HOW MANY SHOGUNS DOES IT TAKE TO SCREW UP FOREIGN POLICY?

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Alert minds, as they survey the policy conundrums in Washington with due fear and trembling evinced with increasing frequency by wise and experienced observers such as Paul Craig Roberts, will inevitably arrive at the following question: is the United States of America regressing into some form of pre-Meiji Japan? That was, let us recall, the Tokugawa Shogunate period of Japanese history, characterized by a weak emperor manipulated from behind the scenes by the unofficial viceroy, the Shogun. In the Japanese power structure, the Shogun represented the oligarchy, including the samurai (the “deep state” or the “establishment” in our contemporary discourse).

But, to be rigorous, here is where we already run into at least two difficulties  with our Japanese analogy. The first is that Japan’s puppet Emperor — up until the Meiji restoration of imperial preeminence in 1868 — had only one Shogun breathing down his neck. President Trump today must now deal with a triumvirate of shoguns breathing down his, to wit White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, all conveniently generals, of course. (Actually, it is a “triumvirate of war-losing generals,” as the clever Moon of Alabama helpfully reminded us. [1]) The second important divergence from the historical archetype is that whatever benefits may have been attributable to the shogunate — and historians generally agree that there were some — it was the Meiji restoration, which clarified who was calling the shots, that “made Japan great again.” Fifty years later, following World War I Japan was recognized at Versailles as one of the five major world powers. It is important to note that the dynamic, progressive, industrial Japan that we know today came into being after, not during the reactionary Shogun era.

To many foreign statesmen who by the nature of their official position must politically interact with the government of the United States, as well as to many concerned Americans who refuse to consume the official pablum, the apparent fragmentation of executive authority (to put it diplomatically) is a matter of the greatest concern. The question uppermost on everyone’s mind is: who is calling the shots? Who is shaping America’s policies, and with reference to what criteria? Who should foreign leaders be talking to in order to gauge America’s intentions and get anything resolved?

The perils of internal political dissonance have already been vividly demonstrated by members of the Shogun junta and their associated underlings. Case in point: a disturbing video emerged on Facebook recently of Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressing a small group of American troops, speaking with supreme self-confidence as if he were the Big Honcho himself: “You’re a great example of our country right now.” But then he went on, “Our country, right now, it’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it.” It takes little imagination to read into these borderline insolent words a clear rebuke, or at least thinly disguised disparagement, of Mattis’ nominal boss.

Another case in point in the same vein: appearing on Fox News not long ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked about a U.N. committee’s recent warning about racism in America, which criticized Trump’s ambivalent attitude toward the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia. Tillerson had a perfect opportunity to speak up in the defense of his nominal boss. However, he replied: “I don’t think anyone doubts the American people’s values,” including those touting “equal treatment of people the world over.” But when asked whether Trump shared those values, Tillerson conspicuously washed his hands and responded, “The president speaks for himself.”

(For an excellent analysis of the serious implications of this insubordinate chatter and its implications, see Fred Kaplan’s “The Secretary’s rebuke,” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2017/08/why_james_mattis_viral_rebuke_of_trump_was_so_disturbing.html .)

There was not a hint of Japanese subtlety or any ceremonious attempt to politely maintain appearances, whatever the de facto power relationship within the ruling clique might be.



A superpower wielding a mighty nuclear arsenal and still globally influential, whatever domestic problems it may be facing, should preferrably have a clearly defined internal decision-making structure. Where does the buck stop? Does anybody even know?

The important (though not insignificant) point is not that Japan became “great again” only after it got rid of its Shoguns, but that America’s apparent retrocession to the very system that held Japan’s back until the second half of the nineteenth century bodes ill for America and the rest of the world, in equal measure. The fact that, to boot, the creation of unconstitutional centers of power is also clearly illegal and undemocratic (however foolishly democratic choices may be exercised) — that goes without saying as well.

The dangers inherent in this lack of clarity as to who (or even which of the Washington shoguns) is running the show was conspicuously illustrated during Mattis’ visit to Kiev for the annual observance of Ukraine’s fictitious “independence day,” a few weeks ago. Mattis committed himself to providing his hosts with “lethal weapons” for the suppression of separatists in the eastern region of the country. (One wonders whether a similar offer will now also be made to Madrid to help it suppress separatist ferment in Catalonia.) Mattis is quoted by the “New York Times” as having “vowed … to help Ukraine stand up to Russian violations of its sovereignty and signaled that the Trump administration was considering providing defensive weapons to the Ukrainian military.” The “Times” goes on that “State and Defense Department officials have recommended that the United States provide Javelin anti-tank missiles and other defensive weapons to Ukraine to strengthen its forces and raise the potential cost to the Kremlin of a Russian attack.” Clearly lethal “defensive” weapons, no doubt about that. However, and there’s the rub, in the next paragraph we are informed that “President Trump, who has consistently taken a more conciliatory position toward Russia than have his top national security advisers, has yet to take up the matter.”  [2]

We ought to pause and consider. If the constitutionally designated public official, who is thought to be in charge of these matters, “has yet to take them up,” who authorized mere cabinet officer Mattis to make such commitments to the Ukrainian junta prior to the final decision being taken in Trump’s office, where that decision-making process is constitutionally mandated to take place?

