Impeachment and the National Security Status Quo

Andrew Bacevich
Andrew Bacevich, (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich/Released)

Writing in the Tom Dispatch blog, Andrew Bacevich, former military officer, captures something missing from today’s political reporting: historical perspective.

“Removing from office a vulgar, dishonest, and utterly incompetent president comes nowhere close to capturing what’s going on here.” He asks asks a key questions  about popular response to the politics of impeachment. “How do Trump’s crimes stack up against” the crimes of his predecessors?

The unspoken purpose of impeachment is not removal, but restoration. The overarching aim is not to replace Trump with Mike Pence — the equivalent of exchanging Groucho for Harpo. No, the object of the exercise is to return power to those who created the conditions that enabled Trump to win the White House in the first place.

Just recently, for instance, Hillary Clinton declared Trump to be an “illegitimate president.” Implicit in her charge is the conviction — no doubt sincere — that people like Donald Trump are not supposed to be president. People like Hillary Clinton — people possessing credentials like hers and sharing her values — should be the chosen ones. Here we glimpse the true meaning of legitimacy in this context. Whatever the vote in the Electoral College, Trump doesn’t deserve to be president and never did.

For many of the main participants in this melodrama, the actual but unstated purpose of impeachment is to correct this great wrong and thereby restore history to its anointed path.

In a recent column in the Guardian, Professor Samuel Moyn makes the essential point: Removing from office a vulgar, dishonest, and utterly incompetent president comes nowhere close to capturing what’s going on here. To the elites most intent on ousting Trump, far more important than anything he may say or do is what he signifies. He is a walking, talking repudiation of everything they believe and, by extension, of a future they had come to see as foreordained.

Moyn styles these anti-Trump elites as “centrists,” members of the post-Cold War political mainstream that allowed ample room for nominally conservative Bushes and nominally liberal Clintons, while leaving just enough space for Barack Obama’s promise of hope-and-(not-too-much) change.

These centrists share a common worldview. They believe in the universality of freedom as defined and practiced within the United States. They believe in corporate capitalism operating on a planetary scale. They believe in American primacy, with the United States presiding over a global order as the sole superpower. They believe in “American global leadership,” which they define as primarily a military enterprise. And perhaps most of all, while collecting degrees from Georgetown, Harvard, Oxford, Wellesley, the University of Chicago, and Yale, they came to believe in a so-called meritocracy as the preferred mechanism for allocating wealth, power, and privilege. All of these together comprise the sacred scripture of contemporary American political elites. And if Donald Trump’s antagonists have their way, his removal will restore that sacred scripture to its proper place as the basis of policy.

“For all their appeals to enduring moral values,” Moyn writes, “the centrists are deploying a transparent strategy to return to power.” Destruction of the Trump presidency is a necessary precondition for achieving that goal. “Centrists simply want to return to the status quo interrupted by Trump, their reputations laundered by their courageous opposition to his mercurial reign, and their policies restored to credibility.” Precisely.

Bacevich goes on:

For such a scheme to succeed, however, laundering reputations alone will not suffice. Equally important will be to bury any recollection of the catastrophes that paved the way for an über-qualified centrist to lose to an indisputably unqualified and unprincipled political novice in 2016.

Holding promised security assistance hostage unless a foreign leader agrees to do you political favors is obviously and indisputably wrong. Trump’s antics regarding Ukraine may even meet some definition of criminal. Still, how does such misconduct compare to the calamities engineered by the “centrists” who preceded him? Consider, in particular, the George W. Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 (along with the spin-off wars that followed). Consider, too, the reckless economic policies that produced the Great Recession of 2007-2008. As measured by the harm inflicted on the American people (and others), the offenses for which Trump is being impeached qualify as mere misdemeanors.

Honest people may differ on whether to attribute the Iraq War to outright lies or monumental hubris. When it comes to tallying up the consequences, however, the intentions of those who sold the war don’t particularly matter. The results include thousands of Americans killed; tens of thousands wounded, many grievously, or left to struggle with the effects of PTSD; hundreds of thousands of non-Americans killed or injuredmillions displacedtrillions of dollars expended; radical groups like ISIS empowered (and in its case even formed inside a U.S. prison in Iraq); and the Persian Gulf region plunged into turmoil from which it has yet to recover. How do Trump’s crimes stack up against these?

