Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo
This morning's [March 27] New York Times has yet another story about the developing split within the Bush administration over foreign policy, with the partisans of Donald Rumsfeld, unreconstructed cold warrior, versus Colin Powell's (relatively) noninterventionist State Department. As is usual with the arbiter of the conventional wisdom, the Times defined the two camps in terms of "ideological conservatives" versus "moderates," with the former allied with Rumsfeld and the latter partial to Powell. But in the post-cold war world, these categories make no sense at all: with the Soviet Union a fading nightmare, and America's status as the last superpower left standing, the cold war paradigm simply does not apply. There is nothing inherently "conservative" in a policy of perpetual war for perpetual peace: indeed, it seems like the sort of wild-eyed radicalism that energized the Napoleonic foreign policy of the French Revolution the very antithesis of conservatism and hardly a force for stability and the preservation of traditional values. But the Times has a natural predilection for mischaracterizing conservatives, for reasons too obvious to state, and, in any case, the right is very divided on foreign policy. Some, like Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, his neoconservative Svengali, seek to impose an American hegemony on the world, or most of it, and take great pride in a stubborn unilaterialism even if it means a probable failure to reach their ostensible objectives (containing Saddam Hussein, avoiding all-out war in the Balkans, reducing the threat of a nuclear war, etc.). These ideologues are usually tagged with the term "neoconservative" as if to acknowledge, at least on some level, that this dogma of radical interventionism represents a revision I would contend a complete reversal of the original. But, as much as they would like to believe it, the neocons are not the whole show.
Others on the right have dissented from this would-be orthodoxy. The collapse of communism, the end of the cold war, and the troubling rise of threatening trends on the home front have all soured grassroots conservatives on the alleged necessity for the US to intervene on a global scale. Pat Buchanan's critique of Western hubris has garnered considerable support on the right, even if his recent race for the White House did not, as conservatives wake up to the startling and darkly disturbing insight that the enemy is not in any foreign capital, but right here at home. These rightists, faced with the choice of bombing either Baghdad or Washington D.C., would more than likely choose the latter. Llewellyn H. Rockwell, the president of the Mises Institute; Donald J. Devine and David Keene, of the American Conservative Union; and of course the indefatiguable scholars over at the Cato Institute, that bastion of libertarianism in the Beltway all have proffered important critiques of the cold warrior-neoconservative stance, and their views more faithfully reflect the opinions of grassroots activists than the Beltway conservative 'generals' intent on re-fighting the cold war.
The Kosovo war was a watershed for many grassroots conservatives: for the first time they began to see the actions of their government as not merely mistaken, but evil. They also began to see, with a new clarity, the domestic uses of our interventionist foreign policy, as Clinton bombed an aspirin factory in the Sudan to get Monica off the front pages. This revulsion at the policies of the most interventionist President since Teddy Roosevelt began to translate, after a while, into a broad criticism of interventionism in general. As Devine and Keene put it in their trenchant critique of Robert Kagan, a top neoconservative foreign policy theorist::
"It is significant, however, that the Kagan areas of concern are mostly the same ones identified by Bill Clinton as important. For, although he disagrees with the President's handling of foreign policy, Mr. Kagan tends to accept Clinton's priorities rather than those of the GOP's presidential nominee and the majority of Republicans in Congress. In fact, Kagan and Clinton both call them 'isolationists.' His advice to Bush was to separate himself from his fellow Republicans by adopting an even more interventionist and internationalist stance than Clinton or Gore. What Kagan seeks is a Republican president who would be even more willing than Clinton or Gore to use U.S. power to enforce a de facto American hegemony and a set of internationalist or universal values. Mr. Kagan and his associate Bill Kristol, in fact, specifically endorse what they call a 'benevolent American hegemony' to police the world. Apparently, they have not found their man with George Bush."
