The West after a year of Trump
America gets down to business
1. Trump launches an economic war against allies and rivals: internationally in matters of world trade and the global credit system, and on the home front; and promises an American victory in a newly opened up arms race.
America's president has never left any doubt that he means what he says and does what he means. He has announced ad nauseam that the guiding principle of his presidency, “America first,” will mark the start of political offensives on several fronts. He wants to give a boost to domestic capital growth, not just out of cronyism with the rich and super-rich in the country, but for strategic reasons:
“A growing and innovative economy allows the United States to maintain the world’s most powerful military and protect our homeland.”
To this end, he wants free but above all fair world trade; by this he means a substantial correction to the global flow of goods and money, to the effect that the heaps of money other nations have one-sidedly earned in and on the USA and have accumulated in the form of American debt to such an extent that on balance America actually has no money at all, flow back to their country of origin and true homeland. This includes recovering from its partners and allies funds that America has spent protecting them militarily. The strategic goal pursued by the President is rather clearly stated in the strategy paper quoted by his government: the United States has to remain the most powerful military power in the world.
The experts in Trump's administration have no doubt that this is the United States. What they are skeptical about is the imperialist meaning and purpose of its superior capacity for annihilation, about the political returns it brings to America. What good is enforcing rights for the nation to economically use the rest of the world of states and supervise its political good conduct, they ask themselves as ordered, while their geostrategic glance around the globe turns out to be less than satisfactory? In the Pacific region, China is arming itself as a strategic countervailing power; in the Eurasian center, Russia is not only resisting being degraded to a ‘regional power’ in dealing with its neighbors, but is also taking the liberty of keeping its ally in power in Syria; also and still unpleasantly conspicuous at that theater of war is Iran, which in exercising its sovereign rights appears as little impressed by the superior might of the world power as does North Korea. The list of “challenges” that “the international security situation” presents for America is then completed with “international terrorism” by Islamic State (ISIS) and other NGOs, so that one thing is undeniable for the strategists of the world power: the power of the USA may be large enough to reduce the world to a pile of rubble several times over, but it has obviously not been able to prevent the emergence of two “rivals” and to effectively deter them, along with the other “rogue states” and terrorist groups, from their anti-American activities. In any case, Trump and his strategic cadre cannot and do not want to explain the fact that powers are lining up and trying to assert themselves against the “only remaining superpower” other than by the doubts the adversaries must have, either with regard to the military capabilities of the world power or regarding the political will to make use of them in practice. Hence the elimination of the security policy shortcomings America has identified consists in removing these doubts. From the right of the strongest, which Trump asserts in his global political maneuvers to restore the splendor and glory of his nation, the rulers of the USA derive the necessity of updating the political function that their nation’s capabilities for force have to be good for, and operationalizing this function with a gigantic rearmament and a military strategy that has to convince everyone that America, literally a world-power, a virtual monopolist on force rising above all its state competitors, is attending to its rights: from now on, America will gain unconditional worldwide respect by being superior in all fields of arms comparison.
In this spirit, the United States is making known to the global public what its weapons have to be good for from now on:
“The United States must retain overmatch — the combination of capabilities in sufficient scale to prevent enemy success and to ensure that America’s sons and daughters will never be in a fair fight. Overmatch strengthens our diplomacy and permits us to shape the international environment to protect our interests. To retain military overmatch the United States must restore our ability to produce innovative capabilities, restore the readiness of our forces for major war, and grow the size of the force so that it is capable of operating at sufficient scale and for ample duration to win across a range of scenarios. We must convince adversaries that we can and will defeat them — not just punish them if they attack the United States. We must ensure the ability to deter potential enemies by denial, convincing them that they cannot accomplish objectives through the use of force or other forms of aggression.” (NSS, p. 28)
The announcement is not addressed to the sons and daughters of America who are guaranteed victory in their struggle for the rights of their nation. The message, that the US intends to engage in every potential theater of war of any conceivable size with a superiority that ideally ex ante but in any case ex post and in practice definitively convinces every potential adversary of the hopelessness of daring to seriously oppose the interests of the world power, is being sent in particular to the state and non-state actors named in the strategy paper as the source of the “challenges” for America’s security, but in general just as much to the rest of the world of states: they are all informed that the USA means business regarding its ambition to tackle every international affair of force from the standpoint of a monopolist on the use of force, one that is vastly superior in all military respects — and, after long years of criminal neglect of the military, to do what is necessary for this. The Trump administration’s diagnosis of the state of its armed forces is merciless: “Modernization has fallen victim to recent budget disputes,” explains the official at the presentation of the latest Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), and that is only half of the problem. While America’s troops have been denied up-to-date equipment, its rivals China and Russia have made advances that threaten to devalue the deterrent capability of the US. What can be seen is
“the erosion of U.S. military advantage vis-a-vis China and Russia, which, if unaddressed, could ultimately undermine our ability to deter aggression and coercion … The two nations have spent the last 25 years studying ways to deny America its greatest military advantage, the ability to deploy forces anywhere in the world and then sustain them. The anti-access, area-denial methods that both Russia and China have developed need to be countered, and this new strategy sets in place the framework around which to build those capabilities.”
