First of an occasional series.
As the president-elect now discovers his friends and enemies in Washington, D.C., so he will soon discover them abroad. As Donald Trump is now the focus of domestic hopes and fears amongst those who would use his power for their own ends, so he will soon be the object of foreign ambition.
With every friend the president chooses, he makes an enemy. With every hope he fulfills, a burning envy will arise elsewhere. His advantage rests in this: on the domestic front he can fire his enemies. On the foreign front he can fire at them. Presidential power is his truest friend and he must preserve it and expand it with his words and deeds.
Yet whenever Trump fires, he must aim well. What should he aim for in foreign affairs? American power has had many targets since September 11, 2001. Most have been hit, but little has been won. It was too much. America aimed to build a democratic world. President-Elect Trump must aim lower and therefore more realistically: to save American democracy for the world.
The mobs of the Arab street are ungrateful for the sacrifices Americans have made in Iraq and in Afghanistan so that they might live in freedom. Rather than having the character of citizens who debate and vote, the Arab street has shown itself to be barbaric—a mob who prefer to cut off heads and blow themselves up.
President-Elect Trump rightly noted that rather than spending time and money attempting to build democracy in the Middle East it would have been better to take their oil. His healthy insight here is a re-discovery of the genius of ancient political philosophy: some cultures are not fit for self-government and in them a tyrant rises to preserve law and order—the pillars of human decency. The President-elect rightly perceives that keeping an enemy like Saddam Hussein close—as President Reagan did in the 1980s—is better than keeping close the “friends” who toppled Saddam Hussein and who now are the cause of much of our misery in the region.
This is why we must return to the policy of the Reagan administration and keep our enemies closer than our friends. We lost our opportunity in Libya when Gaddafi surrendered himself to our will. Rather than keeping this enemy tyrant close, we sided with the friends of democratic revolution and the result is tragic. We lost our opportunity in Syria when Assad found a strong ally in Russia and marginalized our influence. But we still have this opportunity in Iran.
If Trump shows his criticism of the Iran Deal was a criticism of President Obama and not of Persia, if he strikes a better deal with Iran that guards our interests while keeping Iran close to us, he will have a victory.
Victory in the Middle East is not the establishment of democracy, but the reestablishment of order and good business. It is better to have the tyrants of Syria and Iran as enemies we can keep close to us than to make “friends” among the democratic revolutionaries who wish to topple Assad and probably wish to topple us, as well. The revolutionaries know nothing about constitutional republicanism and their democracy will be the democracy of the barbaric street mob and the suicide bomber. It is better to have an orderly tyrant as a close enemy than to have close “friends” who are actually barbarians.
Nation States will never have perfect relations but it is better to conduct hard business and bitter rivalry with closer enemy States than with close friends who are mercenaries and mobs. To continue our healthy rivalry with Russia, Syria and Iran, we must work with them to eradicate ISIS and all revolutionary movements in the region. The effectual truth of politics must guide us, not imagined democracies which have never and will never exist. Law and Order without ideals is not the best of all possible worlds, but lawlessness and disorder is the worst of all possible worlds and under lawlessness and disorder Arab idealists will die with all the rest.
To work with Russia effectively it will be necessary to come to terms with Russia in the Eurasian theatre. There, matters are already coming to a head. Our Russian enemy is orderly, powerful and ripe with opportune business prospects. Our Ukrainian friend is anarchic, weak and ripe with a thirst for more of our wealth since they have none of their own and no political talent to produce it for them. Surely we should endeavor to keep our Russian enemy closer to us than our Ukrainian friend?
Finally, the president will have to consider the Chinese—particularly the link between Russia and his ambition to re-negotiate world trade. Russia has always been the great bulwark of a civilization closer to ours which both protects Atlantic civilization by keeping China at bay and understands China well as close neighbors do. The Poles may protest, as will the Ukrainians, but given that American soldiers defend Poland, U.S. interests will prevail there and a Russian-American alliance against terrorism is in American interest. So long as Poland is preserved from physical harm, the United States may safely harm her pride with grand overtures to Russia. Under no circumstances should President Trump entangle America in the bitter quarrel over the Smolensk catastrophe.
The general principle guiding a republican empire of liberty ought to be the one Trump pursued throughout his global business ventures: American greatness is by nature the envy of the world when it is manifest in America and Americans.
As foreign partners have marveled at Trump’s business talents and no doubt sought to learn and adopt his modes and orders, so the entire world will marvel at America when President Trump makes America great again. Make America great again and the world will seek to emulate American Greatness. Our republican empire of liberty has always been an empire of ideas brought to life around the world by people inspired by America. To preserve the republican empire of liberty Trump must dedicate his Presidency to understanding, applying and arguing for the genius of American greatness inherent in our constitutional republican traditions.
Weapons of war win battles. Ideas, not weapons of war, will win all of our wars.