The People vs. The Candidates

We’ve won! Forget all this antiwar agitation; forget the propaganda, the demonstrations, and this website. We can disband it all and go home, now, because we’ve won! Just take a look at this poll, released March 2, which shows that Americans, by a whopping majority, oppose the US government’s foreign policy of global intervention. Pollsters asked 1,155 people whether they favored US military intervention in defense of five US allies: Kosovo, Kuwait, Israel, Taiwan, and South Korea. The results are instructive, and heartening – but why aren’t the candidates listening?THE PROVOCATEURS

In the case of the most volatile trouble-spot on that list, where conflict is most likely to break out in the near future, an overwhelming 74 percent answered “No!” when asked: “If attacked by another country, should the US help defend Kosovo militarily, even though it could cost American soldiers their lives?” Yet at this very moment, the US government and some of its European allies are actively engaged in preparations for a new phase of the Kosovo war. For what else are we to make of the sudden appearance of the Eastern Kosovo Liberation Army, formally called the “Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac” – towns inside Serbia proper? The front page of today’s [March 2] New York Times describes these worthies as more or less openly operating right under the noses of their American patrons. “Wearing a mixture of German and American fatigues,” recruits “exercised in a muddy field” in plain sight of the American soldiers in their watchtowers. Ambushing Serbian police and terrorizing local farmers, these thugs who are doubtless provided with more than just uniforms by the US and Germany, are pretext protection, a kind of insurance policy against being blamed for any renewal of hostilities. As one UN official put it, the leadership of this new “liberation army” is “hoping that the Serbs will retaliate with excessive force against civilian populations and create a wave of outrage and pressure on KFOR to respond” – a wave of outrage provoked by US covert operations and amplified by the jingoist media.


Written by Steven Erlanger, whose dispatches from inside Kosovo were beams of light in the fog of war, the article details a wave of terror unleashed by these mysterious guerrillas against the Serbian population, including moderate Albanian politicians. What are the Americans doing in the midst of all of this? The German commander of the “peacekeepers,” General Klaus Reinhardt, claims that “he had pushed the Americans hard to seal the boundary between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia.” But the American commander at Camp Bondesteel, on the Serbian border, begs to differ: “I don’t believe we can ever fully seal the border between Serbia and Kosovo,” says General Ricardo Sanchez, but don’t worry, because “we have sent out a clear message that any cross-border insurgency will not be tolerated or supported.”


Yeah, they’re getting the message all right: lay low, for now. But not too low. Erlanger reports that the rebels are training “within sight of the American watchtowers:” he cites one Vahid Sylejman, a 39-year-old Albanian villager, who “said he was sure the Americans would come to their rescue” in the event of an armed confrontation between the rebels and the Serbs. ‘Why else are they there?’ he asked, pointing to the tanks on the ridge.” Why else indeed. “We have a kind of protection from the Americans,” added Vahid, and who can contradict this bit of simple peasant wisdom? The three-mile “demilitarized zone” that defines the Kosovo-Serbian border has become a haven for the latest “liberation army” to carry out attacks on Serbian territory. The pretense that these “rebels” are a force independent of the KLA and the NATO-crats is thin to the point of being threadbare. When they fired on a vehicle belonging to the UN high commissioner for refugees, whose driver made the mistake of not stopping at their checkpoint, Erlanger informs us that the rebels brought the wounded UN worker and his Serbian interpreter “to the Americans near the watchtower for medical help” – in effect, reporting back to headquarters.


It seems clear from the facts on the ground that the US government is engaged in yet another strikingly overt covert operation; what we are seeing in operation is the much-vaunted plan to subvert and overthrow the Milosevic regime announced by Clinton shortly after declaring “victory” in the Kosovo war. Who cares if three quarters of the American people oppose this scheme to drag us into the Balkan quagmire? Our rulers have full confidence in the power of the media to change public opinion, or at least get those numbers down. Day after endless day of countless refugees recounting tales of horror, vivid pictures accompanied by stern presidential exhortations, the blaring of editorials and the pontificating pundits, taken together all this should be enough to turn it around – or so they hope. And besides, even if the people are against it, what can they do about it? With all the major presidential candidates committed internationalists, and the punditocracy braying in unison, the pro-war elites think they can pull it off.


After all, Americans have always been “isolationist,” i.e. relatively uninfected by the European taste for empire. We had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into two world wars, and today the interventionists clearly have their work cut out for them. It isn’t just Kosovo, or the idea of “humanitarian” intervention floated by the Clintonian wing of the War Party, not is it just the fear of getting roped into the clan feuds of a region whose name is a synonym for fragmentation and conflict. Questioning their willingness to go to war for the defense of Taiwan, South Korea, and Israel – whose status in the eyes of the empire-builders is that of major protectorates – respondents in the Newsmax/Zogby poll record a rather emphatic “No!” It is not worth American casualties to defend Taiwan (69%), Kuwait (74%), South Korea (72%), or Israel (59%): this is what the American people believe. But what do the “major” presidential candidates believe?


Naturally Al Gore supports the foreign policy of Bill Clinton, arguably the most warlike President of the postwar era, and Bill Bradley has been far s too busy declaiming against “white skin privilege” in America to notice how it operates abroad. As for the Republican candidates, since the Buchanan bolt there has been only Alan Keyes to carry on the anti-globalist fight, but he is lost in the shadow of McCain and Bush, two internationalist peas in a pod whose views could not be more similar. Bush is surrounded by such rabidly interventionist foreign policy strategists as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, as I have pointed out before, and McCain, who has dangerously little interest in domestic policy aside from “campaign reform,” styles himself a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt and practically foams at the mouth when he talks about “rogue state rollback.” Is this the same party that opposed the Kosovo war on the floor of Congress, and was given a badge of honor – considering the source – when Clinton accused them of being “isolationists”?


