Into the Bosnian Quagmire, Part 2

Editorial note: This is an excerpt from a pamphlet published in 1996, Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans. We republish it now, in successive installments, because the rise of Barack Obama as the putative Democratic presidential candidate augurs the rise of a new liberal internationalism – the very same sort of policy that led us to bomb Belgrade, one of the oldest cities in Europe, and paved the way for the establishment of the gangster state known as Kosovo.

This was deemed a "humanitarian intervention": we were told that the Serbs were "ethnically cleansing" the Kosovars from their own territory, and that tens of thousands had been slaughtered. As is the case with other more recent military actions, it all turned out to be a crock: the tens of thousands dead shrunk to a few thousand, including victims from both sides in what was, after all, a civil war.

Hillary Clinton recently had the nerve to call the Kosovo war an example of "how it should be done." If the near-complete emptying of Serbs from Kosovo and Bosnia, the burning of churches, and the establishment of a radical Muslim enclave in the heart of Europe is a Clintonian "success," then one has to wonder what failure would look like.

It isn’t just Hillary, however, whose penchant for "humanitarian" interventionism poses a potential danger to peace. Barack Obama, too, has shown a weakness for this militaristic form of moral self-indulgence. He is surrounded by advisers of the "liberal internationalist" school, such as Samantha Power, who pines to send U.S. troops to Rwanda and criticized the Clintons for not dispatching troops to the Balkans fast enough.

It was the Kosovo incursion that set the stage for the Iraq invasion, from the rhetoric of "liberation" to the mechanics of "nation-building." Operation Allied Force had all the elements that were later developed to the max in Operation Enduring Freedom – an allied group that provided phony "intelligence," i.e., war propaganda, and had the same hubristic, hectoring style. Militant interventionists, such as John McCain, jumped on board the war bandwagon because they realized that a precedent had to be set in the post-Cold War world, an assertion of American hegemony.

Today, we are all paying the consequences.

– Justin Raimondo

The Neocon Agenda: Re-Igniting the Cold War

While the Left-interventionists fantasize about a World State, the Right-interventionists are more clever, and fully realize that Americans will never peacefully surrender their sovereignty, especially to such an obvious racket as the United Nations. Rather than buck the healthy nationalist sentiments of the American people, i.e., the idea that the United States can and should intervene anywhere and everywhere in the world, under its own banner.

The neoconservative Weekly Standard, edited by William Kristol (son of neocon godfather Irving Kristol), has gone all-out for stepping into the Bosnian quagmire. This is hardly surprising: the neocons, who used to be liberal Democrats and jumped ship when the party deviated from the Cold War interventionism of Truman-Kennedy-Johnson, have never met a military intervention they didn’t like. But this one is particularly dear to the neocons’ hearts because, say the editors of the Weekly Standard, "the entire structure and purpose of post-1945 American foreign relations, our posture of energetic international engagement, is implicated in Bosnia. And with distressingly few exceptions, Republicans, who have worked hardest to maintain that posture these past 20 years, are behaving as if they may no longer care."

The poor baffled editors of the foreign-owned Weekly Standard just don’t get it. They imagine that the frequent use of italics is sufficient to dismiss an idea or trend deemed beyond the pale of Respectable Opinion, and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the domestic political consequences of the end of the Cold War. With the death of Communism, most conservatives heaved a sigh of relief and resolved to focus on solving the problems of economic decline, urban decay, and cultural breakdown that afflict our nation in the nineties.

