Thursday, September 13, 2018

Reflections on US Foreign Policy in the Age of Empire

During my childhood, the government of the United States assumed responsibility for the fate of the entire non-Communist world.  I discovered while researching American Tragedy that the Eisenhower Administration had written policy statements pledging to defend every threatened area of the world against hypothetical Communist aggression--and to use nuclear weapons to do so.  That led Ike to the brink of war over Laos in the waning months of his term in office, and it created enormous pressure on John F. Kennedy to intervene massively in both Laos and South Vietnam during 1961.  Kennedy, however, refused to do so, against the unanimous advice of his senior advisers.  He repeatedly argued taht South Vietnam would be a terrible place to fight.  Within months of his death, however, Lyndon Johnson had decided to send large numbers of American troops to save the deteriorating situation in South Vietnam once he was re-elected, and in 1965 he did just that.

That decision, of course, eventually destroyed the public consensus on the need to defend territories threatened by Communism.  The number of American troops in South Vietnam reached half a million in 1968, peaking early in the next year at a little over that figure, and 14,000 Americans died there in that year--about three times the entire American killed in action since the "war on terror" began in 2001.  President Nixon did not abandon the objective of maintaining a non-Communist South Vietnam, but he eliminated the American ground combat prsence by 1972 and signed a peace agreement in January 1973.  The United States, however, had never managed to set up a South Vietnamese government that commanded the support of its people or fielded an army that could stand up to the North Vietnamese without US help. When the North Vietnamese attacked again in 1975, South Vietnam collapsed.

The National Security bureaucracy, as Andrew Bacevich as pointed out, did not abandon the objective of defending the non-Communist world after Vietnam.  Even before Saigon fell, the Ford Administration tried to involve the US covertly in a civil war against a Soviet-backed regime in Angola.  But Vietnam did make military leaders, in particular, much more cautious about the use of American ground troops overseas.  Jimmy Carter in 1979 started a covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and pledged to defend the Persian Gulf region by force if necessary, but no one put that resolve to the test.  The Reagan Administration became more confrontational with the Soviet Union, and it seemed at the time as if some of its civilian leaders wanted to use US forces in Central America and the Middle East.  The military resisted, however--except for the brief, ill-fated deployment of the Marines in Lebanon--and there were no more big foreign wars.  As long as members of the Silent generation like Colin Powell, who had been junior officers during Vietnam, led the US military, caution prevailed.  Powell in 1991 also helped ensure that the US would limit its objectives to liberating Kuwait, not overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and thus ensured that the first major post-Vietnam conflict would result in a quick and easy victory instead of another quagmire.

The Boom generations' advent into power began to loosen these restraints. Bill Clinton sent some troops into Somalia, and in his second term, he committed the US to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and fought a war for the independence of Kosovo.  The advent of the George W. Bush Administration moved us into a completely new era.  Its leaders came into office determined to remove Saddam from office. Then came 9/11, and they committed themselves to nothing less than a campaign to determine the political future of the Muslim world, by any means necessary.  The campaign began with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it has continued--under three Administrations--to include support for the Arab spring, two episodes of regime change in Egypt, the overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya, drone strikes from West Africa to Pakistan, and now, support for a Saudi war in Yemen and a new confrontation with Iran.

The war in Afghanistan has gone on for nearly 17 years.  Given that Afghanistan had at least three times the population, spread over a much larger area, of South Vietnam, it is not surprising that a much smaller American and allied troop commitment failed to stabilize the country. Now the foreign forces have mostly been withdrawn and the situation resembles the situation in South Vietnam in 1964 (before the massive US intervention) or in 1975 (on the eve of the North Vietnamese offensive.) We have never managed to establish an effective Afghan government or military, and government security forces are suffering major defeats in much of the country at the hands of the Taliban, supported, it is now recognized, by the government of Pakistan.  The Arab Spring did not lead to democracy in much of the Middle East, and led to a catastrophic failure of democracy in the leading nation of Egypt.  The Iraq war has fragmented Iraq and led to the birth of ISIS.  Turkey is now a hostile nation.  By any rational measure, the policies undertaken by George W. Bush in 2001 and continued, in many ways, by his two successors,. have catastrophically failed.

