Americas

Trump signals crisis of the US foreign policy establishment

0 128

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump stands during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)


Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency and current position in the opinion polls is a crisis not only of the Republican party – the party of Lincoln – but also of the broader bi-partisan American foreign policy establishment’s instinctive interventionist mind set, their military definition of reality. Yet, for all his appeals to the most bigoted sections of American society, Trump’s foreign policy message speaks to a twenty-first century truth: America’s position in the world has changed, its wars are dragging on, the blowback is lethal, ‎there are too many problems at home, and the popular appetite waning for global ‘leadership’. But it appears from Trump’s military spending plans that he is already planning to betray his supporters.

Americans love winners, not losers, and the post-9-11 years have not appeared to most Americans, or the rest of the world, to have been an untrammelled success for military power. But the American foreign policy establishment begs to differ and wants an even more robust projection of American military power. To them, Trump is the ‘enemy within’ allied with America’s foe Vladimir Putin, questioning NATO (set up to counter the ‘Red threat’), threatening the alliance with Japan and South Korea (set up to counter the ‘Red threat’), bringing America into disrepute through his stated commitment to torture terro suspects and kill their families.

The neoconservative architects of the Iraq war and the war on terror are backing Hillary Clinton for the White House and she is courting them with promises of American leadership from the front, not from behind, signalling her Warrior Queen credentials: more like the ‘iron lady’ Margaret Thatcher than allegedly dovish President Obama.

The Right’s support for Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy  and contempt for Donald Trump’s apparent ‘isolationism’ has been building for some time – with open letters from ‘respectable foreign policy conservatives’, mostly hard-core architects of military aggression against Iraq in 2003, extraordinary rendition (kidnapping) and torture, targeted assassination (drone strikes), and ever higher military spending to underscore America’s lethal advantage over all others. There have even been rumblings that the CIA and military leaders might refuse to follow orders from commander-in-chief Trump. Neoconservative commentator and founder of the militarist, pro-regime-change in Iraq Project for the New American Century-founder, Robert Kagan, doubts that Trump would find anyone with experience to serve in the most senior positions in intelligence or the Pentagon.

Trump’s crime violates Clinton’s law, the reflex position of the American foreign policy establishment –and every president, including Obama – since Japan’s aerial attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. The attitude of the establishment – the men behind the scenes who decide who’s in or out, trustworthy and loyal or beyond the pale, “one of us” – was summed up long ago by the brilliant journalist Godfrey Hodgson in the aftermath of the disastrous war on Vietnam: outright rejection of ‘isolationism’ which in practice meant any viewpoint that questioned or rejected American primacy in world politics; total embrace of ‘internationalism’ – an open world trading system that permitted the US, and its western allies, to recover from the destruction of WWII through restoring colonial trade and investment links; an aspiration to the moral leadership of the world via institutional and military means; and a self-definition as centrsis and moderates against “yahoos of left and right”.

The establishment is rooted in Wall Street law firms and banks, the upper echelons of the federal executive – White House, CIA, Pentagon, leading senators – and elite universities like Harvard and Princeton, and think tanks like the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. They are largely unelected yet constitute the majority of senior appointees in Republican and Democratic administrations. They are the elitist red thread of continuity in a political system they believe gives far too much power to the great unwashed, the dangerous classes who should obey their betters, or else accept re-education, a curious interpretation of the notion of the ‘consent of the governed’ upon which democracy is assumed to rest.

It is reported that Robert Kagan and other neoconservatives cheered Hillary Clinton’s appointment to secretary of state in 2008 and are now fund-raising on her behalf because she plans to be a lot tougher with Russia in Ukraine – provide even more arms to Ukrainian nationalists including the extreme-right wing elements; more weapons and other military assistance to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, including arming fundamental Islamists; and ride rough-shod over popular opposition to further American military adventurism; and so on.

President Clinton would dust off the Libyan template used to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi, her allies told a neocon gathering of “foreign policy professionals for Hillary”, without a hint of irony. The disorder and insecurity of Libya after Gaddafi’s ousting is re-framed as a great success. Like colonial powers of old, President Clinton seems ready to redraw the national boundaries of the Middle East.

At a recent fund-raiser, it is reported that Kagan rolled his eyes when told that President Obama refused arms to Ukrainian fighters for fear of escalating the confrontation with Russia to nuclear levels. Trump, it transpires, is too unstable to entrust with nukes, but Clinton’s more measured approach to nuclear annihilation is acceptable.

