When the establishment boot comes stomping, it’s clear that party affiliation matters less to the swamp than loyalty to its dictates. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is a doctrinaire liberal in nearly every respect but one. Yet what unites her and Trump is significant enough to make both targets of a machine bent on destroying them.
Last week, Gabbard became the center of an intra-party dispute after Hillary Clinton, the exiled queen of neoliberals, accused her of being a “Russian asset.” It was not the first time Gabbard was so libeled, but the attack, coming from Clinton, exposed a rift between the dominant international Left of apparatchiks who think that “Putin bad” is foreign policy, and the vanishing, historic anti-war Left that Gabbard exemplifies.
At first, Gabbard received the support only of fellow outsiders Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson. Bernie Sanders eventually woke up for a moment from his late-career lapse into international liberalism to back the anti-war Democrat, but the Clintonite lapdogs fell in line and piled on the abuse.
Rather than dismiss Clinton’s accusations as insane and dishonorable, the media has taken Clinton’s claims with cautious seriousness, or else cavalier joy. The New York Times published a puff piece calling Clinton a “master troll”—that’s the paper of record’s way of describing a powerful Democrat accusing an American lawmaker of treason without evidence.
Gabbard’s takedown of Clinton, her willingness to call out the media for its deception and warmongering, have further endeared her to the populist Right while alienating her from the politically bankrupt neoliberal Left that has sought to bury her. Her righteous anger, like that of Trump’s on account of being mercilessly libeled by the media, looks vindictive to the Clinton-bots; in their view, it only further confirms that she is indeed a Russian asset (despite no evidence of such having surfaced).
The problem for Gabbard is that she is a true believer, which makes her kind of an oddity, and also a natural target for soulless shills like Clinton and her dutiful army of automatons. Unlike her fellow Democrats, Gabbard has actual convictions—ones that were forged in war, where real people die and real people come home missing limbs.
It’s not hard to figure why Gabbard is popular among Trump supporters—except Gabbard and Trump don’t have much in common at all, as Michael Tracey, a Gabbard fan, put it: “she routinely demolishes Trump and most of her policy positions are fundamentally opposed to what you advocate. She’s just not a mindless partisan bot and actually challenges her party’s leadership/orthodoxies.”
Phony Dissidents, Twisted Priorities
But both are anti-war, and that is enough. While smearing challengers to its undeserved power and twisted objectives as foreign assets, the establishment puffs up its defenders into “experts” and phony dissidents. Thus it elevates warmongers into “decent” men for having the decency to obey, praises the “courage” of its own partisans who go by the name of the opposition, and enjoins obedience to the “expertise” of plain fools whose misdeeds have wrought untold destruction.
While the Tulsi-Clinton episode has played out, another minor act has been unfolding—this one comedic but no less shameful—involving that Pierrot of establishment Republicanism, Mitt Romney. For far too long now, Romney has lived in isolation and shame from his former glory as the Republican party’s golden boy. But in defiance both of convention and history, he may have a chance yet to defeat Harlequin and win the enduring love and devotion of the Democrats whose admiration he covets.
In reality, Romney is every bit a political outcast to the Republican base. But his “courage” and his “conviction” are useful to the cowardly, convictionless Washington swamp, where 10-dollar words flow aplenty to cover up its faded legitimacy.
What are this establishment’s priorities? Few have expressed them with such guileless, idiotic lucidity as Romney, who laid them down in a mini-manifesto in the Washington Post attacking Trump, now best remembered for the unforgettable Tucker Carlson monologue that it inspired (you know which one I’m talking about.) For hacks like Romney, immigration is always a good thing, particularly if it helps the GDP. Securing the southern border is a quixotic fantasy, but the costs of policing borders in other countries can never be too high. In plain English, “global citizens” matter more than American citizens: all and sundry suffering peoples of the world, whether they are illegal immigrants, refugees, or Kurds, take priority over any suffering or sacrifice of Americans and their interests.
Romney has been auditioning for the role of the GOP’s conscience for some time now, and this new chapter of the Trump presidency could not be better suited for the purpose. The Republican Senator from Utah is being closely watched for how he will respond to a hypothetical, but increasingly tangible, Senate trial. And the signs are heartening for the Resistance. In recent days, Romney has denounced Trump’s Syria withdrawal as a “bloodstain on the annals of American history.”
This is the kind of garbage that impresses midwits in the liberal establishment, who seem to always find more melodramatic and ornate ways to express the same banalities. Now, the Republican once regarded by liberals as a privileged, racist, sexist cornball is the object of glamorous write-ups in magazines like the Atlantic, which dubbed him a “dissident” in a strangely erotic piece that describes, with approval, the Republican’s “square jaw,” “neat coif” and “G-rated diction,” which evoke an appealing “old-fashioned civic starchiness” and “wholesomeness.”
