Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the United States has been operating under the auspices of two mutually reinforcing ideologies–neoliberalism and neoconservatism.
By criticizing trade treaties like the TPP and NAFTA, while promising to mend relations with Russia and cease regime change, president-elect Trump is challenging the continuation of these ruling ideologies.
Historian, Andrew Bacevich, has written an essay that examines how the US squandered a historic opportunity with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism. In the process, Bacevich traces the US economic and foreign policies that have led to the election of Trump.
“Globalization, militarized hegemony, and a more expansive definition of freedom, guided by enlightened presidents in tune with the times, should have provided Americans with all the blessings that were rightly theirs as a consequence of having prevailed in the Cold War. Instead, between 1989 and 2016, things kept happening that weren’t supposed to happen.”
Bacevich doesn’t quite say it, but the things that kept happening should be properly understood as the blowback from the twin ruling ideologies–neoliberalism and neoconservatism.
The US elite saw the end of the Cold War as a marvelous opportunity to expand and consolidate the empire they inherited from Great Britain at the end of WWII. Since the US is supposedly a “democratic republic” there needed to be a cover story. The idea of the US is a “reluctant imperialist” or a “benevolent empire,” has been ongoing within academic literature and US corporate media to both advocate for and justify the existence of American domination of the world.
Thanks to planning documents, we know that the US was not a reluctant or accidental empire, nor, for that matter, a benevolent one. America chose to be an empire; it was strategised, discussed, debated, planned and implemented. The key architects of this empire were the bankers and corporations which arose out of America’s Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, the prominent think tanks created throughout the first half of the 20th century, and the major academics, economists and policy-makers who emerged from the universities, institutes, think tanks, and the business community, and who dominated the Washington D.C. planning circles that made policy.
These very same ruling sentiments reemerged at the end of the Cold War. However, with the demise of the Soviet Union, US planners has no need to soften or disguise their economic and foreign policies to appease critics at home or abroad. Now, to quote Margaret Thatcher, there was “no alternative.”
Under the auspices of neoliberalism, the US has pushed a program of globalization led by U.S.-based financial institutions and transnational corporations. Supposedly, this “open world” would facilitate the movement of goods, capital, ideas, and people and thereby create wealth on an unprecedented scale. “In the process, the rules governing American-style corporate capitalism would come to prevail everywhere on the planet, while US corporations and banks dominated the worlds economic system.”
Under the auspices of neoconservatism, the US has carried out a militaristic foreign policy, overthrowing or invading states not to our liking. “Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the U.S. has waged war (sometimes creating new client-states) in Bosnia (1994-5), Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001- ), Iraq (2003- ), Libya (2011), and Syria (2014- ), while raining down drone strikes from Pakistan to Yemen to North Africa. These wars-based-on-lies have produced hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, millions of refugees, and general ongoing catastrophe throughout the Middle East.”
Thus, to maintain US corporate hegemony, neoliberalism is dependent upon neoconservatism. This dynamic was well summed up by NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in his book the Lexus and the Olive Tree. “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. For globalism to work, America can’t be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is.”
The problem with the neoliberal, neoconservative, corporate empire is that the gains have largely accrued to the 1%, with the vast majority of Americans coming out the worse for these policies. The election of Trump reflects this discontent. His supporters may not understand the details of the neoliberal and neoconservative policies of empire but they sense the vast betrayal carried out by our bi-partisan elite.
The series of crises that culminated with the election of Trump have been caused by our elite’s embrace of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.
Trump’s presidency will succeed or fail based on whether or not he can break free of these ruling ideologies.
Update: It used to be that the Republicans were the party that favored endless war but lately the Democrats have gotten into the act. After Hillary lost the presidential election the Democrats wasted no time in blaming her loss on the hacking of the nefarious Russians. Of course, since war is a bi-partisan affair, the Democrats were joined in their denunciation of Russia by neoconservatives, liberal interventionists, the corporate media, various Soros-funded NGO’s, virtually all the important think-tanks, and the CIA and the other intelligence agencies.
In my opinion, this hostility is designed to prevent Trump from seeking detente with Russia, and ensuring that the ruling ideology of neoconservatism remains intact. Likewise, there will be tremendous pressure on Trump to maintain the corporate globalization agenda favored by neoliberals.