US President Donald Trump appeared to adopt two very different public persona this week, when first he delivered a stern speech announcing a new military strategy toward Afghanistan; and then the next day he regaled supporters at a rally in Arizona with his characteristic blustering style.
American news channel CNN called the differing styles the «Two Trumps». In the first one, there was «teleprompter Trump» in which the president outlined a «sobering» plan for renewed military intervention in Afghanistan. By contrast, in the second appearance, there was «free-wheelin’ Trump», when he fired up his support base at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, with verbal broadsides against the «sick» US media, illegal immigration, and a vow to build the border wall with Mexico – even if that meant shutting down the federal government in Washington.
CNN didn’t proffer an explanation for its observation of diverging Trump behavior. The implication was hinted that the president was simply being erratic, perhaps with some kind of personality disorder.
But here is a possible explanation for the «Two Trumps». On the issue of Afghanistan, Trump was indeed delivering a serious message on behalf of the US military and foreign policy establishment. His adherence to the teleprompter text was a sign that the president is taking orders from the Deep State when it comes to matters of paramount imperialist objective.
At the other event, when Trump reverted to his barnstorming form, it was just the president throwing his voter base a bit of rhetorical meat to keep them happy. In that rambling, impromptu-style, Trump hit all the populist buttons to the delight of the crowd. That demagogic bravura performance was required because the day before Trump had executed a startling U-turn on his campaign promises, when he declared that US forces would return to Afghanistan.
All during his election campaign for the presidency last year, Trump had whipped up support among blue-collar workers by slamming the wasteful overseas wars of the Bush and Obama administrations. He condemned his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton for fueling these wars as Secretary of State for Obama.
What a staggering U-turn! It’s hard to believe Trump has the chutzpah to do it.
On Monday, addressing troops at Fort Meyer, Arlington, Virginia, President Trump gave notice that the US military would be returning in large numbers to Afghanistan. That 16-year American war – the longest US war in history – was henceforth going to continue for an indefinite number of years. Trump made a cringing attempt to excuse the shameless U-turn as an informed decision made with the responsibility of president on his shoulders as opposed to the callow views of a campaigning candidate.
However, there was no disguising the fact that President Trump was taking orders from the Pentagon. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and numerous other US generals – three of whom are now in senior positions in Trump’s White House – have been pushing for a re-escalation of American military involvement in Afghanistan.
Trump got elected on the back of electoral promises to shut down overseas wars and vowing instead to focus economic resources on reviving the blue-collar Rust Belt states, which have been struggling with industrial decline for decades. His sudden embrace of the Pentagon’s designs on Afghanistan are a stark repudiation of his own «America First» manifesto. In short, a betrayal of voters.
It is no coincidence that Trump’s about-turn on Afghanistan came on the heels of the ouster of his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon last Friday. Bannon had been vehemently against the policy of foreign military adventurism. In particular, he was reportedly against any resumption of large-scale deployment in Afghanistan. According to media reports, it was the military top brass who prevailed on Trump to get rid of Bannon. The White House Chief of Staff, former Marine General John Kelly, and Trump’s National Security Advisor, General HR McMaster were the two main voices calling for Bannon’s exit. That Trump would dump Bannon – supposedly a close ally – with such alacrity shows that the generals are the real power behind the desk in the Oval Office.
So, the «Two Trumps» phenomenon is thus explained: On one hand, the president is being ordered by the Pentagon and the generals in his White House on what the all-important foreign policy agenda is. Afghanistan is a priority. But note also, the increased US military intervention in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine, and towards North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, China and Russia – the latter under the auspices of NATO’s eastwards expansion. All of this blatantly contradicts what candidate Trump had been wooing voters with.
The American business of military imperialism is serious. Hence President Trump is told in no uncertain terms by the military-industrial complex to stick to the teleprompter text. No winging it. No deviation from the plan. Just do it.
The debasement of Trump to being a stooge of the Deep State thereby necessitates that Trump, the supposed maverick populist, must go out on occasion to rally the base with barnstorming tirades to let off some steam. (The irony here is that Trump is accused by the Deep State of being a stooge for Russia, when in much more realistic ways he is evidently a stooge for the American Deep State.)
If ordinary Americans were permitted to focus on their betrayal by Trump to the criminal overseas adventurism of the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex, then that could be a cause of dangerous social revolt at home. It is imperative therefore to keep the masses riled up over chauvinistic populist issues like slamming illegal immigration, «sick» news media, and «liberals» trying to erase American history and heritage by removing Civil War statues.
Like a quack doctor, Trump is prescribing nostrums to conceal the real disease, which is that American democracy has now been supplanted by a military cabal in league with Wall Street and Big Business. Trump is nothing but a puppet who – at least so far – is being allowed to «play at being president». Who knows how much longer he will be allowed to sit in the Oval Office.
So degenerated is American politics that even prominent news media like the New York Times are actually welcoming with editorials on the control exerted over an elected president by the military generals «to stop him going off the rails».
Why Afghanistan is such a priority for the American ruling cabal is no doubt manifold. Recent reports highlight the vast but untapped mineral wealth of the country. Another reason is to secure the lucrative heroin drug trade that financially underpins so much of American covert CIA operations around the world. Also, Afghanistan’s war gives Washington cover for pursuing its strategy of engendering conflict and chaos in a vital region. Contrary to official US assertions, Washington doesn’t want the war to end. It wants war-without-end so that it can destabilize Russia on its southern flank, as well as Iran, and to prevent China from galvanizing Eurasian economic integration.
As American political analyst Randy Martin points out: «Afghanistan is a redux of covert US strategy that has been used in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. The United States claims to be fighting terrorism when in actual fact it is covertly sponsoring terror groups to incite sectarian conflict. In that way, Washington gives itself a license to wreak havoc in order to thwart geopolitical rivals».
President Trump is simply following the imperative orders assigned to him by the Deep State. Outrageous as it might seem, we are witnessing a soft military coup against Trump and his earlier vows to promote America First in the interests of ordinary citizens. In other words, American democracy has been subverted in an audacious assertion of the perennial needs of US imperialism – the profiteering lust of the military industrial complex, Wall Street and Big Business.
Of course, the broader context of «Russia-gate» should be mentioned here. For nearly eight months since his presidential inauguration, Trump has been subjected to a relentless media campaign orchestrated by the Deep State vilifying him as a Russian agent and a beneficiary of alleged Russian meddling in the US election. That pressure over a baseless narrative has inevitably led to Trump capitulating to the Deep State to become a willing tool for its strategic objectives. Trump’s capitulation is nevertheless a coup against an elected president, enforcing the Deep State’s geopolitical agenda.
Analyst Randy Martin puts it succinctly with an oblique reference to the CIA’s assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963. «This time, they didn’t need a bullet».