But this vigorous dissent is, naturally enough, ignored by the Times, which is not attuned to the subtleties of conservative thought. In any case, we are informed that the interventionist conservatives are gearing up for a battle royale with the Powelllians:
"Although the administration is still in its relatively early days, there is evidence that the disputes are unlikely to be kept quiet, in part because of the strong ideological undercurrents. Word has gone out to conservative writers and think tanks from administration hard-liners to 'keep up the pressure,' a think tank policy analyst said."
As the Neocon High Command over at the War Party revs up the motors of its propaganda machine, painting Russia, China, Serbia, and the Arab world indeed, much of the rest of the entire world as our implacable enemies, allow me to rev up my own motors on behalf of the conservative silent majority, which is more concerned with the evil emanating out of Hollywood than with any baleful influences flowing in from abroad. If the warmongers, and various shills for the armaments industry, are going to ratchet up the pressure on this yet-unformed administration, then grassroots conservatives (most of whom supported George W. Bush), need to do some lobbying too. As the neocons build their grandiose architectures of global entanglement, and redraw the map of the world to implement their idea of "benevolence" a conceit that seems utterly sinister it is time for us "isolationists" (i.e. proponents of the traditional American foreign policy of trade with all, entanglements with none) to proffer our own platform, and to "keep up the pressure" on the Bush administration, which, after all, promised us a foreign policy based on "humility." Of course, in the case of traditionalist conservatives, there are no grand architectures to construct, no overarching theories to rationalize the perpetual expenditure of troops and treasure: only a blueprint for undoing all the harm that has been done by the reckless misuse of American power, and returning to the real source of our problems: the political and cultural morass that threatens to defeat us on the home front. Herewith, a platform for conservative noninterventionists who hope to influence the direction of a seemingly directionless administration, broken down by region:
Europe The idea that our great enemy on this front is Russia is a shibboleth that should have imploded when the Berlin Wall fell. Yet we are treating the Russians as if nothing had changed since the days of Leonid Brezhnev. NATO expansion is a provocation and one not justified by post-cold war events. Indeed, now that the threat of expansionist Communism has passed into history, the pacts and security infrastructure built up over the past fifty years have become largely obsolescent. Not only that, but they have become a burden on the overextended and overtaxed US, and threaten to unsettle our relations with the Europeans, increasingly intent on building their own regional security arrangements. Indeed, by insisting on American hegemony in Europe, we create a reaction that leads to the exact opposite of its intended result: the consolidation of an anti-American nexus on the European continent, and the rise of the European Union as a challenge to the American "hyperpower."
The Balkans Get US out! The Kosovo war was easily the single most heinous of Bill Clinton's many criminal acts and that is saying a lot. We attacked a sovereign nation that had never attacked us, in the name of a cause that turned out to have been a fraud. The Albanians, far from being the victims of the Balkan tragedy, have all along been the victimizers, as dramatically demonstrated by their rampage through Macedonia and their now open crusade to establish a "Greater Albania." In prosecuting his war against the former Yugoslavia, Bill Clinton unleashed a force of almost demonic malevolence in the Balkans. As in medicine, so in foreign policy: the first principle must be "do no harm." The harm done by the Clintonistas in the Balkans is almost incalculable. The thousands killed by NATO warplanes will not be resurrected, and the KLA genie cannot be put back in the bottle. In making good on his pledge presaged and subsequently echoed by national security advisor Condolezza Rice to get us out of the Balkans, and let the Europeans deal with it, the President must make an effort to undo the harm that has been done. This means arresting the KLA leaders responsible for the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, as well as the vicious and unprovoked attack on Macedonia, locking them up, and throwing away the key or giving it to the Yugoslavs (still, according to us, the legal authority in Kosovo) to throw it away. It means forcibly disbanding the KLA camps, whose recruits are equipped, trained, housed, and fed at US taxpayers' expense, and cutting off all future aid. Withdrawal not only from Kosovo, but also from Bosnia, and Macedonia where US troops are inviting targets for Albanian or Islamic fundamentalist terrorists must be the first phase of a general withdrawal of US troops from the European continent. We are neither needed, nor are we wanted except by those financial and corporate interests that thrive on government contracts and profit from the arms buildup mandated by NATO expansion.
