it.” (9)

Where Does the Foreign Policy of Donald Trump Fit? 

Taking “the long view” of United States foreign policy, it is clear that from NSC-68; to the response to the Soviet challenges in space such as during the Sputnik era; to global wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq; to covert interventions in the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, the United States has pursued global hegemony (and is suggested in the CFR statement). It is also clear that the pursuit of empire has of necessity involved the creation of a permanent war economy, an economy that overcomes economic stagnation by the infusion of enormous military expenditures.

It is also clear that justification for empire and military spending has necessitated the construction of an enemy, first the Soviet Union and  international communism; then terrorism; and now China. The obverse of a demonic enemy requires a conception of self to justify the imperial project. That self historically has been various iterations of American exceptionalism, the indispensable nation, US humanitarianism, and implicitly or explicitly the superiority of the white race and western civilization.

In this light, while specific policies vary, the trajectory of US foreign policy in the twenty-first century is a continuation of the policies and programs that were institutionalized in the twentieth century. Three seem primary. First, military spending, particularly in new technologies continues unabated. And the CFR report raises the danger of the United States “falling behind,” the same metaphor that was used by the writers of the NSC-68 document, or the Gaither and Rockefeller Reports composed in the late 1950s to challenge President Eisenhower’s worry about a military/industrial complex, the response to Sputnik, Secretary of Defense McNamara’s transformation of the Pentagon to scientific management in the 1960s, or President Reagan’s huge increase of armaments in the 1980s to overcome the “window of vulnerability.”  

Second, the United States continues to  engage in policies recently referred to as “hybrid wars.” The concept of hybrid wars suggests that while traditional warfare between nations has declined, warfare within countries has increased. Internal wars, the hybrid wars theorists suggest, are encouraged and supported by covert interventions, employing private armies, spies, and other operatives financed by outside nations like the United States. Also the hybrid wars concept refers to the use of economic warfare, embargoes and blockades, to bring down adversarial states and movements. The blockades of Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran are examples. So the hybrid war concept suggests the carrying out of wars by other, less visible, means.

Third, much of the discourse on the US role in the world replicates the bipolar, superpower narrative of the Cold War. Only now the enemy is China. As Alfred McCoy has pointed out (In the Shadows of the American Empire, 2017), the United States in the twenty first century sees its economic hegemony being undermined by Chinese economic development and global reach. To challenge this, McCoy argues, the United States has taken on a project to recreate its military hegemony: AI, a space force, biometrics, new high tech aircraft etc. If the US cannot maintain its hegemony economically, it will have to do so militarily. This position is the centerpiece of the recent CFR Task Force Report.

Recognizing these continuities in United States foreign policy, commentators appropriately recognize the idiosyncrasies of foreign policy in the Trump era. He has reached out to North Korea and Russia (which has had the potential of reducing tensions in Asia and Central Europe). He has rhetorically claimed that the United States must withdraw military forces from trouble spots around the world, including the Middle East. He has declared that the United States cannot be “the policeman of the world,” a declaration made by former President Nixon as he escalated bombing of Vietnam and initiated plans to overthrow the Allende regime in Chile. For some of these measures, Trump has been inappropriately criticized by Democrats and others. Tension-reduction on the Korean Peninsula, for example, should have been encouraged.

However, while Trump moves in one direction he almost immediately undermines the policies he has ordered. His announced withdrawal from Syria, while in the abstract a sign of a more realistic assessment of US military presence in the Middle East, was coupled with a direct or implied invitation to the Turkish military to invade Northeast Syria to defeat the Kurds. Also, at the same time he was withdrawing troops from Syria, the Defense Department announced the United States was sending support troops to Saudi Arabia. He withdrew from the accord with Iran on nuclear weapons and the Paris Climate Change agreement. Time after time, one foreign policy decision is contradicted by another. These contradictions occur over and over with allies as well as traditional adversaries. Sometimes policies seem to be made with little historical awareness and without sufficient consultation with professional diplomats. (One is reminded of the old Nixon idea, the so-called “madman theory.” Nixon allegedly wanted to appear mad so that adversaries would be deterred from acting in ways contrary to US interests out of fear of random responses).

The contradictory character of Trump foreign policy has left the peace movement befuddled. How does it respond to Trump’s occasional acts that go against the traditional imperial grain at the same time that he acts impetuously increasing the dangers of war? How does the peace movement participate in the construction of a progressive majority that justifiably seeks to overturn the Trump era and all that it stands for: climate disaster, growing economic inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, and hybrid war?

Perhaps the task for the peace movement is to include in the project of building a progressive majority ideas about challenging the US as an imperial power, proclaiming that a progressive agenda requires the dismantling of the permanent war economy. These are truly troubled times, with to a substantial degree the survival of humanity and nature at stake. The war system is a significant part of what the struggle is about.