Not the neocons: these throwbacks to an earlier era, when the war against Communism dominated the strategic thinking of the Right, are nostalgic for the good old days, when they had the Kremlin to point to as the locus of global evil. Bereft of a rationale for global intervention, the neocons have joined the anti-"fascist" popular front and are presently engaged in a contest with the Left-interventionists over who can produce the most bloodcurdling war whoops. Like their militant confreres on the Clintonian left, the neocons attack Clinton for his "timidity": in saying that, although we must intervene in Bosnia, the U.S. "cannot be the world’s policeman." The editors of the Weekly Standard want to know why not. But the neocons’ main fire is directed, as usual, against those on their right flank: against those terrible Republican freshmen and their grassroots conservative supporters who would not consent to or sanction sending American troops into the Balkan morass. In a development that must have scared the sellout Republican leadership half to death, a House resolution that would have cut off all funding came within a few votes of passing. "What’s got into them?" cry the editors in a panic. "If it is public opinion that Republicans fear, they are fearful too quickly."

While the neocons admit that the polls don’t look good for the interventionists, not to worry, because "they almost never do." In other words, while the unwashed masses may oppose this radical effort to export militant multiculturalism as a moral and political ideal, the elites are for it – and, therefore, we shall have it one way or another. Deliberately distorting the results of a CBS poll, they claim that a "plurality [of] respondents says that they at least understand why we might go."

In fact, this was a New York Times/CBS poll that showed only 36 percent supported the Bosnian intervention as "the right thing to do." In a front page story reporting on the poll results, the New York Times informed its readers that "58 percent said the troops should be kept out of the Balkans. It was not that people do not understand the rationale, but that they do not accept it; 51 percent said that Mr. Clinton had explained his reasons well enough that they understood why the troops were going."

Among the neocons’ most obnoxious stylistic conceits, second only to the overuse of italics, is the haughty tone of the inside-the-Beltway power broker who disdains to deal with the conservative hoi polloi. In the neocon view, these right-wing lumpen elements, who do not really represent the majority, are just a bunch of isolated troublemakers:

Widespread, visceral opposition to an American Bosnia mission seems still restricted to what might be called the populist "conservative street." The newsletter Talk Daily reports 85 percent opposition to the Dayton accord among call-in radio listeners, most of whom appear to believe that President Clinton’s Bosnia policy was invented by Democratic campaign consultants.

Sneering at talk radio devotees, and ranting about "pandering to populism’s least sophisticated, most crudely nativist impulses," the neocons reveal how completely out of touch they are with the real conservative movement in this country. "At its current volume," the Standard avers, "such a pandering populist politics is bad for the country."

In the lexicon of the neocons, the word "populist" is used as an epithet; any sort of populism is invariably a "threat" to be combated; the great unwashed masses must be guided by a benevolent and all-knowing elite, i.e., themselves and their allied corporate patrons and philanthropists.

This disdain for "pandering" to the general aversion to overseas adventurism is rooted in the historical attitude of the American foreign policy establishment, and among foreign policy mavens, that the common people do not, cannot, and probably should not know the intricacies of American foreign policy, and are in any case incapable of deciding such complex matters without the learned advice of certified "experts" such as themselves. Christopher Lasch’s remark that the neocons, many of them ex-Communists, retained many of the characteristics that attracted them to Leninist ideology in the first place is reflected in their pronounced distaste for the populist rabble, such as Republican freshmen, radio talk show hosts, and other dangerous fringe elements.

Like the many anti-interventionist Republican critics of Clinton’s mad crusade, the Right-interventionists of the Standard believe that "the president himself knows his time limit must be elastic." If it’s more than a year – perhaps two or three – then so what, the main point is that Republicans must, at all costs, avoid "boxing Clinton in." And "carping at him won’t help." Instead of opposing this latest opportunity to build the New World Order, "Republicans should give [Clinton] cover, loudly announcing that once the troops go in they will not be pushed out by any hostile force – or by any arbitrary deadline that becomes inconvenient."

In what is surely the most grotesque display of bloodthirsty and frankly maniacal war hysteria penned in recent years, the editors write that "the Serbs do not put down their guns because they trust America will treat them fairly. They do so because they know we sympathize with Bosnia, and they trust only that we will kick their skulls in if they break the peace."

