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The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Trump Wages “Economic War”

If a bloated military can’t force the world into submission, economic warfare should do the trick, at least according to Washington.

Nothing can stop Donald Trump’s America from pursuing a foreign policy that is tantamount to a new brand of global warfare. And it isn’t just Trump. The Democrats and Republicans, who have their own reasons to feel very uncomfortable with the US president, are joining the fray alongside him, vying to play a contrasting but active role in the war Trump has launched against the rest of the world.

President Trump’s daily sallies of “sanctions here, tariffs there” represent the fulfillment of his campaign promise to put America first. George W. Bush’s invasions and his launch of the “global war on terror” were acts of supreme aggression and had disastrous global effects, but their focus was always local as they pursued a principal enemy — al-Qaeda — whose members could be counted in the hundreds.

The new foreign policy orientation, America First, is taking on not just the governments, but the entire populations of every country outside the US (with the notable exception of Israel and Saudi Arabia) in a series of moves far more aggressive than conventional war.

After the latest threat, this time by the Senate, of more sanctions on Russia (where Trump has pushed to ease sanctions) Business Insider reports: “Russia says it would consider any US move to curb the operations of Russian banks or their foreign currency dealings a declaration of economic war.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Economic war:

The type of conflict that political leaders are tempted to think can advantageously replace conventional war by reducing the body counts, except that with its aggressive force is directed at entire populations, entailing massive suffering and in the end, even for the perpetrators, it can amount to global suicide 

Contextual note

While China is gearing up to counter the now regularly updated announcements from Washington of new tariffs, three major currencies have been thrown into crisis recently as a result of US tariff and sanction policies: the Russian ruble, the Iranian rial and the Turkish lira, not counting Venezuela’s inflation that is about to hit 1000000%. Nicolás Maduro, the re-elected Venezuelan president, attributes this to the economic war waged by the US.

Concerning Vladimir Putin’s Russia — considered by the Democrats to be the puppet master of the White House — Republican and Democratic senators teamed up to introduce legislation last week that “proposes curbs on the operations of several state-owned Russian banks in the US and restrictions on their use of the dollar.” Were they seeking to undermine Trump or simply extend his policy of sanctions everywhere?

Trump’s simplistic strategy relies on two simple but complementary principles. The first intends to be a more efficient version of Bush’s invade, topple and replace strategy that has failed so miserably and in such a costly way in the Middle East. It relies on the idea that a regime whose economy is weakened will undergo the revolt of their citizenry and a new regime, more favorable to the US, will take its place. The second is simply to prove through force that every other country is as dependent on the US economy and the dollar as they were 40 years ago. Align or suffer!

Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak called the Turkish lira’s sudden precipitous downfall “an attack” by the United States. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the “fall in the lira was caused by a plot and did not reflect the country’s economic state.”

Trump has even started going after domestic enemies as he applauds the boycott of Harley-Davidson because of its intention to manufacture in Europe to escape the damaging effects of Trump’s steel tariffs.

Historical note

Interviewed by Yahoo Finance, Keith Bliss, executive director of DriveWealth, predicted that, going beyond sanctions and tariffs in his war against the rest of the world, Trump is likely also to devalue the dollar. “Let’s be candid here. There’s no telling what this administration will do from a policy standpoint and they’re not afraid to do it, despite what the rest of the world may think.” J.P. Morgan Chief Economist Michael Feroli concurred.

In a certain sense, Trump is simply exaggerating what the United States has been doing ever since the end of World War II: using the power of the dollar to intimidate other nations. The Plaza Accord in 1985 devaluating the dollar was the collaborative work of five nations intent on stabilizing the global economy. But as the Chinese news site EJinsight reports, “many academics have suspected that the Plaza Accord could have been a politically motivated conspiracy perpetrated by Washington to curb Japan’s growing economic power.” The Japanese economy never quite recovered.

Now that the Democrats and Republicans not aligned with Trump have signed on to Trump’s America First strategy and have willingly cast aside the admittedly artificial but reasonably stable “rules-based” economy, the true translation of it appears to be “America Home Alone.” The policy attained cruising speed when Trump attacked Canada at the G7 meeting in June. Like Richard Russell, the airport ground crew member in Seattle, who stole a passenger jet and went on a joyride before crashing the plane, this looks increasingly like a suicide mission.

In 2017, Pew reported that globally, a majority of people saw US “power and influence as a major threat.” People, but not necessarily governments. That has changed. Now the people and their governments are reacting to the threat.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.] 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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