EU • Europe • Israel • NATO • Post

Greece Finds New Footing as a Player on the World Stage

ATHENS—After Greece temporarily hosted a pair of U.S. military drones, Greek Defense Minister Panagiotis Kammenos said last fall that, “It’s very important for Greece that the United States deploy military assets in Greece on a more permanent base.”

Indeed, Greece just took delivery of some 70 military helicopters that it had purchased from the U.S., and there have been discussions about basing American drones, air tankers and other military aircraft on Greek soil.

COSCO, a state-owned Chinese shipping and logistics services company, has invested more than 3.5 billion euros in renovating the historic Greek port of Piraeus, which is now the second-largest port in the Mediterranean. The Chinese brag that it will soon become the busiest. The massive renovation is part of China’s 35-year lease of two of the port’s container terminals and the Chinese purchase of a majority stake in Piraeus’ port authority.

Despite recent spats, Vladimir Putin’s Russia remains a supposed ally of Greece, given historic religious ties and the envisioned completion of a natural-gas pipeline that will supply Russian gas to energy-starved Greece.

Greece has a complicated relationship with its European Union partners after its catastrophic financial meltdown and the often Dickensian terms of reform and repayment demanded by German bankers. Yet Greece appreciates that more European Union money goes into the country than goes out, even if many Greeks resent bitterly high-handed German dictates—and being manipulated as the frontline transit center for hundreds of thousands of migrants swarming into Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

New Greek freeways are less congested and more impressive than California’s, despite the fact that Greek GDP is less than one-twelfth that of California.

During the 1970s and 1980s Greece was more or less anti-Israel (like much of Europe). Not any longer. The two countries are becoming fast friends.

Greece’s new multifaceted foreign policy might be best summed up by 19th-century British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston’s famous dictum: “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”

Greece seems to have found lots of semi-permanent interests.

In other words, relatively small and vulnerable but strategically located Greece lives in a tough neighborhood with historic enemies such as Turkey and radical Islamic groups. As a window on the Mediterranean and three continents, Greece sits at the intersection of great-power rivalries between Europe, America, China and Russia.

In the old days, Greece, a member of both NATO and the EU, grumbled that its European and American big brothers took it for granted as either an insignificant subordinate or a whiny nuisance—despite its key location and its iconic status as the birthplace of Western civilization.

Now, things have changed—and often to Greek advantage.

Greece has gone from its traditionally defiant (if not insecure) role as an outlier to that of a crafty insider. There are lots of reasons for the new Greek realpolitik, besides learning from the vulnerability of its past dependencies.

The rise of a neo-Ottoman Turkey, with a population seven times that of Greece, a territory six times as large and renewed territorial ambitions in the Greek Aegean, has made Greece turn to the U.S. military for protection. America, too, is increasingly wary of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist, anti-American and Mediterranean agendas.

Instead of trusting fellow EU members, Greece has merely found them useful in scheduling its debt repayments and providing critical tourist dollars.

Doing business with China is dangerous, given Chinese neo-imperial schemes that occasionally have led to blatant Chinese blackmail and bullying of its vulnerable clients. But the Chinese presence has pumped billions of euros into the ailing Greek economy while reminding the EU that Greece has other options when it comes to foreign investment, infrastructure and trade.

Few nations trust the reptilian Putin. But when the Russian president poses as a defender of Orthodox Christianity and as a protector of Eastern Europe and the Balkans from German bullying and Islamic troublemaking, the Greeks may find him useful in supplying energy and in foreign-policy triangulation.

Israel has also been recalibrated as a useful asset for democratic Greece. Like other traditionally persecuted peoples, the Greeks and Israelis share a mistrust of great powers. Israel now plans to build a massive underwater pipeline to link its natural gas supplies with Greece and Cyprus.

Both Greece and Israel have resentments against the European Union. Both have given up on detente with Erdogan’s bellicose Turkey. Both count on U.S. military aid. Both no longer are so dependent on unstable Arab countries for imported gas and oil.

Greece is, of course, walking a tightrope. By balancing between rivals and finding new friendly interests, Greece magnifies its own importance. As it does, it also becomes an even greater focal point of big-power rivalries and global commercial jostling.

We should not be too surprised by Greek realpolitik. After all, Greece gave the world Themistocles, the fifth-century B.C. wheeler-dealer politician and general who increased ancient Athenian power by being interested in everyone—and permanently allied to no one.

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Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • EU • Europe • NATO • Post

Desperate Embrace At Europe’s Core

Europe’s most powerful personages on Tuesday signed a treaty for the “unification,” of Western Europe’s biggest countries. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel inked the deal at Aachen/Aix la Chapelle. It was there in the chapel that Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer had knelt at Holy Mass to celebrate the signing of the 1963 Franco-German treaty of cooperation that sealed their peoples’ vow of friendship and cooperation. In the ensuing half century, it produced just that. France and Germany became the core of the Common Market and then of the European Union.

Today’s treaty, its pretensions notwithstanding, is between regimes that are overwhelmingly occupied trying, with decreasing success, to fend off domestic challenges to their legitimacy. The treaty is a desperate attempt by France and Germany to change the subject from their internal struggles. Nevertheless, the treaty cannot but have major and deleterious effects on intra-European relations as well as on relations between Europe and the United States.

In 1963, de Gaulle and Adenauer had hoped for even greater coordination in foreign and defense policy as well but, under U.S. diplomatic pressure, the German Bundestag added a clause to the treaty’s ratification that privileged the Federal Republic’s defense relationship with America. By contrast, the 2019 treaty’s main thrust is to sever that clause. The two countries will act “as a single unit with regard to relations with third countries.”

Lest there be any doubt, the final sentence reads: “The admission of the Federal Republic of Germany as a permanent member of of the United Nations Security Council [where it would share France’s seat] is a priority of Franco-German diplomacy.”

For other European countries, and for the United States, Macron and Merkel’s real domestic worries matter far less than the fact that, henceforth, the European core’s main weight will be wielded in unison.

Rules notwithstanding, the EU never was a club of equals. As the years passed, and especially after the advent of the Euro and the European Central Bank, Germany became primus inter pares, and then more to the point, other states learned that Berlin was the place to ask for EU favors, and Germans the folks to blame for not getting them. Henceforth, with Berlin and Paris jointly at the helm, other countries will wonder whether asking or blaming will be of any use. The EU will do whatever the two will dictate to Brussels from their joint councils of ministers.

The EU has always suffered from a “democratic deficit.” Europeans have rightly felt largely excluded from decisions affecting them. Henceforth, that exclusion will be greater and the EU’s legitimacy will decline even further.

The United States will now be faced with continental Europe’s two major powers asserting not so much a common affirmative defense policy as a common non-defense policy. When it comes to foreign affairs, the United States is far less likely to enjoy automatic joint support than automatic joint attempts at backseat driving. At the U.N.—for all that matters—the United States is likelier than ever to be completely isolated, leading Americans to value that institution ever less.

In sum, the new Franco-German core is sure further to erode the EU, NATO, and the United Nations. But even as the French and German alliance is poised to disrupt so many international institutions, it is soft inside because it arises from both regimes’ alienation from their own peoples.

Neither has France’s Macron found, nor is he likely to find, a way of appeasing the anger that the French people, via the “yellow vest” movement, have demonstrated for the way they have been governed for a half century; nor have Merkel and her allies on the traditional Left and Right been able to stanch the hemorrhaging of their electoral support, for reasons that differ little from those that motivate France’s yellow vests. France’s 1958 Fifth Republic constitution and Germany’s 1949 Grundgesetz largely insulate the respective governments from immediate popular pressure. But these governments’ alienation from their citizens is substantive and cultural. It is not such as can be healed by time—or by treaties.

Charles de Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer, and the people then in leadership positions in their countries were in basic sympathy with their peoples’ civilization. They wanted to keep France French and Germany German. As Catholics, the notion of enforcing the religion of  “global warming” would have been repugnant to them, as would any of the current, ever-changing dictates of “political correctness.” They did not imagine themselves regulators of energy usage or of the details of life. As nationalists, they rejected the notion of supranational institutions beyond the peoples’ electoral control.

In all these regards, Merkel and Macron, and their recent predecessors, have abandoned their peoples. The abandonment is mutual. Consequently, their regimes are rotting. On January 22 they took another step that transfers this rot to the international institutions of which their countries are part.

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America • Defense of the West • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • NATO • Post

How America Can Liberate the West Again

America’s domestic debates over immigration, and Democrats’ hysteria over Trump’s tweets, obfuscates the larger crisis unfolding in the West.  Trump’s traditional nationalism is pitted against the technocratic elites of the New York-D.C. corridor, but this is only one theater of a political and philosophical struggle taking place across the West. Americans should be aware of the growing turmoil Europe, not only because of our previous interventions there but also because it serves as a warning of what can happen to America if Trump fails at implementing his reforms.

Fortunately once again for Europe, the United States has a chance to liberate it from supranational authoritarianism.

Incrementally weakening the European Union in favor of national determination can and should be a hallmark of American foreign policy in the region. Through strategic diplomacy and economic statecraft, the United States can offer European states opportunities to exit the European Union safely.

The EU’s anti-American intentions came into focus in 2018, and include the creation of a pan-European military. French President Emmanuel Macron in November declared the need for an EU army to defend against perceived threats such as China, Russia . . . and the United States. German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed Macron’s call, with the two heads of state effectively declaring the need for a supranational military power under Franco-German guidance. These sentiments from French and German Eurocrats came into even sharper relief with calls from Germany for Paris to relinquish its seat at the U.N. Security Council so that it could be replaced by a “European” one. The Europe of today may not yet be expansionist as were the great powers that dominated it in the past, but like its predecessors, it does not respect national self-determination or sovereignty. In fact, the Europe of today does everything in its power to subordinate the wills of its member-states to a geopolitical agenda that is both anti-democratic and anti-sovereignty.

Why Sovereignty?
The sovereign state emerged as a solution to the religious conflict of the Thirty Years War. The Protestant Reformation that began in the early 16th century unleashed over a century of European wars around disputes over religious interpretation and dynastic succession. The problem of religious assertion is its universality. The global assertions of religious claims that ripped Europe apart in the early 17th century finally ended with the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia and the agreement to recognize national sovereignty and territorial states.

In his idealistic and Kantian naiveté, Emmanuel Macron decried nationalism as a “betrayal of patriotism.” Macron, Merkel, and other proponents of the EU are part of a distinct intellectual tradition that holds traditional Western notions of popular national sovereignty in utter contempt and is animated by the guiding principles of EU supranationalism. The spirit of the EU is perhaps best summarized in a quote displayed in front of the European Parliament by the late British diplomat Philip Kerr. Kerr, who pressured Churchill to appease Hitler, declared, “National sovereignty is the root cause of the most crying evils of our times . . . The only final remedy for this evil is the federal union of the peoples.”

From the global perspective of EU boosters, the sovereignty of its member states, and other states with strong national assertion such as the United States, Israel, Russia, or the post-Brexit United Kingdom, is an anathema. According to EU thinking, citizens of member states who are disenchanted with unrestricted migration, high taxes with no perceived benefit, and a lack of monetary and economic autonomy, are simply evil nationalists. The universal religious aims of Europe long ago were replaced with philosophical proxies such as socialism, neoliberalism, and globalism. Each idea is hostile towards national territorial sovereignty.

America can, and should set a foreign policy that undermines this European supranationalism.

Redefining NATO’s Role
In military affairs the idea of an angry Europe determined to challenge the United States may be anachronistic, but now constitutes a potential threat to American security in the distant future. An EU military parallel to NATO would force European states to prefer one over the other.

Similarly, if the United States simply withdrew from NATO, its European members essentially would become a de-facto EU military. Instead, U.S. foreign policy should focus on redefining NATO by approaching those European states now skeptical of the EU and committed to national sovereignty. A post-NATO replacement could even look beyond Europe to include powers such as India, Israel, Australia, Japan, and even Brazil in a new coalition of democratic states who are committed to national self-determination.

To counter China in the long term, combat terrorism, and re-subordinate global entities such as the EU and other organizations, the United States need to move away from its role as “global policeman” to one of a classic great power. Contrary to neoconservative thinking and the socialism that dominates most of America’s foreign policy intelligentsia, nationalism is not the same as isolationism. Instead, nationalism is skeptical of pursuing the political mirage of utopia and is committed to the wellbeing of its citizens.

Keeping King Dollar
In the inter-national economy, the United States cannot cede ground as the issuer of the premier currency of international business. At the moment of this writing, the U.S. national debt is more than $21 trillion, with each taxpayer on the hook for just over $178,000 of it. The fact that dollars are in such high demand around the globe, and can, in fact, be used in locales ranging from Wall Street to Timbuktu is the single largest macroeconomic factor protecting the currency from inflation. If businesses and countries sold their dollars for Chinese renminbi or euros, the value of U.S. tax revenue and retirement savings would inflate away. Even if U.S. troops withdrew from every overseas base and station, the United States must remain the top monetary power if it wants to prevent financial Armageddon from befalling its citizens. Dismantling European supranational monetary order would help.

The Eurozone, or those countries sharing the euro, replaced the monetary autonomy and sovereignty of all of its members. Separate from the EU, the Eurozone’s members have no ability to control the inflation rates of their countries. Having slightly inflated currencies allowed for countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy, and others to manufacture products for export. Unfortunately for Eurozone members aside from Germany, the euro is based on the legacy of the highly valuable German Deutschemark. Germany’s allergy to inflation of any amount comes from its experience with it during the Weimar era. Normally detrimental to a country’s exports, Germany could afford an expensive currency by selling incredibly expensive exports. Unlike Germany, Greece, Portugal, and other Eurozone countries, unfortunately, do not export BMWs. Now part of the Eurozone, no one can afford to manufacture exports in these countries.