According to the Cato Institute, 37% of Americans are generally always opposed to the use of military force to resolve global problems while just under a quarter practically always favour armed intervention. Around 40% are undecided; they are the battleground for hearts and minds, the people who need to be convinced through “education” to allow the commander-in-chief to act with the “consent of the governed”.

But Trump’s message is just the tip of the iceberg. The problem (of all those people opposed to war as the first resort) is a lot more widespread – Bernie Sanders’s political base was far more anti-interventionist (‘isolationist’ in foreign policy establishment speak) than their candidate. “It’s not just Donald Trump,” Kagan said. “I think you can find in both parties a very strong sense that we don’t need to be out there anymore.” “[President] Hillary Clinton… is going to immediately be confronting a country that is not where she is,” he said. “She is a believer in this world order. But a great section of the country is not and is going to require persuasion and education.”

Kagan did not mention what the rest of the world might think and the education they’re likely to need. Maybe he’s thinking of what President Lyndon Johnson said about such educational efforts: “if you grab ‘em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” That attitude led to the tragedy of Vietnam and the killing fields of Cambodia.

Presumably Kagan wants to provide the sort of education delivered by the Bush administration and its allies – like UK premier Tony Blair – which tailored intelligence on non-existent weapons of mass destruction to justify military aggression against Iraq – leading to massive numbers of deaths and social, economic and political breakdown, paving the way for the emergence of ISIS, the Middle east’s equivalent of Pol Pot’s  Khmer Rouge – after a media blitz of gigantic proportions.

When Donald Trump attacks the ‘establishment’ for ‘rigging the system’ against the interests of ordinary people, he strikes a chord with both historical fact and the opinions of millions of Americans. He may have no intention, or ability, or even desire, to deliver anything better than currently rules US foreign policy and its globalised military system; his military spending plans derive from the Heritage Foundation’s hawkish approach.  But his appeal, and message, along with that of the millions behind Sanders, is signalling major popular discontent, and threatening the end of business as usual for the foreign policy elite, whoever wins the White House.

About the author / 

CESRAN Int.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

CESRAN Blog

  • 24th Issue is Online Now!

    Vol. VI | No. III – July-August-September 2020 To Download the Magazine Click Here… CONTENTS 05-14….. World News by Ebru Birinci 17-24….. Preparedness for an Uncertain Future “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” by Professor Mark Meirowitz 25-39….. EU LAW vs UK LAW The Primacy of EU Law over National Law:…

  • IEPAS2020 is Going Virtual!

    Dear Friends and Colleagues, IEPAS2020 is Going Virtual! Due to the COVID19 pandemic, we are holding our entire conference virtually by streaming all of the live sessions. You may participate in all of our virtual networking events. In case of missing a session, you may get full access to the replays of every session since all…

  • The 13th issue of JCTS (Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security) is out now…

    The 13th issue of JCTS (Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security) is out now… Vol. 8 | No. 1 | 2020 Click here to Download the Entire Issue   TABLE OF CONTENTS Editor’s Note By David Curran Introduction By Nergis Canefe Research Articles Statelessness as a Permanent State: Challenges to the Human Security Paradigm By…

  • The 19th Issue of The Rest: Journal of Politics and Development is Out Now!

    The 19th issue of the rest: journal of politics and development is out now. Download the issue here… TABLE OF CONTENTS Research Articles Turkish AK Parti’s Posture towards the 2003 War in Iraq: The Impact of Religion amid Security Concerns By Alberto Gasparetto Nigeria and the Great Powers: The Impacts of the Boko Haram Terrorism on…

  • CESRAN International Named again amongst the Top Think Tanks in the World

    CESRAN International is pleased to announce that it has been named again amongst the world’s best think tanks. The 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index ranked CESRAN International 141st among the World’s “Top Think Tanks in Western Europe” 75th among the World’s “Top Environment Policy Think Tanks” 153rd among the World’s “Top Foreign Policy…

  • THE 18TH ISSUE OF THE REST: JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND DEVELOPMENT IS OUT NOW.

    The 18th issue of the rest: journal of politics and development is out now. Download the issue here… TABLE OF CONTENTS Research Articles The Foreign Policy Decision Making Approaches and Their Applications Case Study: Bush, Obama and Trump’s Decision Making towards Afghanistan and the Region By Sharifullah Dorani Evaluating the Explanatory Power of Social Identity Theory,…

Newsletter