The Establishment Has Prevailed
by Srdja Trifkovic
The aftermath of the Cold War has seen the emergence of what neocon gurus Robert Kagan and William Kristol have called “benevolent global hegemony” of the United States.
Throughout this period, key figures of both major parties have asserted that America’s unchallengeable military might was essential to the maintenance of global order. This period was marked by military interventions in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and (less overtly) in Syria. Each violent exercise of hegemony was validated by the rhetoric of “promoting democracy,” “protecting human rights,” “confronting aggression,” and by the invocation of alleged American exceptionalism.
As a result, one major source of instability in contemporary global order is the tendency of the most powerful player to reject any conventionally ordered hierarchy of American global interests. Traditional foreign policymaking may be prone to miscalculations (e.g. Vietnam), but in principle it is based on some form of rationally adduced raison d’etat. Deterritorialized strategy of full-spectrum dominance, by contrast, had its grounding in ideological assumptions impervious to rational discourse. It consistently creates outcomes – in Iraq, Libya, etc – which are contrary to any conventional understanding of U.S. security interests.
Over the years, American “realists” – who accept that the world is imperfect, that violence is immanent to man, and that human nature is immutable – have often lamented the absence of grand-strategic thinking within the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. For the past quarter-century at least, successive administrations have displayed a chronic inability to deploy America’s political, military, economic, and moral resources in a balanced and proportionate manner, in order to protect and enhance the country’s rationally defined security and economic interests. Washington’s bipartisan, ideologically-driven obsession with global primacy (“full-spectrum-dominance”) has resulted in a series of diplomatic, military and moral failures, costly in blood and treasure, and detrimental to the American interest.
The 2016 presidential election, on the subject of foreign affairs, seemed to confront two polar opposites. On November 8, it appeared that Donald Trump, an outsider victorious against all odds and predictions, had a historic opportunity to make a fresh start. Trump’s slogan “America First” was a call for the return to realism based on the awareness that the United States needs to rediscover the value of transactional diplomacy aimed at promoting America’s security, prosperity, and cohesion in a Hobbesian world.
Some resistance from the upholders of hegemonistic orthodoxy was to be expected, as witnessed even before Trump’s inauguration by the outgoing administration’s attempts to poison the well on every front possible. Giving up the neurotic desire to dominate the world, and recognizing that it cannot be shaped in line with the bicoastal elite class “values,” was never acceptable to the controllers of the mainstream media discourse and the government-subsidized think-tank nomenklatura. More seriously, some key components of the intelligence, national-security and military-industrial conglomerates proved effective in resisting Trump’s attempt to introduce traditional realist criteria in defining “interests” and “threats.”
In the early days of his candidacy Trump repeatedly asked why must the United States be engaged everywhere in the world and play the global policeman. He raised the issue of NATO’s utility and core mission, a quarter-century after the demise of the USSR which it was created to contain. He even suggested creation of a new coalition in order to put America’s resources to better use, especially in the fight against terrorism. He repeatedly advocated rapprochement with Russia. He criticized the regime-change mania of earlier administrations, pointing out the “disastrous” consequences of toppling Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He said that he would leave Syria’s Bashar al-Assad well alone and focus on degrading the Islamic State.
Trump’s 2016 global vision was somewhat fragmentary, but voters knew that many of his positions ran counter to the duopolistic consensus. They did not know if he would be consistent, as President, in devising a new grand strategy and related specific policies. Such uncertainty was perhaps inevitable in view of Trump’s temperament, but the possibility of a paradigmatic shift towards a national-interest-based approach apparently did exist. It was conceivable that he would effect a strategic pause in order to take stock of the global map, reconsider priorities, and devise policies on the basis of their likely costs and benefits.
Particularly welcome was Trump’s pledge to improve relations with Russia, which “has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism.” This was in marked contrast to his Republican rivals’ visceral Russophobia. Trump declared that he would not try “to spread universal values that not everybody shares or wants,” and that he would not “go abroad in search of enemies.” These were sound principles. Trump’s antipathy to the establishment’s imperial pretensions and moral absolutism seemed genuine. All that was anathema to the elite.
The corporate media machine in the United States is controlled by members of an elite class which promotes cultural Marxism manifested in a corrupt mass culture, multiculturalist indoctrination, and mass immigration; and which opposes any sense of historical and cultural identity of European Americans. From the very moment he entered the presidential race, Trump encountered intense media hostility. Early in the campaign, Trump was accused of “racism” because he had said that he would restrict the influx of Muslim immigrants into the United States. That was not “racist”: there are Muslims of all color and hue. He was accused of “Islamophobia,” but his was a rational position in the context of everything that has happened and is happening, from Brussels and Paris to the London underground, the Madrid suburban train, and the Boston marathon.
Trump’s unexpected triumph in 2016 differed in countless detail of foreign and domestic context, but they shared one key commonality: ordinary Americans in the “flyover country” voted against a cosmopolitan, globalist America which subscribed to radically different moral, cultural, and civilizational standards. In foreign affairs, Trump’s victory opened the possibility of a radically new grand strategy. He had the historic opportunity to effect a paradigm shift in the West that would pave the way for a genuine Northern Alliance of Russia, Europe, and the United States, as all three face similar existential demographic and ideological (primarily Jihadist) threats in the decades ahead. That opportunity had been open to the United States ever since the end of the Cold War, but no American leader had recognized it or acted upon its imperative. Trump appeared intent to give it a try.