Using monetary diplomacy, the United States can approach countries skeptical of the Eurozone, and offer them the chance to resurrect their old national currencies through dollarization. In this hypothetical scenario, Greece, Italy, or other Eurozone states can reintroduce their national currencies and inspire confidence in the new currency by pegging it to the dollar. Once investors gained confidence in the new national currency, the reemerging state could decouple from the dollar and have its monetary independence once again. American businesses and tourists would have to exchange currencies more often as a result, but this hassle is a small price to pay in re-establishing national self-determination. Additionally, once monetary independence is recovered from a distant and burdensome European bureaucracy, European states could compete for business on their own terms.

Debunking the Globalist Myth
Globalization has been a factor of politics since Mesopotamian city-states established trade routes with ancient Egypt and India; however, globalization in its 21st-century form does not work. Open borders harm national populations through lowering wages, allowing unrestricted flows of illicit substances and crime, and rendering national identities meaningless. This kind of globalization is not only unnatural, but it is divorced from historical experience. At present, European states are some of globalization’s biggest victims. Nebulous values such as “diversity” mean nothing when they bring suicide bombings and poverty along with them. In the balance of competing values, national sovereignty is simply too valuable to turn in for an alternative.

America’s foreign policy can serve its national interest without succumbing to the globalist myth of a borderless utopia, and it can do so without an equally mindless isolationism. The United States, however, must pursue an anti-globalist agenda that values national self-determination on the part of other states. The West created a phantasmagoria of “global” and “universal” institutions during the Cold War to counter the universal alternative offered by the Soviet Union.

Now, these institutions have become the West’s Frankenstein monster. It’s a monster threatens us politically, economically, and culturally. To begin taming the beast and save the West, America must seek to free European states from the monster the EU has become.

America • Americanism • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • military • NATO • Post • Terrorism

2,000 Against Millions

Proclaim victory and pull out!

On December 19, Donald Trump tweeted his own version of this classic military maxim as the president announced the withdrawal of America’s 2,000 soldiers from the war against the ISIS caliphate in Syria.

Allies reacted with shock. Enemies mocked and gloated. Neither reaction should come as a surprise.

The president’s defenders emphasize that America has nothing to show for the $7 trillion it has spent on this war. The United States, they say, has much greater concerns at home and in East Asia. Few analysts, regardless of how they feel about America’s withdrawal from Syria, understand why such conflicts drag on and on, despite enormous losses. Historians and journalists rarely examine the demographic data that explain why deadly wars can last for decades or centuries.

Even the killing ground of Europe from 1500 to 1945 escapes their attention. And when it comes to Syria, they are utterly clueless about the link between rapid demographic growth and the long and bloody wars that have devastated this region. Explosive population growth results in explosions on the battlefield.

Between 1900 and 2015, Islam’s global population increased by a factor of nine, from 200 million to 1.8 billion people. Christianity, though still the largest religion worldwide, only quadrupled (from 560 million to 2.3 billion). Since 1950, Islam has added nearly 1.4 billion people to its fold, despite the fact that Iran, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Turkey—which together have 180 million inhabitants—are now in a post-growth phase (defined as fewer than two children per woman).  This lower birth rate also applies to the approximately 20 million citizens in the rich sheikdoms between Bahrain and Kuwait.

But nine Muslim countries belong to the 68 nations of the world that have what I call a “war index” that is higher than 3—that is, they have 3,000 or more youths between the ages of 15 and 19 for every 1,000 men aged 55 to 59 who are close to retirement. For four Islamic countries outside the Middle East—Afghanistan (5.99; 36 million), Sudan (4.65; 42 million), Mauritania (4.17; 5 million) and Pakistan (3.39; 200 million)—the war index is even higher.

Today, there are about 100 million Arabs (up from 15 million in 1950) living in countries that have the high population growth that leads to a high war index: Iraq (5.80; 40 million), Palestine (5.46; 5 million), Yemen (5.41; 29 million), Syria (4.02; 18 million), Jordan (3.95; 10 million).

Since 1960, these five countries have been involved in almost 40 armed conflicts. “Only” seven of these conflicts involved attempts to annihilate Jews in Israel. The most virulent players of the Middle East and North Africa region may take occasional breaks from violent conflict. But until at least 2030, when their war index will have fallen well below 3, the region will have to establish a balance between the ambitions of its millions of unemployed young men and the too-few available jobs.

As it becomes more and more difficult for these potential fighters to get work or find social welfare outside their region, we can expect an increase in bloody rebellions against domestic elites, with frustrated young men demanding and fighting for a place in society. A continuation of the region’s low economic growth will make the fighting worse. In 2017, the five countries applied for nine (nine!) high-caliber international patents under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. More than 200 times as many applications came from Israel.

Since most of the victims of internal violence are Muslims as well, their elimination is usually justified as a mandate from the Most High. In this respect, the ISIS Caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi provides lessons about the past and a peek at the future, as well. Because of Trump’s intervention in the war, ISIS has lost 98 percent of its territories and at least 60,000 men. Is this number frightening to them? Certainly! Does it mean an end to the ability of ISIS and its successors under some other holy banner to absorb losses?

Certainly not.

Due to very high birth rates up to 2015, the number of 15-29-year-old males in Iraq and Syria alone will rise by 3.5 million through 2030 (from 7.75 million to 11.25 million).

As a great danger, allegedly overlooked by Trump, it is emphasized that 30,000 hidden ISIS fighters would still have to be defeated before withdrawal can be considered. In actual fact, the number of angry young Islamists striving upwards by violence is at least 100 times higher. By staying in Syria, the 2,000 Americans risk their lives for coming battles that may not even be winnable for 100,000 western soldiers.

For Russians and Persians, who are now in a triumphant mood, Syria will not be a walk in the park either. Above all Putin, constrained by a war index of 0.67 (1,000 older men are followed by only 670 younger ones), loses the support of even ardent supporters in the event of significant losses. These powers can send their own sons to die in Syria and Iraq, or simply try to confine the revolutions in which competing brothers kill each other to the brothers’ own countries. None of this will happen peacefully.

Genocide threats from the belligerent young men of the Islamic world are not directed against Israel alone. Kurds are also targeted, and not just by Ankara. The aging, low birth rate West, in which every man who falls on the battlefield may terminate a family line, cannot do much to stop the years of violence that lie ahead. But strategic support for the survival struggle of threatened nations remains possible. Red lines around Israel and Kurdistan, the crossing of which would trigger air strikes against the heartlands of the attackers, would be one way of achieving such a goal.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

Defense of the West • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • NATO • Post

Our European Allies Have Abandoned Themselves

Cries on the Left and among liberals and neoconservatives in the Republican Party bemoan President Trump and his administration for challenging our traditional “allies” on trade and in military alliances. Media talking heads cry foul at Trump’s abandonment or attack on our NATO allies for daring to ask them to pay more for defense, when the United States pays the overwhelming majority of the cost for the bloc’s security.

Since the end of World War II, however, the nations of Western Europe—spent as they were from centuries of conflict and infighting—had arrived at the point of civilizational exhaustion. As a result, Western Europe gave into the comforts of the American security umbrella and has since become complacent and, to be entirely honest, entitled. President Donald Trump’s recent strong-arming of the NATO alliance is not an abandonment of our Western allies, but a wake-up call to our European brethren that their half-a-century break from the necessity of proudly standing up for their nations and their cultural identities is now over.

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, the United States (courtesy of the American taxpayer) implemented the Marshall Plan investing $12 billion ($100 billion in today’s dollars) to rebuild Western Europe after the destruction brought about by the war. In the time since that rebuilding, the nations of Western Europe have enjoyed the protection of the U.S. security umbrella while spending very little of on their own treasure on defense. Meanwhile, they have had the luxury to reallocate their tax revenue towards generous social welfare programs to benefit their own citizens and, now, those they have welcomed into their countries because of their supposed superior generosity. Of the 29 members of NATO, only 5 members spend at least 2 percent of their GDP for defense (US 3.5 percent, Greece 2.27 percent, Estonia 2.24 percent, United Kingdom 2.1 percent and Latvia at 2 percent).

It is unacceptable that historically great military nations such as Britain, Germany, France and Italy should spend so little on their defenses. This is not intended to be an insult to these beautiful nations or their rich histories and traditions, but the current feckless leadership of their politicians does deserve insulting. With the exception of Matteo Salvini’s coalition government in Italy, the leaders and ruling parties of Europe are mainly post-national globalists who care little about the preservation of their nations’ cultures, traditions, identities, or heritage.

Consider, for example, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s utterly fallacious claim that there are “no half or whole Germans, no biological or ‘new’ Germans” and that Germany is a “nation of immigrants.” And the European elite wonders why national populist movements have done so well in the past few years.

The recent elections either sweeping national populists to power (La Lega in Italy and the OVP and FPO in Austria) or bringing them to mainstream prominence (the AfD in Germany, the PVV in The Netherlands, the National Rally in France or theSweden Democrats in Sweden) have been a sign that the people of the nations of Europe are fed up with the self-loathing and abandonment of traditions and culture by their leaders. These parties are lambasted by the mainstream media as “far-right” or “fascistic” in an attempt to de-legitimize them.

In their desire to re-affirm political normalcy and reverse the self-destructive policies that have been in place for the last two decades, however, they are the moderates. In comparison, we can see that nations of Eastern Europe, like Hungary, which have recently suffered from blind adherence to ideological universalist extremism in the form of communism, have not been eager to abandon their national identity and, as a result of the European migrant crisis, have increased security measures to protect their citizenry. Perhaps they have something to teach the West.

The old bipolar world order is over. Two decades into the 21st century, we are living through the death throes of the postwar order and the birth of a new order  Nations across the world are realizing that, in many cases, decades-old alliances existed only because of the United States and the Soviet Union’s scramble for global influence and power during the Cold War. Well, that era has passed. Nations that were formerly allies are developing conflicts of interest due to cultural and civilizational differences (i.e., the United States and Turkey), and nations that were once political adversaries are growing closer because of cultural and civilizational similarities (the United States and former Eastern Bloc nations).

It is time for the governments of Europe to realize that their military alliance with America must be reformed as one to protect Western Civilization from emerging threats, as opposed to threats that no longer exist. So no, liberals and neocons, it is not Trump who has abandoned Europe, it is Europe that has abandoned itself. The question now is how much longer Europeans will allow this to continue?

Photo Credit: Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • NATO • Post

Holding Turkey Accountable

The increasingly autocratic government of Turkey has lost its mind. Or, at least, it has returned to its historical form.

Under Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country has slipped away from a nascent form of democracy into an autocracy informed increasingly by Islamism. Whereas Turkey was once a bulwark against Soviet Communism in southern Europe—a secular power run by pro-Western leaders increasingly seeking to become enmeshed in the Western socioeconomic system—since Erdogan’s rise, Turkey has sprinted as far away from Europe and the West as possible. Now, Turkey exists as just another dictatorship in the Islamic World.

Truth is, Turkey and the West were always allies of convenience. When push-came-to-shove in accepting Turkey into the EU, Brussels opted to push back against Turkey’s membership until Ankara met certain political conditions. By that time, though, Erdogan had already begun his rapid Islamization of the once-secular Turkey. No compromise could be brooked.

Turkey also rankled the West when it continued zealously to hold influence over northern Cyprus. The government of Turkey also clashed routinely with those in the West who (rightly) supported Kurdish independence (at least in northern Iraq). Turkey was so concerned that the United States ultimately would grant the Kurds of northern Iraq a state after they toppled Saddam Hussein’s government, that Turkey—a fellow NATO ally—refused to allow American military units to use Turkish territory to conduct offensive operations against Iraq.

Neo-Ottomans Unite!
Meanwhile, Turkey made overtly corrupt alliances with leading figures in Iran, in a bizarre oil-for-gold scandal. From there, elements of Erdogan’s government began funding disparate Salafist groups—even ISIS at one point—in an attempt to topple Arab strongmen. The reason? Erdogan fancied himself a new Ottoman sultan and was keen on reconstituting the old Ottoman Empire that once spanned the Islamic World (at least the Middle East and North Africa). This ideology became known as “neo-Ottomanism.” As ethnic Turks and Sunni Muslims, Erdogan and his fellow neo-Ottomans believed that only they had the ability to unite the Islamic World under their leadership.

The Obama Administration was wary of selling advanced American arms to Turkey—despite its position as the primary pillar of NATO’s southern defensive perimeter—because of Ankara’s quiet support for terrorist factions and its revisionist foreign policy. Thus, Turkey, which had already begun sending envoys to China and Russia to develop closer ties, redoubled its efforts to woo both autocratic states.

Part of this move away from the West came in the form of Turkey’s acceptance as a dialogue member to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2016. For years, Turkey had flirted with becoming a member of the SCO but was prevented from doing so because Turkey was also seeking admission to the European Union.

All of that changed in November 2016 when the European Union parliament decided to suspend negotiations with Turkey indefinitely. The moment that occurred, Turkey became a dialogue partner to the SCO along with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. In 2017, Turkey was granted chairmanship of the SCO’s powerful energy club.

Turkey is now holding captive an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, while insisting the Trump Administration grant sanctions relief to one of Turkey’s largest state-owned banks, Halkbank. The reason Halkbank was sanctioned in the first place was to punish the Turkish government’s aforementioned ties with Iran—despite the fact that Washington reintroduced sanctions on Iran for its continued development of an illicit nuclear weapons program last year.  

Bear in mind, Turkey is digging in despite the Trump Administration’s decision to abandon America’s long-time Kurdish allies (who did most of the fighting—and dying—in the war against ISIS) in order to placate the Turks. What Trump got in place of the Kurds was an ungrateful ally that continues terrorizing the Kurds; suborning Iran’s imperial aggrandizement; supporting terrorist groups; holding northern Cyprus hostage; all while empowering both Russia and China.

