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What Price Victory? What Cost ‘Infinite War’?

President Trump said something this week that flew largely under the radar of a media obsessed with Stormy Daniels and whether it can get the scalp of “embattled” (by them) EPA boss, Scott Pruitt. It had to do with the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and what, if any, America’s long-term role should be in that sorry corner of the world. He said that our troops would be withdrawing “very soon” from Syria, no later than this autumn.

The reaction from the proponents of endless war was illustrative of why, going on 17 years after 9/11, America still finds itself embroiled in Muslim-bred conflicts in which it has no material interest other than strictly punitive. As the Washington Post reported:

President Trump’s pronouncement that he would be pulling troops out of Syria “very soon” has laid bare a major source of tension between the president and his generals. Trump has made winning on the battlefields of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan a central tenet of his foreign policy and tough-guy identity. But Trump and the military hold frequently opposing ideas about exactly what winning means.

Those differences have played out in heated Situation Room ­debates over virtually every spot on the globe where U.S. troops are engaged in combat, said senior administration officials. And they contributed to the dismissal last month of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster who as national security adviser had pressed the president against his instincts to support an ­open-ended commitment of U.S. forces to Afghanistan.

No wonder McMaster is gone. An “open-ended commitment” of U.S. forces to anywhere, much less the notional “country” of Afghanistan, is one of the worst ideas ever and runs counter to American policy since the days of George Washington. But the enthusiasm for it among the careerist military and the consensus-loving bureaucrats of the State Department remains unabated.

It’s apparently not enough that we’ve been fighting the same collection of goatherds with AK-47s since early in the first term of the George W. Bush Administration. It’s bad enough that we didn’t finish the job—which was to take Osama bin Laden at his word, and at his declaration of war upon us in the name of Islam—and deal the expansionist, triumphalist faith a blow from which it might never recover. The Saudis, in the form of the bin Laden family and most of the 9/11 hijackers, had given us a casus belli, as had the Iranians, dating all the way back to the hostage crisis of the Carter Administration, and for which they have never been properly disciplined. All right-thinking allies would have been behind us.

But of course, we didn’t. The war in Afghanistan was effectively over in a matter of a few months, although bin Laden escaped to next-door Pakistan, where the duplicitous Pakistanis—whose countrymen are currently visiting a rape epidemic upon poor, politically correct Britain—gave him shelter right under the noses of their military establishment. Then Bush chose to turn his attention to Poppy’s unfinished spat with Saddam Hussein. And here we are, nearly two decades later, still taking off our shoes to get on an airplane in our own country, and with troops scattered all across the Middle East for no purpose.

Well, not quite to no purpose. According to the military brass, we need to stay in Syria in order to prevent the return of ISIS; in other words, we need to not finish the job in order to be able to not finish the job, at least for the unforeseeable future. The Associated Press reports:

The president had opened the meeting with a tirade about U.S. intervention in Syria and the Middle East more broadly, repeating lines from public speeches in which he’s denounced previous administrations for “wasting” $7 trillion in the region over the past 17 years.  What has the U.S. gotten for the money and American lives expended in Syria? “Nothing,” Trump said over and over, according to the officials.

The intensity of Trump’s tone and demeanor raised eyebrows and unease among the top brass gathered to hash out a Syria plan with Trump, officials said . . . At one point, [Gen. Joseph] Dunford spoke up, one official said, telling Trump that his approach was not productive and asked him to give the group specific instructions as to what he wanted.

Trump’s response was to demand an immediate withdrawal of all American troops and an end to all U.S. civilian stabilization programs designed to restore basic infrastructure to war-shattered Syrian communities. Mattis countered, arguing that an immediate withdrawal could be catastrophic and was logistically impossible to pull off in any responsible way, without risking the return of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in newly liberated territories, the officials said. Mattis floated a one-year withdrawal as an alternative.