Yet they continue--because the national security establishment has learned to keep them off the public's radar.  We still have lost less than one tenth of the men who died in Vietnam, and we have very few ground troops fighting anywhere.  The country has largely lost interest in the Middle East.  But US drones are killing suspected militants over a huge swath of territory--even though there is no proof that these killings do anything but harm in the long run, either.  We now seem to be running a failed policy on automatic pilot, and we are too concerned with our domestic crisis to pay sustained attention.

President Trump, of course, has renounced the whole thrust of post-1945 US foreign policy, treating NATO like some kind of protection racket, moving from free trade to protectionism, and repudiating the very idea of international norms and institutions.  These too are very serious steps and deserve more discussion at another time.  But he is far from our only problem.  We must eventually be forced to the conclusion that we might have reached long ago: that the Muslim world, like the European one, will have to work out its political development on its own.  In any case, that is what it is doing--whether Washington likes it or not.  It will be some time, apparently, before out political leadership resumes serious discussion of our place in the world, and perhaps makes a new accommodation to a new reality.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Danger of dictatorship?

I have been planning today's post for at least a week and will stick to the plan, but some comments on the notorious anonymous New York Times op-ed that appeared yesterday will not be out of order.  I definitely do not think, to begin with, that it was written by either of the administration's leading retired Generals, Chef of Staff John Kelly or Secretary of Defense James Mattis.   While it certainly isn't unheard of for senior military officers to speak out, they do so publicly, not covertly.  Nor do I think either of these men would have made the fulsome comments about Trump's domestic policies.  The leading candidates, in my opinion, are Dan Coats and Nikki Haley.  I will be amazed if the secret can be kept very long, and the firing of whoever it turns out to be will deepen the crisis for the White House.  That in turn will raise the issue I now turn to: the issue of what drastic steps the President might take to save himself and his rule.  President Trump is making more and more threats on social media, and I don't think we can rule out attempts to carry them out as he fights for his political life, and, possibly, his freedom.  There are three possible steps that particularly alarm me.

The first is one that I expect him to attempt after Judge Kavanagh has been confirmed--and perhaps even before the midterms.  That is the firing of Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, and their replacement by compliant stooges who will end Robert Mueller's investigation.  Trump, both the Times op-ed and Bob Woodward's new book make clear, lives in a fantasy world, and really believes that the Mueller investigation is a deep state conspiracy against him.  It threatens his presidency and his liberty.  Don McGahn, the White House counsel who protected Mueller, is leaving the White House.  I think Trump was persuaded not to try to fire Mueller earlier because McGahn was working so hard to secure the resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy and his replacement by a second, crucial Supreme Court appointment.  That will be done soon, and Trump and his more hard line aides might conclude that firing Mueller before the midterms might help energize his base, who have heard how important it is to fire Mueller every night for at least a year on Fox News.

A second campaign that seems already to be beginning is a concerted attack on voting rights, disguised as an attack on immigrant voter fraud.  Yesterday it developed that the Justice Department has issued an extraordinary request for detailed voting records from the state of North Carolina, designed, it seems, to find evidence of large-scale voting by non-citizens.  There is no evidence that such large-scale fraud has taken place, but this Administration is fully capable to trying to manufacture some, just as they are trying to strip citizenship from Hispanic-American citizens delivered by midwives in territory near the Mexican border.  The one card that Republicans have not yet tried to play is one that I discussed here some years ago:  an attempt to restore property qualifications for voting.  There is no bar in our Constitution or laws against such qualifications, which states might impose as they did in the early decades of the Republic, and they would provide a way for red state Republicans to stave off the consequences of demographic change.