From an official point of view, the United States has lost no less than the ability that its special status as the world power is militarily based on: the ability to occupy and control when needed any point on the globe against any enemy. The restoration of this unrestricted imperialist freedom of action is therefore the yardstick by which Trump tackles the renewal of all weapons and branches of his military. In this respect, the US informs the world’s states in the most official way about what kind ofpower they have to deal with, one that’s on the march enforcing US rights worldwide, and what they will correspondingly have to deal with if they oppose this. It goes without saying that restoring America’s military to a state of perfected deterrent power involves expanding its capacity for unconditionally superior “conventional” warfare — e.g., with a wonderful new aircraft carrier, which is a forerunner of an even more wonderful maritime destructive potential that will soon defend freedom of navigation on the oceans against China. In addition, the country’s procurement departments are ordered to complete the arsenal of nuclear weapons by producing smaller calibers — from the modest power of the Hiroshima bomb down to the level of tactical battlefield weapons — which, brought into play from submarines, bombers, or whatever vehicles to whatever theaters of war, are to decide the fortunes of war in America’s favor: America intends to “solve” “regional conflicts” for itself in the near future by deploying a type of weapon that was up till now reserved as the last resort for guaranteeing America’s supremacy over the world vis-à-vis nuclear-armed “adversaries” like Russia and China. In this way, the USA reserves for itself the unconditional freedom to wage war. It defines when such a ‘conflict’ seriously affects its rights and is a case for war, which it prepares so perfectly for, and reserves for itself an escalation in the further comparison of weapons that is subject solely to their discretion and obeys only the calculation of guaranteeing success in deciding the conflict. To avoid any calculability on the part of potential adversaries, so that a military confrontation with the world power becomes for them an incalculable risk and they are made to understand by these means that they absolutely do not have the chances of success they fancy by deploying their military means: that is what “America first!” means as far as war and peace is concerned; and it is communicated to the world of states in an absolutely credible manner, namely, documented in the relevant military capabilities and in the announcement of the determined political will to make use of them at any time if necessary.
This logic of deterrence as a maxim of imperialist power is also followed in the first measures to revise the course of the global economy and the — technically civilian — competition over the distribution of its returns. The President imposes punitive tariffs on selected consumer goods whose production has moved abroad from America; hence he acts, and indeed quite explicitly, as prosecutor, judge, and enforcer in his own international dispute. This dispute is not merely a matter of trade policy: such measures, which are supposed to ensure the USA a one-sided benefit from world trade, are part of the strategic policy position cited above, according to which “economic security” coincides with “national security.” The hostility he declares to the rest of the world with his trade policy measures is expressly directed against other powers that make international trade their means of expanding their power, i.e., not only enriching themselves at America’s expense, but at the same time acquiring with their economic returns means of power directed against the USA, financing and in practice expanding their strategic status. Punitive tariffs and the expansion of the weapons arsenal are thus two sides of the same coin: by combining the two, competitors are informed in practice that the US will in the future claim world trade as the basis of its power and ruthlessly harm others to this end — and, with its absolute military superiority, take all necessary precautions against every conceivable objection that it provokes by its actions.
The administration is doing what’s necessary so that the repatriation of all sources of economic strength also really pays off for the capitalists concerned (it is after all from the accumulation of their wealth that the nation always derives its strength), so that businessmen from all over the world (re)discover the USA as their ancestral and only true homeland. In a bold economic policy move, the administration has combined massive tax relief for companies with an equally massive, i.e., expensive, national investment program so that the businessmen do not hesitate to turn their backs on their foreign abode. The intention is for domestic firms to profit from the implementation of this program, to that extent also to "create jobs" and, as a result, turn the vast country into a single growth engine that is additionally freed from environmental protection and similar obstacles.