But there is more, gentle reader. It turns out that the defense secretary’s public remarks in Kiev not only overstepped the bounds of his formal authority (with not the slightest public insinuation of  protest, or even a disciplining tweet, from the pacified “emperor”) but that the actual purpose of Mattis’ performance was to announce in an underhanded way something that was already being done, anyway. It has come to light, you see, that a contract for the delivery of lethal weapons to the Ukranian junta had been signed between the Ukrainian state-run company Spetstechnoexport and the American company AirTronic USA on November 11, 2016 (under Obama, who we are told was “strongly opposed” to such transactions) and that physical delivery was made on April 8, 2017 (yes, under Trump who, we are told, “has yet to take up the matter,” is keen on reducing tensions with Russia, and whose announced ambition is to restore America’s greatness, not restore breakaway provinces to a distant, failed client state). You may read all about it here: https://southfront.org/documents-confirm-the-us-already-delivered-lethal-weapons-to-ukraine-exclusive/  The delivered lethal item,  by the way, is 100 PSRL-1 Launchers (Precision Shoulder-fired Rocket Launcher) at a cost to bankrupt Ukraine of mere $554,575 — apiece.

Never mind the trivial question of who will pay for this lethal cargo (U.S. taxpayers, Ukraine’s destitute taxpayers, or Poroshenko and his circle of oligarchs whom these weapons were shipped to protect) — the answer is painfully clear. There is, however, another important issue that ought not be neglected. It concerns the wisdom and the probable ultimate consequences of U.S. lethal weapons being delivered to an unstableUkraine, with the corresponding deepening of Washington’s involvement in the Donbass conflict and the grave risk of thereby needlessly provoking another nuclear-armed superpower.

This “Ukrainian episode” would be ominous enough even if it stood alone. But it does not. It is part and parcel of a larger war-provoking agenda, alongside patterns of similarly belligerent conduct in N. Korea, Afghanistan, and Syria.

The international community (not the handful of satellite regimes that mendaciously go by that name, but the overwhelming majority of the world’s inhabitants) expected a more assertively peaceful foreign policy from President Trump, with a predominant focus on domestic affairs. It appears, however, that those expectations have so far remained unmet. Instead, we misguidedly continue to engender instability all around, increasingly alienating China and waging an economic war against Russia (which includes torpedoing its energy cooperation with Europe).

  Defense Secretary Mattis’ visit to Ukraine in the course of his recent foreign tour once again demonstrates with all possible bluntness that the U.S. lacks a single voice and single policy in its dealings with an increasingly complex and irrevocably multi-polar world. Trump the President and Trump the business mogul are not the same man. Since its inception, his government has not, for all practical purposes, been a unified team. Each of its various principal components is conducting its own policy. Trump the mogul is famous for making personal decisions and “firing” those who do not conform to his business model. Trump the President has been pressured into firing all the wrong people, and he has now become impotent to the point that he is facing the prospect of being unceremoniously “fired” himself, by his political subordinates.

If this concerned some third-rate Bantustan, the issue would hardly be noteworthy. The fact that this refers to the conduct of a powerful superstate creates an extremely volatile and alarming situation.

  Secretary Mattis has announced that he favors delivery of lethal armaments to Ukraine, simultaneously accusing Russia of attempting to change international borders by force (he has conveniently forgotten Kosovo for the moment). The other superpower can view that only as an act of aggression against it, as this puts the U.S. squarely in the middle of a bilateral dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

The fact is that weapons delivieries to a hostile regime bordering on Russia, although technically it is not a member-state of any military block, nevertheless alters the balance of power in the immediate proximity of the territory of the Russian Federation. Even taking into account the relative insignificance of these shipments, a precedent will have been set.

  The reaction of any normal, self-respecting country in these circusmatnces is bound to be stern. Before they slump onto their couch and reach for the remote to turn on the idiot tube, Americans should consider that there is a precedent for that, also. In the not too distant past, the United States reacted promptly and sternly to the delivery of Soviet missiles to Cuba, which brought the world to the brink of war. That is how this country chose to react to a change in the power balance in the immediate proximity of its borders.

Is it reasonable to expect a more relaxed reaction from others under identical circumstances?

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/08/trump-drops-a-pilot.html

[2] “The New York Times”, August 24, 2017 

About the Author
Born in Belgrade, Serbia (1950), STEFAN KARGANOVIC  is a U.S. citizen. Graduate of the University of Chicago and Indiana University School of Law. Member of several defense teams at the International Criminal Tribunal For the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Founder and president of NGO “Srebrenica Historical Project,” registered in the Netherlands and in Serbia. Currently engaged in research on events that took place in Srebrenica in July 1995. Author and co-author of several books on Srebrenica and the technology of “color revolution.”

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The perils of internal political dissonance have already been vividly demonstrated by members of the Shogun junta and their associated underlings. Case in point: a disturbing video emerged on Facebook recently of Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressing a small group of American troops, speaking with supreme self-confidence as if he were the Big Honcho himself: “You’re a great example of our country right now.” But then he went on, “Our country, right now, it’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it.” It takes little imagination to read into these borderline insolent words a clear rebuke, or at least thinly disguised disparagement, of Mattis’ nominal boss.[d


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