Early on in the primary season, Dan Balz of the Washington Post and Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times had a fascinating discussion on the Lehrer News Hour about the impact of the foreign policy issue in this year’s Republican race, and in view of what has happened since it is worth recalling. Using the degree of support for the Kosovo war as his measure, Balz posited “a clear division between what you would call the internationalist wing of the party and the isolationist wing of the party. And, on the internationalist side, what McCain has had to say puts [him] clearly in that camp. George W. Bush is in that arena, as is Elizabeth Dole. Pat Buchanan is clearly the leader of the isolationist wing.” To which Brownstein added:

“You know, there is a point of view, a pretty widespread point of view in the Republican Party that there are almost parallel primaries going on – a primary of the center and a primary of the right, where each side – each wing is trying to produce a champion that will meet sort of like the NCAA playoffs in the ultimate final. And this [war] is almost a litmus test, this really has become a litmus test within those individual primaries. Every one of the major conservative candidates, except for Steve Forbes has opposed the bombing. And every one of them, without fail, opposes ground troops. On the other side, almost all of the centrist candidates have supported the bombing and the three leaders – McCain, Dole, and Bush – are talking about ground troops. So you really have two separate competitions going on in the Republican Party right now on this.”


But it didn’t quite work out that way. Indeed, there were two separate competitions: they only problem is that the conservative “isolationist” primary was short-lived, while the interventionists are still a loggerheads over issues having nothing to do with foreign policy. According to Balz, the major critique of Bush by some Republicans on the Kosovo issue was “he was not that clear about ground troops in the first couple of days” since he was first asked the question, whereas McCain was “bold and decisive.” As Brownstein put it, the issue of introducing American ground troops into Kosovo during the war

” became another in a list of issues in which [Bush] seemed to be stumbling a little bit, raising some questions really, the big question, is he ready for prime time? So, it was more on that line than on the specifics of what he was saying, that this raised a problem. As Dan said, he has moved very much toward the McCain position of, if we are in this, we have to win.”


So you’re not really “ready for prime time” unless and until you’ve earned your stripes and proven to the elites, in government and the media (or do I repeat myself?), that you’re quicker on the draw than the other guy, and just as reliable. That is how presidential politics is played in this country, which is how it is possible for our government to pursue a foreign policy opposed by a full three quarters of the American people. Through their control of the two major parties, and their lock on the media, the War Party is able to block all discussion of foreign policy during a presidential election- in spite of the fact that this is the truly presidential realm, the one policy area in which the chief executive of the US can direct virtually single-handedly.


And so the question is reduced to one of temperament, style, and – in Bush’s case – knowledge. There is some value in having a President who can’t pinpoint Chechnya on a map, but the danger here is that he will have advisors who not only know where it is but will also have calculated its net worth, as is the case with Dubya. As for McCain, he is being flamed as “McKLA” – not to mention McNutty and McClinton – by the habitues of, the premier conservative interactive site, a nickname that neatly sums up the dangerous and even wacky tilt of his foreign policy views. Here is a man whose darkest impulses – visible lately even to his idolaters – could be played out on a global scale. I shudder to think about it.


This fall, the only voice raised against the bipartisan internationalist consensus will be that of Pat Buchanan, whose departure from the GOP led to the collapse of its isolationist wing, as none of the others had anything close to a consistent position on this key question. Forbes, the candidate of a few profoundly misguided “libertarians,” supported the Kosovo war and hailed NATO’s expansion as far as the Ukraine. Bauer played the China card, and got nowhere fast – although a candidate who looks like a huge embryo is probably not the best messenger for such a wildly unpopular stance (see polls above). I have previously discussed Alan Keyes’ principled opposition to the Kosovo war: given what I know of his foreign policy positions, and what seems to be an implacable integrity, one wonders if he will bring himself to support either Bush or McCain – a question no doubt increasingly on the minds of his supporters.


Today the McCainiacs are carpet-bombing the Bush camp with charges of “extremism” – tomorrow they’ll target the Serbs, the Iraqis, and perhaps the Russians and the North Koreans, first demonizing them and then setting them up for destruction. The Bushies are conducting anti-Masonic agitation in league with Pat Robertson, we are told, and the Iraqis are assembling “weapons of mass destruction” – two key points made in Thursday’s California debate – and so it’s bombs away! As Bush cowers and cringes his way through this primary, and Keyes never brings up the foreign policy issue without being directly asked, this vital question is rarely if ever debated. That is how the War Party has seized control of the government in spite of the people’s yearning for peace. By controlling the electoral and opinion-making process, and manipulating the procedures that ensure their hegemony, the warmongers have a lock on the war-making mechanism of the mightiest empire in history.


And so, no, it isn’t quite time to declare victory, in spite of the Newsmax/Zogby poll. Far from abandoning our task, now is the time to take it up with even more alacrity. The people are with us, and that is cause for optimism – and renewed dedication. It means that is more essential than even we thought. The War Party inhabits the seats of power, in private as well as public life. Our goal is to not only inform but also to activate the great American anti-interventionist majority, and prepare the insurgency.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].