Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Is America Headed to Being a Middle East Style Autocracy?

Despite its many misdeeds throughout its history - inconvenient facts ignored by the political right wing - and missteps, America has largely been viewed as a defender of democracy and western values.  Not so much anymore with Der Trumpenf├╝hrer in the White House.  Crude, obnoxious behavior is increasingly the norm flowing from the White House and decades of foreign relations building is being torn asunder  America's version of Odoacer who over threw the western Roman Empire.  All of this may play well for the moment among rural and red state Trump supporters, but the time will come when America needs the allies that Trump is alienating. The reckoning could be far worse than the ignorance embracing, xenophobic Trumpians imagine.  Indeed, an op-ed in the New York Times suggests that America is headed toward rule akin to that of a Middle East autocracy, aided by the complicity of what I refer to as the Vichy Republicans (Fox News viewers will need to look up the term Vichy).  Here are column highlights:
President Trump’s trip to Europe was truly historic.
He left our most important allies there so uncertain about America’s commitment to their security from Russia and to shared values on trade and climate change that German leader Angela Merkel was prompted to tell her countrymen that Europe’s days of relying on America are “over to a certain extent,” and therefore Germany and its European allies “really must take our fate into our own hands.”
No U.S. president before had ever put a crack in the Atlantic alliance on his inaugural tour. Historic.
“Who is America today?” is the first question I’ve been asked on each stop through New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. My answer: We’re not the U.S.A. anymore. We’re the new U.A.E.: the United American Emirate.
We have an emir. His name is Donald. We have a crown prince. His name is Jared. We have a crown princess. Her name is Ivanka. We have a consultative council (Congress) that rubber-stamps whatever the emir wants. And like any good monarchy, our ruling family sees no conflict of interest between its personal businesses and those of the state.
So any lingering Kennedyesque thoughts about us should be banished, I explained. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay no price, bear no burden, meet no hardship, support no friend, oppose no foe to assure the success of liberty — unless we’re paid in advance. And we take cash, checks, gold, Visa, American Express, Bitcoin and memberships in Mar-a-Lago.
The Trump doctrine is very simple: There are just four threats in the world: terrorists who will kill us, immigrants who will rape us or take our jobs, importers and exporters who will take our industries — and North Korea. Threats to democracy, free trade, the environment and human rights are no longer on our menu. Therefore, no matter how unsavory you are as a foreign leader, you can be the United American Emirate’s best friend if you:
1.) Pay us by buying our weapons. . . .
2.) Pay us in higher defense spending for NATO — not to deter Russia, which is using cyberwarfare to disrupt every democratic election it can, but to deter “terrorism,” something that tanks and planes are useless against.3.) Pay us in trade concessions. And it doesn’t matter how lame those concessions are. All that matters is that Emir Trump can claim “concessions.”4.) Pay us by freeing any U.S. citizen you arrested on trumped-up charges to annoy Barack Obama and to intimidate human rights activists.5.) Pay us by grossly flattering our emir about how much of an improvement he is over Obama.6.) Be Russia, and you pay nothing.
[I]f you do any one of these six things the United American Emirate’s commitment to you — and it’s ironclad — is that you can do anything you want “out back.” You can deprive your people of whatever human rights you like out back. You can be as corrupt as you want out back. You can steal as many elections as you like out back. Just keep the arms purchases coming, the NATO dues rising, the phony trade concessions flowing and the compliments gushing — or be Vladimir Putin — and anything goes.
It took us decades to build the Atlantic alliance and it has brought us so many tangible and intangible benefits in the form of security, stability, growth and friendships. Trump could actually break it, not just crack it. 
I would add that like Middle Eastern autocrats, Trump similarly seems only too happy to allow religious extremists to work to trash the First Amendment and its guaranty of religious freedom for all, not just Christofascists.  America's image abroad is being destroyed. 

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