Turkey has made its intentions clear: it is not a Western ally. Ankara does not seek to be a Western partner. If the West continues treating Turkey as though it were simply a wayward child rather than a rival, the West will continue to be undermined and embarrassed from within.

Turkey is free to make alliances and conduct business with whichever country its leaders wish. However, the United States does not need to continue giving Turkey a pass for its poor behavior because American leaders still delude themselves into believing that Turkey can be wooed. Turkey is an autocratic, non-Western state. It always has been. It always will be. It’s time to recognize that and act accordingly.

China • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • NATO • North Korea • Post • Russia

Renegotiating America’s Role in the World: Avoiding the British Precedent

After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Great Britain pursued a grand strategy of primacy, based on the concept of what Robert Gilpin has called “hegemonic stability.” For nearly a century, Britain provided an international “public good,” underwriting the security upon which global stability, interdependence and prosperity depend.

By balancing power on the European continent, enforcing freedom of navigation, and supporting free trade, Britain was able to maintain an uneasy peace—disturbed only by the Crimean War and the Wars of German Unification. But by the end of the 19th century, Great Britain had become a “weary titan.” In many respects, Albion was the victim of its own success.

Having prevented general war in Europe for nearly a century, many opinion leaders in Great Britain came to believe that peace was the natural condition of the world and that war could be prevented by adhering to what is today called liberal internationalism. The burden of defense was too high. Who needed a large Royal Navy when peace was at hand?

Moving on from Siren Song of Liberal Internationalism
Much of the British response was shaped by the fact that its hegemonic position had become more expensive as its relative share of the global wealth declined. Britain had benefited economically from free trade at a time when most states in the international system pursued mercantilist economic policies. This economic benefit created a comparative advantage that helped offset the cost of subsidizing peace in the international order. Although Britain was the primary bill payer for maintaining a free trading system, it was also the primary beneficiary of such a system.

It was also the case that the opportunity cost of policing its imperial frontiers was rising, hampering the ability of Britain to check the rise of a major state competitor, mainly Germany. As Britain learned from 1914-1918, success in the former does not guarantee success in the latter.

From the end of World War II to the beginning of the Obama Administration, the United States, like Britain before it, pursued a grand strategy of primacy in an effort to sustain a liberal world order. It ensured access to the “global commons”—especially freedom of navigation, which is essential to the prosperity arising from free trade and commerce—and airspace. It deterred the behavior of potential aggressors in the international system. It was willing to confront aggressors in the “contested zone,” the littorals of Eurasia.

But unlike his predecessors from both parties since World War II, President Obama chose to pursue an approach to international relations that relegated the United States to the status of just “one among many.”  He firmly rejected the idea of American exceptionalism and the status of the United States as the “indispensable nation” providing the “public good” of security. He made a conscious decision to dial back American power based on the expectation that others would step forward to maintain peace and security. Of course, they did not do so and our enemies exploited the situation.

This was a radical shift and a dangerous one that has led to a more turbulent world and an increased likelihood of war by miscalculation in the future. China became more aggressive; Russia threatened the peace of Europe. By acting on the claim that he was elected to end wars, not to start them—as if wars were ends in themselves, not means—President Obama aided and abetted the rise of ISIS after his decision to withdraw completely from Iraq. And his nuclear agreement with Iran made a mockery of the decades-long U.S. nuclear non-proliferation policy. More importantly, the agreement was just another aspect of President Obama’s campaign to cede the Middle East to Iran.

When Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, his statements led many—including myself—to believe he would continue Obama’s retreat as president. Trump’s campaign rhetoric suggested he had no coherent view of U.S. foreign policy, other than the gauzy commitment to “making America great again” and “America first.” Among other things, Trump criticized America’s overseas commitments, including the ongoing effort in Afghanistan; called into question the value of NATO; and argued the United States was being undone by its adherence to free trade. But in practice, Trump’s national-security strategy has been far more coherent than the incoherent global retreat embraced by the Obama Administration.

Now it is doubtful that Trump has studied the decline of British power or has reflected on its lessons for America today. But he seems intuitively to have recognized that the problems besetting Britain in the latter part of the 19th century were similar to those that face the United States today. He seems to have realized that if indeed geopolitical and economic conditions have changed, then the terms of the relationship between America and the rest of the world must be revamped.

Trump’s Foreign Policy is No Obama-style Retreat from the World
I previously identified several pillars of an emerging “Trump Doctrine”: First, there is what Walter Russell Mead has called a “healthy nationalism,” neither ethnic nor racial but civic in nature, based on the belief that the purpose of American power is to advance the interests of American citizens, not to create some abstract “global good,” or corporatist globalism divorced from patriotism or national interest.

Second—a corollary of the first—a state-centric view of international politics, one that approaches international institutions and “global governance” with great skepticism. Of course it is in the interest of the United States to cooperate with others within this international system, but such cooperation depends on reciprocity. This is especially important in the areas of trade and alliances. In principle, free trade is good for countries in the international system but for too long, the United States has pursued trade agreements that have not favored the United States. The principle of reciprocity is necessary to redress this imbalance.

Third, armed diplomacy. For too long, American policymakers have treated force and diplomacy as an either-or proposition. But understood properly, force and diplomacy are two sides of the same coin. As Frederick the Great observed, diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments. The threat of force increases the leverage of diplomats. The Trump administration’s approach to North Korea is a case in point.

Fourth, prioritizing economic growth and leveraging the new geopolitics of energy. The Trump Administration has moved expeditiously to lift regulations that hamper U.S. domestic productivity across the board, but especially in the area of energy production.

As Colin Dueck has argued, Trump’s approach to foreign policy has featured actions on four fronts: pressuring adversaries over security issues; pressuring adversaries over commercial issues; pressuring allies over security issues; and pressuring allies over commercial issues. This approach is not without its risks but it constitutes a recognition that the terms of the post-war global order need to be renegotiated.

If Russians Wanted a Puppet, Trump Would Have Been a Bad Bet
Of course when it comes to foreign policy and national security, the most serious charge against Trump is that he is somehow a “Manchurian Candidate,” advancing Russian interests to the detriment of our own. Indeed, some who should know better even accuse him of treason. But if Putin thought he was getting a puppet, he seems to have miscalculated.

Cui bono? The United States has increased defense spending, pulled out of the dreadful Iran deal, armed the Ukrainian opposition to Putin, bombed Syrian chemical-weapons sites, constructed ballistic missile defense (BMD) sites in Poland; browbeaten NATO to spend more on defense while actually deploying U.S. forces into NATO bases in Central Europe; killed Russian mercenaries in Syria, and expanded sanctions against Russia and especially Putin’s inner circles.

Meanwhile the Trump Administration has enforced penalties against U.S. and foreign companies that violate those sanctions, as well as expelled Russian diplomats. Most importantly from a geopolitical standpoint, he has unleashed American energy production, which hurts the Russian economy. These steps are all much tougher and impose much more cost on Russia than anything Obama did, or Hillary Clinton might have done.

Russian Decline in the Service of American and Western Ascendancy over China
But there is another issue here. Russia is a declining power, especially in demographic and economic terms. Putin may be playing a weak hand well, but it is still a weak hand. Russia’s weakness opens up the possibility of a U.S.-Russian alignment against the real threat to America’s position in the world: China. To paraphrase the 19th century British prime minister, Lord Palmerston, “the United States has no eternal friends, the United States has no perpetual enemies, the United States has only eternal and perpetual interests.”

Trump’s approach to Russia is part of a necessary restructuring of America’s relationship with the rest of the world. As in the case of Great Britain in the 19th century, America’s hegemonic position has become more expensive as its relative share of the global wealth has declined. And again as in the case of Great Britain, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrate that the opportunity cost of policing our “frontiers” has risen, hampering our ability to check the rise of a major state competitor, especially China. Trump intuitively recognizes this reality and has sought to renegotiate America’s global bargain.

I share with many friends and colleagues a visceral distaste for much of President Trump’s rhetoric. I am put off by his unfiltered Twitter musings. I am offended at times by his public vulgarity. But if we look at his actions instead of his words, the picture changes for the better. In a famous essay, Isaiah Berlin once reflected on the difference between the fox and the hedgehog: the former knows many things while the latter knows one big thing. Ronald Reagan was the quintessential hedgehog. It seems to be the case that Trump is a fox. We will have to see if Trump’s fox knows enough of the right things to adapt American foreign policy to a changing geopolitical landscape.

Photo Credit: Andrew Cabellero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Center for American Greatness • Europe • Foreign Policy • History • NATO • Post • Russia

When the Bear Roared: Other Nations Have Interests, Too

In the midst of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, an unexpected war erupted between Russia and Georgia over its breakaway province of South Ossetia. Georgia’s pro-American president Mikheil Saakashvili wagered that his country’s commitment of troops to Iraq had left America in its debt. There had been talk for some years of expanding NATO to Ukraine and Georgia. He “talked the talk,” having been educated at George Washington University, frequently invoking human rights and democracy as themes in his rhetoric to western audiences. American military trainers for some years had periodically cycled through Georgia, teaching basic tactics to its military.

Saakashvili proved, in the end, the most dangerous kind of ally; one who cultivated a conflict that he could not win without the hoped-for intervention of the strong man in his corner. He miscalculated, badly.

The Post Soviet Landscape
The roots of the conflict had appeared some 20 years earlier. The Soviet Union, like the former Yugoslavia, was a multinational empire. When it was extant, the empire was Russia-dominated, in both geographic and demographic terms. Georgians, Chechens, Tatars, Ukrainians, and Moldovans all were under Russian domination, and everyone, Russians included, was dominated by the totalitarian reach of communist ideology and the Party.

When communism failed, the glue that held together the constituent republics of the Soviet Union gave way. In spite of 75 years of talk about the New Soviet Man—scientific, modern, idealistic—older loyalties, such as religious and national feeling, proved more durable markers for identity among the former Soviets, particularly among the ethnic minority republics on the periphery of the Soviet Union. These peoples experienced Soviet life as a double insult: as something both ideologically oppressive and inimical to national feeling. Tellingly, the lifelong communist and former foreign minister of the Soviet Union, ethnic Georgian Eduard Shevardnadze, returned home and was baptized into the Georgian Orthodox Church in 1991.

Non-Slavic Georgia was one of the first republics to declare its independence after a referendum in 1991. Its secession was preceded only by the earlier departure of the Baltic States, which were forcibly incorporated into the Soviet empire in 1940. During those years, “freedom” meant something specific for the people of the various Soviet republics. It was not so much free markets and free speech, as it was the rhetoric of national self-determination, the same anti-colonial ideology that had driven most conflicts since the end of World War II.

But national liberation, and wars of secession more generally, are tricky things. Objective justice or consistency is hard to find in these matters, as one’s point of view about who should rule, what the borders of a nation should be, and the relative rights of majorities and minorities depend mostly on one’s position in the existing social order, as well as upon the available alternatives.

Consider that America supported the breakup of the Soviet Union and the secession of Kosovo from Serbia, but balked at the breakup of Georgia and has treated the bloodless annexation of Crimea as the crime of the century. Russia favored the breakaway province of South Ossetia, while fiercely fighting against Chechen separatists in two separate wars. Few nations take a consistent position on these things.

Many of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union, while not majority Russian, themselves contained ethnic minorities of various ethnicities. Ethnic Russians had emigrated for economic and political reasons to the various republics of the Soviet Union and made up sizable minorities in many of them—often perceived as hostile colonizers by locals. Subnational groups that did not have their own republics often lived intermingled among other post-Soviet minorities, who would become the majorities in the newly created republics. These small minorities were wary of living under the domination of their newly independent and suddenly very nationalist neighbors. In Armenia, Azerbaijan, Transnistria, and Chechnya local ethnic separatist movements broke out. The same pattern prevailed in Georgia, where the tiny regions of Ossetia and Abkhazia preferred independence to living under Georgian rule.

While it garnered little attention in the West, the multi-sided Georgian Civil War of the early 1990s was a brutal affair, including coups, massacres, and all of the usual atrocities that characterize a civil war. When it had cooled down, the armistice brokered by the OSCE and newly independent Russia created “frozen conflicts” in Abkhazia and Ossetia. These groups—ethnically, linguistically, and culturally distinct from the Georgians—lived for the next 16 years in their carved out sectors of Georgia; their safety was guaranteed by armistices policed, in part, by Russian peacekeepers.

Because of this tense situation, South Ossetia has a particularly friendly view towards Russia, viewing it as a protector that also contained its coethnics; on the other side of the mountains is North Ossetia, a federal administrative province of Russia populated by Ossetians.

Georgia Started It
While South Ossetians valued their quasi-independence, as well as peace, its existence was treated as an insult to independent Georgia. Like the Alsace-Lorraine to the French, its recapture became a subject of revanchism that united most Georgians in the years of independence.

Saakashvili, for all of his talk of democracy and being pro-western, also was a typical nationalist politician, concerned with local matters and desirous of permanent glory by recapturing South Ossetia. The perfect time seemed to be August 8, 2008. The rest of the world was entranced by Beijing’s Olympic spectacle. Russia’s formal presidential powers had been transferred to the seemingly weaker Dmitry Medvedev. Russia as a whole had been less bellicose since the Second Chechen War quieted down, and it had not exerted significant pressure on any of its neighbors since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

More important, Saakashvili had powerful foreign supporters, particularly the United States. He had personally hosted George W. Bush during a visit to Georgia, he had sent troops to Iraq, and cultivated the affection of America’s (then) influential neoconservatives, who were taken in by his combination of fluent English, democratic bona fides, and willingness to confront Russia.