His biggest problem all along was that the “deep state”, and especially the shadow government’s key components in the national security apparat and the military-industrial complex, rejected all conventional criteria in their definition of “interests” and “threats.” Contrary to Trump’s many statements and clear instincts, they were intent on the maintenance of American global primacy.
The problem of politicized intelligence structures became obvious, only weeks after Trump’s victory, with the CIA claim that the Russian government (including Vladimir Putin personally) had ordered and supervised the hacking of the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign’s emails. On December 16, 2016, Obama’s CIA appointee and former counterterrorism advisor John Brennan asserted that the Kremlin effectively swayed the election in Trump’s favor. America’s intelligence community turned out to be filled with obedient servants of the Deep State. This indicated that one of Trump’s primary tasks in the field of national security should have been to discard the practice of his predecessors to demand intelligence which supports previously developed policy decisions.
The pivotal moment came exactly four weeks after inauguration. At the security conference in Munich (February 17) and at the EU headquarters in Brussels two days later, Vice-President Mike Pence offered profuse assurances to the European elite class that the Trump administration supported unity and cohesion in the face of various threats allegedly facing the Western alliance. His remarks amounted to an explicit repudiation of Trump’s campaign statements and promises: “The United States strongly supports NATO and will not waver in our commitment to our transatlantic alliance” In a conference dominated by the narrative of the “Russian threat” and hacking Pence paid tribute to “our shared values,” our “noble ideals – freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law.” Newly appointed Defense Secretary James Mattis, who also attended the Munich conference, made similar points – which until then would have been considered distinctly un-Trumpian. President Trump has “thrown his full support behind NATO,” Mattis declared, and warned of threats “on multiple fronts as the arc of instability builds on NATO’s periphery and beyond.” Earlier in that week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went to Germany for the Group of 20 foreign ministers’ meeting. As he left the meeting, “there was a palpable sense of relief” among the Europeans, which “stemmed in part from a sense that Tillerson is a serious man who came to Bonn… willing to hear their viewpoints.”
Only a month into the new presidency, the real question was whether Trump could resist the straitjacket which the Russophobic, NATO-for-ever “foreign policy community” had been hewing for him ever since November 8, 2016. The answer was “probably not.” The clue was provided by the appointment of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as Flynn’s replacement. In contrast to his predecessor, McMaster saw Russia as an adversary and rejected the possibility of partnership. McMaster’s views were diametrically opposed to Trump’s previously stated objectives. The Duopoly was delighted. Already by the end of Trump’s first month in office, a paranoid, hysterical quality to the public discourse on Russia and all things Russian had taken root in the United States. The corporate media machine and its Deep State handlers had abdicated reason and common decency in favor of raw hate and fear-mongering. We had not seen anything like it even in the darkest days of the Cold War.
Considering the toxic Russophobia nurtured by the Beltway establishment, the first meeting between presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Hamburg (July 7, 2017) went reasonably well. It was a businesslike encounter between two grownups and their foreign ministers. Their initial agreements, notably on Syria, were significant in that they were reached in the first place. On the subject of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election, the two leaders agreed that it is time to move on rather than litigate the past. The Russophobes promptly proceeded to undo the results, however.
In today’s Washington, foreign policy decision-making process has become arguably more diffuse than ever in the nation’s history. In July 2017, U.S. Congress enacted legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia and limiting Trump’s authority to lift them on his own. This was done despite objections from the White House that this would inappropriately infringe on the chief executive’s ability to direct foreign policy. On a key foreign policy issue the president was thus barred from acting as utility-maximizing rational decision-maker. His hands are effectively tied.
More unprecedentedly still, systemic incoherence – occasionally bordering on outright schizophrenia – reigns inside Trump’s own camp. To wit, on the very day he said that it was “time to move forward in working constructively with Russia” (July 10, 2017), U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley flatly contradicted him by declaring, “We can’t trust Russia and we won’t ever trust Russia.” Such blatant discrepancy within the upper echelons of the U.S. executive branch was literally unprecedented.
The rolling coup against Trump had been plotted by the Deep State even before he was inaugurated. Significant power nodes in the United States had always refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of his presidency, and at the time of this writing they remain relentless. By early spring 2017, Trump’s surrender on practically every issue of foreign policy was in full swing. They aimed, wisely from their vantage point, to let a neutered, boxed-in President Trump remain in office as a colorful, twitterful figurehead, while they ensured a continuation of the hegemonist strategies pursued by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Domestic restraints on the conduct of foreign policy are always present; but in the past few months they were becoming extreme. Starting even before the inauguration, the permanent state had been imposing its agenda on a president who wanted to chart a new course. At the same time, an increasingly pliant Trump has been stepping ever farther away from his campaign pledges. He effectively gave up on “America First,” which meant primarily getting involved less in foreign quarrels and acting like a normal nation-state freed from the self-defeating shackles of global-imperial delusions.
Full article in printed Liberty