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America First

Rubio’s little dust up with Rex Tillerson got me thinking.  Rex Tillerson defended his approach as realism in the service of America’s fundamental idealism.  I don’t think that’s such a bad approach, but the ultimate foreign policy ideal, just like the ultimate domestic policy ideal, should be the good of our nation.  Basic things:  safety, security, prosperity.  The stuff of the Constitution’s Preamble.  Whether realist or idealist, a hazy concept of national interests is the big sleight of hand of all foreign policy theorists.  Almost all of them substitute intermediate goals–access to sea lanes, stability, NATO dominance of Europe, democracy in the Middle East–as national interests.  They often forget to ask and rarely show how those things directly or even indirectly promote America and its people’s safety and flourishing.

Strategy is supposed to be a tailoring of means to ends.  But in this arena, the ends are often themselves simply means to other ends, which requires value judgments about what is the national interest.  So these intermediate goals are bandied about as if they come up from on high, even though their connection to real national interests is obscure.  There is little attempt by any of the “talking heads” to think critically about whether these intermediate goals actually do anything tangible and beneficial for the American people.

Even Gen. Mattis, whom I like and respect, seemed to engage in this kind of thinking, noting that our interests are not aligned with Russia, while Trump, with brute simplicity, simply says the ultimate goal is America First.  This formula puts each of these intermediate goals in perspective as subordinate to a broader, unifying policy.  That is heresy to the foreign policy establishment, in which most of the apparatchiks are very committed to their intermediate concerns of one kind or another.  Indeed, they ignore evidence that these goals could lead to real costs and harm, such as, to pick some examples at random, a life-changing conventional or nuclear war with Russia or a mass influx of terrorists into Europe through regime change and chaos in Libya.

Kissinger in his work World Order does a good job of showing how he is a kind of savvy, principled realist, who is also concerned with historical American concerns for expanding freedom, democracy, and American-style government around the world.  Wise as he undeniably is, as a Burkean I’m skeptical of this tinkering with foreign countries’ governments as a goal, both insofar as it is difficult, but also because I believe it leads to endless conflicts in the way the old Westphalian system, with its sharp distinction of internal and external affairs, did not.

On the other hand, being an American, I do think we can trust, get along with, and predict the actions of similar countries like the UK or France more reliably than authoritarian nations like China, Russia, and Iran. So, while I’m a realist, I part ways from the so-called structural realists because I believe internal affairs matter for how countries act, how our interests align, and how much we can realistically depend on them and predict what they’re likely to do.  In either case, our real interests must always come first.

For example, while I feel blood and historical kinship with the Australians and British and Europe generally, their defense must not be our concern.  With regard to certain popular “national interest” goals, I’m skeptical of how Russia dominating its neighbors harms that interest.  And, even if I conceded that outcome did harm our interests–Kissinger makes the argument that anyone dominating the Eurasian landmass is a problem that the U.S. must concern itself with–I’m skeptical that it’s worth the cost in blood and treasure to prevent it.

After all, as Washington said, “Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?”

In his attempt to get Rex Tillerson to label provocatively a powerful foreign leader a “war criminal,” Rubio has shown himself to be a neocon hack, and not a terribly bright one, which is precisely why I don’t want him or anyone like him to be President.  Even so, we must be skeptical of all of the foreign policy experts, because they leave unsaid the tenuous connection of our claimed interests and our real and enduring ones.

Immigration reform is popular, but the impact of immigration is very uneven by region.  The coastal states, large cities, Texas, California, and Florida are all impacted significantly.  The impact is far less in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Iowa.  These states look like America circa 1960.

The reason there is less immigration in these places is complicated, but it’s partly economic:  these states are on the downswing from their economic peaks. The general economic decline of the Midwest has a lot to do with its low immigration.  There is simply less demand for labor, unlike the growing states of Florida, California, and Texas.  While I think Trump’s immigration message helped him win in places like Florida, it may not have carried the day in the Midwest without another important message:  his commitment to renegotiating trade deals to serve the interests of American workers.

The “Rust Belt” states were built on the manufacturing sector, and the manufacturing sector has been bleeding jobs since the 1970s.  The jobs first went to Taiwan and Japan, whose managerial acumen and nationalist trade policies had a role, and this has accelerated after the opening of China’s markets and its low-cost (that is low wage) manufacturing sector in the 1990s.  And some jobs disappeared altogether due to automation; while the impact of that may be somwhat inevitable, it is not the entire story.  Workers are working and things are being built in Mexico, China, and elsewhere, and our workers used to do that work.  There are jobs to be had in manufacturing.

Romney lost Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin.  Trump won them all. It was close, but he did it. And he did it because he communicated a radical message on trade that was quite contrary to GOP conventional wisdom.  Both parties’ leaders have been united in their support for free trade orthodoxy since NAFTA.  Outsourcing was seen as an acceptable cost of doing business, a consequence of economic efficiency.  Obama with little compassion said “those jobs aren’t coming back.”  Hillary promised to put coal miners out of work.  And the tin-eared Jeb Bush said he wanted more millionaires, when most of these people would be happy with $40K a year.  Those adversely affected by trade had no real advocate in either party, until now.  These disaffected and demoralized voters, sometimes first time voters, responded as one would expect when someone pays attention to their concerns and problems.