So Saakashvili attacked South Ossetia, the ostensible cause being some friction along the South Ossetian frontier with Georgia proper. In the process, he killed several Russian peacekeepers. His troops also killed a significant number of South Ossetian civilians, running roughshod into its capital, Tskhinvali. Things looked grim for the South Ossetians, but Russia soon responded in a bold manner that took Georgia and the West by surprise: it sent an army through the Gori Tunnel. While the troops were not the modern-looking troops of the later Crimean intervention, they got the job done.

Russia’s troops were greeted as liberators by the shell-shocked South Ossetians, and the Russian forces quickly inflicted significant losses on the Georgians. The debonair Saakashvili nearly suffered a nervous breakdown, infamously being filmed eating his tie. The Russians didn’t march to Tbilisi (Georgia’s capital) but were content with enhancing the status quo ante, keeping the borders roughly the same, but recognizing South Ossetia as an independent nation. Few others followed, but Russia was making a point about its willingness, like the United States has often done, to act unilaterally when its self-proclaimed vital interests were at stake.

Lessons Learned
In its decisive, but measured response, Russia showed several things at once. First, Russia demonstrated that it would go to war to protect its allies, but that western allies may not go to war for theirs, particularly in peripheral locales like Georgia. Two, the campaign demonstrated that the Russian military, though somewhat worse for wear after the devolution of the Soviet Union and the costly Chechen Wars, still had the ability to project power in Russia’s near-abroad. This makes sense; Russia will always naturally care a lot more about what happens along its borders than the United States or NATO, and it is easier to project power nearby than halfway around the globe. America, with its Monroe Doctrine, has long proclaimed an analogous right to prevent European influence in the Western Hemisphere, and, even in the Nineteenth Century, had the ability to do so.

In this case, Russia also had a certain amount of justice on its side, as a peace treaty was in place, its peacekeepers were killed, and, using the western playbook, Russia claimed to be protecting the South Ossetian people from “genocide.” While this was an exaggeration, videos of Georgian troops shooting into random apartment buildings in South Ossetia did not buttress the Georgian claim that it was “liberating” South Ossetia.

The short conflict also showed something to the world about America: while the United States purported to be the “Sole Superpower” and a faithful ally, it would not risk nuclear war with Russia over a border dispute with a weak partner. While America’s demurral slightly diminished our credibility, it was an act of sensible restraint by the Bush Administration.

While realists conceive of all nations’ internal affairs as mostly matters of indifference, domestic politics in democratic nations are an important “human terrain” factor in formulating foreign policy. In other words, even actions that theory says are beneficial, may not be possible for the United States due to the inevitable rejection by the public of long and costly wars in places they have never heard of like South Ossetia.

McCain ran for president in 2008 proclaiming, “We are all Georgians now.” After the Iraq disaster, he did not hit the right notes. In general, “realist” foreign policy should be appropriately restrained, and realistically conform to the likelihood of long-term, sustainable public support.

South Ossetia today appears to be anything but flourishing, but at least there is peace. Saakashvili, a globalist at heart, ended up in Ukraine for a while, but he has since been deported. And Georgia, as well as certain short-sighted westerners, are again pushing for Georgia to join NATO.

As in 2008, it is worth asking, “What’s in it for us?” The restoration to Georgia of a disputed province roughly the size of Rhode Island hardly seems worth the risk of a potential nuclear exchange. The sleight of hand that labels such policies “idealist,” masks the ugly reality of military conflict in the pursuit of expansive goals like “unipolarity.” The sturdy foundation of realism is a more reliable path to achievable “real world” goods like peace, stability, and mutual respect among nations.

Foreign policy idealism, as practiced in the West—and most obnoxiously by the neoconservatives—implicitly dismisses the interests and perspectives of others. It is the foreign policy equivalent of narcissism, as exemplified by the robotic invocation of American exceptionalism by those unmoved by the expressed concerns of others and who remain untaught by the poor results of “idealism” in places like Kosovo, Libya, Syria, and Iraq. As in other forms of human conflict, other nations get a vote.

Trump’s America First view, while seemingly aggressive at first glance, has at its core the empathetic recognition that other nations have interests, concerns, and beliefs too. It is fundamentally a limiting belief, a prioritization of our own good over that of others. As in other forms of self-restraint, it is necessary to prevent exhaustion and to permit the focus and prioritization necessary to achieve results that can actually be achieved. It grounds any foreign policy decision, ideally, in the tangible interests of one nation’s people to whom leaders are connected and accountable. It rejects more abstract and open-ended concerns like “human rights” or “promoting democracy.”

As the Russian writer Dostoyevsky observed, “The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular.” As with individuals, so with nations. America First is both practical and just, the foreign policy equivalent of the virtues of loyalty, humility, and self-restraint.

Photo Credit: Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images

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Europe • NATO • Post • Republicans • Russia

Rand Paul Woos Russia—What’s the Problem?

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), predictably, is getting all kinds of flak for his recent trip to Russia in which he promoted dialogue between the two countries and invited the Russian equivalent of a foreign relations committee to the Capitol for an official visit.

From the New York Times to Vanity Fair to pundit S.E. Cupp (the latter two renowned for their foreign policy expertise . . . Oh, wait.), Paul’s been labeled Trump’s Russia wingman, Trump’s perfect Russia stooge, Trump’s most reliable errand boy, and excoriated for abandoning his principles.

It’s a head-scratcher of a claim from people who are supposed to be in the news business. (Disclosure: I once worked for Senator Paul and handled his foreign relations portfolio.) To paint Paul’s actions on Russia as a symptom of Trump sycophancy requires intentional ignorance of the senator’s long-held view that diplomatic engagement should be a priority in international relations. He has, for years, prioritized this approach over the shoot-first-aim-later groupthink that has characterized the foreign relations of both parties over the last several decades.

For all the media’s attempts to make Paul’s approach out to be simplistic and naïve, he seems to have a better grasp of reality than many in the foreign policy establishment.

“The world is too dangerous to threaten war over hacked emails, and it is too dangerous to choose isolation when confronted with challenges to our relations and world peace,” he said recently. (Another reason the foreign policy establishment should be paying attention to Paul? Millennials, the country’s largest adult generation, largely agree with his views.)

Don’t Let Cheap Rhetoric Overshadow Paul’s Argument
For years, Paul has been outlining a dialogue-first type of foreign policy. He’s praised Reagan’s willingness to sit down with the Russians at the peak of the Cold War, cautioned against an overly aggressive response to Russia’s misadventuring in Ukraine, and is constantly (at times, crankily) pushing for international engagement that reflects “a common-sense conservative realism.”

Throwing out inflammatory terms like “Russian patsy” or a “Trump sycophant” obscures the depth and nuance of Paul’s argument. This inability (or, let’s face it, unwillingness) of the conventional foreign-policy thinkers to stop conflating dialogue with capitulation has troubling ramifications for a country exhausted by endless conflict. Because it is exactly this type of nuance that can mean the difference between strategic engagement and, well, flat-out war.

As Paul noted in a recent floor speech, “Nobody is . . . excusing Russia’s meddling in our elections. But neither should anyone say, ‘We’re done with diplomacy, we’re going to add more sanctions and more sanctions.’ You know what, I would rather that we still have open channels of discussion with the Russians.”

He went on, “Does anyone remember that Ronald Reagan sat down with Gorbachev and we lessened the nuclear tensions? Kennedy, at the height of the Cold War, had a direct line to Khrushchev, and it may have prevented the end of the world.”

Senator-as-Statesman
Somewhere along the line, simple dialogue with an adversary became akin to bending the knee, or a statement on American might, or a  value judgment on someone’s personal patriotism. This is a false and, frankly, dangerous way of looking at a world in which actors move far more as shades of gray than they do as black and white.

But set aside for a moment the merits of Paul’s approach to international relations, and the media’s refusal to grasp those merits. There is another reason Paul’s trip is undeserving of the scorn that is being so unceremoniously dumped upon it.

Paul, as a U.S. senator and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also has a right to be in Russia. In going there, he is fulfilling a long established but rarely used role of the senator-as-statesman. In that sense, as Bonnie Kristian wrote recently, Paul’s efforts are a “welcome reassertion of congressional authority in foreign affairs.” The last several decades have seen Congress willingly hand over more and more authority in world affairs to the executive, concentrating international decision making into the hands of the very few.

Though the Constitution properly limits treaty-making and other direct foreign policy actions to the domain of the executive, the role of the Senate and individual senators engaging in diplomacy is well defined. Not only do all international treaties require the advice and consent of the Senate, but so do appointments to international positions and, (in theory, anyway) war-making.

Hubert Humphrey, former Democratic senator, presidential candidate and vice president to Lyndon Johnson opined in long form on the topic. Writing in Foreign Affairs in 1959, he discussed the value of his own visit to Russia in the midst of the Cold War:

One of the best ways for a Senator to comprehend both the limits and possibilities of foreign policy is to have direct contact with the leaders and peoples of other nations . . . I benefited greatly by my visit with Premier Khrushchev, and I believe he gained a clearer understanding about the unity of the American people behind the essential elements of our foreign policy precisely because I was a politician … Visits with foreign officials which do not confuse contact with contract do not presume upon the exclusive Presidential prerogative.

Striving for a Better Relationship
Paul isn’t the first senator to make his way to Russia this year. A group of Republican senators, including Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of Republican leadership, traveled to Moscow over the July 4 recess. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), sounding very Paul-esque, told Russia’s foreign minister that while Russia and the United States were competitors, “we don’t necessarily need to be adversaries.” He later told the Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, “I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth . . . I’m saying that we should all strive for a better relationship.”

Unsurprisingly, the national media noted both the trip and Shelby’s comments in flippant passing. None of the attending senators received the same glaring vitriol that accompanied Paul’s trip, most likely because they are thought to be less allied with the president. Obsession with Trump, perceived Trump allies, and Russia, or “Russianism,” as Victor Davis Hanson calls it, is just another way for those who still cannot come to grips with Trump’s election to further seek to invalidate it. Everyone else outside of Trump’s orbit gets a pass.

Far from being some kind of naïve kookery, Paul’s vision for engagement with the world is reflective of a shift in how Americans want to engage overseas. It’s also just smart. We no longer live in a bipolar world. Rather, the multipolarity of our international system, combined with the convergence of interests between our allies and our adversaries, requires constant engagement, dialogue, and a deft, sophisticated diplomacy far more advanced than simply pushing the red button, or exporting democracy in a box.

Rand Paul gets this. To an extent, President Trump appears to grasp it as well. It would be nice if the rest of the chattering classes would finally catch on.

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • NATO • Post

Reforming NATO Is the Only Way to Save It

Donald Trump recently ignited yet another firestorm by hedging when asked whether protecting the newest NATO member, tiny Montenegro, might be worth risking a war.

Of course, the keystone of NATO was always the idea that all members, strong and weak, are in theory equal. A military attack against one member, under Article V of the NATO charter, meant an attack on all members.

Such mutual defense is the essence of collective deterrence. An aggressor backs off when he realizes his intended target has lots of powerful friends willing to defend it.

But what happens when an alliance becomes so large and so diverse that not all of its members still share similar traditions, values, agendas or national security threats?

NATO’s original European members considered themselves kindred neighbors under the nuclear umbrella of the United States.

With the inclusion of West Germany in 1955, NATO’s original mission was altered somewhat. It was no longer tasked just with keeping the United States in and the Soviet Union out, but also with raising Germany up rather than keeping it down.

NATO collective defense was designed to offer breathing space against the superior forces of the Soviet Red Army—until the United States could bring in reinforcements or threaten to use its superior nuclear forces against would-be aggressors.

The alliance worked because the United States accepted that Europe needed American help to deter enemies in order to avoid repeats of the disasters of 1914 and 1939. With the exception of Turkey, the older members of NATO were generally seen as sharing the geographical space of Western Europe.

That is no longer quite true. Many of NATO’s newer members are not integrated into Western Europe. They are now spread all over the continent, and they include former Russian allies such as Albania, Bulgaria, and Montenegro. Many of the newer members are small, vulnerable and in crises would need far more help than they could provide others.

The idea of NATO has changed as well. Instead of deterring a Soviet invasion of Europe while rehabilitating Germany, NATO has become less a defensive military alliance and more a de facto cultural institution to homogenize Europe along Western lines.

For some in Europe, NATO is envisioned not so much as a collection of planes and tanks, but instead as an expanded version of the European Union.

The more diverse NATO has become, the less unified it has become, especially with the demise of the original threat of the Soviet Union. As post-Cold War Europe grew calmer and more affluent, NATO members became less likely to believe that they would ever need to sacrifice to invest in their mutual defense.

In the aftermath of the Cold War, NATO was eager to enlist eager Eastern European and Balkan nations that rightly had feared Russia even after the end of the Soviet Union.

But southeastern Europe and the Balkans were also home to age-old feuds and surrogate wars between rival empires—from World War I to the Bosnian War in the early ’90s.

What are the lessons of NATO expansion?

One, vastly increasing its membership can only make NATO weaker, not stronger. In some sense, when everyone is in an alliance, no one really is. Vladimir Putin may gamble to find out whether affluent Dutch or Belgian youth will really be willing to die fighting for the territorial integrity of distant Bulgaria. If not, then Article V will be exposed as a farce and NATO itself will be finished.

If Albania and Montenegro are in NATO, why not Austria, Finland, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, and Serbia? Will Mexico join Canada and the United States to round out the North American membership?

Two, the borders of the “North Atlantic Treaty Organization” are now ill-defined.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey is becoming an updated version of the old Islamic Ottoman caliphate. It is an enemy of the Kurds and Israel, both staunch U.S. allies. If Turkey gets into a “defensive” conflict with Israel, would young soldiers from Kansas want to risk death to “defend” an anti-American, authoritarian NATO theocracy from a pro-American liberal democracy?

Tough decisions, not more weary and sanctimonious rhetoric, are needed to revitalize NATO.

