The sharp and frankly astonished reaction to my embrace of President Trump’s “America First” foreign policy did not surprise me. I have to admit, however, that the anger that accompanied it made me take a step or two back. The passion with which the hand-wringing NeverTrumpers denounced me as a traitor had behind it a special force, the moral certainty of morons. Trump, they declared with the confidence of one who is merely stating an axiom beyond dispute, will most certainly start World War III! But you can really be too harsh on them. After all, who could have known that, once in office, he would withdraw from the major theaters of the Bush era and do his best to retract the horns of the American bull after rampaging throughout much of the world?
Who, that is, besides myself?
Okay, so I was right about Trump in taking his America First rhetoric seriously and my libertarian and peacenik critics were wrong. Yet even to this day we see no acknowledgment from these geniuses of just how wrong they were, no evidence that they are close to understanding why and how they missed it. After all, their characterization of Trump as a warmongering ogre turned out to be the complete opposite of the reality. As Trump dismantles the Cold War architecture that empowers and justifies the national security state, as I predicted he would, one has to wonder: what is preventing otherwise reasonable people from seeing what is plainly unfolding in the era of Trump – a new age of peace and prosperity?
A good part of the answer is fear of incumbency. These people define themselves by their oppositional stance. Politics for them is not the striving to implement an ideological agenda but a means of self-expression.
“Are you tired of winning yet?” Trump asks his audiences as they roar their approval – a question that our permanent oppositionists cannot even understand let alone answer. Because the thought of winning never even occurs to them: it’s irrelevant to their conception of politics. It’s so much easier to sit back and point out the inconsistencies than to defend the gains that have been won. Of course it is necessary to criticize the administration and harshly when it comes to issues like the war in Yemen, the Venezuela nonsense, etc. However, to criticize the Trump administration without acknowledging those gains is treachery, plain as day, on the part of our professional peaceniks.
As riven with factions and characters of dubious reputation as it is, the Trump administration is the good guys: at least, this White House, this President, is our champion. And his enemies are our traditional enemies – the neoconservatives, who have now returned to the national scene as the leaders of the anti-Trump “Resistance.” Behind the backs of the American people, the national security bureaucracy, the managers and guardians of the American empire, seek to oust this President because his presidency threatens their very existence.
Despite these energetic efforts, the President has managed to carry out at least part of his foreign policy agenda. The ending of the Afghan war is emblematic of what he wants to do, which is to completely remake the core assumptions of US foreign policy and establish a new standard of value and measure of success.
Instead of acting as the guardian of a by now imaginary “liberal world order,” and pretending we can police the wilds of Central Asia and the intrigues of the Balkans, this President is putting American interests first. (Of course this means determining what are those interests, a task that can hardly be entrusted to the national security Establishment that has been carrying out a militantly internationalist policy since the dawn of the Cold War era.)
I wrote above that the Trump era is going to be a time of peace and prosperity, a “new age,” a phrase I deliberately employed for its teleological tone. Because this has little if anything to do with Trump, but is due to objective factors such as advancing technology and the cultural changes that flow from increases in wealth (and, on the other hand, the frantic efforts of the losers in this new economy to regain some footage in the wake of radical deindustrialization and ongoing social decay.) The failing security structures of the Cold War would’ve failed anyway: Trump is merely accelerating the process.
Of course nothing is inevitable: it could be that the President is so lacking in understanding the historical forces that propelled him into the White House that he drags his presidency into ruination by, say, going to war with Iran. The influential Israel lobby has a lot of clout in this administration and it will be interesting to see if this formidable enemy of peace can be held off and even defeated in a battle for the President’s mind.
This is the main danger to the peace and prosperity of the country and preventing it means an all-out fight against the Israel lobby, which is strenuously campaigning for war.
This danger, as real as it is, is often exaggerated by some noninterventionists: the Trump administration, we are told, has sold out to the neocons and John Bolton is directing our foreign policy. They say this with a straight face, even as Trump launches peace initiatives from the Korean Peninsula to the blood-soaked mountains and valleys of Afghanistan.
Worse yet, these well-meaning but misguided critics of US policy tend to defend the Iranian regime itself. When Trump offered to start talks with Tehran, the mullahs derided the offer – and this was noted with approval by our sectarian peanut gallery. This ought to have set off alarm bells: no sincere advocate of peace favors not talking. The incident was quite telling. Peace? Who cares?! The point is to get Trump!
I also note that the Iranian lobby – yes, it exists, and has more influence in big time corporate circles than you might imagine – is careful to ignore the horrific actions of Tehran’s governing theocracy. In Iran, they routinely hang gays. Yet this is never mentioned by Iran’s many defenders, who confuse opposing US intervention with acting as a de facto apologist for the regime. For the same reasons, Western leftists refuse to criticize tinpot tyrants like Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista government even as they shoot people down in the streets – because that would amount to collaboration with US plans for “regime change.”
It’s an inexcusably ignorant and profoundly immoral approach to take. It means that we see the world through the prism of a self-created blindness. Thus disabled, we become caricatures who cannot be trusted or taken seriously.
Over the years I’ve tried to avoid sloganeering and I’ve cultivated a self-critical and reflective attitude, not following any party line. I’ve tried, in short, to be honest – to tell the truth no matter if it hurts my “side.”
I hope I’ve succeeded, at least to some extent: I believe that I have, but I think my readers will have to be the ultimate judges of that.
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.