These are not extremely conservative places, and lack some of the small government radicalism associated with the GOP strongholds in the South and West. But disaffected working class Democrats, who remained put off by the GOP’s traditional free trade message, were likely put off equally by the anti-white vibe emanating from the Democrats.  These are hard-working, moderate, law-and-order people, who played by the rules, and rightly feel they have seen the American dream recede further out of reach.  They’re worse off than their parents.  They seemed to have no home politically, but a plain-speaking billionaire promised to fight for them, and they voted for him.

The case for free trade is perhaps the shakiest in all of economics.  We know historically that many countries prosper with protective tariffs, and some of the best periods of U.S. growth and economic health were periods of high protective tariffs, such as the late 19th Century, the age of Standard Oil and U.S. Steel, or when we were an exporting nation, as we were in the devastation following the Second World War.

One of the sleights of hand of economists with their goal of increasing aggregate welfare is to treat the welfare of foreigners as identical to that of Americans.  Thus trade has probably done a lot to create a larger middle class in Asia, and this benefits them as well as Americans in their capacity as consumers, and may even be on aggregate “wealth increasing,” but the “wealth redistribution effects” including lower wages and structural unemployment are treated by economists as a non-factor.

Economics is concerned with increasing aggregate welfare and is largely indifferent to wealth redistribution effects.  But politics is not economics.  There is an implicit value judgment in the very concept of nation-states to place the collective welfare of their citizens as being above that of other nation-states.  Nothing in economic science requires this, but the science part of economics does not dictate how its teachings are applied.  Indeed, many of a cosmopolitan bent are indifferent to the welfare of Americans vs. that of non-Americans, so long as the practice or policy is “wealth increasing,” but so what. This is ultimately a policy choice, and “cui bono?” should be a big part of that discussion.

The retort that trade restrictions are just a subsidy to some workers at the expense of consumers misses something important about jobs and what they mean.  Nations are not just consumers.  They consist of workers, families, and communities. A person without a job or the prospect of a new one makes that person lose purpose, that family lose security, and that community lose hope.  We can afford more expensive things more than we can afford structurally unemployed people.  Consider the recent news reports on rising death rates among middle aged whites. The root causes in alcohol and drug abuse, are themselves rooted in hopelessness from economic and social conditions.

Indeed, consumerism is completely secondary to the necessities of life, not least of which is the spiritual necessity of useful work to the self-image and self-confidence of a man with a family or who hopes to have one.  Even assuming arguendo the price of more restricted trade is paying a few bucks more for TVs, towels, and trinkets, it is likely a worthwhile trade.  As the Catholic Catechism states, “The development of economic activity and growth in production are meant to provide for the needs of human beings. Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community. Economic activity, conducted according to its own proper methods, is to be exercised within the limits of the moral order, in keeping with social justice so as to correspond to God’s plan for man.”

There are other concerns with trade, including trade deficits, which tend to increase the power of our foreign creditors, and the fact that our trade policy with China has allowed them to accumulate vast wealth, which they are using to build a first class navy.  That is, trade with friendly countries similarly situated–Europe, Latin America, free Asia–has fewer collateral and negative consequences than trade with hostile nations that are our geopolitical rivals.  Indeed, I am less chagirned at NAFTA, because it is America’s interest that Mexcio remains stable and prospers.  But China is the most important player; it’s super-low-wages have sucked jobs not only from the United States, but from Mexico too.  Even if were less a military rival, the impact on jobs at home is reason alone to rethink trade.  The legacy policy is hollowing out a huge portion of our country, leaving people too old to retrain to fend for themselves, or, worse, rendering them demoralized and expensive members of the dependent classes.

Trump has shown that the trade message allows for good optics from good outcomes.  The recent news from Carrier Air Conditioners and Ford Motor Company are tangible successes, quite distinct from the usual statistics-based arguments in favor of free markets and free trade.

And, even if one does not buy all that, the legacy GOP message, well told by Romney, simply didn’t win an election against a very vulnerable opponent. It kept losing in Michigan and Pennsylvania, even in 2000 and 2004.  Trump’s message was fundamentally nationalist on trade, immigration, and foreign policy, and it was reasonably popular.  Indeed, it prevailed in spite of his unorthodox and controversial style, but perhaps also because of it.  He talked like the people he aimed to help.

There is a lesson  here to those opposed to leftism.  You have to build a coalition, with some give and take by the different members of that coalition.  Without the Upper Midwest, you likely cannot create a winning national election coalition.  A modest deviation from free trade orthodoxy on nationalist grounds is a useful wedge, even if one views at as a sacrifice from good policy, which I personally do not.