The alliance must insist that all members quickly meet their military obligations of spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense. If a rich country in peace reneges on its promise of military readiness, why would anyone expect it to fulfill its pledge of assistance in wartime?

NATO should insist on common values and agendas, and its members should formally identify their likely collective enemies.

The alliance must ensure that any nation in NATO belongs in NATO—and thus is worth risking what could become a nuclear war on its behalf.

(C) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

America • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Europe • Germany • NATO • Post

NATO’s Challenge Is Germany, Not America

During the recent NATO summit meeting, a rumbustious Donald Trump tore off a thin scab of niceties to reveal a deep and old NATO wound—one that has predated Trump by nearly 30 years and goes back to the end of the Cold War.

In an era when the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact are now ancient history, everyone praises NATO as “indispensable” and “essential” to Western solidarity and European security. But few feel any need to explain how and why that could still be so.

Does NATO still protect the West? Does it prevent destructive European feuding? Does it ensure the postwar global order of free trade, commerce, travel, and communications? And is NATO—or the United States and its leadership of NATO—the real reason there has not been a World War III or a return to global tribalism and chaos?

NATO’s post-Cold War expansion to 29 nations and to the border of Russia meant the alliance became more expansive at the very time the old existential Soviet threat disappeared. Larger membership tended to weaken common ties, even as common dangers disappeared.

The result was that the idea of NATO membership became more important to the countries that are part of it than the reality and responsibility of actual military readiness.

Polls show that in most NATO countries, the idea of fighting on behalf of another country receives scant public support. The notion that the Dutch would march into Estonia to save its capital, Tallinn, from Russia is a cruel joke.

NATO’s 21st-century problem is not the United States, which provides a large percentage of its wherewithal, but Germany. As the most populous and most affluent of European nations, Germany still insidiously dominates Europe as it has since its inception in 1871.

Berlin sends ultimatums to the indebted Southern European nations. Berlin alone tries to dictate immigration policy for the European Union. Berlin establishes the tough conditions under which the United Kingdom can exit the European Union. And when Berlin decides it will not pony up the promised 2 percent of GDP for its NATO contribution, other laggard countries follow its example. Only six of the 29 NATO members (other than the United States) so far have met their promised assessments.

Germany’s combination of affluence and military stinginess is surreal. Germany has piled up the largest trade surplus in the world at around $300 billion, including a trade surplus of some $64 billion with its military benefactor, the United States, yet it is poorly equipped in terms of tanks and fighter aircraft.

Ostensibly, NATO still protects Europe from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, just as it once kept the Soviet Red Army out of West Germany. But over the objections of its Baltic neighbors and the Ukraine, Germany just cut a gas pipeline deal with Russia—the purported threat for which its needs U.S.-subsidized security.

Stranger still is Germany’s growing animosity toward the United States. At the end of the Obama Administration, 57 percent of Germans expressed a positive view of America in a Pew poll. That figure dropped to 35 percent in the first year of the Trump Administration. A recent poll reveals that Germans see Putin’s Russia as more trustworthy than the United States.

Why is Germany the most anti-American of NATO members?

Germany started and lost two world wars—and was defeated due in part to the late entrance of the United States. The unification of Germany brought millions of East Germans into the west, many of them raised under a communist system that blamed America for the world’s ills.

When Russia will be providing more than half of Germany’s natural gas instead of threatening to fire tactical nuclear missiles at Berlin, the U.S. military is no longer deemed so important to German security.

Add up all these disparate realities and the real crisis of NATO becomes clearer. The alliance’s most affluent and dominant European member sets a pernicious example by failing to meet its alliance obligations.

Germany demands that the United States continue to be the largest funder of NATO and yet has an unfavorable view of America—and an increasingly favorable view of NATO’s supposed common threat, Russia.

Other fearful European NATO nations are used to being dominated by Germany and either keep quiet or follow its lead.

This is the NATO that Trump inherited and that he tried to shake up with his customary art-of-the-deal antics. Trump may be loud and uncouth, but his argument that NATO countries need to pay more money for their shared alliance’s self-defense is sound. If successful, it would lead to a stronger NATO.

In contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sounds customarily professional and diplomatic as she continues to weaken the alliance and pursue German commercial and financial interests at the expense of fellow NATO members.

(C) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Administrative State • America • Americanism • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Defense of the West • Democrats • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • NATO • Post • Russia • The Left

Trump Will Win This Round With the Deep State

When the cant and emotionalism subside, the Helsinki summit will go down in history as a turning point in this American president’s struggle to disembowel the bipartisan regime of complacency and lassitude he successfully ran against. It may also be a modest inflection point in U.S.-Russian relations.

President Trump knew what he was getting into in holding a press conference with Vladimir Putin. He knew the press would ask him whose version of Russian meddling in the 2016 election does he believe? Putin’s? Or that of former U.S. intelligence agency directors John Brennan, James Clapper, and James Comey? The question came and President Trump quickly moved to the missing Clinton servers and 33,000 erased Clinton emails under congressional subpoena.

Trump’s response causes the ultimate evocation to the voters in this epic battle that has been lurching and raging over America and astonishing the world for two years. Many of the president’s political supporters expressed genuine regret. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Trump had “missed an opportunity” to confront Putin publicly, and Newt Gingrich said that the president’s remarks were a “serious error,” requiring immediate correction. The departing NeverTrumpers like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.), and even Trump late-comers like Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), were more critical. The Democrats offered almost uniform expressions of shock and anger that the president had humiliated the country.

They all missed the point. The real issue surged to the surface and into the ether in a blinding flash about five minutes after the joint press conference ended in the form of a tweet from former CIA director John Brennan.

Perhaps the most virulent (and fearful) Trump-hater of all, Brennan described Trump’s public performance (not any imagined private betrayals) as “exceeding the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ and justified impeachment” as “treasonous” and “imbecilic.” Although this was defamatory lunacy, it attracted unctuous hand-wringing and robotic nodding of talking heads among Trump’s most consistent cable network detractors. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it was clear Putin “had something on” Trump.

What Trump Didn’t Do—and What He Actually Did
The president could have made the point that former U.S. Ambassador Jack Matlock made last week that the intelligence community had in fact only tentatively concluded that there was official Russian meddling of a very insignificant and ineffectual kind in the 2016 election. He could have dwelt on the fact that all that has really been unearthed is about $10 million of rather vague advertisements on Facebook decrying the general condition of the country, compared to an unprecedented $250 million of Clinton attack ads against Trump in that campaign.

And he could certainly have remarked that since Brennan and Clapper both had accused Trump of colluding with the Russians, and he had done nothing of the kind (as Putin affirmed), and since there was not a shred of evidence to corroborate that allegation or Clapper’s claim that the Russians had tipped the election to Trump, and as both Clapper and Brennan, as well as Comey, had lied to Congress under oath in related matters, he, President Trump, put more faith in Putin’s account of the absence of collusion than in the defamatory allegations of the former leaders of the American intelligence community. He might even have added that the United States had interfered countless times in the internal electoral processes, even primitive ones, of dozens of countries (including Russia) over many decades, and cautioned against excessive righteousness.

Trump did none of these things. Instead, he raised the ante.

Mueller’s Indictment Stunt
The Russian meddling is nonsense. It was trivial and though it is almost inconceivable that Putin wasn’t aware of it, that could never be proved. The president stated before the world that the U.S. intelligence community was so profoundly corrupted under his predecessor that it is less plausible than the chief occupant of the Kremlin on the subject of the late American election, which the directors of the intelligence agencies cooperated in trying to rig and then to undo, in stark and criminal violation of the Constitution. The incumbent president on one side and the former heads of the CIA, ODNI, and FBI on the other are accusing one another of heinous crimes of unconstitutional betrayal of the greatest offices of the republic.

Clearly, if to some extent implicitly, Donald Trump is saying that the latest Mueller accusations against this gang of Russian intelligence officials are a stunt to try to prop up the fraud that there was something suspect in Trump’s pre-election relations with the Russians. Naturally, this sent the Democratic leadership before the television cameras of their obsequious network supporters to tell Trump to stop calling it a witch-hunt and cancel the Putin meeting.

Maybe Newt Gingrich and other supportive Republicans are right, and maybe not. The entire political process is almost stalled in this death struggle between the former political establishment and the president. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a self-emasculated nonentity and his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, is a long-time chum of the old praetorian guard of Mueller, Comey, et al., Mueller can continue his farce that can’t get past pretend indictments of unextraditable Russians and further measures of semi-torture of Paul Manafort for alleged tax fraud many years before he met Trump.

Mueller will keep this charade running to the election, with Sessions and Rosenstein as nodding straight-men, and Trump can’t slice the Gordian Knot yet because of the political repercussions of firing Sessions and his deputy. The voters will have to be the jury. This controversy will settle down, and after the Senate has dealt (affirmatively) with the Supreme Court nominee, all will be quiet until the campaign really heats up after Labor Day.

Strategically, Trump is correct: Russia is a paper tiger apart from its nuclear weapons, has a GDP smaller than Canada’s, and Putin is conducting a clumsy imitation of Charles de Gaulle’s elegant restoration of France as a serious power by being a nuisance to the Anglo-Americans in order to redeem the fiasco of the French surrender to the Nazis in 1940.

The danger with Putin is to drive Russia into the arms of China and Iran, and the goodwill of the Kremlin can be had by the United States for less than continuing the present NATO pocket-picking. NATO can be reformed and Russia can be made a semi-cooperative state of convenience. These are reasonable goals and they are attainable.

Yes, There Was Illicit Meddling in the 2016 Election
What makes this controversy so unique, riveting, and infuriating, is the ability of the palsied Democratic leaders, with their media accomplices and dupes, to keep this dead pigeon of collusion alive by pretending Mueller is conducting a serious investigation; and that they may ride the traditional wave of midterm congressional losses for the administration to distract and paralyze the government with a fraudulent impeachment debate and hopeless Senate trial consuming much of 2019 and deferring the day of reckoning for the culprits of the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department and intelligence agencies.

They are trying to cover up the greatest illicit meddling in an American election in history: by American intelligence agencies. In their desperation since the defeat of the candidate they covertly supported, who would have covered it up for them, they have been trying to maintain the fraud of collusion and conflate it with the trivial and routine interventions of some Russian operatives in the 2016 election.

The president saw that the only way to resolve this is to campaign energetically in the midterms (which no president has really done before), in opposition to open borders, a rollback of tax cuts, and this dishonest and unconstitutional skullduggery. He should celebrate Labor Day by ordering the release of what the congressional committees have been demanding from Rosenstein for many months.

Trump could have handled things better in Helsinki, and should not have provoked a clarification from National Intelligence Director Dan Coats. But fundamentally he is right. And he will win.  

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America • Americanism • Europe • Foreign Policy • NATO • Post

What Good Is NATO?

The old aristocracy was born of battle, a warrior aristocracy. Then the reins were handed off to the  bourgeois, the wealthy capitalist class. Today we have an aristocracy of opinion made up of the managerial elite. Their chief credential is their credentials, as well as their having professed the right opinions. Among this class, much of what passes for deep thinking—whether on economics, foreign policy, or anything else—is in fact a repetition of stale conventional wisdom. The managerial elite’s thoughtlessness is never more apparent than in the case of foreign policy.

This week Donald Trump, yet again, has angered and frightened the ruling class, this time by questioning one of its sacred cows: the U.S. commitment to NATO. He questioned why members don’t meet their obligations, and he did so in an abrasive way. He also noted the absurdity of their very publicly expressed fears of Russia, in light of the great amount of hard currency they send Russia’s way in order to buy natural gas. Most important, he asked the ultimate question, “What good is NATO?”

How NATO Began

How did NATO become a sacred cow to the elite? Indeed, it seems to have accrued a greater reputation after the Soviet threat disappeared.

Its origins were sensible. In the wake of World War II, our erstwhile Soviet allies were now as much a threat to European peace as was the enemy we just defeated. Not only did they dominate Eastern Europe in brutal fashion, but they promoted worldwide communist revolution, employing cells and spy networks across the United States, Western Europe, and the rest of the world. Recent history had shown that the weak, fractured nations of Western Europe likely could not resist the Soviet military without an alliance that included an American security guarantee, and the recent war frequently manifested the difficulties of coordinating multinational military action in the absence of standardization and practice. Finally, the U.S. participation in NATO assuaged broader European concerns about German rearmament.

NATO’s existence thus reflected a broad U.S. and Western consensus on “containment.” In 1945, the Soviet Union could not easily be defeated—and the cost to attempt it would have been monumental—but we did have the ability to make sure it would meet a unified front in Western Europe and be parried as a competitor in the Third World.

From 1949-1991, NATO did its job. It accomplished the deterrence mission. Western Europe was at peace and free of Soviet domination, and the enormous cost of the arms race under the constraints of communist economics led to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

NATO’s Post-Soviet Evolution and Expansion

NATO was an alliance in search of a mission after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The U.S. substantially downsized its military in the aftermath—the so-called peace dividend. Freed of the specter of a Soviet invasion, as well as the pretext of U.S. dominance, former NATO nations proclaimed that a new era had arrived, where NATO’s European members would chart a uniquely European trajectory.

NATO soon found its raison d’etre during the crisis in Yugoslavia. “This is the hour of Europe—not the hour of the Americans. . . . If one problem can be solved by the Europeans, it is the Yugoslav problem. This is a European country and it is not up to the Americans. It is not up to anyone else.” So spoke Jacques Poos, the chair of the EU Foreign Affairs Council. A brutal war nonetheless raged on until 1996. Years of reliance on America’s outsized commitment, as well as national differences in their sympathies regarding the belligerents, led to NATO mostly standing by until America pushed through the Dayton Accords and enforced the peace agreement in 1996.