That the wimpish Kristol, and his cabal of court intellectuals, secretly dream of kicking in skulls is not exactly surprising. This traveling road show known as the neoconservatives, who were LBJ-Scoop Jackson Democrats only yesterday, have exhibited one consistent leitmotif, one core principle, if it can be called such. While they are apt to change parties and shed formal ideologies at the drop of a hat, the one constant is power lust. The chief outlet for this lust seems to be a fanatical desire to destroy those they perceive as their enemies: not just to defeat them politically, but to ostracize them, and if possible "kick their skulls in" – or, in the case of their domestic American opponents, smear them as "nativists" and anti-Semites.

Horrified by the grassroots noninterventionist movement in the Republican Party, the Standard practically gets down on its knees and begs the Republican Congress to get with the Clintonian program of "peace enforcing," otherwise the consequences could be dire indeed; why, the rising tide of GOP opposition to Clinton’s internationalist folly might even deliver "a body blow against the perceived American commitment to international leadership." In a tone of pained outrage, they declare that "if the United States has no vital interest in leading a coherent, effective NATO, we have no vital interest in anything beyond our shores."

Much of the neocons’ support for the Bosnian adventure is part of an ongoing campaign to turn NATO into a more acceptable example of "multilateralism" than the United Nations; more acceptable, that is, to Republicans. This scheme is not likely to succeed, however, because the neocons, as usual, are way behind the curve: in the post-Cold War world, who needs NATO? The Right-interventionists fret that we will lose our leadership position among our European allies – but what are the benefits of this "leadership"? According to the Europeans, it means that American taxpayers will enjoy the privilege of paying for one third of the Bosnia operation, with Europe and the Islamic countries picking up the rest of the total cost of around $5 billion. Another "benefit" of this leadership position is that Americans get to hear the carping complaints of the French, who claim to be the real authors and initiators of the accord: as usual, they say, the Americans are trying to grab all the credit for themselves. As for the British, their deep-seated contempt for America, as well as their usual smug self-righteousness, is reflected in the comment of the British ambassador to an unnamed European country, quoted in the New York Times: "You’re behaving as if you have toy army that mustn’t be used because some of the soldiers might break."

Over the course of 50 years, in which the United States defended them against the Soviets, the Europeans, and especially the Brits, have acquired a sense of entitlement to the reassuring presence of U.S. troops. It is high time to disabuse them of this curious notion.

That Americans are not eager to sacrifice their sons and daughters in the service of the British Foreign Office is a fact that the Brits have always found annoying, although they have usually managed to get around it. Further chronicling the dissatisfaction of our wonderful allies, the Times continues:

Already the West European allies are dubious about American resolve and reliability in the post-Cold War era. A visitor to France and Britain last month was peppered with questions about neo-isolationism in the United States, and several diplomats and military men suggested that the United States had lost the will to spill the blood of its youth in defense of Europe.

That Americans must spill the blood of their youth, while the Europeans erect trade barriers and dump subsidized exports on the world market, is a foregone conclusion. That Americans would balk, even momentarily, at the prospect of sacrificing their children to a bunch of European ingrates, is disdained as a sign of weakness, even of cowardice. We have, say the Europeans, lost our backbone.

The truth is that, in questioning the Bosnian mission, Americans are finally regaining their backbone.

Bismarck wondered if the entire Balkans was worth "a single Prussian grenadier." In a world without the Soviet Union, NATO is worth far less than the life of a single American soldier. The Alliance was a defensive measure against a Communist military threat that no longer exists: the neocons and their pet Republican politicians are calling for expanding an institution that has outlived its usefulness. In the new, post-Soviet reality, in which economic power has replaced brute force as the decisive factor in international politics, how long can the United States afford to keep pouring its dwindling wealth into archaic boondoggles like NATO, foreign aid, the World Bank, and a host of other U.S.-funded agencies and programs that spread U.S. tax dollars all over the globe?

