Adam Bartley: « Popular democracy in America is an illusion »

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Adam Bartley

Adam Bartley. DR.

How do you explain the emergence of the phenomenon Trump?

Donald Trump, unfortunately, is not a special case in American presidential elections and more pointedly the Republican Party. Barry Goldwater is one who comes to mind who inevitably won the Republican primary in 1964 after a bitter convention fight. Others such as Ross Perot and Wendell Willkie can also be compared to Trump in certain aspects. The point is that while advocating as a non-establishment candidate Trump is very much a product of the GOP establishment. His emergence so-to-speak comes at a crossroads in the makeup of the Republican party, torn apart by the obstructionism of the Tea Party on the right and the more practical moderate republicans right of center. Trump has been able to use this vacuum created to promote a platform of criticizing not only Congress’s inactivity but everything it hasn’t been able to get done. That there is a certain disconnect with establishment politics is undeniable and those candidates on the fringe, namely Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders, have really capitalized on that. Trump as such is both a product of intra-party dissonance and of the polarization of politics at the national level.

Doesn’t Trump play in to the hands of the Democratic Party?

Trump has certainly cut the umbilical cord for many of the politically disenchanted associated with the Republicans, and even the Democrats to an extent. Quite successfully, he has monopolised on those ‘political animals’ on the fringe of both parties playing to their fears on, really, undignified grounds. While espousing broad goals for his presidency, the problem with Trump is simply that he is not a politician. He does not know how to work the system, so to speak. More than that, he does not know how to form a coherent policy, inclusive of all its parts, processes and external influences. And this is visible in his inability to speak specifically on policy particulars.

This lack of policy nuance and experience will inevitably clash with the widespread disapproval and contempt many in America have for some of Trumps polices; the one that comes to mind here is of course the idea of a wall to stop illegal immigration from the south. And this will come to bear if he indeed wins the GOP nomination and has to face either Sanders or Clinton, who are both seasoned politicians. In this way then, and as a representative of the Republican Party, Trump is a major liability. Unless Trump miraculously turns into a politician, as opposed to just a demagogue, in the coming weeks, his national favourability standings are likely to decrease further in the polls, playing in to the hands of the Democrats.

If elected, will Clinton be President of continuity or rupture?

An interesting question, and certainly the Sanders campaign would say that they are one and the same, continuity toward rupture. Obama has been able to get some important policies through Congress during his two terms and certainly there are many elements of the Obama administration that are worth maintaining and building upon. But at the same time the polarization between the Republicans and Democrats during the Obama administration has grown considerably. At some point, something will surely have to give. Without the unifying mechanism of a national tragedy such as say 9/11 or the overwhelming threat of a foe such as the Soviet Union during the Cold War, I can only think that the change must come from within. Another global financial crisis would certainly trigger such a rupture.

Clinton would need to win back control of the Senate at the very least to wrestle even some of her more moderate policies through the first hundred days. And this concept of the first hundred days says a lot about the system itself. But at the current level of hostility, and from a (republican) party that is being torn at the seams by Tea Party elements and the Trump supporters as well, it is difficult to see how a continuation of the Obama administration, albeit with Hilary at the helm, will move the country forward.

The Republicans, the so-called party of ‘no’, are not just divided on ideological lines but are also divided through the influences of special interests. This is visible, for instance, on the issue of climate change. But like Obama, Clinton sees the path forward as singularly through the structured confines of the establishment political system. Thinking outside the box, that is drastic change a la Bernie Sanders, especially for the establishment, is heretical. The American political system may indeed need such a ‘revolution’ in policy to break the hold of special interests (the Gun Lobby, the Oil and Coal factions, Wall Street, and of course the Israel Lobby), from their grasp over Congress. Clinton as we have seen is very much a part of the campaign finance system and is poised to do little about it.

If Clinton is elected, how do you see her relationship with China and Russia?