The combination of these two agenda items is considered precarious for monetary and credit policy, not only by ill-meaning critics, but also by experts from Trump’s own party. The fact that some people, especially abroad, hope with all their heart that the initiative fails certainly indicates that it, too, is not merely an adventure, but rather part of the global economic policy offensive of the new presidency. The contradiction between the foreseeable massive expansion of the already mushrooming national debt, which domestic critics find alarming, and the President’s strong criticism of the creditor position of countries such as even the People’s Republic of China is tantamount to an announcement to the financial markets throughout the world and their foreign state guardians and users that America will bear the costs of regaining its power by asserting its absolute authority. The US government doesn’t (any longer) take note of the world’s credit that is necessary for this — that is, the worldwide trusting recognition of US debt as an indestructible investment and the dollar as world money — as dependency, but rather claims it with the power for which it needs money, which it does not have, as the duty of an outside world doing business in dollars. Financial markets know how to deal with this sense of entitlement in their own way, with America freeing itself from all the conditions the markets impose on the national debt of all other countries — and occasionally even on America’s debt— namely, from any critical examination of the nation’s growth prospects that could justify this creation of credit from an economic point of view. At the same time, the US government, as master of credit and credit money, is thereby disregarding the not entirely insignificant global economic practice of the competing great-power money creators of somehow coming to an agreement in advance on such far-reaching projects and thus taking account of their all-round dependence on mutual recognition of national credit. It is just as indifferent to possible complaints by foreign financial policymakers that major American corporations owe them billions in taxes and yet are rewarded for this by Trump’s tax reform. This ruthlessness, in conjunction with the massive utilization of the financial markets by the USA and the continued initiatives of the administration for "bringing home" the capital accumulated worldwide back to the USA, is tantamount to a termination of the current global economic order or, as the case may be, the usual customs in dealing with one another, and amounts to the launching of an economic war.
2. Trump takes these liberties and can afford to …
The US president explains and justifies his policy with a rather harsh criticism of his predecessors: they handed over the nation’s sources of wealth, namely, its wonderful jobs for wonderful Americans, to foreign countries with all these lousy deals; foreign governments knew how to bamboozle US officials and make global business dealings appallingly unfair. So now he’s coming to straighten out the world. The President praises himself for this without any false modesty. And he’s not embarrassing himself.
a) … precisely because of the very achievements of America’s civilian global economic order for wealth and power that he is terminating in practice.
The official government demonization of the American nation’s traditional living conditions and the charges against former presidents and the establishment in Washington are not without a certain irony. All their weight, all their seriousness — it is of course not simply “fake news” and “Twitter” gossip, but a political line that is actually throwing the whole world into confusion and is already diverting the flows of “globalized” capital — is due to the economic capacities and strategic position as the “only remaining superpower” that the US has gained under these devastating circumstances and under the leadership of those at the top of the state establishment who have supposedly failed by forgetting the fatherland. After all, Trump’s incompetent predecessors increasingly organized and secured the world of states as a productive investment sphere for American capital, and continued concomitantly to establish American debt as an unrivaled financial investment for finance capitalists from all over the world. Under their aegis, global capitalism brought about the widespread use of all national business locations as a means for dollar credit — which then ensured that Wall Street dragged the whole business world into its crisis, which is no small achievement. Even after that, American finance capital has maintained its dominant position in the world of capitalist speculation; the American IT industry has grown up into an economic power that soaks up money from all over the world, easily holding foreign assets in the hundreds of billions of dollars, whose transfer to the USA Trump celebrates as one of his great successes.
In terms of the application of American power, the same predecessors imposed America’s “leadership” in the new “multipolar” world both in the allied world of states and against the rest — or at least asserted it with all the necessary force; in any case, they didn’t hesitate to use the superpower’s economic and military means of power and did their bit for the necessary upgrading and rearmament of American military power. Their achievements, utterly damned by Trump, offer him the pedestal from which he is revising global political relations: the new government can take the liberty of conquering the world’s capitalist wealth for “America first!” only due to the worldwide success of American capital, and because the partner countries, however calculating, were parties to that success as locations for it and moreover secured with their own credit-money policy the unquestionable recognition of the US dollar as world money as well as of US credit materialized in the money. Only on the basis of an enforced and — however willingly or unwillingly — ultimately always respected American “leadership” is the new president in a position to follow up his announcements with effective action and launch a civil economic war. It is simply not true that the USA before Trump did not succeed in instrumentalizing the rest of the world of states for its global dominance plans. That the result does not satisfy the ambitions of the organizer is something else again.
In this respect, Trump’s rejection of the maximum failure of his predecessors’ global economic policy is anything but an irony of US history. After all, the flip side is that the Trump government is using the economic capacities and the exceptional strategic position of the USA, which it has inherited, for an offensive against all those who have taken part in it, gained their own benefit from it, made use of America’s “leadership” exactly in this connection, and have recognized and confirmed this leadership in practice. Trump’s policy, wrongly misinterpreted as US protectionism and isolation from the rest of the world, makes use of the achievements of the now expired “American century” to subject the world to a new approach by his nation, one that denies its opponents the benefits of their more or less constructive participation in US business and world order. He is thereby starting an economic war that throws into question and aims to destroy all the conditions that form the basis of America’s global success and thus also the basis of the ability of the new government to put its ruthless “America first!” policy into practice.