Fool Me Once

Americans used to trust their government and their leaders.  The leadership was elected.  They were presumed to have access to important, secret information.  They were educated.  And, most important, they were presumed to have the best interests of the country as a whole in mind.  They delivered America from a massive world war victoriously, and America stood astride the world powerful, prosperous, and free.

Then came Vietnam.  And Watergate.  And the Church Committee.  Trust went down considerably.  The leaders were not being straight with the people.  Their promises of victory did not come to fruition.  And the unsavory influence of ideologues and interest groups distorted the decision making process.  We had, for a time, Vietnam Syndrome, malaise, cynicism.

The First Gulf War undid some of this.  The facts were pretty straightforward and, more important, George Bush made the case to the American people that our oil supplies and the basic structures of world peace were implicated.  Coming off a bloodless victory in the Cold War, things seem to be happening the way they were supposed to.  The war was over very quickly.  The military performed marvelously, and its stock (and the stock of the American foreign policy establishment) was at an all time high.

This stock slowly began to be diminished.  We began to engage in “humanitarian” interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and Liberia.  In these cases, there was little debate and little attempt to persuade the American people of the necessity of military action.  We relied more on airpower and other nations’ ground troops for proxies, as the support for these actions was thin and tolerance for casualties was low.  The Republican opposition acquiesced, as they wanted an even more “muscular” foreign policy.

Then came 9/11, Afghanistan, and, most disastrously, Iraq.  A robust response to 9/11 was a given.  Our experts, our national security apparatus, and our policies had resulted in an enormous, tangible disaster on our own soil.  Something needed to be done.  But Iraq was a stretch.  The case for that campaign relied on the presence of WMDs, which turned out to be incorrect.  And the substitute rationale for the war–expanding democracy–ultimately led to a long counterinsurgency campaign that ended inconclusively.  Coupled with this foreign policy disaster, we had a domestic economic disaster, which was inseparable from the experts and their failed efforts at supervision.  Obama ran for office against McCain, in part, by rejecting this approach, and the American people, including many Republicans, were more skeptical of military action and the claims of experts generally after Iraq.  The nationalist persuasion was latent within the American people.

In spite of his campaign themes, the experts seduced Obama.  The Arab Spring surprised him, and he and his team thought the way to capitalize on it was to get involved in Libya.  After all, unlike Iraq, European nations were making the call to arms this time. He (and Hillary and Samantha Power) all thought the defect of the relatively stable 90s was that we coddled dictators, whose subjects channeled their frustrations towards their leaders’ foreign patrons.  So we took the lid of Libya, and it resulted in anarchy, the rise of ISIS, a massive flood of immigrants to Europe, and the death of an American ambassador.

At the time same, we tried to decapitate the Syrian regime, which appeared to be inevitable.  But Syrians rallied to the government, and Russia went to their aid. It was too much.  We were skeptical that these bearded guys saying “Allah Akbar” would be good stewards of freedom and democracy.  The American people recoiled at Obama’s “red line” and claims of “WMD use,” particularly when they were being used to authorize another war in the Middle East.  We did not forget the false assumptions behind Iraq, nor that Iraqis who welcomed us with flowers soon began to attack our soldiers with IEDs.  In addition, the fact we would be fighting one of ISIS’s biggest enemies also played a part, as their repeated Satanic acts of terrorism offend decent people everywhere.  Americans want as little to do with the Middle East as possible and, to the extent we are involved, we only want our troops killing terrorists, not supporting them or creating conditions in which they flourish.

Enter Russia and the elites’ demonization campaign against Putin.  Starting in 2008, we were supposed to see them as the bad guys in Georgia, when it was our uncontrollable ally Saakashvili who started the campaign.  Future inquires confirmed this, and Americans saw no reason to start WWIII over a disputed province in Russia’s near-abroad.  Following our earlier meddling in the form of the Orange Revolution, the Maidan protests and civil war in Ukraine also gave Americans pause.  Our elites told us it was “good guys” vs. “bad guys,” and they tried to gin up a cassus belli in the form of the unfortunate downing of a civilian airliner, but the missing piece of the puzzle–a clear American interest–resulted in widespread apathy.

While the Ukrainian Civil War was brutal and unfortunate and likely involved some Russian support for the Donetsk rebels, without knowing all the details, it was hard to see Russia as the arch-enemy of the Cold War.  After all, had they not rejected Communism?  It was Muslims whom our elites recklessly wanted to continue to import into our country, and it was the Muslims that were killing us and our European friends, not Russians.    Americans sensibly are more afraid of terrorists who are actually killing us than the remote possibility of an conventional war with other nations, the prevention of which depends on waning trust in elites and their prognostications.  In other words, we are more afraid of a Merkel at home than a Putin abroad, and rightly so.

The election hacking story has thus been met with widespread skepticism.  If it were such a bad thing, why hadn’t Obama done something earlier?  And where is the proof?  Before the Vietnam era, this kind of claim might have met with credulity.  But now?  After the “Youtube Videos Caused Benghazi,” “Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” “Obamacare Will Lower Your Insurance Rates,” and “Iraqi WMDs” exaggerations of recent years?  No way.

