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Tariffs, National Security, and Inequality

This Week in the Narrative 69

Nigel Clarke

I’m not saying that Donald Trump is a Russian agent. What I’m saying is that if I was Vladimir Putin and I had an asset who happened to be the President of the United States, I would be looking for a little more than flattering tweets.

For example, I would be seeking to undermine the longstanding relationship between the United States and Canada, so that when I was ready to make a move on resource-rich arctic territory currently claimed by Canada, they would no longer have big brother’s protection in the dispute.

When Trump announced this week his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, it was presented as an action to combat China. Yet, China does not rank anywhere close to the top ten exporters of these products to the US.

The largest exporter of steel to the US? That would be Canada, by a wide margin. Not surprisingly, Trump’s proposed tariffs have caused an uproar north of the border. Even Justin Trudeau, the normally mild-mannered and often intellectually superfluous Canadian Prime Minister, has firmly expressed his opposition.

There is an interesting balancing act going on globally right now. What prevents North Korea from attempting to overrun South Korea, prevents Middle Eastern countries from attempting to overrun Israel, prevents Russia from grabbing territory in the Arctic and along its western borders, and so on, is the position of the United States.

Could the US fight wars simultaneously in Asia, the Middle East, the Arctic, and eastern Europe? Maybe. What about if the impending (or ongoing) trade war with China escalates to military conflict? It seems an inopportune time to be antagonizing allies.

The specific reason given by the Trump administration for the proposed tariffs, as specific as hyperbole can be, is “national security.”

This seems a dramatic expansion of an already overused trump card (pardon the pun). The government has cried “national security” to suppress information about illegal surveillance and torture, to condone wars of aggression, to excuse the dismantling of the Constitution, and to support government secrecy. One could be excused for hearing the “national security” excuse applied now to international trade and thinking, “Here we go again.”

I, however, choose to take in my cynicism a more optimistic approach. When I hear that trade tariffs are an issue of national security, what I really hear is that the plight of the American worker is an issue of national security. For nearly 40 years wealth has poured to the top 1% as good jobs have been endlessly outsourced. Those who are employed are increasingly underemployed or not paid a living wage.

So yes, President Trump, inequality is becoming an issue of national security — most specifically, the security of those against whom the pitchforks and torches will be turned.


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All previous ‘This Week in the Narrative’ articles can be found here.

Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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Tariffs, National Security, and Inequality