Arming the Bosnian Muslims: Fueling the Flames of War

The really pernicious aspect of the neocon line is that they have taken up Bob Dole’s cry that the United States must begin to arm and train the Bosnian Muslims. The ostensible rationale is that it will permit the Bosnians to defend their own country, and provide the U.S. with a convenient exit strategy.

Speaking against a resolution offered by Dole supporting Clinton’s "peace mission," Senator Trent Lott rose to wonder if it were practical for the U.S. to pose as a neutral "peacekeeper" in Bosnia while arming one side in a civil war. "I have not been able to get that problem worked out in my mind," he said.

Arming the Bosnian Muslims would have drastic consequences for our troops on the groups, for the Serbs would be faced with the prospect of an enemy who is getting more powerful by the day. Under these conditions, the sooner they broke the cease-fire and went on the attack, the better chance they would have of averting disaster, i.e., decisive military defeat. The Croats will no doubt make the same calculation. If Dole and the Weekly Standard have their way, the shooting will start sooner rather than later – with American troops caught in the crossfire.

Before Dole and his Senate supporters start distributing American weaponry to various Balkan factions, they had better understand who and what they are arming. There are presently thousands of Islamic fundamentalists recruited from all over the world in Bosnia, volunteers who have come to fight for the glory of Allah against the hated infidel. Hundred of Iranian military trainers and intelligence personnel, along with thousands of tons of Iranian military equipment, were sent by the Teheran regime; Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been fighting in Bosnia for years alongside Algerian, Egyptian, and Afghan militants. The Bosnian government has pledged that the Islamic "freedom fighters" will leave, but the problem is no one knows how many are in the county; in addition, just ten days after the signing of the Dayton Accord, Iran opened an enormous new embassy in Sarajevo, and a large number of Iranian agents could be given diplomatic status and allowed to remain.

Shortly after the signing of the Dayton Accord, the fundamentalists were involved in a shootout with Croatian militia, the alleged allies of the Bosnian government; five mujahedin and two Bosnian Croat soldiers were killed. A few days previously, the Bosnian village of Zepce had been rocked by an explosion; Bosnian police investigated and discovered that it was a car bomb that went off at an Islamic fundamentalist encampment in nearby Podbrezje as the mujahedin were trying to rig it.

That bomb could easily have been intended for the Americans not far away in Tuzla – and who is to say that next time it will not hit its intended target?

As this pamphlet goes to press, the discovery of an Iranian-sponsored terrorist base in a former ski chalet 20 miles west of Sarajevo underscores the deadly danger to American troops – not from the Serbs or the Croats, but from the chief beneficiaries of American intervention: the Bosnian Muslim government.

Moving in response to intelligence reports of a threat to NATO military installations in Bosnia the raid by NATO forces uncovered a chilling arsenal of weapons, including sniper rifles, submachine guns, and children’s toys rigged to explode. Of the 11 residents of the terrorist chalet, 3 were Iranian, 6 were Bosnian, the rest unknown.

What should demolish forever the idea that the Muslims are the heroic victims of the Balkan tragedy is the fact that the chalet was a training center for the Bosnian interior ministry, which runs the national police force. It is inconceivable that the Bosnian government had no knowledge of this terrorist training camp, housed in its own interior ministry.

The Bosnian government claims that the training center was in the process of being dismantled. But what kind of a government knowingly harbors a terrorist nest in its midst, where bombs disguised as children’s toys are manufactured? Such a government deserves not one iota of support from the United States – and yet Bill Clinton and Bob Dole have sent American boys and girls to lay their lives on the line for Izetbegovic’s rotten regime.

Norman Podhoretz and the Invention of Neo-Communism

The Bosnian intervention has conjured all sorts of strange inversions and variations: Republicans warn us about the limits of American power, while liberal Democrats decry "appeasement." Perhaps the strangest permutation of all is the spectacle of Norman Podhoretz calling for arming Islamic fundamentalists.