The European Union The hysteria generated by Russian spy scares has diverted the attention of policymakers from the one real threat to US interests in Europe: the rise of the European Union (EU). While the Marxist-Leninist project failed in the former Soviet Union, the cause of international socialism is not completely lost as European leftists raise the banner of a United Socialist States of Europe to challenge the American hegemon. This resentment of America, to be found on the European right as well as the left, is a direct consequence of our insistence on preserving the fiction of US domination of Europe a conceit that could ironically backfire in the creation of a credible and potentially dangerous superpower rival. The EU is a danger not only militarily, but also economically: the consolidation of a continental trade bloc on the other side of the Atlantic represents more of a mortal threat to our interests than all the nuclear weapons in Russia's arsenal.
The Sovereignty of Small Nations President Vojislav Kostunica of the former Yugoslavia admonished the small nations of Europe that they are far too willing to surrender their sovereignty to "supra-national" organizations, whether it be NATO, the EU, the OSCE, or some future European super-state, and he raised the banner of Europe's mini-states as a necessary and beneficial aspect of a continental civilization. US policy should encourage this trend toward European decentralism, recognizing that the present borders of Europe have been defined by centuries of warfare and injustice, and are therefore mutable. Why shouldn't the Basques have their own country and who are we to take a position against it? The central government in Rome has long oppressed the historically independent Italian city-states, and if the northern Italians want to set up what they call "Padania" again, who are we to say they can't? We supposedly fought a war to "protect" the Albanian Kosovars against the alleged oppression imposed by Belgrade and yet, to this day, we insist that Kosovo must continue (at least formally) to be considered a Yugoslavian province (while actually it is an American protectorate). Switzerland, the most peaceful and prosperous of European nations, has consistently maintained its policy of nonintervention and aloofness from supranational entanglements, jealously guarding its sovereignty and integrity as assets not to be squandered. This is our idea of a nation with the ideal foreign policy: it makes for a good trading partner, and a good friend. If only the US were one giant Switzerland, where peace and prosperity reigned supreme, the world would be a lot better off.
Asia Here is the one area where the legacy of the Clinton years is ambiguous. Clinton declared that China was our "strategic partner," and his administration never escaped the taint of having accepted large bribes from Chinese officials and their business cohorts, who were then able to influence US policy. On the other hand, the Clinton administration generally followed the parameters of our internationalist foreign policy as set in stone for the past half century. The "forward stance" of the US in Asia has been a given in our foreign policy calculations for as long as the cold war lasted. The troops sent to occupy Japan stayed to guard their conquest from the encroachments of Russia. But unlike the European aspect of our globalist policy, the Eastasian infrastructure of the cold war has remained not only intact but also largely unchallenged. The same conservatives who decried the Kosovo war have a tendency to apply a different standard where Eastasia is concerned. But here, too, our policy must undergo a radical transformation in view of the cold war's end.China US policy toward the world's most populous nation is alternately expressed in terms of fear, or fawning: we are either kowtowing to Beijing, or demonizing them. Both mindsets prevent us from seeing the truth, and therefore determining and defending our legitimate interests in the region. The main problem with America's policy is that it is completely a-historical, and fails to take into account the legitimate grievances of Chinese nationalism. Such sentiments are invariably labeled "xenophobia," and depicted in threatening terms, as if a Chinese campaign against "foreign devils" might blossom into a holy war against the West.A History of 'Foreign Devils' Such a war, however, can only come about if we ignore the modern history of China as a nation beset by foreign invaders, interlopers whose behavior might justly be described as devilish. The British maintained the opium trade in China, and fattened their coffers at the expense of the suffering of the Chinese people. Western intervention, again and again, sought to thwart the will of native Chinese, who resented and fought against the "humanitarian" interventionists of yesteryear. The British, and others, sought to "take up the white man's burden" and "civilize" a civilization that predated Europe's.Taiwan: Staying Out of It US intervention in Chinese affairs can only have the opposite of its intended effect: we have no more right to decide whether Taiwan is or is not a province of China