By Keith Preston
Virtually all political factions will be offended by this post.
Walter Russell Meade pointed out four major traditions in US foreign policy: 1. Hamiltonian realist imperialists (Rockefeller types) 2. Wilsonian global interventionists (most Democrats) 3. Jacksonian xenophobic nationalists (like Trump) 4. Jeffersonian non-interventionists (like Ron Paul).
The Hamiltonians include the traditional Republican establishment. They’re aggressive, ruthless imperialists, but they’re not insane and understand objective reality. Nixon, Kissinger, Bush Sr., and Mitt Romney are examples. The Wilsonians have dominated the Dems since WW1. They’re imperialists with a messianic, quasi-religious dimension given to utopian impulses that often makes them more aggressive than the realists. The Jacksonians tend to be cultural reactionaries and usually racists, whose xenophobia leads them to fear the supposed contaminating influence of the outside world. Ironically, this renders them less aggressive in many but not all, instances. The Jeffersonians favor trade and cultural engagement with other nations but generally oppose military intervention. Not surprisingly, they are the least influential of the four traditions. There is no loot in peace.
The neocons mix the worst elements of Hamiltonian ruthlessness, Wilsonian utopian crusading, and Jacksonian xenophobia with weird ideas imported from the French Revolution, Trotskyism, radical Zionism, Weimar intellectual culture, etc., which makes them particularly dangerous. The neocons are increasingly becoming fused with totalitarian humanism, which includes secularized Protestant pietist elements rooted in traditional American culture combined with Maoist influences imported from China during the Cultural Revolution. These are the folks running US foreign policy today, and who have their hands on America’s nuclear arsenal. This piece on the neocons by Larry Gambone was written in 2003 during the Iraq War. Still, it is possibly even more relevant now than it was then, particularly the distinction Gambone makes between neocons, realists, and paleocons. Read it here.
The neocons are more powerful now than they were then, and nowadays, the neocons have coopted most of the liberal and left sides of the spectrum as well. Larry’s discussion of the populist right is also critical, given that the populist right is much more prominent and influential than it was 20 years ago. However, Larry’s optimistic view of the Left hasn’t panned out. The Left has since entirely gone down the sewer. Larry once described the neocons as an American version of the Khmer Rouge. That’s not too far off. As Bill Lind reports, the neocons are now discussing the potential winnability of a nuclear war, even at the cost of losing US cities (see here).
The Cold War is back, only this time around, the geopolitical alignments are multipolar rather than bipolar. During the Cold War, there was a block of nations in the Global South that tried to remain non-aligned (hence, the Non-Aligned Movement), but most of these ended up siding with the East because Russia and China never had as long a colonial reach as the European colonial empires. And, nowadays, there are a lot of new players on the field. Over the past decade or so, new geopolitical currents have gradually emerged:
1. Russian revanchism 2. Chinese expansionism 3. Turkish neo-Ottomanism 4. India’s economic rise 5. Southeast Asian development 6. Latin America’s “Pink Tide.” 7. The Saudi split with the West over Ukraine. 8. Iran’s resistance axis 9. A rift between Israel and diaspora Zionism. 10. The Salafi insurgency.
We are in an era of renewed nuclear tensions similar to the height of the Cold War. Reducing nuclear tensions is the overriding priority right now.
I am skeptical of the efficacy of voting. Policies are based on the dominant consensus of the dominant factions of the ruling class. However, for those who believe in voting, I would suggest examining where any federal candidate stands on geopolitical issues: Russia, China, Iran, DPRK, the Middle East, Latin America, etc. We need a new foreign policy alliance of realists, populists, palecons, and libertarians from the right and pacifists and genuine anti-imperialists from the left. Find out what a candidate’s positions and affiliations on foreign policy are. More Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Ilham Omars are tactically needed for strategic purposes in Congress. The shield against the neocons they provide amounts to a wet paper towel. But the rhetorical value of more anti-neocons in the political class might be worth something.
A narrative needs to develop in the public discourse that counters the Russophobia, Sinophoba, and Iranophobia spun by neocon and neoliberal media outlets. The liberal class and progressive left have fallen on the job, as evidenced by the Squad’s hasty retreat. The neocons still want a regime change war in Iran which would be the Iraq War tenfold. Even worse is the saber-rattling with nuclear-armed powers like Russia, China, and the DPRK. The neoliberals/neocons astoundingly rejected Trump’s peace talks with the DPRK. The entire ruling class is united in a proxy war with Russia. Even many Ukraine skeptics are ardent Sinophobes.