Lastly, the administration might take up the President's recent call for some kind of restrictions on social media designed to make sure that they give equal time to conservative outlets.  Again, there is no real data, it turns out, to support the claim that google disfavors conservative outlets in news searches--a claim that found its way from a right wing publicist to Fox News, and then directly to the Trump twitter feed.  Google favors the most popular sites, and mainstream media sites have a viewership that dwarfs Breitbart or even Fox.  Trump has however committed himself to the idea that the mainstream media are conspiring against him and would obviously feel that steps to make his view of reality more popular would be justified.

Having listed these possible steps, I still don't think that the second and third are likely to go very far.  They would be enormous undertakings requiring a cadre of dedicated apparatchiks to put into effect.   The only such cadre that Trump seems to have at his disposal is ICE, which as I have said before is zealously carrying oiut his policy of ethnic cleansing against immigrants.  In addition, we have seen no large-scale outbreak of violence on Trump's behalf, a major characteristic of the totalitarian movements of 80 years ago. I do not, however, expect Trump's presidency to go down without a fight, and I do think he has people around him who would favor measures like these.  And that is why I, unlike many of my Facebook friends, do not hold it against Gens. Kelly and Mattis for remaining at their posts to try to ensure a minimum of reasonable governance, and why I respect the attempt of the Times's mysterious op-ed writer to sound the alarm and restart some discussion inside the Administration of the application of the 25th Amendment--a discussion which, he says, has already taken place.  We will, I think, face some kind of serious constitutional crisis during the next two years.




Thursday, August 30, 2018

Thank you again, Henry Adams

In 1894, the historian Henry Adams--the great-grandson and grandson of Presidents John and John Quincy Adams--mailed in his presidential address to the American Historical Association.  Adams had quit academia, resigning his assistant professorship at Harvard (a position I later held myself) in the 1870s to move to Washington, since he, unlike myself, wanted to spend his life among the nation's movers and shakers.  (The many parallels between his life and mine will figure in my forthcoming autobiography.)  Yet he was the author of one of the half-dozen greatest works of US history, History of the United States during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, a nine-volume work of extraordinary penetration, analysis, and humor.  And the address he wrote posed what has turned out to be the critical problem of 21st century western civilization: the impact and fate of the Enlightenment tradition of which he was a part.

History, Adams wrote, had increasingly been dominated over the past half-century or so by a single ambition: to become a science that might reach valid conclusions about the future of the human race.  He did not say, although he might have, that that quest was simply one aspect of the broader attempt that western civilization was making to use human reason to perfect politics and economics, creating a more just society.  That was the idea that the west was going to spread around the world during the frist half of the twentieth century.  Adams did not commit himself in his address to any one view of what conclusions a science of history might reach, instead listing three possibilities.  Yet he put his finger on the key problem of attempts to order human society according to reason.  Whatever conclusion historians reached, he argued, powerful interests would resist it.  "Any science," he wrote, "assumes a necessary sequence of cause and effect, a force resulting in motion which can not be other than what it is. Any science of history must be absolute, like other sciences, and must fix with mathematical certainty the path which human society has got to follow. That path can hardly lead toward the interests of all the great social organizations. We can not conceive that it should help at the same time the church and the state, property and communism, capital and poverty, science and religion, trade and art. Whatever may be its orbit, it must, at least for a time, point away from some of these forces toward others which are regarded as hostile. Conceivably, it might lead off in eccentric lines away from them all, but by no power of our imagination can we conceive that it should lead toward them all." We now know that he was right.

Specifically, Adams said, history might eventually conclude that human society was heading towards socialism--and thus declare war on existing institutions.  "Would property, on which the universities depend, allow such freedom of instruction?" he asked. "Would the state suffer its foundation to be destroyed? Would society as now constituted tolerate the open assertion of a necessity which should affirm its approaching overthrow?" Secondly, history might conclude that the characteristic features of contemporary society--"its huge armaments, its vast accumulations of capital, its advancing materialism, and declining arts—were to be continued, exaggerated, over another thousand years." In that case, no one would want to listen to historians, who would be regarded as prophets of despair.  One other possibility remained: "If, finally, the science should prove that society must at a given time revert to the church and recover its old foundation of absolute faith in a personal providence and a revealed religion, it commits suicide."   In my opinion, the history of the world going back to ancient times tells the story of a struggle among those three views, none of which is destined to prevail.  That explains the unfortunate trends that have dominated the world for the last 40 years or so, and which show no signs of abating any time soon.