This elder statesman of neoconservatism writes: "To my own surprise – maybe amazement would be a better world – I find myself siding with Bill Clinton on the issue of sending American troops to Bosnia."

To his own surprise – but no one else’s – Norman Podhoretz once again is telling us to send in the Marines. Isn’t that amazing?

Republican opposition to the President’s Balkan adventure amounts to "peevish obstructionism," he scolds. Dole is singled out for praise as "a major exception."

Writing, as usual, in the first person, Podhoretz confesses that "these are words, God knows, I never expected I would write." If this is supposed to be a joke, it is a pretty weak one. Podhoretz has loudly supported – perhaps celebrated might be the right word – every projection of U.S. military power: the Vietnam war, the reconquest of Panama, the Grenada invasion, the Gulf war, all won Norman’s warm endorsement – and we are supposed to be surprised that he approves of Clinton’s meddling in the Balkan quicksands!

Proclaiming himself an advocate of the "Thatcher position," Podhoretz describes this as a policy that would have armed and trained the Bosnian Muslims early on, as well as given them air cover. Faced with the Dayton Accords, however, and the "temptation to turn away in disgust," Podhoretz demonstrates that, for him, no rationalization is too disgusting to be rejected out of hand. Perhaps, he suggests, "these accords are better than they look."

Podhoretz was "also tempted to turn away in disgust from the decision to send 20,000 American soldiers into Bosnia," but he nobly resisted this temptation, too, "reluctantly" coming to "the conclusion that from where we are now the right course is to support Clinton on this issue."

But why are conservatives supposed to rally around a policy that almost-but-not-quite made him sick with loathing? It is typical of Podhoretz and his fellow neocons to manufacture an alibi in advance, so they can weasel out of it if things go sour; they can say they were "reluctant," that the decision to support the President was agonizing, and if only we had listened to Lady Thatcher.

Podhoretz is beside himself with bafflement and fear at the sight of so many conservative Republicans on the other side of the barricades. As chieftain and intellectual spokesperson of Conservatives for the Bosnian Intervention, he speaks for a group that is truly minuscule, and what is more, he knows it: "Obviously, this is not how many (most?) of my fellow conservatives see it." That is putting it mildly. The reality is that the Right is solidly united against Clinton’s phony "peace" accord, and has been dead set against the Bosnian intervention from the very beginning. What particularly perturbs Podhoretz is the sight of "the young conservatives in Congress [who] seem to be almost unanimous in their opposition."

What Podhoretz either cannot admit or fails to comprehend is that the end of the Cold War had to mean a sea-change in conservative politics. Thus he writes that the Bosnian intervention "continues to have a weird effect on political alignments here in America. First the Thatcher position made strange bedfellows of old Cold War hawks like myself and old liberal doves like Anthony Lewis of the New York Times. And now the Dayton accords are becoming the occasion for a wholly unexpected reversal of roles between Democrats and Republicans on the use of American power."

It would have been "weird" if conservative Republicans had not begun to question the existence of a national security state that no longer served the purpose for which it was created. Since that purpose – winning the cold war – has been accomplished, most conservatives came to the conclusion that the main enemy is right here at home: a bloated and tyrannical federal government that has subsumed and usurped the powers granted to the states and the people. They thought they could now fight for the kind of America they really wanted: a vision of America as the Founders intended it.

For Podhoretz, the world is turned upside down. Hawks are turned into doves and vice-versa, and Republicans "are suddenly forgetting the passionate arguments they used to make in favor of presidential primacy and prerogatives in this area." Rather than being turned upside down, the end of the Cold War has turned the world right side up. No wonder Norman Podhoretz has gone into shock. He has no inkling of how or why the Republicans suddenly came to remember that the President is not a King, with the power to make war at will. He is utterly amazed that the Democrats now dogmatically insist on the President’s alleged foreign policy prerogatives. The source of his bafflement is evident in the next sentence: "Yet if those arguments were right when Ronald Reagan was in the White House, they must still be right now that Bill Clinton is there."