Trump ignores this contradiction in his efforts to ‘make America great again,’ and probably doesn’t have the slightest inkling of it; with his brazen character of taking everything for granted, he simply proceeds from the nation’s achievements whose past prerequisites he is ruining. And he is by no means alone in this. It is not merely his voters and his party that consider the imperialism of a co-opting American leadership, with its cynicism of conditionally conceding the self-interest of the ‘led’ nations, as something somewhere between unproductive and treason. The world’s entrepreneurial mafia, the guild of finance capitalists leading the way, take the new imperialism of decidedly one-sided American benefit — quite ‘pragmatically,’ as value-neutral commentators attest — as a given “situation” that they definitely know how to get the most out of and also need to make the most of. They are not concerned with undesirable side effects and potential aftereffects, but are making the transition to rewarding the ongoing economic policy offensive of the US government with exactly the investment decisions for America and against America’s competitors that Trump wants them to make. When they find themselves damaged in their own business, their concerns result in requests for help from their own governments and/or in submissive messages of greeting to the boss of the White House in Washington, in any case in a calculated willingness to adapt. And there are sound reasons for this. For one thing, the American market is far too big and too important for all of them for anything else to be worth considering. For another thing — and this is especially true of the species of speculators and the speculator in every modern businessman — they are aware of a very uneconomic point of view under which they take note of the destructive “America first!” policy of the Trump government as a business condition they cannot ignore. When an economic war is declared, “America first against the rest of the world”; when Trump sets out to revolutionize the conditions for success of US capitalism that were only yesterday still in force and replace them with new ones, then it is important for capitalists worried about their growth to be on the right side of the front. Globalizing multinationals then remember that their business ultimately depends on the capabilities and clout of the power that they know they are assigned to; and that then is also the decisive yardstick that is applied in the world of finance and its speculative decisions to the question of whether Trump’s course militates more for US credit and currency or for those of its competitors. In this way, Trump’s attack on the foundations of previously globalized capitalism, including its expected positive and negative effects on the course of global business, is priced into finance-capitalist decisions as a given; how that happens always proves Trump’s course right.
So Trump can afford his policies …
b) … because his economic war “returns” to the extra-economic basis (outside the economy) of the capitalist wealth of his nation and the world: to the guarantee of dollar credit — i.e., its worldwide validity — by the definitely noncivilian power of its sovereign creator.
The reactions of the financial markets to the bold combination of tax cuts and investments in the nation’s infrastructure (defined as the home front) include a boom announced on all media channels, the slide on the stock exchange at the beginning of February, 2018 generally believed to be evidence of lively speculative interest in American bonds, which are considered to be certain winners. With these reactions, it is already becoming clear that the owners and buyers of US debt securities — to start with the negative side — have long since given up seriously and critically examining the mass of US credit in relation to the prospects of success of national growth, as they would do if the national debt of the USA had to justify itself in this relation just like speculative reason dictates with other nations when speculators evaluate their loans and the credit money put into circulation for them. On the positive side, the financial markets see an unbreakable extra-economic guarantee for the unconditional recognition of US debt and they base their speculation on it: the fact that the sovereign power of the political actor that in the final analysis guarantees this debt is incontestable, namely, that this debt is usable as a payment order on indisputable worldwide solvency.
Just how right the finance capitalists are with this confidence in the supreme power is confirmed by America’s political opponents, none of which in practice is calling US credit and the US dollar into question, let alone demanding that they be called into question, despite or precisely because of Trump. It is equally clear to them that the US government is not merely confronting them with a few support measures for its domestic economic growth and corresponding new competitive conditions; that instead, it is acting as the administrator of a power of strategic rank above all others: a state with the “most powerful military” in the world and with the biggest, yet differentiated and sensitively deployable and correspondingly effectively deterrent “nuclear button.” The sovereign heads of the family of nations, like Trump himself, assume that America’s credit is justified by the strategic purpose it serves. In the ruthlessness with which the US government claims the global economy for itself and at the same time announces to political leaders of the global economy the fight for its profits, they immediately recognize the not merely economic superiority that America asserts there and for which it so resolutely claims the world in a one-sided way.
America’s rivals, from Europe and Japan to Russia and the People’s Republic of China, are doubly challenged: economically and as powers with strategic ambitions. They react according to what Trump’s “America first!” calls into question with them and how they consequently relate to the declaration of war it contains.
Europe has overcome its crisis, the economy is growing again; that is the good news — for those who like to take it that way. But what that really means is in any case not that the Union could now possibly just simply build on the precrisis state of its unification project.
1. After having lost its constitutive lie of all-round business success and collective increase in power of its member nations, the EU has also lost the American foundation of its anti-Americanism
The inward-looking, positive business model of the European Union is over. The financial crisis that spread ten years ago from the dollar to the euro and is still affecting the balance sheets of European banks, as well as the management of this crisis by Europe’s most powerful state money-creators and credit guarantors, are having a destructive effect on the two foundations of the Union and its decade after decade of progress.