Trump’s victory was part of a broader rejection of the claimed legitimacy of an elite and its technocratic experts that have not delivered, whether on issues of war and peace, economics, or the general tone of life.  Indeed, many Americans feel they’ve been lied to, swindled, and had their patriotism used and abused.  They won’t be easily led into a new conflict with a powerful nation that has done nothing visible to hurt the American people. We are told, with almost no facts in support, they “hacked the election,” but the American people’s street knowledge likely matters here.  Anyone familiar with the internet knows international scammers will try to break in to your accounts, steal data, send viruses, and otherwise do whatever they can get away with, and that it’s almost impossible to figure out who is behind it.  They can spoof IP addresses, use TOR browsers, and otherwise conceal their identities quite easily.  Like “fake news,” it’s something we are all aware of and, if we are intelligent, take appropriate precautions to avoid.

Obama, who is, if nothing else, extremely petty, is no doubt feeling the heat from his party whose malevolence was exposed by Wikileaks and is going to show Putin what a tough guy he is during his last weeks in office and, at the same time, undermine his successor.  This is a break from tradition, and he knows it.  But Obama is an arrogant narcissist with no regard for the will of the American people, nor the constraints of tradition.  Like the dangers of the web, this is all baked in the cake.   Americans remain as skeptical as ever about the latest crisis, having seen disasters unfold all over the world, where the cure turned out to be so much worse than the disease, and where our leaders’ claims and predictions turned out to be completely wrong.

The desperation of the elite is manifest, and it stretches across both parties.  They funded spoiler candidates, unleashed rioters after the election, tried to bribe and cajole electoral college members, and even desperately attempted a recount in select states.  It all has failed.  So the only thing left is to demonize other countries and thereby discredit Trump’s victory, after saying for months and months he should respect the result. The elite said Trump would start World War III, but the only person provoking anyone is Obama with his outlandish hacking claims and the recent expulsion of Russian diplomats.  In contrast to our own foolish elites, Russians have behaved with restraint there, even going so far as not to respond in kind and instead inviting our diplomats to their Christmas party.  They showed similar restraint with their ambassador’s recent assassination by a Jihadi in Turkey.  While our interests are not identical to Russia’s, Russians leaders are clearly working broadly to foster their national interests, and the contrast to our own unpatriotic elite is telling.  Iraq-Libya-Syria-Obama Syndrome is a healthy one, the opposite of disease, and instead a prudent instinct of restraint and skepticism after our nation’s decline under the globalists’ leadership.  We won’t be fooled again.

obama-signing-night

Barack Obama was an atrocious president.  His ideas, his attitude, and his effect on the country were almost exclusively negative.  Even for someone ill disposed to his politics, there was, for me at least, a hope that his very presence would lead to a moral renewal among black Americans and a rejection of the corrosive “blame whitey” attitude that is so inimical to self-improvement.  Furthermore, while doing so for mostly leftist reasons, I hoped that his rejection of the Iraq War would lead to a broader embrace of foreign policy minimalism.  Both of these possible silver linings turned out to be made of tin.  On race relations he was terrible, fomenting racial troubles at home, while getting us involved in new conflicts abroad. Thus, he was bad in the ways I expected because he is an extreme liberal, and he was not even good in the ways he suggested he would be.  He was simply a disaster across the board.

It’s easy to forget all the ways he and his presidency was a disaster, so let’s recap some things we may have forgotten.

Domestic Policy

Obama’s domestic record, particularly in his first term, has been characterized by standard issue liberal causes–more government, Obamacare, Obamaphones, more spending, big deficits, a heavy tax burden–with newer and more exotic ones, such as transsexual rights, continued mass immigration, vaguely technocratic globalist free trade views, and a loose monetary policy that has only slowly raised the stock market and done little to help the “real economy.”

While the economy is undeniably better off today than at the height of the Great Reset in 2008, the growth was slow and the number of structurally unemployed has been significant.  The massive growth in the market and confidence since Trump’s electoral victory suggests Obama’s pro-regulation and big government views were holding things back considerably.  Furthermore, his use of executive orders and failure to recognize and adapt to his opponents made the style of his presidency imperious and hostile.

While he came from a Constitutional law background, Americans probably don’t realize how radical the law schools are, often hostile to the civics-style understanding and respect they have for law and government.  He exemplified the cynical legal realism of his Harvard education.

Race Relations

We saw hints of Obama’s racial attitudes during his 2008 Campaign, where his toxic pastor Jeremiah Wright’s “God Damn America” sermon was revealed.  A prelude to later events, we may also forget how Obama made excuses for the Jena Six crooks and was soft on crime generally.  Throughout his presidency, whenever there was a black-white conflict, the insecure mulatto took the black side, right or wrong.  In the process, he encouraged lawlessness and made the job of police officers more difficult, leading to race riots and increased violence against cops and people in general.  We saw this embrace of the worst kinds of lawlessness and hostility with the incident of Officer Crowley and Professor Gates, Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Baltimore, etc.  In his “let’s understand their anger” schtick, he constantly flattered blacks and, in the process, made whites more nervous, cohesive, and aware that minorities are tribal and somewhat hostile, whereas, by contrast, whites are chiefly concerned with justice defined in universal terms.