While socialism in its pure form of state ownership of the means of production only came to power in Communist nations--and there, significantly, only temporarily--certain socialist ideas did become conventional wisdom in Europe, North America, and elsewhere by the middle of the twentieth century.  Governments, led by FDR's New Deal, assumed a responsibility for the welfare of their people that included attempts to reduce inequality of wealth.  Economists and politicians recognized that a growing economy required that all classes of society share in economic growth--a result which, as Thomas Piketty reminded us four years ago, would not occur automatically if capitalism were left alone.  Adams, however, was right: even this limited socialism provoked a powerful long-term reaction from those who held capital.  By the 1990s the institutions and practices that had increased equality were disappearing and the march towards greater inequality had resumed.  It is continuing all over the globe now, in Western Europe as well as the United States, even though it has not as yet gone quite as far on the other side of the Atlantic as here.  The mid-century consensus rested on a sound scientific basis, but capital had to overthrow it not in spite of, but because of, that fact.  And so it has.

Turning to another of Adams's possible outcomes, historians have not yet concluded that humanity must revert to religion, but many societies have.  The secularism that went along with the Enlightenment reached a peak in worldwide influence sometime during the first half of the twentieth century, extending in Turkey even into the heart of the Muslim world, but orthodox religion has made a comeback not only there, but here in the United States, where it enjoys remarkable political influence, and in Russia, where the church is once again a powerful arm of the state.  

Adams's other possibility--that a science of history might show that we are condemned to a continuation of existing things--strikes me as closest to a true historical conclusion, although it required a further proviso.  We must understand "a continuation of existing things" as a dynamic rather than static description.  Religion, science, greed and egalitarianism always live within human breasts and are always at war in our politics.  Some are winning at any given moment but begin ceding ground later on.  My generation, as it turns out, was born very near a turning point.

When will rationalism and a sense of the common good once again become the key elements of our political and economic life?  Will it require more catastrophes like the two world wars, or perhaps the consequences of global warming, to make it happen? These are questions for the future. Meanwhile, it seems, Henry Adams laid the foundation for understanding the ups and downs of human history, and of our time.




Friday, August 24, 2018

On campus life, 2018

      Recently I have taken to glancing at the online Harvard Crimson, in part because of the lawsuit over Harvard's admissions policies that will be tried this fall (and which I hope to look in at.)  Its opinion section also features some interesting heterodoxy about identity politics.  This week, however, I came across another piece that got my attention, for reasons that will become apparent.  Because content is freely available, I don't see how anyone could object to my posting the text of the article, to being with, for non-commercial use only.  The article deals with another subject of controversy, the Final Clubs--originally private men's clubs, whose membership came largely from prep school students--which President Drew Faust tried to put out of business by making their members ineligible for prestigious fellowships.  Here it is.

Learned Behavior

Men control Harvard’s most valuable social assets. Partying at 1 a.m. at the Fly may seem outside the College’s educational purview — but it is certainly giving lessons in something.



Thursday, August 16, 2018

Trump and Hitler - a balanced comparison

I have been a comparative historian for my whole career.  My first book (bottom of list, at right) compared the policies of Germany, Britain and France towards Eastern Europe during the 1930s.  My third book, Politics and War, compared four different eras of general war in history.  Proper comparisons, in my opinion, illustrate both similarities and differences between nations, or between eras, or between individuals.  In comparing the political trajectory, style, goals, and impact of Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump in their first year in office, I am certainly not (NOT!!) suggesting that Trump intends to unleash a world war or send millions of people to their deaths, neither of which I believe.  The two men took power in very different eras and their accession to power has had very different effects in their two nations.  They think very differently, and only one of them led a huge movement loyal only to himself, or fundamentally altered his nation's system of government in his first few months in office. Yet there are similarities in their world views--and chilling similarities in some of the policies of their respective governments in their first years in office.  We can, in short, learn something from the comparison.