This concerns first of all economic growth itself. The calculation that this growth — somehow, ultimately — would happen to all members of the alliance, that this promise connected to participating in the work of unification would work out — unequally, but then nevertheless — for every state, has been discredited. The financial crisis was not merely an extravagant but temporary “economic dip,” but rather a revelation of how dubious the accumulation of capital brought about by euro credit and the common currency has been. The worst case scenario has been overcome; for one thing with an enormous amount of new credit money created and guaranteed by the state. The guarantee was — and still is — the business of the leading economic powers of the Union, above all Germany. For another thing, this guarantee has of course included from the outset that the financial disaster would be shifted to the weakest members, whose use of euro credit exceeded the national capacity for capitalist growth for just as long as this capacity was being undermined by their overpowering European competitors. Though that has saved the euro as a globally recognized credit money, it has at the same time made it abundantly clear that the national growth of some countries has occurred at the expense of others. The latter, with the crisis and its management, have paid the penalty for their national locations not being equal to the competition within Europe. Since then, the idea of Europe representing some kind of joint economic property community has been exposed as its constitutive lie.
Because the losers of the crisis competition have no money other than the euro, which they are not equal to, their national ruin is tantamount to being dependent on rescue operations by the economically strong guarantors of the euro, which in the course of managing the crisis have grown up to become the elitist directors of its use. Rescuing the states that the small circle around Germany successfully shifted the crisis to was therefore combined with the price of renouncing the core of all national sovereignty, a nation’s budgetary sovereignty. Being extorted into relinquishing the prerogative of every national legislature was and is the penalty paid for their having once completely voluntarily renounced their monetary sovereignty in order to obtain in the euro a significantly more powerful means of financial sovereignty than they had in their national moneys. This calculation has also gone bust; and, in its wake, the second great promise of the Union, that the pooling of the economic and political capacities of the partner states with the prospect of a unified, globally respectable power would bring a substantial gain in sovereignty for all members, has likewise been discredited as a constitutive lie.
The fact that the positive basis of their alliance, the prospect somehow of economic and sovereignty gains for all, is broken is also affecting the few nations that emerged from the decade of crisis and crisis management relatively or even absolutely strengthened. For them too, the strategic and economic benefits of their Union are proving to be increasingly questionable. Economically, they can — themselves — only sustain the losers of competition with ever more risky mixtures of austerity dictates, whose ruinous effect on these states they get nothing from, nor from the renunciation of claims, which can not, however, be allowed to look like that, so that the irrecoverable debts are not at some point blamed on the creditors and thus on the money whose quality only they guarantee. And on the question of sovereignty, the leading nation, Germany, if nothing else, sees itself confronted with the fact that the renunciation of sovereignty it wants and has to wrest from others provokes their increasing and increasingly fundamentalist unwillingness. The exchange of national sovereignty rights for rights of participation in the Eurozone under the direction of the most powerful states is becoming increasingly unproductive or even counterproductive as a method of Alliance progress to the extent that it increasingly takes place as open blackmail with elementary economic dependencies.
The national protagonists and supranational officials of the EU, however, continue to insist that they need and want the Union. What brings them to the firm conviction that its cohesion is all the more demanded at this time — despite all the difficulties they admit — is presented in an idealistic and also in a much more realistic polemical version at every opportunity. The idea of peacekeeping in Europe is loftily invoked; in all seriousness, the leaders of the EU member states want to be commended for not having instigated any more wars against each other for decades. The cold truth, of course, is that this is less their own achievement, let alone that of their indestructible love of peace, but firstly that of the USA, which secondly with NATO forged the Western Europeans together into a world war front against the main Soviet enemy. The German and French chiefs of the Union are happy to provide the second clarification regarding this forced coexistence with and under America: they are forced by the new US policy, so they explain, to take their “fate” as an ambitious, united European power into their own hands with immediate effect. And that throws quite a realistic spotlight on the meaning and purpose of their undertaking to turn Western European capitalist countries within the Western alliance into a community of their own with a far-reaching perspective, namely, one that aims at great power. After all, Germany and France — as always when states see necessities that they intend to obey with all their might — are unerringly confronted by all their currently invoked hardships with the lack of alternatives to their very tradition-steeped will for emancipation from, and equal status with, the USA. For the weaker members, what actually holds their club together, even after the loss of its internal, positive achievements for the members, may be the remaining negative point of view that their far-reaching involvement in the common economic area, in Community law and — with many already — in the collective credit money leaves them virtually no better or even practicable alternative. The positive reason the Union’s movers and shakers resolutely keep their show together, however, is the polemical side of their imperialist growth project that cannot tolerate any cutbacks, their competition as EU against their American leading power; in other words, the repeatedly denied thrust against America that in fact determines the logic of their undertaking.
