Trump is escalating conflicts in many parts of the world, but the left can’t lose sight of the one — with China — that could overshadow them all, writes Khury Petersen-Smith.
ON AUGUST 18, between a tirade against CNN and MSNBC and a defense of trade tariffs, Donald Trump tweeted:
All of the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction, China. But in the end, if we are smart, tough and well prepared, we will get along with everyone!
Actually, you don’t have to be a fool to wonder how to make sense of Trump’s contradictory and confusing posture toward Russia. Trump did, after all, hold an off-the-record conversation with the head of state of a historic U.S. adversary and went against his own intelligence services’ findings about Russian interference in U.S. elections.
But months before the meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Trump approved a weapons sale package to Ukraine designed to arm it against a more aggressive Moscow. And at the same time, Trump has derided NATO, the historic vehicle by which the U.S. and its European allies have countered Russia militarily.
There are a number of foreign policy areas that have gotten more attention than what is happening between the U.S. and China.
These include the Trump administration’s reversal of the U.S. posture toward Iran under Barack Obama. The latest step is the creation of an Iran Action Group in the State Department, led by hawk Brian Hook — who was the National Security Advisor to arch-hawk John Bolton when Bolton was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush.
Then there’s North Korea: Last year, Trump was talking about the “annihilation” of the country — this year, he met with Kim Jong-un and pursued negotiations.
But amid the twists and turns, there remains a constant in the background: Rising tensions and an arms race between the U.S. and its allies in Asia and the Pacific on one side, and China on the other. The left should pay attention, because contrary to Trump’s tweet, the aim of U.S. empire is not to “get along with everyone.”
INDEED, WHATEVER moves away from armed conflict the U.S. is making on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere should be understood as strategic, and with an eye toward the long arc of U.S. empire. Those strategies aren’t only concerned with challenges facing U.S. power in the present, but also in the future.
Increasingly, Washington has been preoccupied with preventing China from challenging U.S. primacy on the world stage — and it has been preparing to fight China should such a challenge become more threatening in the future.
Trump’s tariff-imposing rampage — he has ordered additional taxes on goods imported from China, along with various other competitors and historic friends, whose friendships with the U.S. are increasingly in question under Trump — is one part of the preparations.