America First, Helsinki and Trump’s Existential Threat to the Empire

The major – perhaps only – redeeming virtue of the Donald’s ersatz campaign platform was his clear intent to seek a rapprochement with Russia, revamp America’s commitments to NATO and other cold war relics and to discard "Regime Change" as the core tenant of foreign policy. In essence, "America First" was to become the new route to domestic security and safety.

Those eminently sensible notions struck the Deep State’s raison d’etre to the quick during the campaign; and by hook or crook, the Donald’s rapid fire actions toward these objectives since April have induced a palpable shock in the Imperial City.

Clearly he means to withdraw America’s 29,000 military hostages now stationed in South Korea in return for some sort of peace treaty, economic normalization and denuclearization arrangement with Kim Jong-un.

Likewise, he has sensibly suggested that demonizing Russia and Putin has accomplished nothing, and that they should be invited back into the G-8. And as soon as Robert Mueller finishes his RussiaGate farce, Trump can get rid of the present asinine sanctions on various Russian officials and Putin cronies, too.

We also now know – owing to the sullen reporting of the Washington Post – that Trump has been hounding the national security bureaucracy about another utterly ridiculous artifact of the Empire. Namely, the fact that 73 years after Hitler descended into Hades from his bunker and 27 years after the Soviet Union slithered off the pages of history, there are still 35,000 US troops in Germany:

The Pentagon is analyzing the cost and impact of a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of American troops stationed in Germany, amid growing tensions between President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to people familiar with the work.

“The effort follows Trump’s expression of interest in removing the troops, made during a meeting earlier this year with White House and military aides, U.S. officials said. Trump was said to have been taken aback by the size of the US presence, which includes about 35,000 active-duty troops, and complained that other countries were not contributing fairly to joint security or paying enough to NATO.

“Word of the assessment has alarmed European officials, who are scrambling …”


We doubt whether real Europeans are scrambling at all – the Post is surely just quoting from the NATO echo chamber.

Then again, the latter is absolutely the most useless, obsolete, wasteful and dangerous multilateral institution in the present world. But like the proverbial clothes-less emperor, NATO doesn’t dare risk having the purportedly "uninformed" amateur in the Oval Office pointing out its buck naked behind.

So the NATO subservient think tanks and establishment policy apparatchiks are harrumphing up a storm, but for crying out loud most of Europe’s elected politicians are in on the joke. They are fiscally swamped paying for their Welfare States and are not about to squeeze their budgets or taxpayers to fund military muscle against a nonexistent threat.

As Justin Raimondo aptly notes,

Finally an American president has woken up to the fact that World War II, not to mention the cold war, is over: there’s no need for US troops to occupy Germany.

Vladimir Putin isn’t going to march into Berlin in a reenactment of the Red Army taking the Fuehrer-bunker – but even if he were so inclined, why won’t Germany defend itself?

Exactly. If their history proves anything, Germans are not a nation of pacifists, meekly willing to bend-over in the face of real aggressors. Yet they spent the paltry sum of $43 billion on defense during 2017, or barely 1.1% of Germany’s $3.8 trillion GDP, which happens to be roughly three times bigger than Russia’s.

In short, the policy action of the German government tells you they don’t think Putin is about to invade the Rhineland or retake the Brandenburg Gate. And this live action testimonial also trumps, as it were, all of the risible alarms emanating from the beltway think tanks and the 4,000 NATO bureaucrats talking book in behalf of their own plush Brussels sinecures.

But now comes the piece de resistance. The Donald is going to Helsinki to make peace with Vlad Putin, and just in the nick of time.

Hopefully, in one-fell swoop they can reach an agreement to get the US military out of Syria; normalize the return of Crimea and Moscow’s historic naval base at Sevastopol to the Russian motherland; stop the civil war in Ukraine via a mutually agreed de facto partition; stand-down from the incipient military clashes from the Baltic to the Black Sea; and pave the way for lifting of the absurd sanctions on Russian businessmen and citizens.

Needless to say, time is of the essence. Every hour that the Donald wastes tweeting, bloviating about his beloved Mexican wall, sabotaging American exports and jobs and watching Fox & Friends reruns is just more opportunity for the vast apparatus of the Deep State (and most of his own top officials) to deep-six the Donald’s emerging and thoroughly welcome rendition of America First.

For instance, the same Washington Post article cited above is laced with off-the record quotes from officials determined to maintain the NATO status quo and therefore continuing, needless provocation of Russia.

"…..the Pentagon continuously evaluates US troop deployments,” the statement said, and such “analysis exercises” are “not out of the norm.”