The media only praises Republican “rebels” who buck Trump, of course, while mouthing establishment shibboleths; Democrats always stick together. To speak of Mitt Romney as a dissident or courageous is laughably, outrageously backward. Such plaudits are not reserved for genuine rebels with real courage, but rather for the swamp’s defenders. As a rule, anyone who is regarded by the media as a hero for speaking truth to power against the Evil Orange Man is almost certainly a sell-out.
Indeed, Romney is only the latest Republican to be rechristened by the media as a brave warrior for truth and democracy. The media applauded James Mattis as an “adult in the room” when he left the White House in protest, now almost a year ago, amid plans by Trump to withdraw from Syria and Afghanistan. The Thucydides-quoting “badass” has since embarked on a book tour, like the rest of the vainglorious war-mongering shills whom the Left has come to adore. John McCain has been canonized as the Good Republican since his death, and even John Bolton’s departure was viewed by Democrats as contributing to, not detracting from, instability abroad (he’s also working on a book.)
While proscribing all dissidents as foreign assets, the establishment uplifts its patsies as faux-rebels. The plainly unjustifiable status quo demands a thorough accounting, but the Swamp defends itself by projecting its own depravity onto its critics, labeling challengers cowards and traitors, or else baselessly asserting the “expertise” behind an obviously failed, massively destructive consensus while attacking those who question the received wisdom as dangerous and foolish.
Like Gabbard, Trump has been viciously attacked as a Russian asset for more than three years. But he has seldom faced such backlash from the writhing swamp monster as that occasioned by abandoning the Kurds. For weeks now, Americans have watched the ruling class deliver encomia for an obscure ethnic group that occupies a territory roughly comprising the little-known ancient kingdom of Urartu—which, for what it’s worth, is about as well-known to modern people as the people now living there.
Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria is about as relevant to the life of the average American as Late Bronze Age incursions into Syria by the Hittite king Suppiuliuma I. But for days now, President Trump has been called a coward and a traitor—not only to his own country, but to the valiant Kurds, who as far as the left is concerned, might as well have fought with Washington at Yorktown.
Trump’s withdrawal has been condemned as an unconscionable betrayal of a stalwart American ally and a “gift” to Putin, Assad, and Turkey. Such platitudes are accepted as a substitute for policy. No thought has been given to the costs of indefinite involvement, or even if involvement might someday, justifiably, come to an end. The machine must keep grinding onwards.
Putin Bad: The Democrats Embrace Neoconservatism
Only the depleted discourse of an utterly bankrupt ruling class could construe support for endless war, expressed in the puddle-deep sentimentality of “muh Kurds,” as courageous, while opposition to the military-industrial complex and its misadventures is craven and worthy of the worst names that posterity can find.
The meltdown over the Syria crisis and the simultaneous Tulsi-Clinton dispute, have driven home the strange truth that the Democrats have become neocons. While the Republican party remains split between a dissident, non-interventionist base and an increasingly illegitimate, out-of-touch neoconservative Old Guard, which after three years is still scrambling to defend its prestige in a “revolt” against Trump, the Democratic party is almost totally in the interventionist camp.
This seems less strange when one considers that the establishment almost seeks America’s ruin on principle. Perhaps that is the source of Gabbard’s disturbingly “Trumpian” flair: like Trump, she wants a foreign policy that will actually help Americans.
Trump delivered a spectacular indictment of the folly and malice of the ruling class and its failed consensus in a speech this week that hailed withdrawal from Syria as a break-through. Trump condemned a ruling class that seeks endless war and “unlimited migration from war-torn regions” at the same time, that insists on permanent involvement in intractable, centuries-old ethnic conflicts in which America has no place and can bring no resolution. After trillions spent and countless lives lost, the Middle East is “less safe, less stable, and less secure than before these conflicts began” he said; America must no longer commit to policing the world, but only engage when a clear national interest is at stake:
The same people that I watched and read—giving me and the United States advice—were the people that I have been watching and reading for many years. They are the ones that got us into the Middle East mess but never had the vision or the courage to get us out. They just talk.
How many Americans must die in the Middle East in the midst of these ancient sectarian and tribal conflicts? After all of the precious blood and treasure America has poured into the deserts of the Middle East, I am committed to pursuing a different course—one that leads to victory for America.
One would think that Trump would be praised by the Left for wanting to end an era of destruction and misery but, instead, he has met an all too familiar outburst of wailing and condemnation from an establishment of fading legitimacy, which only lashes out more viciously the more obvious its bankruptcy becomes. The sentimental meltdown over the Kurds isn’t really about the Kurds, but about ensuring that the foreign policy status quo remains intact.