Gun Control

Obama hates guns.  He hates guns because he hates freedom and hates white people.  He knows white people out in the Red States love guns and freedom and fear their government.  He wants the government to be able to control white people, and he knows it will hit a brick wall eventually if whites still have guns.  He also thinks, against much evidence, that it’s a winning electoral issue.  And he knows, in his heart of hearts, that as much as he hates (mostly white) cops, that minorities with guns are very dangerous, and scare little old ladies and urban white liberals, so disarming them is also popular and necessary.

He tried hard after Newtown to ban assault weapons–rarely used in crime, but useful for grinding a tyrannical government to a halt–but he failed.  His hatred of guns, gun culture (i.e., white culture), and historical American freedoms was always manifest. The Supreme Court gave those who support gun rights a useful tool in Heller, but it met with no help from Obama and his buddies in Congress.

Spending and Regulation

Obama was in love with government spending and regulation.  His stimulus package after the 2008 economic crisis has almost nothing to show for it, other than nearly a $20T deficit, almost double than when he took office.  He’s gotten the DOL to push higher wages through new overtime rules, the EPA to stop useful pipelines and to hamstring American business for dubious fears of global warming, the DoD to shake down local police departments and schools for various racial justice reasons, and the Education Department to push schools to allow boys in the girls bathrooms, when it’s not harassing them for inevitable racial “gaps” in testing.

He has little respect for business, especially small business.  He has weighed them (and individuals) down with Obamacare, and given little moral support for the American free market system. He never worked in the private sector in a meaningful way, knows little about it, and has little sympathy for its virtues and its challenges.  Naturally, he and his wife acted like royalty the minute they got money, much like the Clintons, jet-setting on the taxpayer dime when they’re not cozying up to celebrities.  For him money is to be spent; the idea of capital, thrift, and hard work as a virtue eludes him.

The one area where he might have had some moral authority in this area was to reign in the casino-like activity of Wall Street and the Investment Banks. He didn’t do this.   Whether out of laziness, conflict of interest, or just it not being a priority, it seemed an area where he could do something both popular and useful, and he mostly abjured.

Social Issues

Obama was an extreme leftist on all social issues, pushing beyond the 2008 boundaries for gay rights and gay marriage, to the new frontier of normalizing mentally ill transsexuals.  He ignored statutes and constitutional limits on immigration law and brought about the Dreamer executive order, which legalized millions of young (and not so young) illegal immigrants.  And he not only was pro-abortion, but in totalitarian fashion aimed to coerce religious institutions and businesses opposed to abortion to provide them in the form of his Obamacare mandate.  On a great many issues the distinction of public and private is under assault, and Obama did nothing to defend the freedom of conscience, the right not to participate in that which one abhors.  The goal, of course, whether it’s abortion or making people celebrate gay marriage is to normalize one point of view and, more important, label more conservative views as retrograde and unacceptable.   In this he is quite simply a typical leftist fanatic.

The end result of all this social issue ferment was to accelerate the very tangible assault on the family.  A social revolution has transpired since the 1960s, reinforced by an economic revolution that hurts working class men through deindustrialization and wage stagnation.  These events conspire to accelerate the breakdown of the traditional family, which has real consequences:  impoverished single mothers, mass unhappiness, cut-throat economic competition between the sexes, the economic obsolescence of men  and fatherhood, the failure to socialize and contain men and women to do their duty to society and posterity, and a decline in family formation among the most talented.  The assault on the family is dysgenic and disorienting.

These social and economic costs are most pronounced among minorities.  Instead of recognizing and doing something to address this genuine social problem, he has instead doubled down, denigrating heterosexuality with the cult of the transsexual and the gay.  This movement is simply another unfolding of the Marxist sexual revolution, which aimed above all to destroy the family and delegitimize the past.  By normalizing and celebrating the abnormal and failing to recognize we must restrain this powerful passion, the traditional family becomes one option among many, harder to support than ever, rather than the socially encouraged best path for the good of the community as a whole.

Foreign Policy

Mainstream Republicans criticize Obama, in part, for his deviation from neoconservative orthodoxy.  While realism of one kind or another was the dominant view in the first Bush administration, neoconservative reigned in the Second, and many Republicans became uneasy with this au courant combination of idealism and interventionism.  Far from undoing this legacy, Obama pursued the worst of all worlds, a chaotic hodge podge of deviations from our traditional core interests,  a redefinition of the genius of our American system as a fundamentally leftist order, forays into idealistic wars based on dubious and sentimental concerns for the “oppressed,” and cynical support for the Saudis in the Great Game of the Middle East.  Most important of all, he has downplayed the threat of ISIS and al Qaeda terrorism to paint his mediocrity as a success story, and throughout his presidency he has, like his predecessor,  avoided noticing that immigration control is a more important and more efficient means of vouchsafing our security than playing whack a mole in the Middle East.