Several officials suggested that Pentagon policymakers may have moved ahead with the assessment to prove the worth of the current basing arrangement and dissuade Trump from carrying the thought of withdrawal any further.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon dismissed any suggestion of a full or partial withdrawal from Germany and described such analysis as routine.

Overcoming the self-interested inertial forces of the Deep State and its vast syndicate of contractors, weapons suppliers, military pork barrels and think tank supplicants, of course, is its own monumental challenge. Yet the Donald’s pathway to America First is further obstructed by the fact that the Dems are way off-sides for purely partisan reasons.

That is to say, Democratic politicians – including most of the so-called liberals and progressives – have turned themselves into handmaids of the Warfare State owing to their inconsolable grief and anger over losing the 2016 election to Donald Trump. Consequently, they are virtually incapable of thinking rationally about Russia – or of even thinking at all.

Nevertheless, if the Donald is anything, he is a showman. And he very much needs to steal the show in Helsinki from the beltway saboteurs who will stop at nothing to keep the current utterly unnecessary and pointless cold war revival cranking at full steam.

After all, to paraphrase Randolph Bourne, the Russian ogre is the health of the military/industrial/intelligence/think tank complex. So even a rapprochement – to say nothing of peace – with Russia is an existential threat to the Deep State; it would necessarily pull the fiscal pins right out from under the hideous $800 billion per year defense, intelligence and foreign aid apparatus.

So we don’t know whether the Donald can pull off a second Singapore in Helsinki or not, but we are quite sure Flyover America would rally to his cause – just as it has done since his historic photo op with Kim Jong-un.

We are also quite sure that even his own government will be doing its best to sabotage the Helsinki summit because the very prosperity of the Imperial City depends upon demonizing Putin and Russia. As Justin Raimondo has further observed,

The Helsinki summit with Putin is the knockout punch. And the howls of pain arising from our hateful warmongering media, the Democratic party politicians they’re in thrall to, and the phony “human rights” scamsters, are getting louder by the minute. We should all revel in their misery.

Trump campaigned on making peace with Russia: he has a mandate to do so. That, however, matters little to the “intelligence community” and their media camarilla, which is up in arms at the very prospect of a Russo-American partnership for peace. The national security bureaucracy and the laptop bombardiers who inhabit ThinktankWorld have a vested interest in maintaining a cold war status quo that should’ve ended when the Berlin Wall fell. They are horrified by Trump’s “America First” foreign policy views, and they are out to stop him by any means necessary – because his victory meant the end of their worldview and their careers.

Meanwhile, the significance of Helsinki cannot be overstated. If it goes well, it will be proof positive that America faces no large state-based enemy.

That is to say, it will mightily illuminate the hidden fact that neither Russia nor China (for that matter) even remotely possess the intent or the means to threaten the American homeland.

Likewise, a potential US withdrawal from Syria and incipient agreement with Russia to de-escalate tensions in the middle east would remind America that Regime Change has been an utter failure.

Yet without an imperial foreign policy that is implicitly designed to either bully or remove recalcitrant lesser governments anywhere on the planet – whether or not they have the intent or capacity to harm the US homeland – there would be no case at all for 11 carrier battle groups, massive air and sealift capacity and Washington’s far flung string of bases and occupations spread among more than 100 countries around the planet.

So, much is riding in the balance at Helsinki – including the possibility that a strong success could open the door to a real, far more systematic and intellectually cogent America First Policy over the longer haul.

To that end, we therefore propose to dig deeper – to tease out the full possibilities of an America First foreign policy now that the Donald has somehow succeeded in getting his ample belly right up close to the bar.

In the first place it needs be observed that lurking not far below the surface of the Donald’s "America First" slogan is the ghost of Senator Robert Taft’s profoundly correct case for nonintervention.

Back in the 1950s, the great statesman from Ohio fully understood that free enterprise prosperity, minimal government and maximum personal liberty were incompatible with a permanent, fiscally debilitating Warfare State leviathan designed to function as the world’s boots-&-suits-on-the-ground hegemon.

Consequently, Taft strongly opposed a big peacetime navy, a large standing army with forward stationing and rapid global deployment capacities and the proliferation of foreign treaties and aid commitments.

To the contrary, he reasoned that in the nuclear age a US-based bomber and missile force of unquestioned striking capacity would more than adequately protect the homeland from foreign military aggression; and that it could do so at a fraction of the cost of what amounted to permanent imperial legions assigned to patrolling the better part of the planet.

Today Taft’s vision of a homeland defense would be more apt than ever. It would constitute an even cheaper and more efficacious guarantor of the safety and security of the American people than in his time. That’s because there are now no rival superpowers with even a fraction of the military and economic might of the former Soviet Union.