Clinton’s world view of international relations is, like many Washington insiders, stuck on the broken record of peace through force. The example I’m thinking of here is the pivot or rebalance to the Asia Pacific, which has really just become a form of military containment of China; the diplomatic and economic components of the rebalance have fallen off the wagon and without mirrors, they have gone unnoticed. Clinton is likely to continue to view China and Russia in competitive terms, and certainly never as equals. But the fundamental issue of this mentality, which is a mentality of empire, is that this way of viewing the world and countries like Russia and China prohibits the viewer from seeing the world as others see it. For this reason, Clinton will never fully grasp Beijing’s or Moscow’s intentions. She will never understand their insecurities, which historically, if one is to look back, have originated in part from misperceptions in American foreign policy.

Clinton will continue to hold Russia and China to American standards of liberalism and democracy, and without regard for the domestic affairs of each state. While indeed the pursuit of self-determination is an ideal, and certainly a foreign policy worth promoting, Clinton’s style is very much to scold from without, rather than guide from within. It is a very superficial policy stance, because once trade and economics become involved liberalism and human rights, among others, quickly take a back seat. This has happened time and again, and certainly China, but Russia as well, knows it.

Will she review the Iranian nuclear issue and the agreement between Cuba and USA?

Clinton has very much attached herself to Obama’s foreign policy record, among many other things, and I dare say that she will continue with his legacy, depending of course on the Iranians. While Clinton has pandered to the Israel Lobby, as all US presidents must, a break in the US-Iran deal would set back a deal on nuclear non-proliferation significantly. Moreover, the Europeans want this deal to succeed. The same can be said regarding Cuba. It is time to move on. Washington has relations with many authoritarian governments; Cuba should not be made a special case.

Is Bernie Sanders a serious alternative to the election of Clinton?

In terms of his popular support and his policies, I think the answer is most definitely yes. In terms of the political process, not so much. The game is unfortunately rigged in Hillary’s favor. The Democrats have made it very difficult for an outsider to gain the nomination. This comes down to the super-delegate count represented ultimately by the establishment. It is for this reason that Sanders was able to win Wyoming but lose the delegate count to Clinton. Popular democracy in America is an illusion.

An intervention of NATO in Libya is often evoked while some neighboring countries, such as Algeria, favor a political solution. If France is responsible of the current Libyan chaos, can the United States afford a new military intervention in Libya?

The question is afford in what terms. Military intervention under both Obama and George W. Bush has proven both costly and unsatisfactory. Obama’s reluctance to get involved any further in the quagmire of Syria with ground troops is very much characteristic of past failures in the Middle East and I would say that further involvement anywhere is likely to be viewed with skepticism and doubt. What we have seen however, especially under Obama, is the emergence of the use of drones. American military intervention has become very dirty and distant. Drone ‘targets’ have been dehumanized, while collateral killings have not been sufficiently reported in the West. The United States meanwhile have thrown money and military equipment at any mob willing to align themselves with American foreign policy interests.

What do you think about the statements of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who considers Hillary Clinton as a founding member of Daesh?

Giuliani’s remarks are of course irresponsible, ignorant and purely political. There is no doubt that American Middle Eastern policy is attributable to the rise of Daesh, but singling out Clinton for blame is both desperate and unbecoming, disregarding the fact that it was Bush who decided to go campaigning in Iraq. More to the point however, this whole issue around pointing fingers, so to speak, does not solve the initial problem of combatting Daesh. Domestic politics has rendered the policy making process on this issue very difficult.

Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen

 

Who is Adam Bartley?

Adam Bartley is a Ph.D. candidate and assistant lecturer at RMIT University (Melbourne), where he lectures in global history, security and US foreign policy. He is an associate member for the Global Research Centre in Melbourne. His research interests, among others, lie in the politics of US foreign policy and its relationship to China both currently and historically. Aside from doing research for his Ph.D., Adam is currently engaged in a project on Chinese strategy in the South China Sea and the American response. His articles have appeared in Counter Punch and the Diplomat. Adam is fluent in Mandarin.

Published in American Herald Tribune, May 4, 2016:http://ahtribune.com/us/2016-election/871-adam-bartley.html

In Oximity:https://www.oximity.com/article/Adam-Bartley-Popular-democracy-in-Amer-1

In French in Palestine Solidarité:http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.050516.htm

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