For the "old Cold Warrior," as Podhoretz refers to himself, the Cold War never ended. While everyone else is glad to declare victory and go home, Podhoretz and his fellow neocons are busy looking for new enemies to conquer. The Serbs will have to do for the moment, but in fact they are just a temporary stand-in for the preferred enemy, namely, the Russians. Communism may be dead, but Neo-communism is bound to be announced as a Major Threat at any moment. Then the neocons will have achieved their major objective: restarting the Cold War. The entire neocon program is nothing but a provocation aimed at Russian nationalists: extending NATO eastward, arming rebellious and newly-independent Muslims, and stationing an American military force in the center of a traditionally Russian sphere of influence. If ever a policy was designed to foster resentment and stoke an ultra-nationalist reaction, then this it: its main beneficiaries will be Zhirinovsky and the revived Communist Party.

There is nothing "weird" about the political realignment taking place on foreign policy issues: with the end of the Cold War, the Right and the Left are reverting back to their natural positions. It is only natural for Clinton, the apostle of Big Government, to want to apply the social engineering skills of American liberalism to Haiti, Somalia, and now Bosnia, while conservatives play the role of skeptic. The Cold War was an emergency (or so many conservatives were persuaded), during which standards applicable in normal times were suspended in order to deal with the Communist threat. As William F. Buckley, Jr., put it in 1952, due to the "thus far invincible aggressiveness of the Soviet Union," we therefore "have to accept Big Government for the duration." Instead of opposing confiscatory taxation, Buckley wrote that conservatives must accept "the extensive and productive tax laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-Communist foreign policy," including "large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington – even with Truman at the reins of it all."

Of course, Norman Podhoretz was very far from considering himself any kind of conservative back in 1952, when Buckley struck this deal his fellow conservatives. Give up your "isolationism" (i.e., the foreign policy of the Founders), argued Buckley, and unite behind the effort to defeat Communism: when the Kremlin falls, then and only then can we get the tax man off our backs and cut government down to size.

Well, the Kremlin has fallen, the emergency is over, and now conservatives should get back to their original program: less government, lower taxes, and the radical decentralization of power. Right?

Not if the neocons have anything to say about it; and, as we have seen, they have plenty to say. Having jumped on board the GOP and taken to calling themselves conservatives rather late in the game, well after Buckley’s "emergency" argument had prevailed on the Right, the neocons are understandably confused. The problem is that Podhoretz and his fellow ex-Social Democrats misperceived the conservative temperament, confusing militant anti-Communism with an inherent militarism.

That the Welfare State was and is strengthened and made possible by the Warfare State is an insight that many of today’s conservatives are beginning to rediscover. For this was the central insight of their intellectual forebears, the Old Right of Robert A. Taft, John T. Flynn, and the America First Committee. While this heritage is largely unknown to its current heirs in the ranks of Republican House freshman, it is not unknown to their enemies.

The Transformation of the GOP

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Robert Kagan invokes the name of one of the greatest of the noninterventionists, Senator William Borah, the leader of the so-called "Irreconcilables" in the U.S. Senate who would not approve the League of Nations and opposed intervention in foreign wars. Kagan’s article, "Borah! Borah! Borah!", is a clarion call to arms against what he calls "the third great transformation" of the GOP "in this century."

The first transformation "came when Theodore Roosevelt’s muscular internationalism gave way after World War I to a search for ‘normalcy’ under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, and then to isolationism under the congressional leadership of Sen. William Borah."

