The future, in many respects, looks dark for opponents of interventionism and the National Security State. US troops are currently involved in civil wars and “policing” across a wide swath of the Middle East, Europe, and Eastasia. Our political class is firmly committed to a globalist ideology that disdains the very concept of national sovereignty, most especially our own. And what Dwight Eisenhower called the “military-industrial-congressional complex” is more firmly entrenched than ever, extracting billions from the “public” purse and filling their coffers at our expense.
Furthermore, the presidential election is hardly encouraging. The prospect of Hillary Clinton in the White House must surely cause even the most optimistic among us to consider building one of those backyard bomb shelters so popular during the cold war era and stocking it with a couple of years supply of emergency rations. She has all but threatened to go to war with nuclear-armed Russia, intervene massively in Syria, and ratchet up NATO’s encirclement of the Russian bear.
Yet these are all short-term concerns: in the long term, we anti-interventionists have every reason to be optimistic.
To begin with, the American people are with us. Every poll shows that, while support for a strong defense is rising, the reluctance to engage in foreign wars is strong and getting stronger. The most recent measuring of anti-interventionist sentiment came out just as I started writing this column: a mere 25 percent want the US to expand the role of the US military overseas, reports the Financial Times. Fourteen percent say the fifteen years of constant warfare have made us more safe, 51 percent disagree. A majority says no to “safe zones” or any sort of intervention in Syria: and a whopping 80 percent say Congress must approve any military action abroad.
Secondly, the victory of Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary has broken the iron grip of the neoconservatives on GOP foreign policy orthodoxy and given opposition to globalism new legitimacy in the pubic square. No matter what one may think of Trump as a candidate, and in spite of his many inconsistencies, one indisputable fact remains: the Republican party, which cheered as George W. Bush launched two wars and declared a multi-generational interventionist project, very shortly afterward nominated someone who not only opposed the Iraq war but said “They lied. There were no weapons of mass destruction and they knew there were none.” That, all by itself, represents a sea change. But it didn’t end there.
Trump has questioned the utility of NATO, and even threatened to pull out if member states didn’t pay their fair share – a pronouncement that, just a short time ago, would have been inconceivable coming from any major part presidential nominee. He wondered aloud why we’re defending South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, all rich nations that are perfectly capable of defending themselves. And he provoked the undying ire of the War Party when he asked: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get along with Russia?”
Underscoring that he understands the broader implications of these positions, Trump adopted a campaign theme that evokes the historical legacy of the anti-interventionist movement in this country: “America First.” This provoked paroxysms of hatred from the foreign policy mandarins in Washington, who loathe “isolationism” — and their squeals of outrage were music to my ears.
Thirdly, the Trump campaign has generated the healthiest trend to be seen in this country in a long time: widespread skepticism, and even hatred, of the “mainstream” media. Trump has campaigned against the media almost more than he has against Hillary Clinton, making them a special target of his disdain. “See those people out there,” he says at his rallies, pointing to the media in attendance. “They’re the worst! They’re corrupt!” And as a chorus of jeers rises up from the crowd, we can count another victory for our side.
For the very same media that served as a conduit for the war propaganda of the Bush administration is now going after Trump, hammer and tongs, in an unabashed campaign to deny him the presidency. The result is that nearly half the country is now not only skeptical of anything they hear coming from the media, they positively loathe them – and that, from our perspective, is a Good Thing.
Remember, it was the American media that assured us Saddam Hussein was plotting to nuke Washington, D.C., and reported the Bush administration’s talking points as if they were fact. The same newspaper that put Judy Miller’s manufactured “revelations” about Iraq’s alleged nuclear program on the front page is now in the vanguard of the anti-Trump jihad. The Washington Post, which has editorially supported every single military intervention in the past 35 years, today reads like a publication of the Democratic National Committee.
The revelation that the media, rather than being a watchdog of Power, is itself an integral part of the power structure, is one of the great contributions of the Trump campaign. In the past, journalists, hiding behind the pretense of “objectivity,” have effectively channeled the War Party’s propaganda, reporting it as fact: now that this pretense has been dropped, and their brazen partisanship has been exposed, much of their power to persuade has been lost.
The media and the Establishment they serve are telling us that all this will go away after the election. Having already declared Mrs. Clinton the winner, they’re gloating that Trumpism – and the Trump Effect – is dead or dying.
This is wishful thinking on their part. The reality is that there’s an undercurrent coursing through Flyover America that threatens the ideological and political hegemony of the War Party, and, indeed, poses a rising challenge to our arrogant and self-isolated political class. Trump has tapped into this, and he will not be the last to do so. The movement to put “America First,” to reject the blandishments of Empire and restore our Old Republic, far from being dead, is just being born.
Yes, dark clouds are gathering on the horizon: but if you step back, the silver lining shines through.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.