To illustrate the differences in the minds of these two men--and some similarities and differences in how they saw their historical role--I have decided to use a speech that Hitler delivered to the Reichstag on January 30, 1937, summarizing the results of his first four years in office.  Donald Trump, of course, has not yet had the opportunity to deliver a corresponding speech, and it is far from certain that he will ever get the chance to do so.  I looked for a similar speech by Hitler delivered in 1934 or 1935 but I could not find one--his major speeches in those years tended to deal with a single issue of foreign policy, and do not seem to have included this kind of general survey.  Yet it will become clear, I think, that there are profound similarities, as well as differences, between the ways the two men saw or see their historical impact, even though Trump does not yet enjoy the security in power that Hitler had in 1937.

Hitler began by characterizing the situation which led to his seizure of power.  In the years before 1933, he pointed out, Germany had experienced constant changes of government. "All these Cabinet reconstructions brought some positive advantage only to the actors who took part in the play; but the results were almost always quite negative as far as the interests of the people were concerned," he said.   Those words call to mind Trump's campaign attacks on both parties for their shared guilt in reaching bad trade deals, allowing US allies to take advantage of them, and failing to deal with illegal immigration.  But Hitler went much further.  The accession of himself and the Nazi Party to power was not enough; the whole parliamentary system, a foreign intrusion into Germany, had had to be abolished to bring real change, "even at the sacrifice of life and blood."  And indeed, by August 1934--the comparable point in his chancellorship to where Trump's presidency stands today--that change had taken place.  The Reichstag had surrendered its powers much earlier and huge legal and institutional changes had taken place.  Nothing like that has taken place in the United States, obviously, nor is anything like that about to happen.  Trump did not bring a new party into power behind him, he seized control of an old one, and he has now brought it very firmly under his own control and entered into a firm alliance with it.  Hitler and his acolytes were genuine revolutionaries in a revolutionary age.  Trump is not. 

Continuing, Hitler described the National Socialist revolution as an almost bloodless one, and accused international opinion of applying a double standard, since it seemed less disturbed by the very bloody revolutionary conflict now taking place in Spain.  But when he turned to the specific nature of the National Socialist revolution, he used words that have not, and will not, come from Trump's mouth.  "The main plank in the National Socialist program," he said," is to abolish the liberalistic concept of the individual and the Marxist concept of humanity and to substitute therefore the folk community, rooted in the soil and bound together by the bond of its common blood."  "There is one error which cannot be remedied once men have made it," he continued, "namely the failure to recognize the importance of conserving the blood and the race free from intermixture and thereby the racial aspect and character which are God's gift and God's handiwork."  And like his contemporaries Josef Stalin and Franklin Roosevelt, Hitler believed that his ideology would reshape the future of the world.  "I can prophesy here that, just as the knowledge that the earth moves around the sun led to a revolutionary alternation in the general world-picture, so the blood-and-race doctrine of the National Socialist Movement will bring about a revolutionary change in our knowledge and therewith a radical reconstruction of the picture which human history gives us of the past and will also change the course of that history in the future," he said.

The breadth of Hitler's world view, and its revolutionary character, becomes even clearer as he goes on.  "A regime of order and discipline," he said, had replaced parliamentary democracy in just three months back in 1933, and National Socialism was replacing class differences with natural selection.  All power lay with the German people, whose representative was the Nazi Party, which now controlled legislative and executive authority.  A new economic system, he argued (with more conviction than actual evidence), would treat all Germans fairly.  But National Socialism would refuse "to allow the members of a foreign race to wield an influence over our political, intellectual, or cultural life," or "to accord to the members of a foreign race any predominant position in our national economic system."  There is really no analog for these passages in Trump's rhetoric either.  His Administration--and the whole Republican Party--believe wholeheartedly in economic freedom and the power of capitalism, both of which they are managing to increase.

