On day one of Donald Trump’s presidency, he drove a stake through the heart of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as he had repeatedly promised during his campaign. Foes of war should rejoice and congratulate Trump since the TPP was the economic arm of the “Pivot to Asia”, the military/economic assault on China promoted vigorously by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, neocons and humanitarian interventionists of every stripe. It was a trade agreement that linked twelve Pacific Rim powers but pointedly excluded China in an effort to isolate and weaken it.
Thus in his first hours in office Trump has, in fact, made a move away from confrontation with China – and the goal of US global domination. Such a move should elicit support and congratulations for Trump from foes of war and Empire. So far there has not been much of that.
Let us be clear. If Donald Trump were lying during the campaign about the TTP, so beloved by corporate America and the neocons, he could have revived it – easily. After all, he has a clear majority in both House and Senate whom he is increasingly bending to his will. And there are many Democrats pining to please their corporate masters who would have joined his effort at TPP resuscitation. But Trump did not do this. He was dead serious about his promise. Expect the same on Détente 2.0 with Russia and other policies to which he has made a solid commitment.
Trump’s first full day in office was a great day for peace on another front as well. Marco Rubio, aka “Little Marco,” announced he would vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as Trump’s Secretary of State. Tillerson, a friend of Putin and someone with a clear understanding of Russia, is associated with Trump’s oft-stated desire to “get along” with Russia. Tillerson has been the target of the neocons who hoped to stop him, and Rubio tried to pressure him into declaring Putin a “war criminal” in his confirmation hearings, something that Tillerson refused to do. Like Trump, Tillerson does not seem like the kind of person who is easily pushed around.
That was two strikes for peace on Day One of the Trump presidency.
As is well known, the TPP was opposed by many progressives and labor leaders for reasons other than a desire for peace. For these activists, it was correctly seen as one more attack on democracy and sovereignty, written in secret and designed to give corporations and banks control over the terms of trade and laws of the land. Democratic Party progressives opposed it vehemently, and so it would make sense for them to hail Trump’s action.
But look at the comments at that bastion of conformist progressivism, the HuffPost, and you will find that many progressives have abruptly switched and are opposing Trump and even praising the TPP! Thankfully at least a few commenters over there are honest enough to admit the hypocrisy behind this switch. One HuffPost commenter wrote:
“OK, when Bernie was talking about how bad the TPP was almost every comment here (on Huffington Post) was how they didn’t trust Hillary to get us out of the TPP. Now that Trump pulled us out, people are taking the opposite view. … At least admit that this is a good thing. Does it matter who stops TPP? 9 months ago we all agreed it was a bad thing.”
This stance is all too reminiscent of Democratic “progressives” who were out in force opposing the war in Iraq under Bush but were nowhere to be seen when Obama came into office and continued the war.
But let us give credit where credit is due. Bernie Sanders announced his pleasure with Trump’s deep-sixing of the TPP, according to the Guardian, which reported:
“Sanders praised Trump’s decision, saying TPP is ‘dead and gone’….If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.”
Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO also praised the termination of TPP, but unlike Bernie, he did not mention Trump by name as the terminator. This is not surprising since the labor miss leadership did not back Bernie, the choice of the rank and file, but instead squandered their dues on the support of pro-TPP Hillary.
Sanders’s and Trumka’s concerns about TPP are economic and these concerns are the ones usually reported in the mainstream media. But the neocon hawks understand the imperial aspects of the TPP as shown by the words of the hegemonist John McCain, again according to the Guardian:
“Senator John McCain criticized the move. ‘President Trump’s decision to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for the American economy and our strategic position in the Asia Pacific region,’ he said.” (Emphasis, jw)
Looking abroad, TPP has been running into troubles in East Asia as well, with Vietnam, the Philippines Malaysia and possibly even the Republic of Korea (South Korea) moving toward closer ties with China and away from U.S. engineered strife between China and its neighbors. We might well regard Trump’s position and those of the East Asian countries pulling away from the U.S. as manifestations of a new view of the world and a new balance of power already in place. From that point of view President Trump, by rejecting the TPP, is simply moving to negotiate the best deal possible for the U.S. in this new developing global arrangement.
The question for liberals/progressives is will they mindlessly oppose Trump on everything he does or support what is desirable and criticize what is not. That question will come to the fore soon if Trump and Tillerson manage to fashion Détente 2.0 with Russia. The War Party, both its neocon and liberal interventionist wings, will fiercely oppose this. Will liberals/progressives support and defend Détente 2.0 – or oppose it simply because it comes from Donald J. Trump?
John Walsh [send him mail] is a frequent contributor to CounterPunch.com, Antiwar.com, LewRockwell.com and DissidentVoice.org. He is a founding member of “Come Home America.” Until recently he was Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.