Washington: An explosive book (I)

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For well over a year now, browsing the Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump, we have gotten used to the numerous articles, reports, testimonies on what is happening in that country, and also to the mind-boggling statements that some experts make on the political situation in Washington. Thus, the perception that the powerful systemic hegemon – the builder of ‘Pax Americana,’ the country that has the planet’s strongest economy and is a role model when it comes to implementing liberal democracy – finds itself gripped by large-scale political crisis, a perception that is undergoing continuous consolidation, tends to compel recognition. Here is just a sample of these experts’ opinions. The latest issue (January 2018) of ‘The National Interest’ features an interview with a famous American personality – Maurice R. Greenberg, CEO of the powerful AIG, a person who got involved in various foreign policy initiatives in his career:

Heilbrunn: When you look at the state of America right now, where the political system, even with Republican majorities, has essentially ground to a halt, are you feeling less optimistic about America’s future, or do you think we’re going to emerge from this in good shape?

Greenberg: All during history, there have been rising powers and declining powers. You had the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, the French Empire and the British Empire; what happened? They reach a certain point, and their population changes—the mix of the population, the development of the population—a country that is united becomes splintered and becomes a declining power. What is happening here? During my lifetime, I’ve never seen the country so divided. Two totally different countries. We are declining until we get that turned around.”

A political crisis that, it seems, did not start suddenly but gradually, and which always gains consistency, signalling the decline of the U.S.’s systemic power. D. Trump’s slogan, with which he won the elections – globally known as MAGA –, could give some credibility to this perception at first: to be great “again”, one must logically accept that there was a preceding decline of power, and it must be recovered based on a well-thought plan. MAGA attracted most American voters on 8 November 2016, proof that there is the feeling of such a decline in the U.S., shared by most voters. The profound transformation that has occurred on the international stage during the year that has passed since Trump entered the White House convincingly shows that the U.S. is on a different foreign policy track than the previous president’s one. In such conditions, to know more about this new track is an imperative for the decision-makers of the “top league” (great powers) of the international system of states, to mention solely the most interested ones. The book published early this year in Washington, snippets from which have appeared in various publications, titled “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” written by Michael Wolff (Henry Holt and Co., 2018), is welcome from this standpoint. The author has interviewed approximately 200 personalities – from members of President Trump’s family to high-level White House officials – in the last 18 months, so he was able to have direct access to what has happened at “ground zero,” the seat of supreme decision at global level in the ‘Pax Americana’ era. Up next, we will refer to the foreign policy issues that this book includes, and which deserve credit in our opinion. Especially since President Donald Trump’s attitude toward this book and its publication is entirely unusual (a future article will attempt to unravel the reason behind this extraordinary opposition on the part of the White House to the things mentioned in this book). According to what Steven Bannon – the chief strategist in the final, decisive months of the campaign to conquer the White House through elections – told the author of the book, China tends to replace ‘Pax Americana,’ being set to soon top the rankings of the international system of states. Bannon states the following, and he is yet to deny it, although it is unclear whether Trump fully shares his view: “China’s everything. Nothing else matters. We don’t get China right, we don’t get anything right. This whole thing is very simple. China is where Nazi Germany was in 1929 to 1930. The Chinese, like the Germans, are the most rational people in the world, until they’re not. And they’re gonna flip like Germany in the ’30s. You’re going to have a hypernationalist state, and once that happens, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.” Before seeing how the relationship with Russia is perceived by the current White House administration – from where Bannon was fired several months ago –, let us quote how Washington sees the U.S. position in the Middle East. Wolff recounts in his book the statements made by the former chief strategist Bannon: “Day one we’re moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s all-in. Sheldon” /Adelson, the casino billionaire and far-right Israel defender —/ “is all-in. We know where we’re heading on this … Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. Let them deal with it. Or sink trying.” For the time being, if Bannon “lost his mind” – as Trump recently stated –, one must wonder why the first move on the scene of the Middle East was the transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This decision imparted a different dynamic on the scene of this volatile region of the planet. Could the White House implement the rest of the “moves” that Bannon announced in U.S. foreign policy? Or could substantial changes be registered now, following this huge scandal generated by Michael Wolff’s book?