Like Trump today, Hitler in this speech spent a good deal of time congratulating himself on Germany's economic progress since his accession to power.  Trump, of course, came into office after a long period of economic expansion, which has continued through his first 18 months in office.  Hitler came into office when recovery from a catastrophic depression had just begun,. and accelerated that recovery with big programs of public works (infrastructure!) and rearmament.  Both men, in making these claims, ignored unpleasant realities.  In the United States, wages have remained almost stagnant throughout the post-2009 expansion.  In Germany people were back at work, but because of rigid controls on foreign trade, basic foodstuffs like butter were often in short supply and even bread had to be adulterated because of a shortage of grain.  

What is most noteworthy reading Hitler's speech, however, is the almost complete absence of the kind of combative rhetoric that flows from Trump's keyboard almost daily on Twitter.  Because Hitler had eliminated political opposition in his first few months in office, he does not have to spend any time talking generally, much less specifically, about domestic enemies, except for the vague references to those who do not belong to the national community.  International Communism is the main threat he sees on the horizon.  Hitler and the Nazis had railed ceaselessly against Communists, Socialists, and the politicians of the Weimar Republic in the years before they took power, using the same kind of abusive rhetoric, oversimplification, and outright falsification that Trump and his private propaganda ministry at Fox News use today.  Lesser propagandists continued to refer vaguely to internal or external enemies to explain problems even in the mid-1930s. But Hitler could not afford to be above all that because his position was completely secure.  That represents the biggest difference between his rhetoric and Trump's.

Trump, to put it bluntly has remained in full campaign mode, and seems incapable of behaving in any other way.  He makes a steady stream of absurd accusations against Democrats--that they favor open borders, want to abolish ICE (a few have made that proposal, of course), raise taxes, weaken our national defense, etc., etc. etc.  He is pursuing an ongoing flame war with the press--but probably doing less than the Nixon Administration to actually try to control what it prints.   He also has become completely obsessed with Robert Mueller's investigation for which there was obviously no parallel in Nazi Germany.  He constantly attacks leading figures in various walks of life who have criticized him.  It is not too much to suggest, I think, that while Hitler was genuinely obsessed with the idea of history as a struggle among different races, Trump sees it (and life itself) as an atavistic struggle among individuals, in which everyone else is out to get him, the one indispensable man.  Trump doesn't care very much about principles or institutions, only about his own wealth, power, and prestige.  That, I think, probably makes him a much less capable political leaders, but also makes him much less dangerous to his nation and the world at large.  And I can't help wondering how successful Trump might be if he confined his tweets to a drumbeat of self-congratulation extolling the country's enormous progress under his leadership, without the constant personal attacks.  Fortunately, perhaps, it doesn't look as if that experiment will ever be run.

In one respect, it seems, Trump would have liked to extend his authority in a more dictatorial manner. Not once, but twice, we have learned, he has ordered that Robert Mueller be fired.  He and Fox News (led by Sean Hannity, whom one journalist recently described as Trump's de facto chief of staff) have been preparing their supporters for that step for months and their rhetoric has been accelerating.  I think there is a good chance that Trump will fire Rod Rosenstein and Mueller after Judge Kavanagh has been confirmed.  That would essentially complete the Gleichschaltung, or "coordination," of the Justice Department--the same process that Hitler and the Nazis carried out throughout the German government in their first year or so in office. But that will not prevent him, probably, from losing the House of Representatives, and with subpoena power, the Democrats will be able to fight the propaganda war to a standstill.  The fate of the Trump Administration will remain in the hands of the American electorate.  

To say that Trump is not Hitler is not to slight the seriousness of the situation in which the United States and the world find themselves today.  His election represented a complete breakdown of our political order, one that had disconnected more than half of our registered voters from both of the two major political parties.  Trump and the Republicans are dismantling what was left of the Progressive era and the New Deal and paving the way for new and even greater inequality.  These are serous ills--but they are not the ills of the 1930s.  Totalitarianism threatened absolute government authority over every aspect of our life. We are now threatened by the opposite--the lack of any effective government authority, especially over economic life.  That is a very different disease that needs different remedies.

