Clinton Will Be More Confrontational with Russia and China
Gerald Horne tells Paul Jay that globalization has led to the rise of Russia and China as global powers as well as Trumpism, the social basis of American fascism
PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network, I’m Paul Jay. Well, if polling is to be believed – and usually it’s not that far off, of course there’s exceptions – it looks like we’re gonna be looking at a President Hillary Clinton. But what does that mean in terms of the future of American foreign policy and domestic policy. But also what does it mean that it was even a horse race up until very recently. And if Donald Trump hadn’t self-immolated, this might still be a horse race. And why is that? What does that tell us about the fate of where much of America is at?
Now joining us to talk about all of this is Gerald Horne. Gerald’s a historian and he holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. Authored many books, most recently, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. Thanks for joining us again, Gerald.
GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.
JAY: So Gerald, let’s start with foreign policy and we’ll talk more about Trump and the domestic stuff. A lot of attention has been paid when one looks ahead at a Clinton presidency. To her hawkishness on Syria – she’s calling for a no-fly zone that even the Pentagon seems not to be in favor of because it requires quite a military commitment to have a no-fly zone – she says she’ll defend the Iran agreement but she’s been historically far more hawkish on Iran and one could see here even supporting some sanctions on Iran that may not be connected to nuclear treaty and so on. But maybe the elephant in the room in this whole thing that isn’t getting much focus is her attitude towards China and the rise of China and the controversy now in the South China Sea. If people watch this television show Madam Secretary, the episode last week was all about a confrontation with the Chinese over the South China Sea. And how the Chinese eventually backed down against the wonderful, liberal American Secretary of State. But there used to be, Gerald, a group you may be aware of in Washington called the Blue Group whose theory it was that eventually there may be confrontation with China and all foreign policy decisions should really be based on that. So, tell us your thinking in terms of the rise of China and what we might expect in terms of the continuation of the Obama pivot which was supposed to be all about containment of China, as well.
HORNE: Well if you can eliminate the noise and focus on the signal, you’ll notice that there’s a split in the highest ranks of the US ruling elite, about China and about foreign policy, generally. On the one hand you have Hillary Rodham Clinton who in some ways is taking a “Russia first” policy. That is to say, focus on Russia. Which is perceived as the weak link in the Beijing-Moscow alliance. And then, with Russia under your belt in a Yeltsin-type administration, then you move on to China. Whereas Donald J. Trump is taking a “China first” policy. That is to say, focus on China and then try to make nice with Russia. I hope that those in your audience are paying careful attention to this question because things are getting exceedingly dangerous.
You may know that just in this past week, in Russia, there were civil defense drills in anticipation, believe it or not, of some sort of strike from the US forces. At the same time, just about a week ago, on the front page of the Washington Post, there was a lengthy article by foreign policy Mandarins here in Washington, saying that the Obama foreign policy has been much too weak. And that the neo-cons who are now supporting Secretary Clinton, will ratchet up the pressure all over the world but not least against Russia. I think that its fair to say that United States did not anticipate the turn that globalization has taken.
When globalization was first touted, it was thought to mean that US corporations would be hegemonic and dominant globally. That’s not necessarily the case with the rise of China and therefore you have this looming confrontation with China. A strong [inaud.] took place just about 7 days ago in Los Angeles, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Where the richest men in China, the head of the Dalian Wanda Group showed up to have Hollywood titans kiss his ring. That is to say, the Wanda group already controls AMC Theaters and is looking to buy a Hollywood studio. He demanded that in coming years and months that Hollywood employ more Asian actors have more Chinese themes in their screenplays and this did not go over well, particularly, in The New York Times.
So when you ask if there is a looming confrontation with China on the horizon, I think you’re asking the right question. I think that the foreign policy establishment in Washington is quite shaken by what’s going on in the Philippines with President Duterte going to Beijing and announcing a separation between the former colonial master, the United States of America, and the Philippines. And that’s expected to lead to an evacuation of US bases in the Philippines. And the Philippines was supposed to be the heart of the so-called pivot towards China. This has upset the US apple cart. Already you see that other countries in the region are perhaps taking a hit from the Philippines. I daresay that’ll be very difficult for Australia in particular to maintain its hawkish stance at least with regard to the military vis-à-vis China, once the Philippines pushes out Uncle Sam. So this was a very significant and major development and if anything is contributing to the hysteria at the State Department.
JAY: While we’re at it. Let’s go back to look at the Russia equation. It gets talked about in the mainstream press and in politics almost at the level of Putin’s personality. Of course, these things do play a factor but this can’t be the driving force in what’s causing such a sharp contention at this time. What do you think the more underlying reasons for this are?
HORNE: Well, Russia is much more aggressive in seeking to block US initiatives. Witness Syria, for example, which was the centerpiece of the aforementioned Washington Post article. China has given rhetorical support to the al-Assad regime in Damascus but its actually Russia that has sent troops, that has sent planes, in fact just a few days ago, there was a Russian aircraft carrier chugging through the English Channel on its way to Syria. Needless to say, that caused outrage in London.
