The Foreign Policy Follies

by , March 01, 2008

I must be getting old. This virus, or whatever the heck it is, really knocked me for a loop. It’s funny, but I recall thinking, just before I came down with this, that I’d managed to entirely avoid getting sick this winter, and – whammo! Hubris – it’s the bane of mankind.

At any rate, that’s my feeble excuse for not writing the usual 3000-word analysis of one particular aspect of the federal government’s overseas shenanigans. Instead, we’re going on a whirlwind tour of the current foreign policy follies, at home as well as abroad.

Turkey’s invasion is escalating pretty quickly, with Ankara declaring their "temporary" incursion could last as long as a year, and Baghdad demanding "Troops Out!" The US is the monkey in the middle, with defense secretary Robert Gates averring that the Turks had better get out in "days," or, at most, "a week or two." The Turks, for their part, maintain their "right" to cross the border with Iraq (really Kurdistan) in hot pursuit of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) "terrorists," who attack civilian targets in Turkey proper.

This is a clarification of the preemptive war doctrine, adopted by the Bush administration as the core canon of our post-9/11 foreign policy theology, which makes it clear that this "principle" is not universally applicable: it applies only to the United States, and selected allies – of which Turkey certainly is not one. And in spite of his much-vaunted "universalism," I’m sure John McCain is willing to make an exception in this case.

Speaking of McCainiacs, the McCainiac-in-chief has staked out a unique position on the Iraq war question, one that addresses the history of the dubious intelligence and false premises that led us into that costly conflict in terms of a simple, easy-to-understand slogan: That was then, this is now.

Addressing Barack Obama directly as the putative Democratic nominee, McCain again averred that Obama would hand over Iraq to Al Qaeda, and countered the contention that bin Laden’s minions would never have gained entry if not for the US invasion;

"On the issue of my differences with Senator Obama on Iraq, I want to make it very clear: This is not about decisions that were made in the past. This is about decisions that a president will have to make about the future in Iraq. And a decision to unilaterally withdraw from Iraq will lead to chaos."

Ignore the past, and plunge into the future. Irrespective of one’s position on the war – or the presidential race – one has to ask: is this really how a self-proclaimed "conservative" formulates policy?

Conservatism, as I’ve been led to understand it, is all about empiricism: a methodology that upholds the superiority of the tried-and-true, and validates a reverence for tradition. However, when the traditionalists – or their leaders – declare, in effect, that history is bunk, we have truly entered Bizarro World.

Conservatives are really lost in the wilderness these days, and the death of William F. Buckley, Jr., has proved to be the occasion for a lot of commentary on conservatism, past and future. I did a short piece for Taki’s Top Drawer, which you can read here: I would add that some of the commentary which has come out, hailing Buckley for his purging of the "isolatonist" Right from the ranks of the conservative movement, is coming from ostensibly antiwar liberals, like Chris Matthews the other day on MSNBC, who made just this point. Yet if we had more "isolationists" (i.e. pro-peace Ron Paul types) in the GOP, we would never have been in the mess we are today. And then, I guess, Democrats like Señor Matthews wouldn’t have the war as a campaign issue. Once a partisan, always a partisan. Now if we’re going to have partisanship over at MSNBC, why not give Pat Buchanan his own show – he’d be more than a match for Matthews and Keith Olbermann.

The good guys on the right, over at The American Conservative, have a new regular blog written by the estimable Daniel Larison, and I urge you to go over there and check it out if you want to know what’s right with the conservative movement of today. Continuing our discussion of the other day: Yes, I understand his point that the Obama phenomenon is not going to cure all our foreign policy ills, and I don’t fault him at all for trying to tamp down my apparent Obama-mania. I don’t think I’ve made it clear enough that I’m more interested in Obama’s supporters than I am in Obama: that is, the phenomenon is more significant than the man. At any rate, now that I haven’t cleared that up, I should note that, as if on cue, the tail-end of the Democratic debate seems to confirm Larison’s point.

Asked by the out-of-control Tim Russert what he would do if Vladimir Putin’s successor launched a military attack on Kosovo, Obama endorsed the Clintonian solution to the Yugoslav problem, albeit mildly, and put his imprimatur on Hillary’s wild-eyed Russophobia. If you look at the transcript, however, Obama’s coolness in the face of Russert’s speculative hysterics is encouraging, although I have to say there is a problem with Obama’s foreign policy stances, and I can boil it down to two words: George Soros.