NATO again set its sights on the former Yugoslav nation of Serbia during the Kosovo War in 1999. Having not obtained UN support, and with President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright embracing the fashionable concept of “humanitarian wars,” NATO unilaterally attacked Serbia to stop its alleged genocide in Kosovo. Postwar reports mostly determined this was an exaggeration, but NATO had shown its purpose: a military alliance that would do . . . whatever.

Under Yeltsin, Russia was very weak, and it did little more than protest U.S. actions against its ally Serbia. At the same time, nervous former Warsaw Pact states eagerly embraced their identities as liberal democracies and “central European” states and pushed for NATO membership, which was soon granted. Later NATO expanded into the former Soviet space and included the Baltic states.

If the nominal mission of NATO was European security, the only realistic military threat was the Russian Federation. In Russian eyes, however, NATO had gone from being a defensive alliance, which welcomed Russia’s return to normalcy and its embrace of democracy, to a provocative encirclement of the former Soviet space. In spite of their expressions of unease, there was even talk, prior to the 2008 Ossetian War, of extending NATO membership to Ukraine and non-European Georgia.

The problem with this strategy of expansion is two-fold. First, it is logical that Russia would perceive this as a threat. The U.S. has pushed NATO expansion, dropped out of arms treaties, and proposed sending anti-ballistic-missile weapons to Eastern Europe. All of these measures upset the balance.

Second, NATO expansion also creates a particular long term risk to U.S. credibility. With any alliance, there is a chance that an ally might opt out when the costs are too high. When this happens, a nation’s credibility—an important asset—declines in dramatic fashion. The U.S. security guarantee to Vietnam—under the analogous SEATO structure—turned out to be too much to bear. Ignoring this lesson, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the foreign policy establishment concluded, in spite of a smaller military and a larger national debt, that we must honor all of our old commitments, take on new ones, and never revisit them once assumed.

This risky and expensive strategy is called “unipolarity.” It means that only the U.S. should be a superpower, and we must use all our resources to stop anyone from taking our place. While this hubristic strategy satisfies the elite, its true costs (and thus its wisdom, or lack of it) have been masked by the inability, until recently, of anyone to challenge U.S. dominance.

Is it likely that Americans, even after the last two years’ overwrought anti-Russian rhetoric, would be willing to lose thousands (or millions) of soldiers and risk a nuclear war over Estonia or Moldova. Would Americans spare even one life for Taiwan’s territorial integrity? Our countrymen repeatedly have shown their reluctance to be an imperial power—Max Boot’s rhetoric notwithstanding—and instead, after brief intervals, have demanded that our leaders end the brutal and seemingly endless wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Americans rightly demand that any expenditure in blood and treasure be directly tied to our own national security. An alliance system, where none of the allies can do much to relieve our burden, but much to increase our risk, is a dubious one. Accordingly, America’s commitment to an expanding NATO is risky, both in terms of cultivating conflict and by creating commitments that may prove illusory.

NATO’s adversaries have a say in all this. Russia has employed its own diminishing resources adroitly, and its strategy seems chiefly to be a message to those on the fence. Russia’s actions in Georgia, Syria, and Crimea attempt to communicate that the U.S. and NATO will not be there for peripheral allies when the cost is high, and that a studied neutrality might better serve Russia’s neighbors’ (and would-be American allies’) security. This factual reality seems obvious. America’s and NATO’s willingness to fight for nations adjacent to Russia is limited, because the old logic of containing global communism is absent. Russia kicked the hell out of America’s ally Georgia in 2008 when Georgia started a war over its breakaway province of Ossetia, and the United States and everyone else, while muttering protests, did nothing. The same basic sequence of events took place in Crimea in 2014, where Russia’s commitment was fueled by the perennial casus belli of protecting Russian ethnic minorities from a nationalist Ukrainian regime. Finally, in spite of U.S. calls for regime change in Syria, Russia has reinforced its long-term ally.

NATO’s weakness stems not only from dubious grand strategy, but also from  its limited practical value. Consider the Libyan Campaign. No longer Europe’s hour, NATO’s member states aligned with one another to persuade the U.S. to join a dubious campaigns, where highfalutin rhetoric of human rights masked realpolitik concerns for things like oil. The NATO tail ended up wagging the American dog, and the U.S. military had to make up for key NATO deficiencies in logistics, electronic warfare, surveillance, and airpower. In the end, the NATO allies worked together and toppled Qaddafi, but the place fell apart, jihadis exploited the ungoverned space, a U.S. ambassador was killed, and the campaign did little to contribute to U.S. or European security interests. A paragon of the managerial class, Hillary Clinton summed it up with her callous retort: “What difference at this point does it make?”

Libya is not the exception. In Bosnia and Kosovo, NATO’s European members repeatedly have shown very meager power projection capabilities. In Afghanistan, where many of our NATO allies assisted our campaign after the 9/11 attacks under NATO’s Article 5, individual NATO participants often operated under wildly different rules of engagement, limiting the effectiveness of various nations’ contingents. While there are common standards across NATO, ties of history and friendship, as well as a common Western culture, it’s not so clear that these factors have ever overcome the divergent abilities of NATO members when called to action.

In short, as it has expanded its membership and its mission, NATO has become less effective. And, to the extent it is effective at all, the United States has always had to do most of the work.

What are the Real Security Interests and Threats the U.S. Faces in the Years Ahead?

Trump is asking the right questions and making the right criticisms. As a successful businessman, and not a credential amateur, he rightly asks, “What’s in it for us?” The answer is not satisfactory. U.S. investment in NATO has provided diminishing returns to the United States after the end of the Cold War, and increasingly functions as an economic subsidy to Western European nations unserious about their own defense.

The main future threats to America’s security come from two sources. One is Islamic terrorism emanating from the Middle East. While there is much to discuss and debate about how that threat is best addressed, NATO will likely have a limited role in any such campaigns, and it has proven almost completely useless at stopping the infiltrations of the mass migration of “military aged males” from Syria and other parts of the Middle East. The other potential threat, chiefly because of its size, strength, sophistication, and increasing nationalism, is China.

NATO presupposes, as if 1945 were frozen in amber, that Russia is the dominant security threat to the world. This is mere habit. Russia is indeed a powerful, nuclear-armed nation, but, like the old Ottoman Empire, it is the sick man of Europe. It has a shrinking population, endemic corruption, and an economy dominated by the export of raw materials. It is feared by many on the left—including left-leaning Western Europe—because it has rejected the liberal democratic model for an authoritarian one. But China is also an authoritarian and nationalist nation, and unlike Russia, it is on the ascent.  

In other words, European security is secondary to the high volume threats coming from the Middle East (which the United States can avoid mostly through sound immigration policy) and the high magnitude threats of China in East Asia (which we might be able to manage, but this will require diverting resources we now devote to NATO, as well as greater contributions from China’s neighbors, to balance its power). Shifting our attention to these places requires prioritization, that is, a strategy. This concept—well known to families and businesses, and largely unknown to our managerial elite—is completely absent from the Euro-centric obsession with Russia, the continuation of America’s dominant role in NATO, and the quixotic goal of “unipolarity” more generally.

Instead of evaluating threats appropriately, and deploying resources accordingly, we artificially have kept alive conflict with Russia by expanding NATO and maintaining a dominant role within it. Ordinary common sense shows why this is provocative. Imagine if China entered a military alliance with Mexico or if Russia staged a coup in Canada? The implications are obvious. Just as in the détente era of U.S.-Soviet relations, more moderate rhetoric and gestures of good faith would yield substantially more dividends than our current, hardline approach.

Any alliance should serve the interests of its members. United, two weaker nations may defeat a stronger nation. On the other hand, smaller nations can also drag their more powerful sponsors into conflicts from which the stronger nation has much to lose and little to gain. Conditions change, and our alliances, formal and informal, should change with them, along with how we prioritize one type of alliance over another.

In this respect, we should view the NATO chapter of our nation’s history critically. After all, the rise of National Socialism in Germany and Communism in the Soviet Union were aberrations in many ways. Europe previously had numerous unideological wars arising from dynastic ambition and the balance of powers. These implicated borders, trade routes, and other matters of little concern to the United States. While the Cold War was a great moral struggle, matters of more remote interest have characterized NATO’s employment since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Our relationship with NATO should be revamped to serve America’s national interests, not the least of which would be diminishing our financial burdens and freeing up our military forces for more significant threats.  More broadly, NATO itself, and U.S. membership in it, should be reconsidered. As George Washington recognized in his Farewell Address that while we may have “temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies,” that it “is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Americanism • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Europe • NATO • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • The Culture

NATO Now Serves the Interests of the Transatlantic Ruling Class

If we’re to believe the recent NATO summit’s communique and the mainstream media’s commentaries about it, the alliance serves roughly the same essential purpose today as it did in 1948, and Americans had better heed European Council President Donald Tusk’s thinly veiled warning: rein in President Trump’s criticisms of NATO, because its members are about the only allies America has got.

But although the people who run today’s European and American societies are perhaps closer to each other than in 1948—which accounts for their dogged defense of “the alliance”—in fact, they themselves have changed in ways that obviate the purposes for which the alliance originally was formed.

The point of departure for understanding U.S.-European relations is that the relationship between “the people who count” on both sides of the Atlantic are so good precisely because they  have become aliens to their own peoples. And, since all are in the process of being rejected by their own peoples, they are each others’ natural allies. But against whom are they allied?

What is the purpose of this alliance and what does it mean to us Americans?

Herewith, a summary of these moral and political changes, whose importance dwarfs the massive material transformations that the world has undergone in the past 70 years.

Defense of the West

In 1948, Europe faced the mighty Red Army, prostrate, poor, and penetrated by Communist organizations. But its principal figures—Konrad Adenauer, Charles De Gaulle, and Alcide De Gasperi—were devout Christians leading peoples who, chastened by war, were eager to safeguard and bolster what remained of their civilizations. All were conscious of their dependence on the United States of America for pretty much everything and grateful to us for it. That moral-political strength made up for a lot of material weakness.

It should be remembered, too, that keeping fellow Christians from succumbing to godless Communism moved that generation of Americans almost as much as the realization that the Soviet conquest of Europe would be very dangerous for us. Most came to believe that an alliance that reassured a weak-but-willing Europe was the best way to prevent it. Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, in tune as they were with ordinary Americans as well as with European leaders of their era, had no trouble forging a North Atlantic alliance based on the axiomatic commitment to nuke the Soviets were they to invade Europe.

Progressive Infection

NATO’s rot started in America. John F. Kennedy’s 1960 election brought to power progressives, who self-identified as “the best and the brightest.” Shaped intellectually and morally by the doctrines of (eventual Nobel laureates) Henry Kissinger and Thomas Schelling, they saw men like Adenauer and De Gaulle as of a piece with the American conservative persons and ideas they were displacing.

At the first NATO meeting after Kennedy’s inauguration, they removed the U.S. commitment to nuke the Soviets. They also removed the U.S. medium range missiles on the necessity of which that generation of European leaders had staked their legitimacy. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, these American did their best to foster the rise of progressive Europeans, who would be partners in the grand pursuit of “detente” with Moscow. They got what they wished, and then some.

In retrospect the 1980s, dominated as they were by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Kohl, were a brief anomaly.

Today, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have the opposite of 1948: political weakness born of the ruling class’s civilizational renunciation undermines vastly increased economic and (in the United States) military power. Russia’s army, backed by scarcely a tenth of the European Union’s GDP, would have little trouble making prisoners of NATO’s forward-deployed forces and reaching the Atlantic.

An Alliance to Protect the Ruling Class’s Power and Prestige

Today the transatlantic ruling class has its own civilizational agenda, manifested by its subsidies for constituencies both business and cultural, ranging from “renewable energy resources,” to education, the arts, and lifestyle. Far from allied to safeguard and promote Western civilization, this ruling class treats its cornerstone, Christianity, as unmentionable at best and usually as the main feature to be extirpated from people’s lives. This class also regards self-rule, the capacity of people in towns, regions, or nations to decide by vote how they shall live, as among the evils to be done away with. It treats as enemy anything—thoughts, practices, institutions—that limit its own its own power and prestige. For their power and prestige, after all, are what it is allied to protect.

Since ordinary people in each and all of NATO’s countries pose the clearest and most present danger to that power and prestige, whenever any country’s people have challenged the  power or prestige of their local member of the club, the other countries’ ruling classes have treated it as an attack on themselves. Under this updated version of the famous Article 5, the allied transatlantic rulers have warned, on pain of horrid consequences, the people of Britain to stay in the EU, the peoples of France to elect anybody but Le Pen, the peoples of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and most recently of Italy, not to vote as they did.

Most of all, they warned Americans not to elect Donald Trump.

Nothing has equaled their fury against him. This, of course, has little to do with Trump himself. Rather, it is the transatlantic allies’ reaction to their inability to bend the American people to their ways. The American people’s adherence to Western civilization, our inflexible desire to rule ourselves, is the negation of everything for which this class stands. And because America is what it is, the election of an anti-ruling class candidate has inspired European peoples to do likewise.

As the transatlantic allies have lost election after election, they have retreated to their bastions in the supranational institutions, the banks, the corporations, the media, etc. Their objective seems to be to punish voters—psychologically if in no other way—to convince them to repent. Their hands will have to be pried off the levers of power.

Because such things as Russia’s power, the Third World’s physical occupation of the Europe and the United States, never mind the international military balance, do not threaten what the transatlantic ruling class is allied to protect, they cannot be bothered to take these questions seriously. Hence, for the American people, NATO as it exists today is yet one more ruling class institution to be overcome.

What good—and it may be considerable—that Americans might achieve by working with Europeans would have to be pursued with such peoples as have freed themselves from the transatlantic ruling class’s power.

