It is tempting to think of the Trump emergency as a strictly American problem — to focus primarily on American institutional remedies, from impeachment to checks and balances and elections. But this misreads the situation. We need to look at a larger global picture if we are going to understand what’s going on and possibly stop it.
- America is only one piece of a multipart strategy. There is a network of powerful agitators who are frustrated with the current global order and are betting that this is the year that a grassroots “traditionalist” movement will rise up to overthrow it. Those aiming to catalyze this include Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, Nigel Farage, Arron Banks, Aleksandr Dugin, Vladislav Surkov (aka Natan Dubovitsky), Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen, and many more. Trump and Pence are effectively part of (and clients to) this broader movement. Focusing on them is perhaps less important than focusing on this broader global machinery. For more, read this and this.
- Read every headline in a global context. The thing to know about Betsy DeVos isn’t that she has no business being education secretary (though that is true); the thing to know is that she is the sister of Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater — part of the Mercer/Bannon network, and who has ties to the Chinese government. Rebekah Mercer had heavy input into cabinet selections, and the choices that they have made are not just bad from an objective standpoint, they are bad because they are all part of the global cabal mentioned in (1) above. The thing to know about Jeff Sessions isn’t that he would be a racist Attorney General (though that is true), but that he has close ties to Stephen Miller and Richard Spencer, who are part of this larger global network aiming to bring about a ‘traditionalist’ revolution.
- France is next. Breitbart is expanding its operations into France and is mobilizing an army of internet trolls to drive support for Marine Le Pen; Breitbart France is being headed by her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen. As of this writing, Le Pen is considered likely to win the first round on April 23, 2017. Her odds are considered less good for the second round on May 7, 2017. However, a lot can happen in two weeks, and indeed, a great deal can and may happen between now and April 23. If Le Pen’s National Front prevails in France, expect heavy resources (probably from the Mercers, from Russia and their allies) to be invested in unlocking a similar wave of far-right, nativist populism in Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, etc. This would remake modern Europe, end the Euro and the EU, and certainly bring an end to the Schengen free-movement zone.
- Don’t assume the US Government is intact. Many, many people (Americans in particular) are hoping that the United States’ strong system of checks and balances will slow down or flush out these malevolent forces. Under normal circumstances, this would be the case. However, we presently have a president who has expressed disrespect for the rule of law (so-called “judges”) and who has described journalists as the “opposition party.” The fact of the matter is that the top posts in government have been assumed by people who appear to be sympathetic to this global “traditionalist” movement. It is not clear that they are not more aligned with that worldview than with protecting the interests of the United States; indeed they seem to have transmuted the latter into the former. If the President starts to say things that could intimidate or threaten the judiciary or journalists, we will have indeed crossed the Rubicon.
- Putin’s interests are aligned with Bannon’s. Let’s be frank: Russia’s prospects under the current world order are unbearably bad. Losing population and with a declining average lifespan, Russia aims to flip the table over and start again. By reclaiming territory it feels to be part of its sphere of influence, resetting relations with European nations, and dismantling NATO, it hopes to regain past glory and start anew. And this aligns with Bannon’s worldview. Bannon believes that the global system of crony capitalism is corrupt, and he aims to destroy it and start anew. So, while Putin may well have leverage over Trump that ensures Bannon’s bidding is done, it is ultimately the common alignment of interests that should be most of concern.
- Policy is prelude to war. It is easy to be outraged at the many insane policy decisions coming out of the White House these past days, but they should be considered from a higher-level perspective. The rollback of Dodd-Frank is aimed to give banks more rope to hang themselves with: by extending leverage, the collapse (when, not if, it comes) will be all the more severe. (Bannon has said he wants this.) FCC rollbacks of net neutrality and access are in this case first phases in gaining control over communications, vital in a time of war. The travel ban is designed not to “protect America” but to sow chaos, incite and wear down opposition, and set the stage for more egregious measures in the future. Consider every action with the lens, “what does this aim to actually achieve and what behavior will it provoke?” The first-order answer is nearly never a correct evaluation.
- Bannon will fire Trump before Trump will fire Bannon. If you have noticed, Trump never criticizes Vladimir Putin; or if he must, he always couples it with a negative remark about the US. Many people mistake Bannon as being subservient to Trump and subject to his whims. No. Bannon is the head of the entire alt-right’s media arm, and has deep ties into UK (Farage, Banks, UKIP), as well as in France, Germany, and Russia. Bannon isn’t going anywhere, and it is a mistake to think Trump is truly in charge in this situation. He is kept in check by any one of a number of forces. We might see Trump or Pence impeached before we see Bannon depart.
- There is an incentive for an accelerated timeline. Bannon aims to unlock forces of populism and conflict before any institutional remedies can be applied. As has been covered, Bannon likes to employ “shock events,” and believes that great change can be unlocked in a very short period of time. He aims to move quickly. To think this will all get balanced out over time, or in 2018 or 2020, is naïve. They aim to trigger a collapse of the global order well before then. And our world is complex and interconnected enough that is entirely plausible.
There is still a nonzero chance that America’s famed system of checks and balances will confine and remedy this situation not only in America but indeed for the rest of the world. But there is strong reason for concern, and it is definitely the case that we cannot look at this strictly through a US-centric lens.
There is a network of global forces at work and we should be clear about what they are. We should be calling on our representatives to speak up about this broader global picture.
It’s time for all elected officials, past presidents and presidential candidates to call this global cabal what it is — and demand answers.