Anti-American

On foreign affairs, Obama’s rhetoric has been decidedly anti-American and anti-Western.  Obama’s said ridiculous things about how Islam is an integral part of America, gave back a Churchill Bust to the English in a symbolic rebuff, shown no ability to make sense of nationalist leaders like Putin and Duerte, and made a big show of trying to close  GITMO, which he failed to accomplish.  He restored relations with Cuba with no counter-balancing benefit to the United States, even as he incorrectly labels democratically elected leaders who thwart his plans as dictators, especially Putin.  His preference for the Third World over Europe is manifest.

The theme running through all of his speeches is that America had a bad past, which it must renounce, and that it’s only getting better now, in part because he was elected.   His abiding belief was that the U.S’s disproportionate strength, global perceptions of our arrogance, and our shoddy record all combine to make the rest of the world hate us. If we only show that we understand them and are sympathetic, so this thinking goes, they will respond by scaling back their venom.This was not patriotism, but rather messianic utopian liberalism, and judging by all the countries in our grill these days, it didn’t work. Far from being a strategy, it was more of a psychodrama originating in his conflicted feelings about a country that he felt treated him and his people badly. It was silly to think an alienated minority would look out for those whom he deemed an oppressor class.

Less Safe

We are quite simply less safe, as are our European friends.  Obama audaciously announced a lack of foreign terrorist attacks in his speech at MacDill Air Force Base in December of 2016.  He somehow forgot Pulse, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, Boston, San Bernardino, and several other incidents, which he dismissed as merely home grown. These attacks are home grown in the sense only that the killers lived in the U.S. for five minutes before immigrating, or maybe their parents did.  Their victims are just as dead.  And the killers all thought, reasonably enough, they were doing it for Allah.  Obama’s refusal to connect the dots of Islamic terrorism at home to immigration and Islam itself has been a disaster.  He never showed moral clarity or intelligence on this issue, and his happy clappy talk, far from assuaging our enemies, emboldened them.

Stupid Wars

Obama ran on a platform of pulling out of Iraq, which was a popular part of his program that I agreed with.  He did do that, but afterwards he illogically got us more deeply involved in Afghanistan (after dithering), then disastrously involved in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.  He sent troops back to Iraq when his too-clever-by-half plans to depose Assad backfired.  When the Arab Spring came along, he embraced “democracy,” even when it led to Islamic theocracy in places like Egypt.  In the end, we have either helped our enemies (Libya), picked the wrong side (Syria), or picked a side when there was no good side to pick (Yemen).  The old policy of tolerating stable dictators proved the superior one.

We’ve also gotten involved indirectly in places like Ukraine and sent arms to Vietnam on the realpolitik side of things.  In all these instances, we’ve either accomplished nothing or made things worse.  I don’t buy the Republican critique we should have stayed in Iraq forever, but if Iraq was worth leaving–it was–why are we in these other places? What’s our “exit strategy,” a term we haven’t heard much about since Iraq?

Weaker Military

Obama has shrunk the military and focused on using it as a tool for social change.  He has done little to make the bloated procurement system more efficient, encourage any positive systemic change, nor did he ever embrace the role of “wartime president.” While men fought and died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere, he wanted everyone to know that he was the “guy who stopped Iraq,” that he was winning against al Qaeda, and thus the wars that we were still in, some of which he started, had to be ignored.

He basked in the glory of taking out Osama bin Laden (an undeniable good call that others may not have made), but he used it as an excuse to distract from the bigger strategic failure:  that Islamic terrorists untied to states remain on the loose.  Doubling down on his alibi, he said we were winning against ISIS, the “JV team” if you may recall, only days before the horrific Paris attacks.

Worse than all this, he wants the Army to pay for chopping off dicks, when it should be geared towards chopping off the dicks and heads of enemies soldiers.  Women have been pushed relentlessly into combat arms, even as numerous studies have shown they’re less capable individually and weaken units collectively.  Combat effectiveness is a secondary consideration and as current standards lead to disparities they will be modified. He had at least one Muslim turncoat terrorist incident at Fort Hood, which he insultingly had labeled “workplace violence.”  When his narcissism does not compel him to label abject failure as success, the leftist ideologies  of feminism or gay rights or multiculturalism are always the dominant motive, not military effectiveness.

The Real Silver Lining

Obama’s presidency made the country weaker, less unified, and less safe, and the government more bloated, sclerotic, and intrusive than it was when he began.  The country taken as a whole is simply in worse shape.

