THE BLOG
09/09/2013 09:59 am ET | Updated Nov 09, 2013

Will Obama Trade American Jobs for His War on Syria?

President Obama spent his time at the G-20 conference in St. Petersburg trying to drum up support for an attack on Syria. As part of that effort he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Here's the report from Kyodo news service:

Japan and the United States agreed in a summit Thursday to work closely to improve the situation in Syria and conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations by the end of this year, a Japanese government official said.

Note the linkage between support for Obama's Syrian war and the TransPacific Partnership, a corporatist deal that would open the US to more imports from cheap overseas labor markets.

Can you say "quid pro quo"?

We need not rely on a single source. Before jetting to the summit, President Obama phoned Prime Minister Abe to invite him to his war party. The Wall Street Journal described their chat:

U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke via telephone Monday about Syria and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the White House said Tuesday....

"The two leaders agreed that the use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international norms and cannot be tolerated," the White House said in a summary of the call. ...

The White House said Mr. Obama also told Mr. Abe that he wants negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, concluded this fall.

Using the job-killing TransPacific Partnership as a bargaining chip to gain support for a strike against Syria would be business as usual in Washington.

Presidents of both parties have long subordinated the interests of American workers and small businesses to the Great Game of Geopolitics. Former Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina summed it up: "the State Department continue to try winning friends by encouraging the export of American technology and productive capacity - that means loss of jobs here at home."

Giving away entire industries - from apparel and textiles to consumer electronics - became a form of foreign aid to shore up allies during the Cold War.

Clyde Prestowitz discovered this when, as a trade enforcement official for the Reagan Administration, he targeted the European Union's heavy subsidies for Airbus, a clear violation of international trade rules and a threat to our own aeronautics industry:

[W]hen the proposal to take action against the Airbus subsidies reached then Secretary of State George Shultz, he said any such move would "shatter NATO." This not only stopped the complaint against Airbus in its tracks. ...

What was going on? Business as usual for the United States, for which geopolitics is the paramount national interest. For as long as I can remember, there has never been a military base, a U.N. vote, or a smooth state visit for which Washington was not prepared to make a trade concession or sacrifice a U.S. industry.

As President Obama's war resolution comes before Congress, Secretary of State Kerry will continue trying to buy or build international support for it.

Coincidentally, negotiators from countries with a stake in the TransPacific Partnership meet in Washington this month.

The president says American ground troops will not be enlisted in the war on Syria.

But can he - will he - assure us that Americans who make automobiles, clothing, footwear and a thousand other things will not be sacrificed?

Don't count on it.

I'll let Clyde Prestowitz have the last word:

"America systematically subordinates its economic interests to achieve geopolitical objectives. What it should do is give back the military bases and go for the exports, and for greatly increased domestic production."

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