This anti-Americanism within a “free West” held together by the USA is not a new European response to the latest American turning point under Trump, but the business purpose of the whole show all along, the imperialist spur for all involved to realize this construct and to push it further and further through all the contradictions that have certainly not characterized it for the first time since the crisis. Trump’s “America first!” line, which on its part represents a competitive initiative of a new kind, the attempt by the American world power to reopen international competition for wealth and power from above: what else in Europe or about Europe should jeopardize it if not the efforts directed against it by its competitors and rivals? The founding of the European Community was already based on the calculation that, in relation to a superior America, each and every one of the very ambitious European powers was too small to be able to compete with prospects of success, and that, under the conditions of solidarity of the nations required for world war purposes, a prospect of a substantial increase in power that could put these fatherlands “on an equal footing” with the USA could only be achieved by voluntarily joining together. This has been and continues to be the point of reference for all unifying and communitizing, which culminated provisionally in the creation of the euro and which has so far outlasted every crisis.
No wonder then that Europe’s anti-Americanism is heating up when what has gained acceptance in America is the political guideline that the world’s leading power has put up with far too much anti-Americanism — not only Europe’s — and will from now on decisively correct this. The resolve to the point of hecticness with which Europeans react to Trump’s anti-anti-Americanism and invoke the urgency of their own greatest efforts to emancipate themselves from America and achieve a powerful autonomy reveals at the same time the double sense in which America’s superior might and leadership role has actually been and remained the business basis of their purpose and the decades-long model they have practiced to implement it.
Namely, not only in the negative sense that the superiority of the USA in every field of concern to civilized nations has acted in practice to compel Europeans, with their unconditional will to advance, to collectively stand their ground. Their intention, and how they intended and still intend today, to compete with America by joining together depends conversely on the fact that the great power on the other side of the Atlantic has in the positive sense provided them with the preconditions for this and has always provided them: both together constitute the contradiction that Europe’s imperialists have all along intended to cope with and from now on have to cope with under their own steam.
The indispensable business basis of their anti-American collectivism was — and still is up till now — the United States, firstly by its using its qualitatively superior military power to jockey the capitalist nations of Europe into an alliance that was intended to be, and was, more than a temporary alliance of convenience for all concerned. Instead it was the foreign policy premise for all the states involved, which from then on called themselves “the West” and organized the outwardly-oriented purpose of the alliance in NATO, thus fundamentally excluding the use of force against each other. By relativizing the sovereignty of the European actors of the “free world,” their transatlantic leading power has guaranteed the much-vaunted inner-European peace — against all the unreasonable demands that the Europeans have made on each other in matters of sovereignty and renunciation of sovereignty within the framework of their alliance.
Secondly, the US has used its superior power to make the world available to itself and its Atlantic allies as an arena and means of self-interest. Europeans were allowed and supposed to look after advancing their nation’s capitalism by taking advantage of each other and third parties to the best of their ability, in other words, by competing on the world market in all fields and with all methods, which the United States made not only the civil rules for, but also strictly ensured that it would not hear a word against its interests and the protection of its friends and allies.
Thirdly, it has also given such “globalized” capitalism its means of sustenance, the indispensable material of all capitalist competition: capital in the form of credit, which develops its beneficial effects as an advance to all capitalist enrichment, but which then also needs to be served as a right to increase and thereby becomes the general proviso for successful capitalist growth. With its dollar credit, the USA made this material available to the world, including to the world’s gigantic financial market; every economic player of standing on the world market has had, and been allowed, to access the global financial market and its products for its competitive economic efforts; all states have had, and been allowed, to try to get the approval of the relevant agencies for their debts. Since then, the trust or mistrust of the major financial market players vis-à-vis the debts of all nations, expressed in ratings and interest rates, has been the means of success and the valid yardstick for success of every nation’s competitive efforts.
This is the general “framework” that America set, the offer it made, as well as the coercion that no one was and is allowed to escape. This “framework,” the mixture of coercion, opportunity, and means prescribed by America, was made use of and exploited to the full by the Europeans; in this “framework,” they made great strides with their anti-American project. Europe’s major nations have, in this way, acquired new economic strength, put themselves in the position to exploit the world for their growth, and given their moneys the subordinate but recognized status of sound state budgetary means. And they were so successful that they even dared to make the transition to throwing away the German mark — which summed up the world champion competitive successes of prior decades in its hardness — along with all other European currencies, and crafting themselves a euro. With this brainchild, the Europeans intended and intend to acquire a money equal to the dollar, which — enabled by the approval of the financial markets for their marvelous new money, an approval which they aimed all their dealings with the euro at — is supposed to put them in a position not only to carry on the economic struggle for the world’s wealth against America in a new way. They also intend to challenge America’s special role based on the dollar in defining and enforcing the binding rules of this competition of states. The Europeans are laying claim to the framework decreed and guaranteed by America, also and especially for this step in competition with America and emancipation from its special role as the sole power whose national credit is a globally irresistibly effective economic means for its imperialism.
2. Europe's leaders feel challenged to “complete” their union — which actually means that they must now, on their own initiative, provide their contradictory project of a resolutely cohesive, globally powerful collective of ambitious nation-states with a new business basis as effective as the old Western war alliance. And they have to do that even under the complicating constraint that the regional completion of their union, their expansion into formerly closed enemy territory, runs counter to their unification project and their anti-Americanism due to their acquiring unshackled nationalists on the side.