Moreover, missile technology has become so advanced that a relative handful of submarines and hardened domestic launch sites can deter any conceivable foreign threat, which is inherently a nuclear one, to America’s homeland security.

That is, in this day and age there is absolutely no conventional military threat to the safety and liberty of citizens in Omaha NE, Spokane WA or Springfield MA.

That’s because there is no nation on earth that could mount a giant naval and air armada sufficient to invade the American homeland. Or, if it were foolish enough to try, could it survive the guided missile blitz that would send its forces to Davy Jones’ locker long before they crossed the blue waters which surround the North American continent.

Stated differently, nuclear deterrence, the great ocean moats and a territorial military defense is all that it would take to keep America secure in today’s world.

There is no need for Pax Americana, even if it could succeed, which manifestly it has not; and even if it could be afforded, which clearly it can’t be.

To be sure, the Donald is too full of egotistical bluster and too infatuated with militarist trappings to go the full Taft-nonintervention route, but given a fair chance he might yet shimmy policy in that direction. Clearly a rapprochement with Russia would enable a de-escalation of Washington’s imperial presence in the middle east and avoid a dangerous buildup of military tensions and expense in eastern Europe.

In any event, as crude and bombastic as Trump’s articulation of the America First proposition sometimes sounds, it does amount to a frontal attack on the intellectual superstructure which keeps the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf, 35,000 troops in Germany, 29,000 of America’s military personal in harm’s way on the Korean peninsula, 11 carrier battle groups on the oceans, a continued expeditionary force of 100,000 troops, dependents and support personnel in Japan and military operations and economic and military aid in more than 100 other nations around the planet.

Underneath this vast Empire, of course, lays the utterly bogus notion that America is the Indispensable Nation and that Washington Leadership is always and everywhere the sine quo non of stability, order and peace all around the planet.

By the very obnoxious nature of his personality and modus operandi, however, the Donald has done much to tarnish the idea of Washington Leadership; and that is a considerable step toward global peace in its own right.

That’s because the best way to stop more American wars is for no one to come next time Washington puts out the call, and for the so-called Coalition of the Willing to shrink to a quorum of none.

That prospect has surely terrified the foreign policy establishment. Even though to date the Donald has been throttled at nearly every turn by the War Party in his discombobulated and amateurish pursuit of America First, that has not stopped its leading spokesman and institutions from lambasting him for allegedly sullying Washington’s self-assigned "leadership" role in the world.

In that respect there are few grand poobahs of the War Party who better embody the arrogant pretensions of the American Imperium than the odious president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Hass.

According to the latter, the trouble with Trump is that after 16 months in office he still doesn’t get it; he’s turned his back on the core predicate that animates the Imperial City:

"Trump is the first post-WWII president to view the burdens of world leadership as outweighing the benefits. The United States has changed from the principal preserver of order to a principal disrupter."

Exactly what hay wagon does he think we fell off from?

How did the war on Vietnam, the First Gulf War to save the Emir of Kuwait’s oil wealth, the futile 17-year occupation of Afghanistan, the destruction of Iraq, the double-cross of Khadafy after he gave up his nukes, the obliteration of much of civil society and economic life in Syria, the US-supplied Saudi genocide in Yemen and the Washington sponsored coup and civil war on Russia’s doorstep in Ukraine, to name just a few instances of Washington’s putative "world leadership", have anything to do with preserving "order" on the planet?

And exactly how did the "benefits" of these serial instigations of mayhem outweigh the "burdens" to America’s taxpayers – to say nothing of the terminal costs to the dead and maimed citizens in their millions who had the misfortune to be domiciled in these traumatized lands?

Likewise, have the refugees who have been flushed out of Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere in the middle east by Washington’s wars done anything for the peace and stability of Europe, where Washington’s victims have desperately fled in their millions?

Yet, there would have been no long-lasting civil war in Syria without the billions of cash and weapons supplied to the so-called rebels and the outright jihadis by Washington and its Persian Gulf vassals; nor would Yemen by sinking into famine and cholera plagues without the American bombs, missiles and drone dispatched by the Saudi pilots essentially functioning as hired Pentagon mercenaries.

Indeed, the smoldering ruins of Mosul, Aleppo, Fallujah, Benghazi and lesser places in their thousands hardly speak to a beneficent hegemony.

Yet had Washington never brought its fleets and occupying forces to the Middle East after 1970 and had the region not come under the heavy boot of the Central Command and Washington’s assorted proconsuls and plenipotentiaries, the plague of radical Sunni jidhadism would never have arisen. Nor is it likely that the ancient rift between the Sunni and Shiite confessions of Islam would have erupted into today’s lethal armed conflicts.

