Playing to the Peanut Gallery

Our elections are international affairs

by , July 30, 2012

Mitt Romney is holding a fundraiser in Israel, where casino magnate and would-be GOP kingmaker Sheldon Adelson is slated to attend: no doubt the fanatically pro-Israel billionaire will be making a substantial contribution to the candidate’s war chest. Adelson is betting Romney will be putty in the Israel lobby’s hands, and make no trouble when he receives his marching orders from Tel Aviv. The campaign may have gone a bit overboard, however, when Dan Senor, a top Bush era official, declared “If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision.” This caused a minor furor, as it seemed to undercut President Obama’s effort to dissuade the Israelis from unilaterally plunging the whole region into war, and the campaign tried to walk back Senor’s comments. Yet the “clarification” was murkier than Romney’s tax returns: “We stand with Israel in peace,” the candidate averred.

And in war? American voters can only guess.

That, by the way, is the idea. Romney is a champion evader, especially when it comes to sensitive foreign policy issues, yet one has to take this in context: that is, in the context of America as a multinational empire with “democratic” trappings.

Our elections are not just national affairs, as Romney’s overseas sojourn underscores: since we are an empire, whose real borders encompass territory far beyond the boundaries of the fifty states, there are in effect two campaigns: the domestic one and the overseas campaign. While it’s true, technically, that only US citizens can vote and make financial contributions to the candidate of their choice, in reality foreign interests have a major effect on the outcome: in a close election, that effect could well be decisive.

To being with, the rapidly increasing practice of holding a major fundraiser in a foreign country, while technically legal, is a clear indicator that our political fate is not entirely in American hands. Four to ten million citizens live abroad, and they have every right to vote and contribute to the American political process, and yet the role of dual citizens is morally hazy albeit perfectly legal.

For example, Adelson’s wife, Miriam Adelson, is a dual citizen of the US and Israel: why are we to assume she has the best interests of the US at heart when she contributes a hefty sum to the Romney campaign? Her husband has been one of the most outspoken advocates of a US military strike against Iran, and Romney’s public pronouncements on this issue seem calculated to appeal to the constituency she represents. How many attendees at this Romney event in Israel are also dual citizens — and, no matter what their citizenship status, how many put the interests of a foreign country over and above all other considerations?

Romney’s trip abroad is in the way of an audition before our allies and client states, where he is expected to pass muster with his litany of entirely predictable pledges to abjure “isolationism” and keep the gravy train flowing to our client states, such as Israel. He flopped in Britain, where the media went after him hammer and tongs and his acute case of foot-in-mouth disease had a major flare-up. He did better, however, in Israel, where his old friend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out the welcome mat and sang a warmongering duet with the putative Republican nominee. Netanyahu, ever the bold one, makes no bones about his sympathy for the Romney campaign, and why shouldn’t he be brazen about it? After all, overt Israeli interference in American politics is not exactly a well-guarded secret, and, given what they do openly, one can only imagine what they’re up to covertly.

The Republicans are hardly alone in their appeal for overseas support: the Obama campaign has made a major fundraising effort abroad, and the money is reportedly pouring in. Yet the major aspect of their overseas campaign is less direct: it involves the same kind of doubletalk engaged in by the Romneyites, albeit talk taken a bit more seriously given who is doing the talking.

As Romney was beating the war drums in Jerusalem, the President was releasing an additional $70 million in “aid” to Israel and an anonymous White House official was leaking the story that Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security adviser, on a recent trip to Israel, had described our purported plan to strike Iran in some detail. This has been denied by the Israelis, and yet one can’t help thinking the general impression in Israel that has been created — that the US is preparing to launch a military strike — is precisely what was intended. That impression is buttressed by the fact that the National Security Council, the US embassy in Tel Aviv, and the White House all declined to comment on the matter.

Here we have a case of two presidential candidates saying one thing, meant for foreign consumption, and saying something quite different to a domestic audience: and so the two parallel campaigns proceed, with foreign leaders and their American lobbyists applauding the more war-like pronouncements, which are then characterized as gaffes and later “clarified” to reassure American voters they didn’t really mean it. Which shows, for one thing, how careful our warmongers in both parties have to be in pursuing their agenda — lest the American people suddenly awaken and realize they’re being pushed into another disastrous war in the Middle East.

In an empire, there is no real dividing line between foreign and domestic policy, and the Israel lobby knows it — even if few outside Washington realize it. Likewise, the boundary between national and international politics is fast disappearing, and the globalization of US elections has accelerated in recent years. As the American empire expands, the range of foreign interests with a stake in the outcome increases — and a new mentality emerges here in the US, where the idea of holding a high-profile fundraiser in a foreign country might once have been considered over the line.

In an era of multinational corporations dominating the world market, there is no longer any such thing as national loyalty when one gets to the top levels of the corporate hierarchy: indeed, an entire class of US “citizens” exists, mostly in the realm of the uber-rich, whose lofty perspective transcends national borders. These movers and shakers are unalterably opposed to curtailing Washington’s imperial ambitions, and they have plenty of allies outside the United States.

The American empire girdles the earth, extending from the Panamanian isthmus to the parched plains of North Africa to the mountains of Afghanistan and onward to the island fortresses of the South Pacific. The peoples who inhabit this vast domain may not have a direct vote, but their elites — tied by a thousand financial and political strings to the US government — and their American lobbyists and business partners have a major say in who will occupy the highest office in our land.

This election year, we have the spectacle of Netanyahu campaigning for Romney, while the Europeans are clearly rooting for Obama. Indeed, the entire Romney campaign is centered around an anti-European shtick, although Mitt seems unclear on the concept that Britain, although filled with “fellow Anglo-Saxons,” is part of Europe. The Obama administration, on the other hand, is desperately signaling to the same foreign audience that he’s more than willing to use force against Iran — if only they’ll wait until after the November election, when he’ll have a free hand.

As to what the American people want — that is less of a factor than it ought to be, and much less now that the “globalization” of American politics is so far advanced. When we ditched our old republic for an empire, in fact if not in form, we delivered our fate into the hands of strangers who neither know nor care about what policy best serves American interests.

If I thought it would do any good, I’d say that Americans who hold dual citizenship should be banned from contributing to candidates or parties: there ought to be a price to pay for dual allegiance. Furthermore, I’d advocate that holding campaign fundraisers outside our borders ought to be illegal, period: the opportunities for the infiltration of foreign money and interests into the American political process are too numerous to tolerate. Yet these would just be problematic stop-gap measures that would ultimately fail, because our interventionist foreign policy is at the root of the problem and nothing short of abandoning the empire will solve it.

In the meantime, however: while no one can shut Netanyahu up, or stop the Europeans from snickering as Mitt’s gaffe machine goes into overdrive, the foreign peanut gallery should realize its effusions have the potential to create a backlash in this country — and they should have the good sense to keep their opinions to themselves for the duration.

That the two major presidential candidates are avidly competing with one another for approval in foreign capitals is one of the more shameful aspects of our recent history, an indication of how the American character has degenerated since we’ve entered the age of empire. The Founders would have been appalled by the servility of our leaders, as they kowtow to the relentless demands of foreigners for a blank check on our Treasury and the blood of our children. Then again, they have already turned over in their graves so many times that the rumbles from underground are clearly audible.

Read more by Justin Raimondo