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.