It is well to note that during peacetime before 1970, no American soldiers were killed in the middle east. After 1990. However, virtually all US serviceman who were killed or wounded in combat were stationed in the greater middle east.

It is also worth noting that the answer to high oil prices is high prices, not the Fifth Fleet. In fact, global oil production today has doubled since 1973 owing to price, technology and the worldwide quest for profits by state and private oil companies alike – even as constant dollar prices per barrel stand far below the peaks reached during that decade.

There never was any economic imperative whatsoever to bring the American armada into the region.

Real oil prices

So when candidate Trump said the Iraq invasion was a stupid mistake, that Hillary’s war on Khadafy was misbegotten, that he would like to cooperate with Putin on pacifying Syria and that NATO was obsolete, he was actually calling into question the fundamental predicates of the American Imperium.

And that gets us to the Russian threat bogeyman, the War Party’s risible demonization of Vladimir Putin and the cocked-up narrative about the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 election – all of which the upcoming Helsinki summit could knock into a cocked hat.

When Trump captured the GOP nomination against all odds and expectations in the spring of 2016, the War Party went into hyper-drive. Each of these bogus themes were promoted to a fare-the-well through the MSM in order to derail his candidacy; and then, after the fact, to delegitimize and imperil his presidency.

Yet the gruel behind each of these memes is thin indeed. So it’s is fair to say that while the Donald has caused the Imperial City itself to become unhinged, it is also possible that a successful Helsinki photo op writ large could mightily help Flyover America to see the light.

In the case of the election meddling meme, there are few more hypocritical instances of the cat-calling-the-kettle-black than this one.

To wit, the total US intelligence community (IC) budget is upwards of $75 billion – 25% more than Russia’s entire military budget including ships, planes, tanks, ammo, fuel, rations, operations, maintenance and even spare boots – and a big part of that giant IC spend goes to, well, meddling, hacking and sabotage of foreign nations!

The Targeted Access Operations (TAO) unit inside NSA alone has a multi-billion budget which funds thousands of in-house and contractor personnel who spend day and night hacking the communications channels of virtually every government in the world, friend, foe and enemy alike.

It goes without saying, of course, that the very purpose of these intrusions is to interfere with the domestic politics and governance of most of the planet’s population, and in some cases to actually sabotage perfectly appropriate operations, such as the Natanz centrifuges in Iran which were destroyed by the Washington’s stuxnet virus.

Thus, if you are not caught up in the War party’s self-serving groupthink, it seems entirely plausible that in the face of these massive Washington cyber-assaults that targeted nations might indeed seek to counterattack, as apparently the Russian security services have done

Yet that also opens up another show and tell possibility for Helsinki. There could be nothing that would shutdown the whole RussiaGate Farce (and leave the Dem handmaids high and dry) than a freeze-for-freeze proposal on meddling – something we are quite confident Cool Hand Vlad would jump at in a heartbeat.

After all, what the whole Russian meddling meme boils down to is an assertion that Kremlin operatives have been attacking America in plain sight. That is, they hacked the DNC’s gossip and intrigue-ridden computers and breached the content of Podesta’s password protected political skullduggery. But airing intra-party dirty laundry is neither a national security matter nor does its disclosure jeopardize American democracy in the slightest.

The very idea that these two alleged hacks amount to some grand assault on American democracy is just plain laughable; and it surely does not take a dozen congressional investigations and the rogue Mueller witch-hunt to preclude any future recurrence.

All it would really require is a handshake agreement in Helsinki because it is plainly obvious that Russia got nothing out of the St. Petersburg troll farm or any of the other related allegations of "meddling".

At the end of the day, we are supposed to believe that a country with a puny $1.3 trillion GDP, which is just 7% of the US’ $19.7 trillion GDP, and which consists largely of aged hydrocarbon provinces, endless wheat fields, modest industrial capacities and a stagnant Vodka-favoring workforce, is actually a threat to America’s security.

And we are also supposed to fear the military capacity of a country that has no blue water Navy to speak of and no conventional airlift and air-attack capacity which could remotely threaten the New Jersey shores, and that spends less in a full year than the Pentagon consumes every 35 days.

Oh, yes, and this midget military is run with an apparent iron-hand by the Cool Hand Luke of the modern world. Yet as will be readily apparent to the unwashed American masses from his demeanor at Helsinki, the last thing Putin is going to do is commit Russian national suicide by launching a nuclear attack on America.

Yet that’s all he’s got: To wit, a nonexistent military threat and a justifiable desire to protect the Russian-speaking populations on his doorstep in Crimea and the Donbas from the depredations of the Civil War that Washington itself instigated.

That too will become apparent at Helsinki.

So let the Empire’s existential crisis begin!

David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.