After losing their business model as a result of Trump's new line, Europeans are therefore now losing their business basis — the internal one as well as the world-order political one — which consisted in the will of America to make the capitalistic self-interest of the Europeans the lever of their unconditionally pro-American orientation and the means of its dollar capitalism.
Because they are sticking to their business purpose, that loss is stoking the anti-Americanism of the leading European nations and at the same time giving it a new imperative. They must on principle replace their hitherto cultivated, now prospectively impossible ploy of exploiting American license and tolerance of their competitive efforts; they must replace the included recognition of America as an “indispensable nation” for any competition, even against America itself; these must be replaced with their own guarantees for the foundations and conditions of their imperialist competition. If now there is talk everywhere about the need to complete Europe, then what it is exactly that Europe has to complete is this: its emancipation from America — namely, in all three fields in which America has up till now maintained the preconditions for Europe’s anti-American aspirations. The members of the Union must not merely continue to keep peace among themselves, but must also accept as a premise of their raison d’état a relativizing of their sovereignty that is unavoidably linked to the agenda of heading toward unifying their military power and to a real, common, external border — not just against harmless refugees. They must organize and implement a common use of force beyond the common external border in order to safeguard their rights in the wider world. And they must “conquer” the international financial markets with their euro, i.e., make them irrevocably the marketplace for their collective credit creation, even against the predominance of the worldwide dollar market and competition from the Far East.
Corresponding to the size and contradictory nature of this task, that contains even now an undeniable potential for conflict between these nations.
The Union’s leaders not only have to offer their partners in general a better prospect for participating in the Union than the prospect of ruin in the event of their leaving it, especially those who do not see such an irrefutable necessity for themselves in the efforts toward an imperialist size achieved by combining in a not so egalitarian fashion, or even more so in the anti-Americanism that is inextricably linked to it. The Union’s ambitious leaders must also cope with a specific contradiction that they have created for themselves with the successful occupation of their eastern neighborhood. In order to develop an independent, imperialist, strategic power, they considered it necessary and continue to pursue the goal of bringing the entire “old continent” under their control and integrating it into the planned world power, Europe; peacefully, i.e., by way of voluntary Anschluss, just as they have brought about their union among themselves within the Western alliance. For one thing, however, this enlarges their club by a host of economic problem cases: countries that have to cope with the uselessness of the economies they inherited from socialism for being “transformed” into national market economies, and are in any case dependent on being developed by and for foreign companies for lack of their own capital. On the one hand, by joining the Single Market and adopting the single currency, these nations are supposed to be irrevocably, compulsorily, bound to the leading powers; on the other hand, this is to be done in such a way that they do not under any circumstances become a burden on the leading powers and their good credit money, which is already a mission impossible for them. For another thing, these nations are problem cases for their integration into the Union in so far as they see themselves above all empowered by the destruction of the Soviet alliance to be free in the sense of sovereign statehood, and find in the offers to be subsumed under Europe’s achievements only very limited or no good reasons to relativize somehow their freedom through a new supranationalism — “Brussels!”. This even less so since the ambition of the leading nations Germany and France, firmly anchored in the EU program, to allow Europe to grow into an independent imperialist bloc that can strategically compete “on equal terms” with the major powers in the West and East is alien to them. Some of them refuse to follow the brazenly practiced European line vis-à-vis a militarily powerful and above all nuclear-armed Russia of contesting all Russian activity in its own interests and any right to a say in its western periphery, which the EU claims exclusively for itself while demonstratively not being impressed by part of its eastern acquisitions being economically dependent on Russia. Others — the Poles and the Balts — experience the anti-Americanism constitutive of the EU (for them the “old” EU) as a guideline from Brussels they are not at all happy with. They insist on their crucial “need for security” towards the East, which results from their decidedly anti-Russian raison d’état. That fits in perfectly with the American strategy of strategically containing Russia through NATO expansion, thus achieving a pro-Americanism entirely of its own. The competition of the great Western European powers against the USA, which with regard to Russia has in the meantime already brought itself to pursue alternative strategies in its dealings with the great eastern neighbor (there was talk of strategic partnership, after all), has never been the genuine business of this anti-Russian faction. For these nations, the anti-Americanism of the club they joined as members of lower rank from the outset is the price dictated from the West for gaining access to the European market, capital, and credit that they were and are urgently dependent on — just as, for their oppositely wired Anschluss colleagues, the anti-Russian orientation of Europe was and is the price for their being incorporated into the politically united continent. And with Trump as America’s President, both factions are now recalculating this price down to the last detail, whether they really have to pay it as well as the other political costs they have been forced into as members of, or candidates for membership in, the European club. They all discover the opportunity in America’s new general strategy to be rid of Brussels’ dictates, i.e., to break down the linkage ordered by the main powers of Europe between economic cooperation and “aid” on the one hand and political submission to the course of ever more communitization towards a real imperialist power block on the other hand. Some are testing America as an ally for that, others are searching more eastward for support. Because not only the recently incorporated Eastern states are becoming defiant, but also the other “lesser” members are again raising the question of what they are getting from the imperialist ambition of the leading European nations they have to subordinate themselves to, the increasingly louder call for “cutting Europe back to the Single Market!” against the slogan “Complete Europe!” is enriching the political discourse on the continent. In this way, the great beneficiaries and pioneers of the “European idea” get to feel how Trump’s major correction to American imperialism, now entering its second year, is further undermining their imperialist project of Europe from within.