Señor Soros is a peacenik today, but during the Clinton years he and his global nonprofit empire were the radical caucus of the War Party, clamoring endlessly about the need to intervene militarily on the side of the Albanian ultra-nationalists of the Kosovo "Liberation" Army. Soros money fueled a whole range of interventionist front groups, in support of a war that was the Central European doppelganger of the conflict to come in Iraq. In both cases, insurgent groups with powerful Washington lobbies managed to commandeer the US military in support of their own agendas, which were and are antithetical to American interests.

It seems to me that the division of labor between the two wings of the War Party is, to a large degree, geographical. The Republican wing is concerned, for the most part, with the Middle East, an orientation that comes naturally to the party’s neoconservative leadership and their evangelical Christian Myrmidons. The Democrats are faced toward Europe: their adversary is Russia, and Putin is their version of Saddam Hussein. Larison is right about Obama’s "dreadful Ostpolitik," but even more dreadful was the way the question was framed by Russert:

"He’s 42 years old, he’s a former law professor. He is Mr. Putin’s campaign manager. He is going to be the new president of Russia. And if he says to the Russian troops, you know what, why don’t you go help Serbia retake Kosovo, what does President Obama do?"

Obama accepted the absurd premise, and answered accordingly: that we would of course defend Kosovo, and that surely NATO would respond, while emphasizing that we would do this in concert with our European allies. And yet, as Hillary would put it: let’s get real. In reality, no such scenario is even remotely conceivable. Putin stood by while the NATO-crats bombed one of the oldest cities in Europe. His chosen heir is no more likely to launch an attack on NATO – which is what an attempt to "retake Kosovo" would amount to. In short, Russert’s question involves a nonsensical, reality-inverting Bizarro World-like scenario, one less likely than an invasion of Kosovo by Martians.

I don’t underplay the danger posed by the Soros/left-interventionist wing of the Democratic party: I just don’t think it’s known to what degree Obama is their willing accomplice.

There is a war danger emanating from the Balkans. The victorious ultra-nationalists of the KLA, ensconced in Pristina, are actively aiding and abetting their allies in Macedonia, Montenegro, and Epirus (a northern province of Greece, with a significant Albanian minority). In all these surrounding areas, separatist pan-Albanian movements agitate for union with "Greater Albania," a vision of ethnic solidarity upheld by the KLA to this day.

A Democratic President could be expected to exacerbate the problem – the Clintons far more than Obama, in my estimate. The Soros wing of the Democratic party, and its international affiliates, were in the front lines of the first wave of Albanian expansionism, and they’ll doubtless be in the vanguard of the next. I’m just not so sure that Obama will necessarily sign on to it, just because Soros was one of his early supporters.

In 2004, the crusading billionaire said he supported Obama because he saw him as "an emerging national leader," a bit of speculative analysis that turned out to be right on the money. Which is why Soros has so much money. It may turn out, however, that Soros’ investment in Obama will fail to reap the expected returns. I don’t think, however, that we know at this point.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I‘ll be speaking at the third-annual meeting of the Property and Freedom Society, which will take place May 22-26, 2008, in Bodrum, Turkey, at the Karia Princess Hotel.

My topic is " The Ron Paul Phenomenon and the Prospects for Liberty in the US," more specifically the state of the libertarian movement in the US, which I hope will prove informative to the decidedly international cast of participants, who will be coming from every part of Europe, in what promises to be a most enlightening convocation and exchange of views. Set against the backdrop of what used to be known as Halicarnassus, home of Herodotus, we’ll hear from a great variety of speakers, including John Laughland, whom I’ve always greatly admired, as well as conference organizer Hans Hermann Hoppe, Paul Gottfried, Peter Brimelow, Tom DiLorenzo, the British libertarian activist Sean Gabb, and a host of other academics and activists.

I greatly look forward to this, and urge you – especially my European and Middle Eastern readers – to investigate attending. The conference is going to be fascinaing, and Bodrum, I hear, can be quite a lot of fun. You can write to Robert Grozinger, the secretary of the PFS for more information: groezinger@PropertyAndFreedom.org.

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