JAY: Gerald, one thing that didn’t get much attention and just caught my eye recently, maybe I wasn’t paying attention either, but apparently the Chinese are more involved in Syria than I thought they were. They are apparently sending military trainers, they’ve assigned a very high-ranking Chinese general to advise the Syrian army. There’s a bit of a Russian-Chinese alliance to back Assad there now. The motivating factor apparently is both Russia and China are afraid that if the Assad regime falls, Jihadists will take over and use it as a base to support Jihadists both in China and in Russia.
HORNE: I think you’ve articulated the concern from both Beijing and Moscow. As you know more than most, about 15 percent of Russia’s population is Muslim. You recall, I’m sure, the conflict in Chechnya, which is still boiling to a certain extent. I’m sure you’re also aware about what’s going on in Western China with the Uyghur population and the attempts by Washington to cultivate that heavily Muslim population. There is a fear that if Damascus falls, that is to say if the al-Assad regime falls. That’ll be a further base for so-called Islamicist to interfere in the internal affairs of both Russia and China. I found it quite telling that the Washington Post article that I keep mentioning, that there was no mention of Libya. Even though you may recall that to a certain degree both Beijing and Moscow acquiesced in 2011 to the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli. And now Sirte, which Colonel Gaddafi had slated to be the capital of the African Union, is now the capital of the so-called Islamic State in Libya. And Moscow and Beijing fear a replay of that kind of scenario and I think that they are correct in having that kind of fear.
JAY: Can you see a differentiation between a Clinton foreign policy and Obama’s?
HORNE: Well, I think its fair to say that Secretary Clinton will be more hawkish with regard to Syria. President Obama has taken severe criticism on the foreign policy establishment and the think tanks because of what is perceived to be his lack of aggressiveness with regard to Syria. You may recall that when Mrs. Clinton was in the Obama administration, she was the main force pushing for a no-fly zone and so-called “safe zone” which, if implemented, would bring United States military into direct conflict with the Russian air force leading some commentators to suggest that it could portend the outbreak of World War 3, believe it or not. So, this election that will be taking place in the United States on November 8th is extremely important and I understand why man progressive forces are backing Secretary Clinton. But they need to understand that that backing will come at a very stiff and heavy price which will probably be paid in the first few months of 2017.
JAY: If we turn our eyes at what’s happening to Trump and the Republican Party, Trump has fairly well destroyed, to a large extent, the Republican Party. Assuming as I say, the polling’s correct, he’s gonna lose and maybe lose badly. But there’s been a clear view now of a social basis for this kind of nativist, people call fascist, kind of politics. If Trump hadn’t had so many warts and so much baggage and had been a populist, somewhat the same character without the garbage, this could be a real horse race. What does that tell us about the future of American politics?
HORNE: Well, first of all, it would be premature to bury Donald J. Trump at this point. Recall the Brexit vote in June 2016 when the polls suggested that the British exit from the European Union would go down to defeat, and it passed. Recall the vote in Colombia, South America, just a few weeks ago, when the referendum between the Bogota administration and the armed insurgents was expected to receive a rousing welcome from the electorate in Colombia, and it of course went down in defeat. Recall as well that the LA Times polls, which has come in for a fair amount of criticism, consistently shows a very close neck-and-neck race but having said that-
JAY: Let me just add that up until a week ago, had Trump up a point until very recently.
HORNE: Yes. And so, its premature to bury Donald J. Trump right now, however, I am persuaded by the bulk of the polls to believe that he will go down to defeat but even if he does, Trumpism will survive. That is to say, there is a base in the United States for the kind of right-wing populism that he’s come to symbolize as the mainstream press has made clear, the base fundamentally rests with the white working class and white middle class. This stems from a fundamental blunder made by the US ruling elite, when number 1, they routed the left from the labor movements some decades ago, which made the white working class more susceptible to right-wing populism. And number 2, they oversold the benefits of globalization thinking that it would mean US transnational corporation dominance in hegemony, when in fact this helped to put China in the passing lane.
JAY: By routing the left I’m assuming you’re talking about McCarthyism and House of Un-American Activities Committee and the purging of the left-wing leadership throughout most of the unions?
HORNE: Well, yes, absolutely that’s what I’m talking about. If you look at the AFL-CIO the labor movement in the United States of America, headed by the Rich Trumka. Rich Trumka comes out of the coal mines. If you look at what’s going on in Eastern Kentucky where miners provided a fundamental base of support for the re-election of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, if you look at what’s going on in West Virginia where Secretary Clinton is expected to go down to defeat, you’ll understand why its very difficult for A, the labor movement to get traction politically, towards the left, and B, why so much of the labor movement is expected to back Donald J. Trump. And C, why that takes away from the luster and sheen of the leader of the labor movement. Rich Trumka who cannot, obviously, deliver his numbers.
JAY: Thanks very much for joining us Gerald.
HORNE: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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