than we have to decide whether Kosovo is properly a part of Yugoslavia. The only way to defuse China-Taiwan relations is to stay well out of what both sides aver is strictly an internal matter.China and the Boomerang Effect While China does not yet pose a military threat to the US, or its just interests in the region, if it becomes so it will be in large part thanks to US policy, which seems designed to strengthen the hand of a regime that would otherwise be weakening. It is in the interests of the Chinese Communist regime to maintain a certain level of tension with the US and other "foreign devils." Having given up the moribund Marxist-Leninism of Mao's day in favor of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" (i.e. authoritarian nationalism), China's rulers play the nationalist card to keep domestic dissenters from gaining widespread support. Every time we ratchet up the rhetoric against China, as secretary Rumsfeld recently did by naming China as our "number one enemy," it is music to the regime's ears because it legitimizes them in the eyes of their subjects. For if the US is declaring that China is their foremost enemy, then the Americans must be jealous of China's rise into the pantheon of great powers, resentful of all things Chinese, and implacably committed to the destruction of the Chinese people and, naturally, only the Chinese Communist Party can protect the people from such an ignominious fate. At a time when the failure of Marxism, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, presages a similar fate for the gerontocrats who rule the roost in Beijing, American intervention and the threat of it is the last shred of the regime's legitimacy. Stripped of this, the central government in Beijing buffeted by global market forces, and faced with the lack of a unifying enemy would quickly lose authority, and the breakup of the old Chinese empire would proceed on schedule, mirroring a process already well-advanced in its Russian neighbor. Our Sinophobic policy, then, has a boomerang effect, strengthening rather than discrediting an already fragile regime.
Japan Why does the military occupation of Japan continue some 60 years after the end of World War II? The US presence in Japan is a monument to the natural immortality of the old infrastructure: once put in place, in tends to remain long past the time when it serves any rational purpose. The US occupation was originally intended to prevent the return of Japanese militarism: yet, Japan, today, represents a threat to no one. During the cold war, the rationale for the occupation changed somewhat: US troops were supposed to be protecting Japan from the Soviet threat. That threat no longer exists. What, then, is the new rationale? US (and Japanese) policymakers have yet to come up with one. US bases in Japan are constant sources of friction between the Japanese people and the US government, with frequent incidents of an intolerable nature a series of events that, if they occurred on American soil, would provoke a justifiably white-hot outrage. Japan is more than capable of defending itself: that is, if it is allowed to. In the case of Japan, more than any other example of our outmoded and outrageously expensive foreign policy, it is time to bring our troops home.
The Two Koreas A close runner-up to Japan as the clearest case for US withdrawal is the Korean peninsula, where both sides of the divide have recently begun serious negotiations aimed at reunification. With the North Koreans on the verge of collapse, and the South Koreans eager to promote the success of their "Sunshine" policy of opening up the North, the idea that the US must interpose its will to stop the process is arrogance at its most overweening. Yet that is precisely what the Bush administration has proceeded to do, with prodding from defense secretary Rumsfeld and the neoconservative faction of the administration. Without its cold war allies, North Korean communism will wither on the vine, and naturally seek to avert a human catastrophe massive starvation and the breakdown of North Korean society by merging with the democratic South. What both Koreas are inching toward is a relatively painless reunification. The alternative would be for North Korea to align itself ever more closely with Beijing, give up Kim Il Sung's old doctrine of juche (self-reliance) and become a virtual satrap of China. President Bush recently called for the withdrawal of North Korean troops away from the border a matter traditionally handled by the South Korean government. North Korea is now threatening to cancel all negotiations, and to restart its rocket testing program. The presence of US troops on South Korean soil is widely resented in Korea: they didn't call it the "Hermit Kingdom" for nothing. While this sort of "xenophobia" may be politically incorrect in Washington. DC, it is a fact on the ground in the two Koreas, and the sooner we realize it the faster we will allow the reunification process to go forward.
Editor's Note: Part II of this "Platform," dealing with the Middle East and other regions of the world, will appear in Friday's column.
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