Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hawks, Clowns and Leaders

Hawks, Clowns and Leaders
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Guam Daily Post
August 10, 2016

I have to echo so many writers, pundits and voters this past year, who cannot help but marvel at the strange world we live in today, as a result of the Republican nomination of Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States. Donald Trump, has in so many ways pushed this election to the limits of imagination and at times common decency. His determination to attack and hit back against anyone who he perceives as wronging him has led him down the path of childishness and bullying. Trump’s behavior and his ideological inconsistency has come to the point where the terrain of ideas and allies, has shifted so drastically that those I might normally consider my foes are suddenly unexpected friends. I say this because in the current national election cycle, I myself who is a long time anti-war, demilitarization and decolonial activist find myself regularly agreeing with neoconservatives from the Bush and Reagan eras, hawkish Democrats and former heads of the CIA. More than 100 noted foreign policy experts, representing both political parties have come out publicly stating that Donald Trump doesn’t have the character or knowledge base in order to be in charge of the network of global American military and diplomatic power.

This is what is so strange about the current ideological debate out there, is that there is much in the absurdity of Trump’s constantly changing positions that I can agree with, but still find him and his rhetoric so repulsive. His general lack of knowledge about the structure of American power in the world, creates so many opportunities for him to occasionally take up a position that is more in line with a Bernie Sanders or Ralph Nader supporter than his own base. In his ignorant and reactionary comments he routinely and casually talks about upending longtime alliances such as NATO, using nuclear weapons in any context, and abandoning US allies around the world. In his childish temperament he insists that the rest of the world is taking advantage of the United States and the US shouldn’t help them until they are willing to pay their fair share or start respecting the United States. In his incoherent comments he is, far more than any other mainstream candidate in recent history, describing the reduction of the imperial bootprint of the United States across the world. This bootprint consists of more than a 1000 facilities in other countries and in colonies, who have been forced to shoulder the burden of these bases for sometimes close to a century. That is why is so hysterical about Trump’s comments, is that he is echoing what the majority of people in countries across the globe feel about hosting US bases, but their governments enjoy having a cozy military relationship with the United States. It is so strange, because as someone who is opposed to military increases to Guam, under Trump, for both rational and irrational reasons, he may be aligned with our critique.

Hillary Clinton on the other hand will no doubt maintain, albeit with reasonable imperial justifications, the vast and ridiculously expensive global network of American power. She is after all, the voice that reaffirmed the US commitment to move its troops from Okinawa to Guam, after opposition both locally and in Washington D.C. ground the Pentagon's monstrously under-planned buildup programs to a halt.

But Trump, while sometimes, almost instinctively taking positions that I can agree with, also makes those shallow arguments with such a thick layer of nationalistic and jingoistic venom, it is hard to stomach it, even when he might be accidentally advocating something I would strongly support. One reason why I find myself supporting Hillary more and more, despite the fact that so many people that I find odious for their role in maintaining and building up American imperial projects are also supporting her, is because part of me detests simply the idea that Donald Trump has gotten this far in the democratic process, while being so utterly ignorant, intellectually weak and brazenly small-minded.

For me, I don't agree with the mainstream consensus on US foreign policy, which is a mixture of various levels of military project and intoxicating doses of American exceptionalism. But that doesn't mean that I don't take knowledge about it seriously. That doesn't mean that my disdain for things, gives me license to disdain the idea of truth, accuracy, seriousness of purpose in general. But that is exactly what we see in Donald Trump. A spoiled brat of a man, who shows no interest in knowing and learning more, even after a year of media coverage and analysis has come to show that he has knowledge of world affairs equal to your average internet troll.

Attempts by some to argue that both Clinton and Trump are liars, doesn’t do justice to the difference in their lying. Political fact-checking websites have had to come up with new ways of conceptualizing political lying or ignorance because Trump’s impressive ability to make up facts, ignore reality and say the most inane things and somehow feel that if he keeps saying it to sympathetic crowds, it’ll eventually become true. In his recent article in the New York Times titled “Clinton’s Fibs v. Trump’s Big Lies,” Nicholas Kristof discusses the difference between them in terms of amount of misstatements and their willingness to perpetuate them. As he writes, “In March, Politico chronicled a week of Trump remarks and found on average one misstatement every five minutes. The Huffington Post once chronicled 71 inaccuracies in an hour-long town hall session – more than one a minute.”

As CIA directors and members of the foreign policy elite rally around Hillary, I am repulsed by their particular positions, but have to at least acknowledge a feeling of simple solidarity with the fact that they at least know what they stand for, even if it is violent, cruel and leads to the further exploitation of much of the world. Serious people on different sides of an issue can at least see eye to eye on the need for seriousness, and therefore feel united against a clown or someone whose presence seems to challenge the notion that knowing things and having a hunger to improve through learning is central to an effective leader.

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