3) The leaders of the project of a 'world power Europe' feel, on the one hand, only still more compelled to complete it in its purposefully anti-American thrust. On the other hand, they in particular are not finished at all with the contradiction of investing and integrating their nations’ autonomy into their major imperialist project for a collective world power — this is the cause that the revival of a “populism” critical of Europe or hostile to it testifies to even in Germany. Because this is a matter of imperialist powers among themselves, it inevitably leads to a dispute about “how,” which in truth is one about “what,” “who,” and — due to the fundamentally contradictory character of what they intend — “whether at all.”
To be continued — unavoidably in the matter itself, soon once again in this journal.
1 National Security Strategy (NSS), US Department of Defense, 2017, p. 17
2 “… we don’t have any money. Our country doesn’t have money ... we’re not going to be ripped off anymore by all of these countries. I mean think of it. We have $21 trillion, essentially, very shortly, we’ll be up to $21 trillion in debt. O.K.? A lot of that is just all of these horrible, horrible decisions.” (Trump, New York Times interview, March 26, 2016)
3 “DoD Official: National Defense Strategy Will Enhance Deterrence,” Jan. 19, 2018, www.defense.gov
4 Defense Secretary Mattis demonstrates what is meant with the example of “rival” Russia. For him, it is clear that this power takes strategic-political liberties in Ukraine and elsewhere only because of its “mistaken confidence” that “limited nuclear employment can provide a useful advantage over the United States and its allies. Russia’s belief that limited nuclear first use, potentially including low-yield weapons, can provide such an advantage is based, in part, on Moscow’s perception that its greater number and variety of non-strategic nuclear systems provide a coercive advantage in crises and at lower levels of conflict." Regarding Russia, it follows for the US that “correcting this mistaken Russian perception is a strategic imperative" (NPR, p. 6 f.) — which is best obeyed by eclipsing everything Moscow has to offer in terms of nuclear explosive power of lower caliber. Creating superiority on any ladder of escalation is the means of choice to avoid being put by the opponent in the awkward situation of having to escalate a confrontation in an undesired way because otherwise one no longer dominates the theater.
5 China and Russia are targeted in different ways: as Russia is not important as a competitor of the US in terms of trade policy, "sanctions" are the civilian means of choice for making it as difficult as possible, ideally impossible, for the country to maintain its status as a competing military power; China is informed of the intention to reduce its profits from world trade and thus make its further rise to the status of strategic power more difficult, ideally to block it.
6 Trump has documented his rejection of such practices as a matter of principle with, among other things, his appearances at the G7 and G20 meetings and at the World Economic Forum in Davos — US representatives didn’t even show up at the WTO meeting in Argentina in the first place. These events owe their existence and their agenda in general only to the need of the global economic powers to assure themselves mutually of the continued validity of their agreement that, despite all competition for credit — also and precisely due to the all-round, excessive utilization of credit for crisis management, i.e., against each other — they recognize a common object of concern, the “stability of the world financial system.” In other words, they recognize that the validity of the mountains of debt of one power as credit depends in the last instance and inextricably on the validity of the credit of the competitors. Trump purposefully uses events of this kind to unambiguously clarify that he does not intend to care about such necessities, but instead to consistently pursue the principle of taking one-sided advantage of the world market. The diplomatic assurance between the powers has its day-to-day reality in the central banks’ credit policy transactions; the relevant experts are therefore reacting with everything from worry to enthusiasm to the new staffing of the US Federal Reserve — itself apparently a somewhat unusual process — with representatives of an “expansive course,” i.e., with personages that give rise to expectations that they will support Trump’s plans with an understanding credit policy.
7 America's automakers know, in any case, what’s written on the wall, i.e., what their task is as a patriotic company:
“Fiat-Chrysler plans to shift production of the Ram pickup model from Mexico back to the USA… The head of the auto manufacturer is not only guided by facts and figures, but also by moral standards. ‘It's uneconomical to produce in the USA,’ he said. ‘But we also have a responsibility.’ After all, 70% of the customers are Americans and the Ram is a deeply American vehicle… The corporations want to be on good terms with the US president, who is renegotiating the NAFTA free trade agreement.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, January 17, 2018) When power says it like that, then morals again fit fantastically with business.
© GegenStandpunkt 2018