The Great Recession stemmed directly from economic policies implemented during the administration of President Bill Clinton and continued by his successor. Deregulating the banking sector was projected to produce a bonanza in which all would share. Yet, as a direct result of the ensuing chicanery, nearly nine million Americans lost their jobs, while overall unemployment shot up to 10%. Roughly four million Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. The stock market cratered and millions saw their life savings evaporate. Again, the question must be asked: How do these results compare to Trump’s dubious dealings with Ukraine?

Bacevish is not arguing against the impeachment of Trump. America’s problem is not one man but a dysfunctional political system that made him possible.


One Reply to “Impeachment and the National Security Status Quo”

  1. It seems to be that some individuals seem to jump into a story mid-scene, mid-chapter, and cherry pick topics. I have just finished the comments here about Prof. Samuel Moyn. I then went to the article written by Bacevitch after finishing a light breakfast.

    Honestly Jeff I cannot stomach more thrashing around in the weeds and that is exactly where Bacevitch went. I for one no longer need to be schooled on the problem here or be reminded that many have lost their historical perspective.
    Based on my observations they never had that perspective ever anyway.

    This administration has blindly driven the U.S. to the brink of what could become a very dangerous military clash that could result in all out conventional warfare in a very strategic are of the world. And not one constructive word from the corrupted republicans who have allowed it.

    The democrats should also be blamed and made to pay, and I’m hoping this time the public realizes their past mistakes of allowing the republicans to get the upper hand in congress and them “GIVE THEM” the Dog damned White House. Because that is what happened. It happened because politics in the U.S. after Bill Clinton changed drastically, Clinton being the first elected democrat to act more republican that democrat. The election of Barrack Obama scared the hell out of almost as many democrats as it did republicans, but Barrack acquiesced and was the “Good Boy” the intelligence community required him to be. This is where the disappointment of American who voted for him came from.

    Democrats set back an allowed the republicans to ride rough shod over Obama with few reprisals. Just think of what the republicans would do or would have done if n the first year of Trumps rule as king a democrat had yelled “LIAR” in a joint session of congress. Once that same intelligent community was secure in the knowledge the the Democrats posed no obstacle they and the Clinton($)ites took over.

    I have no intention of taking both Moyn and Bacevitch on point for point but I will instead draft an idea I have about what should happen.

    The wealthy elite are caught with their hands up to their elbows in off in shore banking industry, which is pretty much all very corrupt. See ICIJ.

    The EU has already created a permanent committee as a watch dog for this type of activity. See ICIJ

    We see no such thing in the U.S. because the MSM who work for the intelligence community refuse to go there. NO seeing ICIJ in Amereican media because the intelligence community runs it. Oh they don’t show me the proof because that’s my story until I see PROOF otherwise.

    Americans need a wake up call and sometime the only thing that works is one helluva bitch slap across the mouth. One is coming and it will not be pleasant.

    I sincerely hope that this impeachment of the orange man limps along until late 2020. Hell, if the people’s work can wait four, six eight or more years what is one more.

    The people responsible for electing this idiot need to get a big belly chucked full of his bull shit. Enough to make them all violently ill for about three for four days. Enough to ensure that they will not soon go back for another helping.

    The democrats to need to get a belly full too. A belly full of buying off on the party B.S. about how different the dims are from those nasty republicans.

    The reason we are here is because the democrats sat by counting their money while the republicans chipped away at the constitution and the DOJ especially the courts for far too many years now aand continued to drift steadily toward the self-righteous hardcore right wingers. The Des sold out the left completely like they were some sort of deadly scourge. The money was just to damned good.

    The democrats knew about the Patriot Act and what war would bring and they would have been much better off doing a piece by piece investigation into 911 than signing off on endless war and they should have known. They had to have known how this would play out, but Dog Damn they all were making way too much money and the poor things simply couldn’t help them selves.

    Instead of acting in the best interest of the country they rubber stamped the U.S. into a full blown police state. But what fear drove them?

    The fear that they would be perceived as being against “The Village Idiot From Crawford Texas”. So instead of taking a stand these spineless wonders closed ranks to protect their “CAREERS” and in doing so submitted to the Deep State.

    Notice that this phrase is not once mentioned above in this article. This happens when one jumps into the middle of a story and cherry picks facts.

    This is not going to be pretty especially for the Trumpites. That middle rural American bunch who are so hopelessly out of touch with the new century.

    Americans need to make pain their friend, they will suffer dearly in the near future and you will not fine a current republican or democrat that can explain or is willing to explain why.

    Such is the way of the journey down the road of organic decay.

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