The support the US provides to Ukraine rivals South Vietnam’s aid in the 1960s. At the very least, Ukraine is now the Soviet-Afghan War 2 in terms of US strategy. The danger is that the war will escalate to the point where NATO forces are directly engaged with Russian forces. We need to dig up as many Rockefeller Republicans/Democrats, Taft Republicans, and McGovern Democrats as we can find as a stopgap against the neocon alliance, even if it amounts to plugging a leaky dam with Playdoh.
The ideal outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian War would be for the Russian Federation eventually be dismembered like the former USSR. The question is, how could that happen? In the Cold War, the West drew a line through Central Europe and said, “Don’t cross,” and it worked. Russia sometimes clamped down on its satellites in the East but never came across the Iron Curtain. The Soviet-Afghan war was the beginning of the end. The Russians got bogged down in Afghanistan to the point that their forces were demoralized to the extent of unwillingness to fight on behalf of the Soviet state during the ’91 coup. If the West repeats the Afghan strategy from the 80s of arming the rebels, which is already happening in Ukraine, it may help finally push the Russian Federation over the edge as well. It’s also vital for the West to cultivate a dissident underground in Russia to incite an insurrection against Putin and to have a network of dissidents in place that can seize control of Russia’s nukes if the RF falls to prevent just anyone like the Takfiris from getting them (see here). At the same time, Russian efforts to support dissident left/right and/or splinter movements in the West are legitimate as well. In a multipolar world order, efforts by great powers to internally subvert and weaken each other are to be welcomed as a mutually constraining force.
Another danger is that if Russia were dissolved into a collection of microstates, which all things considered would be ideal, it is also possible they would be vulnerable to Chinese and/or Islamist expansionism. Therefore, if some of the new microstates possess nukes of their own, and reasonably sane and competent people are leading them, the nukes would be a deterrent to external attacks. Think of a proliferation of Estonias with nukes in the former Russian Federation. There are regions of eastern Russia that China thinks rightfully belongs to them. They threatened to take some of them during the Yeltsin era, and the Russians threatened to nuke them if they did. Something of a formal settlement was reached some years ago, but as they say, there is no honor among thieves.
The US bogged down the USSR in its Vietnamesque quagmire in Afghanistan. It did not escalate nuclear hostilities in the region or engage with Soviet forces. The anti-Soviet strategy in Afghanistan was successful, leading to the Soviet collapse. Ukraine needs to be Russia’s Soviet-Afghan War Part 2. NATO needs to draw a defensive perimeter around Russia and Ukraine and aid Ukraine to the degree necessary to entrap the Russians, which is working so far. Direct engagement with Russian troops or provoking nuclear retaliation would be (exceptionally) fatal errors.
From a Western perspective, it is possible to use many of the same strategies that worked during the Cold War. We’re now in a multipolar world, and Russia, China, India, Pakistan, the EU, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Japan all matter now. So the “great powers rivalry” model of Metternich, Clausewitz, Schmitt, etc. applies. As mentioned above, during the Cold War, the West drew a line through Central Europe that the Soviets didn’t dare cross. Now, Russia is much smaller, and NATO is much larger. So the West can draw the defensive perimeter in the Baltic and Slavic countries rather than in Germany. Repeating the Kennan strategy of containment, basically. Also, Zbig B’s strategy of weakening the Soviets by getting them bogged down in Afghanistan by arming the rebels but not engaging in direct combat or escalating nuclear tensions worked brilliantly. The Soviets got their asses handed to them. It is possible to do the same once again in Ukraine.
And through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, it is possible to form a block of nations in Eastern and Southern Asia to contain China: literally, no one in Asia likes China. It is possible to form an “East NATO” of the Pacific Rim, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Indonesia, the Oceanic countries, and India to build a ring around China. India’s membership in the Quad is a way of weakening the BRICS alliance as well. However, the USA should gradually disengage from these defensive alliances. The European and Asian countries need to step up to the plate and start contributing more to their own defenses. Europe should have its own defensive confederation to contain Russia (and possibly one that includes the Caucasus as well) and East and South Asia, Oceania, and the South Pacific need the same to contain China. Eventually, the USA should retreat to the Western hemisphere and eventually form a mutual defense and non-aggression pact with Latin America, thereby ending 200 years of hostilities. Of course, such an effort would require the development of a domestic anti-imperialist movement that does not yet exist.
Biden, a Rockefeller Democrat, has shown realist tendencies, as have populist/libertarian GOP factions. But the State Department is infested with neocon allies, who also control most of the media. A danger is a Buttigieg neoliberal or a neocon Republican succeeding Biden. One of the main things I am concerned about is the quality of leadership you find in the West today. Back during the Cold War we had some “bad guys” for leaders, but they weren’t totally incompetent morons like some of the more recent ones. I could just see a Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Mike Pence, Tom Cotton, or Ted Cruz administration blundering their way into WW3 or a nuclear war. A jihad against the neocons is therefore warranted.