Photo credit:  DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images

America • Americanism • China • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • Germany • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Middle East • NATO • Post • Trade

Reciprocity Is the Method to Trump’s Madness

Critics of Donald Trump claim there is no rhyme or reason to his foreign policy. But if there is a consistency, it might be called reciprocity.

Trump tries to force other countries to treat the United States as it treats them. In “don’t tread on me” style, he also warns enemies that any aggressive act will be replied to in kind.

The underlying principle of Trump commercial reciprocity is that the United States is no longer powerful or wealthy enough to alone underwrite the security of the West. It can no longer assume sole enforcement of the rules and protocols of the postwar global order.

This year there have been none of the usual Iranian provocations—frequent during the Obama Administration—of harassing American ships in the Persian Gulf. Apparently, the Iranians now realize that anything they do to an American ship will be replied to with overwhelming force.

Ditto North Korea. After lots of threats from Kim Jong Un about using his new ballistic missiles against the United States, Trump warned that he would use America’s far greater arsenal to eliminate North Korea’s arsenal for good.

Trump is said to be undermining NATO by questioning its usefulness some 69 years after its founding. Yet unlike 1948, Germany is no longer down. The United States is always in. And Russia is hardly out, but instead cutting energy deals with the Europeans.

More importantly, most NATO countries have failed to keep their promises to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.

Yet the vast majority of the 29 alliance members are far closer than the United States to the dangers of Middle East terrorism and supposed Russian bullying.

Why does Germany by design run up a $65 billion annual trade surplus with the United States? Why does such a wealthy country spend only 1.2 percent of its GDP on defense? And if Germany has entered into energy agreements with a supposedly dangerous Vladimir Putin, why does it still need to have its security subsidized by the American military?

Trump approaches NAFTA in the same reductionist way. The 24-year-old treaty was supposed to stabilize, if not equalize, all trade, immigration, and commerce between the three supposed North American allies.

It never quite happened that way. Unequal tariffs remained. Both Canada and Mexico have substantial trade surpluses with the United States. In Mexico’s case, it enjoys a $71 billion surplus, the largest of U.S. trading partners with the exception of China.

Canada never honored its NATO security commitment. It spends only 1 percent of its GDP on defense, rightly assuming that the U.S. will continue to underwrite its security.

During the lifetime of NAFTA, Mexico has encouraged millions of its citizens to enter the U.S. illegally. Mexico’s selfish immigration policy is designed to avoid internal reform, to earn some $30 billion in annual expatriate remittances, and to influence U.S. politics.

Yet after more than two decades of NAFTA, Mexico is more unstable than ever. Cartels run entire states. Murders are at a record high. Entire towns in southern Mexico have been denuded of their young males, who crossed the U.S. border illegally.

The United States runs a huge trade deficit with China. The red ink is predicated on Chinese dumping, patent and copyright infringement, and outright cheating. Beijing illegally occupies neutral islands in the South China Sea, militarizes them and bullies its neighbors.

All of the above has become the “normal” globalized world.

But in 2016, red-state America rebelled at the asymmetry. The other half of the country demonized the red-staters as protectionists, nativists, isolationists, populists, and nationalists.

However, if China, Europe, and other U.S. trading partners had simply followed global trading rules, there would have been no Trump pushback—and probably no Trump presidency at all.

Had NATO members and NAFTA partners just kept their commitments, and had Mexico not encouraged millions of its citizens to crash the U.S. border, there would now be little tension between allies.

Instead, what had become abnormal was branded the new normal of the postwar world.

Again, a rich and powerful United States was supposed to subsidize world trade, take in more immigrants than all the nations of the world combined, protect the West, and ensure safe global communications, travel, and commerce.

After 70 years, the effort had hollowed out the interior of America, creating two separate nations of coastal winners and heartland losers.

Trump’s entire foreign policy can be summed up as a demand for symmetry from all partners and allies, and tit-for-tat replies to would-be enemies.

Did Trump have to be so loud and often crude in his effort to bully America back to reciprocity?

Who knows?

But it seems impossible to imagine that globalist John McCain, internationalist Barack Obama or gentlemanly Mitt Romney would ever have called Europe, NATO, Mexico, and Canada to account, or warned Iran or North Korea that tit would be met by tat.

(C) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

America • China • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • military • NATO • North Korea • Obama • Post • Progressivism • the Presidency • Trade

Trump’s ‘Deplorable’ Diplomacy

Liberals see Donald Trump as the embodiment of toxic masculinity. Trump’s voters see a real man.

My husband jokes that in our family, if anything is dead, bites or is on fire, it’s his job. North Korea was beginning to approach the “bites” and “is on fire” category.

It took a year of intense economic and military and psychological pressure to bring Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table in Singapore. Trump’s critics tried to spin the initial meeting as a diplomatic disaster.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Pyongyang this week to kick off the negotiations. Satellite images show that North Korea is expanding missile production, so the Washington Post is calling the entire diplomatic effort a “sham” before actual negotiations have begun.

Trump’s critics are going to fall on their faces with North Korea, as with their other predictions of doom. They underestimate Trump time and again because his strengths are invisible to them.

The United States does not have to blink at threats from a squirt like Kim Jong-un. Our experts don’t know this. Trump does.

When Kim tried some last-minute bluster before Singapore, Trump canceled the summit. Setting clear lines is not a setback, it is a key to success. Trump was defining the relationship. Kim cannot make threats. We can. Trump was his usual blunt self: “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

Force of Commitment
It’s easy to point to Trump’s character flaws. His virtues are discounted by liberals who adore the Ivy League finishing school polish of Barack Obama. They never noticed the small, aggrieved, lying politician inside the fancy suit.

Trump wears big, ill-fitting suits by choice. He does what he likes. He does not tailor himself to suit others.

Trump’s critics do not understand the force of the president’s commitment to protect and defend America. His voters do. It is an essential, common sense, manly, American virtue—men protect their families. Men take care of danger.

It seems a big leap from New York real estate to international diplomacy. It is not. Being a confident, tough, aggressive man is essential in dealing with dangerous pipsqueaks like ISIS and North Korea.

The victory over ISIS came first and so fast that the partisan press had little trouble ignoring Trump’s achievement. After years of Obama flapping his hands and disastrously inviting Russia into the Middle East to do the job for us, ISIS was out of Syria. ISIS was in our weekly headlines, and then it was gone. No success here, move along.

Trump focuses on his goals, like any good businessman, not on his re-election prospects, as politicians do. His job as president is to protect the nation’s security and advance American prosperity. North Korea will not be a nuclear power, period. It’s too dangerous to let a rogue country, run like a slave-labor camp with a half-mad ruler, have nuclear missiles. Add in the fact that Kim is already selling military technology to Iran, and the task is beyond urgent. Trump sees that Kim is a dangerous weirdo murderer better than anyone. That is why he decided Kim must “denuke.”

His critics predict the same old diplomatic collapse when North Korea blusters and cheats. They think Trump is an idiot and can’t handle a Kim Jong-un. They think Trump’s aggression is out of control, even insane and destructive.

But then, they think all healthy masculinity is destructive.

“Don’t Mess With the Messer”
His voters believe Trump will win in Korea because they think the same way. Diplomats see complexity. Trump sees simplicity. A nuclear North Korea is dangerous to the United States. North Korea is small and weak. We are strong. It is protected by China, but China is no match for America either.

What is impressive is how Trump communicated the force of his decision to disarm North Korea to China and to Kim Jong-un. It took a year of strategic, multifaceted diplomacy and intimidation.

China has been buying off and manipulating our politicians for decades. Trump can’t be bought, and he does the manipulating himself. As the old Willie Dixon song goes, “Don’t mess with the messer, the messer gonna mess with you.”

Real estate tycoons like Trump win through intimidation. They are masters at that game. Trump isn’t intimidated by anybody. Not by business rivals, political rivals, lying journalists, not by rogue FBI agents. He is not intimidated by China, and certainly not by Kim Jong-un. Intimidation is what Trump does. It is a game he enjoys as a master.

Trump wants to upset the status quo with China. Trump puts the American worker, his voters, first. The powerful economic interests who profit from China’s predatory trade practices are less than nothing to him. He wants to win the existing trade war with China, the one that the United States has been losing for more than two decades. Accommodating to China is over.

War If Need Be
Politicians play things safe by doing what has been done before, solutions be damned. Trump the builder likes to get things done. It is not in him to follow Obama’s politically safe, irresponsible, do-nothing footsteps and call that “peace.”

North Korea could thumb its nose at us because it was protected by China. When Trump put China on notice he was going to war with them—a trade war, that is—calculations changed. Encouraging Kim’s bellicosity was no longer to their advantage. China shortened Kim’s leash.

The messages continued all year. Trump became more and more menacing. That ranged from bombing Syria during dinner with the Chinese premier, to mockery, to military exercises in the Pacific. This was not a phony Twitter war, it was geopolitics at the highest level. It is almost exactly a year since Trump sent the third carrier battle group into the western Pacific. It is said that when the United States sends one or two carriers, it is a show of strength. Sending out a third carrier means war. China and Kim got the message.

Asserting Power in Our Self-Interest
Why is Trump’s pragmatic, forceful, classic carrot-and-stick approach so difficult to grasp for our foreign policy experts and pusillanimous politicians? Because the solution requires character traits they don’t have. Masculine traits Trump and his supporters have in abundance—not accepting bullshit, not caring what other people think, not being afraid of a fight.

That is why his voters are sure North Korea is not going to be the dangerously useless diplomacy we have had since Clinton. Trump and his voters share a common outlook about getting the job done, no matter if it is dirty or difficult. Don’t over-complicate things, and don’t shirk your duty. Just do the job.

China and North Korea and Trump’s critics are getting to experience how a tough man goes to work. This is how a responsible president deals with a small but rabid country threatening the safety of our own nation.

President Trump understands we are a powerful country. He knows how to assert American power in our self-interest.

He is on the job.

Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

2016 Election • America • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Elections • EU • Europe • Germany • History • Immigration • Law and Order • military • NATO • political philosophy • Post • self-government • The Culture • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

The Trans-Atlantic Class Struggle

At the recent G7 summit, President Trump differed with the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Canada on a host of issues. But the real reason why he and the leaders of longtime allied countries treated one another as enemies is that they belong to socio-political classes engaged in a cold war.

Since World War II, a remarkably uniform ruling class has grown throughout Western Europe as well as in the United States and Canada. It now occupies government bureaucracies, the media, education, big business, and international institutions as well as traditional political parties. Rebellious voters are besieging that class on both sides of the Atlantic. Prime Ministers Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and Justin Trudeau represent that class. Their political forces have experienced narrow electoral escapes.

President Donald Trump and Italy’s newly installed PM Giuseppe Conte represent rebellious voters who have brought wholesale rejection of that class to their countries’ top office. Within these countries, the old ruling class refuses to accept electoral defeat. In waging this resistance, they find solidarity with their homologues from the Bering Straits to the Oder. What happened at the G7 was one instance of that struggle.

Herewith, an explanation of this dynamic.

As the size of the Western world’s economy has grown nearly nine-fold, the size of government more than doubled. By the hiring, regulations, contracts, and contacts through which they have steered trillions of dollars—even more successfully than they might have done through laws—the people in charge of Western governments have shaped their societies according to their preferences, foremost of which has been to accommodate and advance people like themselves.

In Europe and in America, as more and more activities, educational, commercial, etc. have come under government’s aegis, the boundary between public and private has faded. Already in his 1960 farewell, President Dwight Eisenhower thought it necessary to warn that connection to government was superseding even criteria of scientific truth.

In Europe even more than in America, politicians of the right and of the left gradually have grown into co-managers of a complex that is the writ-large version of themselves. These rulers’ principal feature is social, intellectual, and moral contempt for the ruled, national boundaries notwithstanding. A German bureaucrat or big business executive is likelier to think better of a Briton or an American in a similar position than of a fellow citizen of a station he views as inferior. The ruling class’s censorious identity and attitude is especially lethal to its leftist parties, which had relied on the votes of humble people.

In recent memory, Western societies (European far more than American) were divided into economic classes. But today, the growth of government and the effective merging of traditional parties has divided them all equally into the trans-nationally favored “ins” and the deplored “outs.”

Different party and electoral systems notwithstanding, revolt and resistance have followed parallel courses throughout the West. America’s looser system saw the first revolts: Barry Goldwater’s 1964 call for “a choice, not an echo” and George Wallace’s 1968 taunt that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between the Republican and Democratic parties. Except for Ronald Reagan, he was right. Europe’s first attempt at revolt happened in Italy in 1994. A petitioned referendum had killed the traditional parties. But, led by Silvio Berlusconi, mainstream politicians’ common socio-political culture reasserted itself. By 2008 however, the ruling class’s handling of the financial crisis and of mass illegal migration, along with its dismissal of traditional cultural concerns, definitively alienated it from the voters on both sides of the Atlantic and spurred them to find ways of saying NO.

In the U.S. voters gave Republicans big majorities in House and Senate as well as in most state governments, while letting them know that they were on short leashes. In 2016 they pulled the leash, defied both parties’ establishments, the media, etc. and elected Donald Trump because he was the most undeniably anti-establishment candidate out there.

In Europe, almost contemporaneously, the British people defied the same class and voted to leave the European Union. In France the establishment candidate in the presidential elections’ first round, Macron, got less than one percent of the vote more than Marine Le Pen, against whom all its forces were directed. In Germany, the members of Merkel’ coalition were reduced to historic lows. In all cases, voters’ distrust for the establishment has continued to rise. In Italy, where collusion between traditional right and left had thwarted election results, the five-star party got 32% on the slogan “vaffanculo,” and the Center-Right Alliance, led by the Northern League got 37%. They formed the government that sent Giuseppe Conte to the G-7 meeting, where he found himself on the same side as Donald Trump.