It is all too understandable why the neocons should abhor Borah. For Senator William E. Borah, Republican of Idaho, was a populist who championed the common man, but was never a leftist. As Wayne S. Cole, the noted scholar of noninterventionism, put it, "he took the progressive side on public issues, but it was little-d democratic progressivism, not paternalistic welfare progressivism." In foreign and military affairs, he had sometimes gone along with Wilson’s massive arms buildup, but under the pressure of events leading up to U.S. entry into World War I, Borah began moving in the opposite direction. As a powerful member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he denounced the Treat of Versailles, opposed the League of Nations, and said "Never!" to the proposed Court of International Justice. His noninterventionist principles were the logical development of his view of domestic politics: Walter Lippman described Borah as "a lineal descendant from the earliest American liberals, an individualist who opposes all concentration of power, political or economic, who is against private privilege and private monopoly, against political bureaucracy and centralized government."

Kagan is quite right to hark back to this era in search of lessons for today. For at about this time, in opposition to Borah and his Senate Irreconcilables, there came into existence the first internationalist organization in American history, with the rather ominous name of the League to Enforce Peace. William Howard Taft, chairman of the League, asserted that "we have got to depart from the traditional policy of this country." This was true not only because "we have to assume certain obligations to the interest of the world" but also because of the looming threat of war. As to whether these "obligations" included getting into a European war, the League did not explicitly say.

Founded on June 17, 1915, at a conference held in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the League was the creature of the internationally-minded Taft Republicans (that is, the party of Eastern Finance Capital): it was not some fringe group of fuzzy-minded radical pacifists, but the corporate Establishment itself that was sponsoring and propagandizing the most wide-ranging scheme of international organization yet devised. The League wanted to set up an international "Council of Conciliation," which would hear all disputes between nations. Force would be used against "outlaw" nations who refused to submit.

Senator Borah, as one of the original fighters against the eastern elite’s dream of a New World Order, should be remembered and honored by the conservatives of the nineties. His enemies are our enemies; his fight is our fight. As a populist lover of liberty, who once said "the concentration of wealth always leads, and always has led to the concentration of political power – monopoly and bureaucracy are twin whelps from the same kennel," Borah is the antipode of the super-elitist neocons.

Kagan is horrified that Republicans are now opting for foreign policy "minimalism," and opines that "the dangers of such an approach, both for the nation and the party, are obvious." The foreign policy of Harding and Coolidge "left the country disastrously ill-prepared to defend even its ‘vital’ interests before World War II."

This arbitrary assertion, backed up with no evidence, is the exact opposite of the truth; in fact, it was the peace and prosperity of "normalcy," of an era of unparalleled prosperity and scientific progress, that made the successful prosecution of World War II possible. A relatively free, uninhibited capitalism, combined with a foreign policy that preserved both the peace and America’s interests, made it possible to build up the mightiest economic engine the world had ever seen.

The era of Borah, aptly known as the Era of Normalcy, was the most productive and untroubled in American history. This period of untrammeled peace and relatively free markets produced such an outpouring of wealth and invention that not even the New Deal could completely destroy what had been achieved.

Kagan, Podhoretz, and Company are opposed to the concept of normalcy in foreign affairs. There is to be no normalcy after the Cold War, no "peace dividend," not ever: just the endless expenditure of American blood and treasure.

As an example of a successful foreign policy, Kagan points to Reagan’s pre-Gorbachev interventionism as a doctrine that reaped Republicans "enormous political rewards." In the short run, perhaps; but in the long run, the nation reaped enormous deficits traceable to the biggest military buildup in history, for which the GOP paid a high political price. As Republicans struggle to find a politically acceptable budget-balancing formula, the legacy of that orgy of spending will continue to haunt the party for many years to come. It is debatable as to whether the U.S. buildup speeded the Soviet Union toward its ultimate collapse, or whether Communism would have imploded anyway out of sheer economic implausibility; but one thing is for certain – today, after a 50-year stint of global "leadership," America is exhausted from the effort. This is true not only in the economic sense, but also spiritually: as the domestic crisis mounts, Americans cannot understand why the attention of their leaders is fixated on the other side of the Atlantic. The elites recognize this, but dismiss overwhelming opposition as a temporary inconvenience. The Weekly Standard ran an article entitled "Don’t Believe the Polls," by pollster Everett Carl Ladd, arguing that the ignorant masses are malleable on Bosnia, as on everything else. Ladd’s advice to Clinton: ignore the people, and listen to the media, academia, and the foreign policy elite; tell Joe Sixpack to pipe down, and instead pay careful attention to Susan Sontag.