There is, however, another aspect of Trump Administration policy that does resemble early Nazi Germany.  In both cases, the government identified, and began in various ways to persecute, a minority onto which it tried to channel popular hostility.  In Germany in the early 1930s that minority was Jews.  Today that minority is illegal immigrants.

The Jewish community in Germany in 1933 numbered about half a million people, or less than 1% of the total population of about 65 million.  It had been declining in numbers thanks in part to assimilation, and it had only secured full political rights in the 1860s, and broke some additional employment barriers after the First World War.  After taking power the Nazis quickly organized a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, but had to back off somewhat because of hostile foreign reaction.   The Jews were largely excluded from academia, the civil service and many professions in the first few years of the Nazi regime and the 1935 Nuremberg laws gave them a special status.
 The goal of Nazi policy at least through 1938, if not longer, was to encourage Jews to leave Germany--albeit without any of their wealth--and about 25% of the German Jewish population had done so by the late 1930s.  Their problem was that there were so few other countries who would accept them in any large numbers.  The Nazis actually encouraged Zionism,. but the British in the late 1930s were trying to curb Jewish immigration to Palestine to pacify the Arab population, rather than to encourage it.  Although the specific origins of the Final Solution remain controversial, the bulk of the evidence suggested to me, when I wrote Politics and War in the 1980s that it was not until after war had begun that the murder of the whole Jewish population of Europe began to be discussed.

Jews had of course been the single biggest focus of hostile Nazi propaganda before the seizure of power.  It is not unfair to say that illegal immigrants played the same role for Donald Trump, beginning with his comments about Mexican immigrants when he announced his campaign.  The inability of our national government to give legal status to immigrants that our economy plainly heeds has led to a political and human rights crisis.   Our 11 million illegal immigrants--a much larger minority, more than 3%, of our population, than the German Jews in 1933--are in a sense an easier target because American law has traditionally given such people so few rights.  They are liable to deportation, and the Obama Administration had deported about 2.5 million of them in eight years.  What has only recently come to light--notably in an Atlantic article by Franklin Foer--is that ideologues at the White House (led by Stephen Miller) and at ICE, supported by Attorney General Sessions, are using a variety of tactics to arrest, intimidate and deport more illegal immigrants so as to convince more of them to leave, just as the Nazis did the Jews in the years before the Second World War.  They have also made it much harder for Central Americans and others to immigrate legally by narrowing the grounds for asylum, so that domestic violence and gang violence no longer entitle refugees to enter the US.  Like so many of the key developments in our national life today, this one, Foer shows, dates back to the Bush Administration, which created ICE and introduced a more hostile attitude towards immigrants after 9/11.  If the Congress were doing its job it would be holding hearings to learn more about the ideology behind these policies and their long-term goals, but Congressional Republicans stand solidly behind the President.

Every great crisis or Fourth Turning raises the issue of the composition of the national community.  In the United States, immigration was also controversial before the Civil War, but slave labor replaced immigrant labor as a political issue during the 1850s, and the war redefined the national community to include former slaves and German and Irish immigrants.  Southern and Eastern European immigration was very controversial from the 1880s through the 1910s, and was severely limited in 1924, but the Second World War made Italians, Poles, and Jews full citizens in their fellows' eyes as well, and led to the most intense phase of the civil rights movement.  Immigration restrictions loosened again in 1965 and immigration has again changed the character of the United States--but the great common task that might bring us together is lacking.  In my opinion, the older Republican political leadership has refused to pass immigration reform mainly because they do not want to add millions of new voters to the rolls.  Trump and his people seem to have even bigger goals than that, but we don't yet know what they are.

It is a sad commentary that a democratically elected American government is following in the footsteps of a European dictatorship 80 years ago and trying to drive a substantial portion out of the country.  It is equally sad that the Democratic opposition is focusing on only the most extreme aspects of this policy, such as DACA status and the separation of families at the border.  We desperately need to make citizens of our permanent residents.  I do not think this administration will attempt to claim dictatorial powers, but our present laws allow it to wreak a great deal of human hardship upon a vulnerable population--and that is what it is doing.