Tangential to our discussion of the G-7 but essential to our general point is that the countries of Eastern Europe—principally, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic—have voted out of office their local versions of the Euro-American ruling class for the same reasons that class is being opposed throughout the West: their regulations, emanating from the EU,  deprive the people of self government and do more harm than good, their cultural influences rob the people of their past while, their patronage of Third World migrants robs the people of a future. The ruling class’s resistance to the Eastern countries’ electoral choices differs in the tools but is essentially the same as what it deploys against those who voted for Brexit, for Trump, in Italy’s latest election, and those who, soon, might throw out Mrs. Merkel and others like her.

That resistance refuses to acknowledge that “the people” have really rejected the ruling class. Rejecting them for any rational principle, they say, is impossible. Voters were deceived. Maybe by the Russians. Certainly by appeals to the worst of sentiments by the worst of people. Hence this rejection violates democracy, liberal principles, and the rule of law. We who are the guardians of all the above cannot and will not accept this. We who hold positions of authority  will not recognize these election results as legitimate, and will treat those elected as usurpers.The rule of law is rule by institutions. We control them, and will use them to deny the usurpers’ legitimacy.

We predict that attempts to reject us will have harsh consequences, and we will do our best to mete out those consequences. If the usurpers (by which, remember, they mean the majority of the people) try to unseat us, we will charge despotism, and try to convince the voters they made a mistake. We recognize that the voters are not qualified to judge us, and that it is problematic for us to denigrate them while asking for their votes. But we rely on our dominance of the media and state institutions to square this circle by intimidating first the people whom the voters elect, and then the voters themselves.

All of the above is why Donald Trump’s dismissive attitude toward May, Macron, Merkel, and Trudeau at the G-7 meeting frightened them far more than his vague references to tariffs. He and Mr. Conte, not being intimidated, thus encouraged their publics—and the British, French, German, and Canadian as well—to further disrespect the trans-Atlantic ruling class.

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A Tale of Three Syrias: What Lies Ahead for President Trump

With the Syrian Civil war now in its seventh year—thanks to the confluence of ongoing bloodshed, sectarian tension, and foreign intervention—we now have one of the most complex tangled webs the international community has faced since the end of World War II.

With ISIS now but a shadow of what it was in 2015, the major players in the conflict are down to three: the Assad government (including supportive militias, Hezbollah, Russia, and Iran); the fractured opposition (i.e., the Free Syrian Army, Islamist militias such as Jaiesh al-Islam, and Hayet Tahrir al-Sham—all backed and supported by Turkey and Qatar); and the Kurds (backed by the United States and allied forces).

ISIS is no longer in control over any significant territory, largely has been killed off, and has been relegated to the desert outskirts of Eastern Syria. This leaves a power vacuum that the three major players will seek to fill. For now, they have solidified control over three different chunks of the nation, essentially creating three governments within Syria. Each is backed by one or another major global and regional power, and all have a stake in the Middle East’s power politics and are at odds with one another.

Assad’s Reassertion of Control
As last week, the Assad government controlled nearly 60 percent of Syrian territory. This is a major increase of territorial control from 2015 and is due largely to Russian and Iranian intervention.

With the arrival of the Trump Administration, the United States stopped backing the Islamist militia-filled opposition, and so the rebel groups’ control over territory began to fade. The Trump Administration took a clear-eyed approach to the conflict, knowing the Obama-backed Free Syrian Army had become infiltrated and taken over by Islamist militias and was not a “moderate, democracy-loving resistance” as prior administration suggested. They also knew that toppling a secular dictator like Assad would likely produce disastrous results as we saw in Iraq and Libya.

True, Assad has the backing of Iran and Hezbollah, but this has been the case ever since his father Hafez al-Assad came to power and developed a strategic alliance with the Islamic Republic to counter Israel and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Russia has also had a longstanding alliance with the Assad government dating back to 1971 when the Soviet Union opened its naval base in Tartus, which the Russian government continues to operate today.

The Trump Administration is taking a hard look at the situation and while the Russia and Iran-backed Assad government isn’t ideal, the alternative of a chaotic power vacuum between warring rebel factions would likely be far worse than maintaining the status quo. For now, the United States is focusing in arming, training, and providing logistical support to the Syrian Kurds, who have proven to be the most effective fighting force against ISIS. Additionally, the Kurds have largely avoided conflict with Assad’s forces and have even allied themselves with them in their fight against Turkish forces in northwestern Syria.

Assad’s military has reclaimed huge swaths of land from ISIS and Syrian opposition groups. The string of military victories likely will continue until his government controls the border area along the Israeli Golan Heights, Northern Homs, and a chunk of land along the Jordanian border. These areas are currently controlled by small rebel factions whose power is waning and have little to no support.

The Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan)
Whereas the Obama Administration failed to support the Syrian Kurds and instead supported the dubious Free Syrian Army, the Trump Administration has done a complete reversal by cutting support for the latter and heavily increasing support for the former. As a result, the Syrian Kurds have solidified their hold on Eastern Syria, controlling nearly 25 percent of the country’s territory and dubbing their proto-state, “Rojava.”

This has provoked the ire of Turkey, which sees the Syrian Kurds as no different than the Turkish PKK and has vowed to eliminate their control of territory along the Syria-Turkey border. That vow may prove hard to pull off, given that the United States and France have sent forces to assist the Kurds in their fight against ISIS.

The U.S. backing of the Kurds has strained our relationship Turkey, which is a NATO ally. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees Western support of the Kurds as tantamount to betrayal. It has even come to the point where Turkey has threatened to attack U.S. and French forces. While this is unlikely to happen, it’s clear that the old Cold War alliance is no more.

In the midst of all this, Assad’s forces are fighting Free Syrian Army elements and collaborating with the Kurdish forces against Turkish incursions in Northwestern Syria. Whether the détente with the Assad government holds remains to be seen. But Rojava doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

The Turkish-Backed Northwest
The bulk of opposition fighters remain holed up along the northwest portion of the country in the Idlib Governorate and recently captured Afrin region. Our “ally” Turkey has provided weapons, training, and has even sent troops into this region to back and bolster the rebels’ position, essentially creating its own puppet state.

Many of the defeated rebels in other parts of the country have fled to this region, holing up for an eventual confrontation with Assad’s forces. The Turks concentrating their forces in the area may make it difficult for Assad to retake the region by the time he has solidified control over the other rebel territory in the country.

Like the Kurdish Rojava, the Turkish-backed rebel puppet state in the northwest looks like it will remain for the time being.

Where Does That Leave the United States?
With these three areas solidifying essentially into three distinct countries, the Trump Administration is in a bit of a Catch-22. The United States is still obliged to protect its NATO ally, yet that ally is arming and backing jihadist militant groups against Syria, and Assad is fighting against those same jihadists. The Turks are also fighting against another U.S. ally, the Kurds, who have proven to be a reliable partner in the region.

By maintaining a presence in Syrian Kurdistan, the United States would have a foothold in the region where the Kurds could act as a bulwark against Turkish and Iranian expansion. It also would allow us quickly to take out any ISIS elements before they metastasize into a larger threat.

This tangled web of regional affairs has left the United States in a precarious situation and it is a web our interests force us to remain involved with, even if only tangentially. The Trump Administration seems to be walking the fine line between Bush-style intervention and Obama-style “leading from behind,” which might be the right recipe for maintaining stability.

Photo credit: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images 

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Trump Gives Merkel Some Tough Love

On the heels of the near love fest between French President Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump, the White House hosted a meeting with a rather frigid German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Trump publicly (and appropriately) lambasted Germany for its unwillingness to live up to its NATO commitments. The president also beautifully ripped into Merkel for the massive trade deficit between the United States and the European Union.

Trump was right and Merkel knew it.

Germany is a great country. Since losing two world wars and then surviving as a bifurcated frontline state in the Cold War, Germany has risen to be the dominant power in Europe. In fact, today, the European Union essentially is the German Union. After its disastrous experience in the 20th century, Germany opted to trade military might for economic preeminence.  Today, Germany possesses the fifth strongest economy in the world, with a gross domestic product of more than $3 trillion. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “In Germany, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD $33,652” which is higher than the OECD average (America’s is slightly higher at $44,049).

Oh, and the German people rarely have to concern themselves with the messy business of national defense. This has gone on for decades at our expense.

And that’s a big part of the problem. Judging from Germany’s actions since the end of the Cold War, they certainly do seek dominance in Europe. Unfortunately, they still wish to be viewed by Washington, D.C. (as they have been up till now) as the helpless ward of the United States. Germany calculated that it was a very simple tradeoff: they rely on America’s military to defend them and the money that the German republic saves is then channeled into their welfare state.

This must end.

For all of her globalist rhetoric, Merkel is one of the stingiest practitioners of classical geopolitics in the modern age. For instance, in case the Trump Administration missed it, the recent Franco-American state visit (chock full of fawning rhetoric, awkward kisses, and the classic French slap at the end) was not what it appeared to be. Despite possessing the most advanced, nuclear-armed military in continental Europe, France is deeply indebted to Germany. Also, France forms part of an axis of anti-American European resistance, which includes Germany and, yes, Russia. It has existed in some form since the 1990s, but solidified over these countries’ opposition to the Iraq War of 2003.

Despite its military power, France’s turgid economy makes it the weakest of the three members of this European axis of resistance. Macron came to the United States not out of friendship to the United States but as Merkel’s errand boy. The new European order is easy to understand: the French military is subordinated to German economic dominance, and both are dependent (or were) on cheap Russian energy.

Germany needs the United States to maintain its commitment to the pathetic Iran nuclear deal that the Obama Administration crafted in 2015 (as does France and much of the rest of Europe). All of these countries are deeply committed to trade with Iran. If the United States were to withdraw from the deal, the Europeans would take a significant economic hit. Given the anemic economic situation in Europe, countries like Germany and France need every boost they can get. When it became clear that the Trump Administration was averse to recertifying the Iran nuclear agreement, Macron went to Congress and lambasted the American president. The French left in a huff, and a few days thereafter, the Teutonic Merkel came to Washington to badger the president.

But Merkel’s brinkmanship didn’t work. If anything, it had the opposite of the intended effect.

President Trump knows that the status quo has to change. We have to start giving our allies some tough love so that they stand on their own and give us relief for a change. What Trump did in his meeting with Merkel was necessary. No, he did not kill NATO, as his critics insist. Instead, he reinvigorated it by insisting NATO become a more European endeavor (in other words, a more German and French-powered alliance). Trump made clear his intention to protect American interests—and taxpayer dollars—with at least as much zeal as Merkel and Macron protect their interests and money.

Going back to the 1990s, French and German policymakers have sought to create a world where there were many powers to rein in America’s perceived “hyperpuissance.” Well, they have may have finally succeeded in crafting that multipolar world.

Be careful what you wish for, Frau.

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What Message Did We Send in Syria?

Friday’s cruise missile strike on Syria by the United States, Great Britain, and France has received widespread praise for its relative restraint and alleged effectiveness. People I know, like, and respect say the attack was necessary. Maybe they’re right. But no one has yet made or, as near as I can tell, is attempting to make a compelling, substantive argument why the strikes were necessary to protect and maintain U.S. national security.

Let’s stipulate the following: 1) the April 7 chemical attack on civilians in Douma really happened; 2) Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus was responsible; 3) Assad and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are tyrants; and 4) using chemical weapons (especially—but not exclusively—on civilians) is deplorable. Not the way Hillary meant it, but actually deplorable.

But those stipulations facts don’t answer the question. They distract from it.

Two arguments come closest to addressing my question. The first is that the strike seriously degraded Assad’s ability to produce chemical weapons. The truth of this will be borne out in the fullness of time. But even if true, it prevents neither the reconstruction of that capacity nor Assad’s ability to purchase chemical weapons from others. If he believes chemical weapons are necessary for the survival of his regime, we should expect him to pursue both. But again, this assertion, while tactically interesting, doesn’t answer the threshold question: Why was this necessary to maintain American national security?

The second and potentially more compelling argument is that the attack “sent a message” to Assad, Putin, the North Koreans, and the Chinese. The always smart Claudia Rosett lauds the strike in such terms. She notes that one of the targets was almost certainly the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, which has served as the hub of Assad’s weapons-of-mass-destruction research and development. If a missile or two happened to take out the SSRC, Rosett writes:

It would also send a useful message to everyone from the SSRC’s suppliers, such as Iran and North Korea, to such predatory dictators as Russia’s Putin and China’s Xi Jinping. Destroying the SSRC with air strikes ought to drive home, in a way that no amount of UN debate and no quantity of sanctions designations ever could, that these days the U.S. and its allies are serious about their red lines.

In fact, this is essentially the same language we heard after the April 2017 cruise missile attack, when U.S. Senators Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) issued a joint statement saying the strike “sent an important message” to Assad. But it’s unlikely either attack did any such thing.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said this week that Assad has used chemical weapons 50 times during the Syrian conflict, including two attacks in Douma this year alone, one in January and the one on April 7 that served as the proximate cause for Friday’s punitive missile strike. In other words, use of chemical weapons has been a regular feature of Assad’s struggle to retain power. Apparently, Assad did not get the message we thought our missiles delivered last year.

That said, some critics of the strike have lost their sense of proportion and context. The Syria strike does not represent a return to the failed political consensus favoring promiscuous foreign intervention and too-easy presumptions about nation-building that prevailed during the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama years. But at the same time,  proponents of those policies and the principals that implemented them think Friday’s attack represents an opening.

Meanwhile, President Trump on Saturday morning declared “mission accomplished.” But if it’s the case, as Haley told the United Nations, that the United States remains “locked and loaded” to strike Syria again, the president needs to explain why we are going abroad seeking monsters to destroy. And if Assad is, in fact, able to reestablish his chemical weapons capabilities what message did we really send? Did we look strong or did we inadvertently display our impotence?

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