Whoever the Standard is directed at, Mr. Sixpack is certainly not among its target audience: written by and for Washington insiders, policy wonks, professional politicians, and the few dozens of neoconservative cadre, this American tentacle of Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch insinuates itself into the corridors of power and wields increasing clout far beyond its relatively small circulation. In this all-Bosnia issue of their magazine, the editors openly address the leadership of the Republican party, proffering advice, scolding them when they don’t measure up – and praising them every time they sell out.

Kagan does his best to mobilize Republican moderates of the Dole variety, and stiffen their backbones with a little martial music. Implicit in the interventionist arguments of such notables as Paul Wolfowitz, Brent Scowcroft, Richard Lugar, and James Schlesinger before Congress, says Kagan, "was a direct refutation of the view, central to foreign-policy minimalists, that only immediately apparent ‘vital’ interests are worth defending." The gathered worthies of the foreign policy establishment, who earnestly testified as to the moral and political necessity of the Bosnian intervention, worried that the failure to jump headfirst into the Balkan bog might well "open the United States to innumerable challenges in Europe and elsewhere and could lead to the creation of a truly ‘terrible world.’"

But Wolfowitz, Scowcroft, et al, might as well have been speaking Etruscan. For the new breed of Republican, moans Kagan, lacks "an understanding of the requirements of power." Not only do they appear to be indifferent to preserving "the present international order," but – if you can imagine! – "many Republicans and conservatives have arrived at a very different view of the world, one that places far less value on Europe and the NATO alliance."

Kagan refers several times to the "Reaganite" foreign policy, and accuses the noninterventionist majority in the GOP of "abandoning the Reagan era successes." But the concrete gains of the Reagan era – the liberation of Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet Empire – cannot be undone. And to define "Reaganite" as reflexive belligerence is not accurate. Reagan aided the contras, armed the Afghans, and denounced the Evil Empire; but he also concluded the INF treaty, ended the arms race with the Soviet Union, and effectively brought the Cold War to a close. If the neocons seriously intend to try to pass off their collaboration with Clinton as obedience to conservative orthodoxy, simply repeating the Gipper’s name like a mantra will not suffice.

The major argument of the few ostensibly Republican supports of Clinton’s folly is that, since the President has cast the die, we are bound to back him in his bet. What really irks Kagan, however, is that anyone should invoke the national interest as the standard by which to judge foreign policy issues; he berates Republicans for failing to see national security issues "as a product of more important, more nebulous factors such as national will and international prestige."

Our "national will" to do what? There is plenty of national will to balance the budget, and cut back the size and scope of the federal government – but none whatever to police Bosnia, or the Golan Heights.

The reason for this is the inherent common sense of the American people, the overwhelming majority of whom are staunch patriots. The elitists deride those who put America first as "isolationists," a smear word that ought to be worn by its recipients as a badge of honor. If this means isolation from the ancient intrigues of Europe and the possibility of war, then most Americans will gladly plead guilty to the charge.

As for our "international prestige," the only question now is, can it be salvaged form the wreckage of a policy that is dead wrong? Yes, but only by admitting that the President of the United States did indeed make a grievous foreign policy error – and a Republican Congress allowed him to get away with it. But it isn’t too late for Congress to take back the initiative, revisit the issue, and cut off the funding. A policy so fundamentally mistaken cannot be rescued or continued by other means. Furthermore, why is it assumed that any change in foreign policy means a loss of credibility? Certainly everyone understands that in the U.S. we have this system called democracy, where decisions of the executive branch can be overruled by the representatives of the people.

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].