In response to an FT article by Phillip Stephens on 21st July, entitled 'Global disorder: From Donald Trump to the south China Sea'
Mr. Stephens This is a change of tune from the 'Trump is a chump but I'm thrilled about Hills' medley that you've been humming for the past nine months. You are now trying to make some sense out of the big picture...But:
You are conflating issues and events that are of a different order, and you are missing trends that are not:
“Donald Trump is confirmed as the Republican nominee for US president. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, tightens the authoritarian screw after a failed military coup. Scores die in another dreadful terrorist attack in France. You could add to this list the blow to western cohesion struck by Britain’s vote to quit the EU and China’s defiance of an international court’s ruling on its territorial claims in the South China Sea”
a) The rise of Donald Trump is symptomatic of a backlash against a corrupt and failed system of government that has lined the pockets of the 0.1% of elites that run it at the expense of the 99.9% of people who don’t. That is the defining characteristic, not the fact that you don’t like the guy or even that he is a loud mouth and a braggart, although quite clearly he is. The rise of Bernie Sanders is a symptom of the same trend. One from the right, one from the left, both mouthpieces for disaffected people who have lost all faith in a system that wants one thing from them – their vote. The only thing that surprises me is that it took this long for a critical mass of people to wake up and say to themselves: ‘Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush care absolutely no more about me than do the last lot or the lot before that – same smell, different garbage. Britain’s vote to quit the EU is part of the same trend. There are not 17 million racists in the UK Mr Stephens, any more than there are 40% of Americans desperate to build a 3000 mile wall or tax everyone at 101%. Whether you like them or agree with them matters not one jot – here is what they are telling you and anyone else who would so desperately like them to shut up and go away:
‘We don’t believe you, we don’t trust you, we’ve had enough of you – we are ready to try something else’
If I were you Mr Stephens – I'd go find a mirror – your attempt to paint a picture of the world isn’t working for those folks.
b) The terrorist attack in France is symptomatic of a backlash from a part of the world that the west has invaded, carved up, strip-mined and lectured for the best part of a century. It is a part of the world with a totally different cultural heritage, with deep unfinished internal schisms of its own, more akin to the European religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries than anything we see in the west today. For the past four decades, since the US trained and funded the Mujahedeen for its ‘cold war’ with the USSR in Afghanistan, we have taken the most disaffected and violent young men we could find in the middle-east and used them as proxies for various turf wars, seemingly oblivious to, or dismissive of, the fact that they were using the west just as much as the west was using them. From the time they are babies they hear about relatives who have died at the hands of American, British and French guns and bombs. What do you expect? A Christmas card?
c) The situation in Turkey is different again, which to analyse in depth requires far more local knowledge than I have, and on the basis of your points here, far more than you have. As regards Mr Erdogan, he is not a democrat, never was never will be. He is a sociopath – the man who would be Sultan. He has been playing both sides against the middle for years. We tolerate him because much of Europe’s oil comes through pipelines he can switch off – something no one in the mainstream media seems terribly keen to write about. Briefly - over 25% of Europe’s oil imports pass through the Bosphorus. Turkey is also home to two pipelines for Caspian and Iraqi crude, as well as the Southern Gas Corridor, which it is hoped will provide Europe with an alternative source of natural gas in hopes of undermining the leading position of Russia’s Gazprom on the European market.
d) China is in the process of becoming the second superpower. Its strategic interests require it NOT to be surrounded and hemmed in by the US. Its attempt at hegemony in the South China Sea is not dissimilar to US actions in the Caribbean and its own hemisphere some century back. We can get on our high horses about this, but let’s not pretend there is anything odd about it, or that it is linked to Trump or Brexit for heaven’s sake. As regards the US or the UK lecturing anyone on international law...as they might say down the Whitechapel Road – ‘leave it aaat wool yer’, or perhaps in Wolverhampton ‘yome avin a loff bay yer’
The thing I get most strongly from your article Mr Stephens is that you don’t like what’s happening in the world because it threatens the elite system that you are part of and a mouthpiece for. That’s part of the problem. People want real change, and the elites don’t –they like it just like it is. That’s why the FT, the NYT, the WP, all of the usual suspects, would all like everyone to vote for Hillary Clinton – because then nothing will change. The banks will continue to rig markets and manipulate the monetary system, Congress will continue to ignore its constituents and feed off the scraps that Wall Street throws it, and all the folks who’ve been filling Hillary Clinton’s war chest, and donating to her ‘foundation’ will get exactly what they paid for.
If you want a trend that unifies what is happening in the west Mr Stephens, it's this: It’s a backlash against a corrupt system of crony capitalism and socialism for the rich. If you want to help minimise the damage from the changes that are coming whether you like them or not, tell your chums to clean up their act. In the US they can start by reintroducing the rule of law into the banking system, introducing term limits to Congress and reforming campaign finance. That’s how to steal Donald Trump’s thunder. But Hillary Clinton?...yome avin a loff.