Indeed, this is far from the first time the swamp has unloaded on Trump for challenging its expertise and its wars. In fact, Trump has faced by far the most concerted and hysterical attacks in those moments when he has shown a desire to really end foreign interventions: when he suggested, abruptly, pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan last December, when it was revealed that he was engaging diplomatically with the Taliban, and now his Syria decision, which has produced by far the most extreme rhetoric. The attacks have come from Democrats and Republicans, from the media, and from Trump’s own advisers.
Partly out of reactive hatred of Trump, partly for reasons of ideology, the Democrats are dispensing with their historic anti-war legacy to embrace neoconservatism. If the establishment’s messaging against the president can be reduced to the pithy phrase “Orange Man Bad,” then the foreign policy equivalent just might be “Putin Bad.” This is by no means to suggest that Putin is good, but rather that liberal foreign policy has been reduced to a series of slogans and cheap formulas with no necessary attachment to reality.
What we now have is not policy, but a series of tired talking points: Trump has given a “gift” to Putin, just like every other time he so much as suggested leaving the Middle East behind; America’s “credibility” is said to be “in tatters.” America can never leave the Middle East, it appears; if we do that, then Putin wins. No further reflection is needed. Trump is running afoul of the “experts,” too—that is the people who have presided over twenty years of turning the Levant into a blast crater—and “destabilizing” the situation.
Trump wants to end wars; his critics simply do not. Everyone claims to want to end wars, but the consequence of Putin bad-ism is never-ending engagement. The “Putin bad” camp rationalizes support for interventionism as somehow reconcilable with the older anti-war stance of the Left by pretending that withdrawal is their sincere objective, but that it must be accomplished through the correct process—one that is approved by the “expert” gatekeepers, who invariably stifle any attempt to change course. They may claim to object to the way Trump has handled withdrawal, but really their objections lie with withdrawal itself.
For the Democrats, foreign policy is no longer about, or even allowed to be about, what’s good for Americans. The axiom of “Putin bad”-ism is liberal internationalism: in this case the view that America must remain militarily involved in the Middle East, no matter how long, no matter the cost, because the alternative would reward an array of “authoritarian” adversaries—Putin, Assad, Iran, Turkey—and terrorists who inevitably will fill the vacuum and threaten liberal democracies. For whatever reason, regional powers cannot be expected to take responsibility for fighting terrorism in their own backyards.
None of this has much of anything to do with what is good for Americans, but that’s beside the point. At this point, it would be an understatement to say that Democrats have embraced the likes of Bill Kristol. They have embraced neoconservatism itself, along with the whole totality of “experts,” generals, anonymous spies and institutions, from the CIA to the warmongering press and the whole hallowed “intelligence community,” who jealously guard the establishment’s power.
Perpetuation of a malignant establishment is now seen as synonymous with the integrity of the Republic itself, as Admiral William McRaven has expressed so eloquently. The very fate of our Republic depends on staying indefinitely committed to regime change projects in the desert, according to our betters!
There is no “mission.” There need not be one. Whether it is said to be regime change or fighting terrorism, the mission can really never end, because the mission is to uphold an entire ideological world system. It is therefore justifiable to keep 1,000 troops in an undeclared, illegal occupation in a foreign country forever because to take them out would constitute a retreat from liberal internationalism and its commitments.
Not to commit America’s military power abroad to countering the pernicious maneuverings of Putin—who no longer seems to be a human being so much as some kind of metaphysical malevolence—is to out oneself as a sympathizer for the enemy regime. The convergence here between policy and the Democratic party’s particular obsession with the Kremlin is no small thing; some Democrats have suggested that Trump’s withdrawal was a conspiracy with Putin, or else somehow a distraction from impeachment. Again, the cynicism is pungent; that withdrawal might simply be good for Americans, and therefore justifiable, is held to be unthinkable.
At a core level, Putin bad-ism is opposed to pursuing America’s national interest abroad. It is almost by definition that anti-interventionist or “isolationist” views have become suspicious; Gabbard is a suspect figure because, not despite, the fact that she is opposed to destructive and pointless wars.
If the great divide of our time is between nationalism and globalism, then it seems no accident that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the non-interventionism of Gabbard and the nationalism of Trump. But if that it is so, then it is on the liberal internationalists who have sacrificed the American people on the altar of globalism and its destructive democracy projects in the desert halfway across the world.
Already, the “withdrawal” is showing signs of stagnation, but this is a feature, not a bug, of the swamp. While often subverted by his own lack of focus and coordination (and poor hiring choices), Trump’s efforts have been smothered again and again by the same establishment that has sought to remove him from power in a relentless succession war since 2016.
Gabbard is no Trumper, but she is playing the same dangerous game as the president. The phony courage of a Romney is one thing; it takes real bravery to challenge power and fashion both, as Trump and Gabbard have done, and stand up for what is right.