The real silver lining is what Obama’s failed presidency did to conservatives and the middle class.  He radicalized them.  They realized who they were up against, and that their opponents were playing a zero sum tribal game of gimmedats in what was previously a less diverse country characterized by the politics of ideas and  of class distinctions.  Now the decline and deliberate marginalization of whites to minority status is celebrated, and whites are no longer engaged in unilateral disarmament.  Those with broadly similar interests and disdain for political correctness have joined forces.  And the unlikely hero of Donald Trump emerged.  And Trump deployed the three legged stool of populist nationalism–immigration restriction, American First foreign policy, and pro-worker trade policy–to unify them.

In May of 2008, I wrote in a that , “Four years of this trend will propel someone like me well into the middle of the conservative mainstream, and that would be a good thing. Obama’s presidency will stress and purify the conservative movement, leading to clarity on issues of culture, the welfare state, demographics, and racism that it has lost in the fog of ‘compassionate conservatism’ under President Bush.”

Romney couldn’t pull it off in four; he was still disarmed by Obama’s withering attacks, the left’s naked tribalism, and his own refusal to embrace the logical alternative.  Plus his “get government out of the way” Reaganesque view of things ignored the impact of demographics and the hostility of many large corporations to traditional values.  We need to focus on the people more than policy, and we need also to embrace some species of industrial policy to undo the anemic economy and make sure workers have a stake and benefit in its success.  Trump beat the Republicans by pivoting on the national question.  And he beat the Democrats at their own game because he realized the ways Obama had radicalized everyone who was not part of his coalition of megarich urban liberals, welfare cases, foreigners, and big government beneficiaries.  It turns out “identity politics” work reasonably well when the largest ethnic group is also the most hated, the most naturally Republican, and the most put upon by every institution of culture.

Obama’s leftist radicalism was always his core belief.  It was plain from his past, his pastor, and his paean to his socialist father, and his presidency reflected this at nearly every turn.  Trump simply saw the $100 bill lying on the ground in the form of alienated, working class voters and other scared whites, threw them a bone, and the lesson of that approach is valuable beyond the field of politics.  It shows the power of conviction, common sense, and courage in a world of suffocating political correctness.

One would think from recent overwrought headlines, that the American people were clamoring for more confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia and just got had in this election!  Hillary’s motto should have been, “Avenge South Ossetia whatever the cost.”  No one believes that of course.

The whole thing is obvious propaganda along with the corrupt media noticing for the first time in 2016 that there’s a lot of crap on the internet, which they have attacked in a coordinated campaign as Fake News.

They and the Democrats are using this and the Russia angle to avoid soul searching on the crimes of the Clintons and the limits of their anti white identity politics. They want to pin their loss on “fake news,” as if so much of the real news had little effect.  I concede that maybe Russia had something to do with Wikileaks. I’ve not seen definitive proof, and some of the stories that come out are either unsourced, contradicted by verifiable facts (no RNC leak), or are otherwise suspicious, conflating the actions of individual Russians with the Russian government.  We do know hackers are often self-motivated vandals by nature, whether it’s the group Anonymous, Brad Manning, or Julian Assange.

But if Russia had an opinion on the election and tried to tip the scales by releasing embarrassing emails of one of the two political parties, so what?  Both parties begged borrowed and stole to get opposition on the other.  Did we forget the legion of women claiming (completely unverifiably) that Trump groped them in the days before the election? No doubt the Russians preferred him to the status quo, including that of Hillary, who was the architect of numerous idiotic foreign policy interventions. In the end, the American people still got a say so, and Trump was the peace candidate.   Further, Wikileaks would not have any bite if there wasn’t so much corruption revealed in the leaked emails, whether it was Clinton getting debate questions, calling favored ethnic groups nasty names, or the DNC screwing over Sanders in the primaries.

Finally, our pearl clutching on this is a little hard to take seriously.  The US was clearly behind the Ukrainian coup, which backfired tremendously. Just as it’s behind a goodly swath of the Syrian Civil War, in which “moderate rebels” cooperated with al Nusra and ISIS in destroying a previously peaceful and orderly country.  That war is now thankfully coming to an end, due mostly to Russia’s intervention.  The US has openly supported and funded candidates in foreign elections.  Hacking emails is quite a bit less intrusive under the circumstances.

But Russia will continue to be treated as a bogeyman for at least three reasons.  First, it’s leadership rejects liberalism, both the good kind and the bad kind, and is traditionalist and authoritarian.  LGBT is now the preferred moniker among Russians for do-gooder western liberals, who are opposed by the revived Orthodox Christianity of the Russian people.  Where Americans see human rights, Russians see imposition of foreign decadence. Putin is a symbol for an effective authoritarian nationalist bringing about a renaissance in a country that was an economic and political basket case during the Yeltsin years.

Second, NATO, and Americans reared on NATO brinksmanship, direct their efforts chiefly at containing Russia.  NATO was unwisely expanded to include former Soviet Republics after the fall of Soviet communism, and this orientation to Russia requires a substantial and continuing U.S. investment in military power. There are many people with a stake in this, including defense contractors, otherwise obsolete “Sovietologists” in the State and Defense departments, and those who generally want a world where the “international community” (i.e., the United States) can call the shots worldwide with impunity, even on such dubious activities as regime change in Libya and Syria, and even where those called shots have no obvious connection to the interests of the American people.

Finally, there is a long-standing emotional animosity to Russia, which is never directed at other equally authoritarian regimes.  We hear endlessly about Russia’s apparent containment of critical journalists, but this is commonplace in Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Iran, and even Mexico.  Their facilities at the Sochi Olympics were mocked, even though China’s and Brazil’s were little better, and the latter was positively dangerous.  And this all goes back to England and the Crimean War, in which classically liberal British absolutely hated Russia and all things Russian, labeling them backwards, authoritarian, and dangerous, long before the appearance of Communism.  Their traditionalism, concept of the state, and prospect of limiting British hegemony all made the press and British leadership of the day lose their way, teaming up with the monstrous Ottomans to wrestle away Crimea from Russia in the 1850s.  The anti-Russian feeling has persisted and extended to the United States, particularly by American Jews for whom a nationalist Russia is equated with anti-Semitism, becoming exaggerated even after the peculiar (and arguably anti-Russian) Soviet episode was undone.

Trump is following a sensible policy regarding Russia, namely, avoiding unnecessary confrontation, even while recognizing it may not be an ally strictly speaking.  In this, he has shown more wisdom than the elites of both parties.  If the Russians recognized this reality and wanted to tip the scales, it should be cause for concern, but more because our legacy policy is so fanatical and bellicose against a country that could do us a lot of harm if we were to get involved in any kind of conflict and, furthermore, could do us a lot of good in the war against radical Islam if we were able to find a way to cooperate more effectively in that regard.  The Fake News talk is an attack on Trump’s legitimacy and a surprisingly non-cosmopolitan line of argument from those who otherwise say we should bow before the “International Community,” by which they mean the suicidal leftist elite of Europe and the anti-western elite of the Third World.

In my lifetime, I remember when Republicans thought flag burning should be illegal.  Even Hillary Clinton thought so ten years ago.  Now they faux opposition is going ape on Trump for daring to demand basic loyalty to the country and respect for her flag.

The interment camps of Japanese (and the forgotten German and Italian internees) are bandied about as a horror symbol.  But they’re not.  They are a symbol for what a self-confident and effective America looked like.  An America that won wars.  And an America that wasn’t tied down by a million sensitivities that stop it from achieving greatness.

America was quite simply better in 1945.  And yes Jim Crow was bad. Unjust even. But we’ve paid and paid and paid for that injustice to death.  Ferguson and Watts and the 92 LA Riots were also bad, and so was what happened to George Zimmerman and the five cops killed by a Black Lives Matter terrorist in Dallas.

We remember Emmett Till.  Who even knows the name of those Dallas cops, which should be enshrined in glory?

So Trump appeals in a way apparently offensive to the elite of both parties to the passions of alienated Americans who know the past was better and who know that the world we’re living in is in many ways a dysfunctional cesspool. And he has exposed repeatedly, whether on immigration of Muslims or respect for the flag or immigration, that the “conservatives” don’t mean to really conserve anything but the victories of yesterday’s liberals.

Anti-Gnostic notes that the legacy GOP with its gnostic obsession with principles, doesn’t deliver much and got run over by the “smart fool” Trump:

Since at least the Great Society Democrats have been telling their constituents, “Here’s what liberalism can do for you.” Republicans seem to endlessly ask their constituents what can they do for conservatism (“Donate to my think tank!” “Buy my magazine!” “Vote for me!” “Sign up for this war!”). Their (overwhelmingly white) base duly votes for the Republican’s limited government-fiscal prudence-meritocracy platform, then watches as government, budget deficits, and political correctness all increase. Nothing the base voted for is actually accomplished, and the perception is these platitudes are being mouthed solely to get comfortable sinecures.

Immigration exposed this cozy scam. Immigration is extremely problematic for proletarian and petit bourgeois communities. But the same people who left the Democratic party to vote for Reagan have to listen as people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham call them bigots for not wanting their voting power and economic clout diluted and their children made strangers in their own country. When the battle lines started getting drawn, the Republican leadership proudly linked arms with the Democrats and did the bidding of their donor class. Donald Trump spotted that disconnect-–an electoral $100 bill lying on the floor–-and like the ruthless Scots-Irish businessman he is, grabbed it in both fists. He made his campaign all about, “Here’s what I’m going to do for you,” and rode it to ultimate victory.

Any of the other Republican candidates could have done that, but they didn’t. This was vindication of the Sailer Strategy: if you want conservative electoral victory, you need to support conservatively-inclined people. Affordable Family Formation: keep the land cheap and the wages high, because that’s what gets families started and married people with children tend to incline conservative. This may require abandonment on occasion of precious, precious principle but like the Democrats realize, this isn’t about principle, it’s about winning. That’s how they captured the institutions.

In a diverse society, it’s not what your candidate supports; it’s whether they support you.