Trump then relented—but only slightly, telling his aides they could have five or six months to complete the mission to destroy the Islamic State and then get out, according to the officials. Trump also indicated that he did not want to hear in October that the military had been unable to fully defeat the Islamic State and had to remain in Syria for longer.

Good for Trump. The job of the military is to win, and thus finish, wars, not to use them as extended live-fire exercises. Further, under our Constitution, the military reports to civilian authority, in the form of the president and one of his chief cabinet members, the secretary of defense. And it’s their job to make very clear the overall strategic objective, which in warfare is always optimally the total destruction and unconditional surrender of the enemy. During World War II, the objective was clear: destroy Imperial Japan and take Berlin. We, and our allies, did both, and America’s war—from the standing start at Pearl Harbor to VJ Day—lasted less than four years.

But that’s not how our contemporary military sees things. As the Post story points out, referencing Defense Secretary James Mattis, “His remarks reflected a broader Pentagon consensus: In the absence of a clear outcome, winning for much of the U.S. military’s top brass has come to be synonymous with staying put. These days, senior officers talk about ‘infinite war’.”

Those senior officers should be cashiered. “Infinite war” is what characterized the Roman Empire from Julius Caesar (read the Commentaries, Caesar’s reports back to Rome regarding his military operations in Gaul and elsewhere) through Marcus Aurelius (who spent very little time in the Eternal City) right up to the fall of Rome in 476, when the barbarian chickens came home to roost in the form of Odoacer, a member of the Germanic tribes that the Romans never managed to conquer. Their defeat by Arminius at the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest in 9 A.D. dissuaded the legions from crossing the Rhine again—but eventually the Rhine crossed them, and made it all the way to the Tiber.

The moral of the story is: finish the job. So good for Trump for giving the Pentagon a strategic objective and a time frame in which to accomplish it. The Post article quotes another officer, Air Force General Mike Holmes, in a speech earlier this year: “It’s not losing,” he explained. “It’s staying in the game and . . . pursuing your objectives.”

How terrifying to know that, for some senior military officers (who, by the way, are not necessarily on the Right politically), warfare is about “staying in the game.” Both Left and Right have vested interests in keeping conflicts going—progressives get an extended opportunity to effect “social change” on a culture of “toxic masculinity,” while so-called conservatives keep the procurement pipelines open and flowing.

But as Trump ever more firmly grasps the reins of the presidency, and learns that the buck really does stop with him, look for him to be less swayed by time-serving ranks of fruit salad and scrambled eggs, and to find officers who share his quaint notion that wars are for winning, troops are for celebrating with victory parades, and some foreign problems are best left to fester abroad—after an Omdurman-style object lesson in what it means to cross the United States and the West.

The Germans and Japanese learned that lesson in 1945. Will Islam? If we’re not prepared to teach it to them, then be prepared for infinite war. Because victory is obviously too expensive to contemplate.

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America • Americanism • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Infrastructure • Middle East • military • NATO • North Korea • Post • Republicans • Terrorism

Trump’s Revolutionary Foreign Policy: Defend the Homeland

Of all the ways President Donald Trump has revolutionized American politics, foreign policy easily ranks among the most important. Whether it was in his efforts to decimate ISIS or opening up, finally, a path to negotiate nuclear disarmament with North Korea after almost 70 years of stubborn belligerence, the Trump Doctrine has proven a success in almost every corner of the globe.

But recently, the president has made several moves that reveal another aspect of his foreign policy. And these are moves he foreshadowed during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Foreign Policy is Key to the Greatness Agenda
A friend of mine once told me that Trump ran and won on 
a “tripod of issues”—three core issues that ultimately carried him to victory. Originally, I thought he was talking about Trump’s emphasis on immigration, trade, and infrastructure. But my friend instead suggested that one be swapped out; replace infrastructure with foreign policy. While infrastructure is a more detail-oriented policy that also holds appeal for the working-class and for all Americans who just want to take pride in their country, it was foreign policy where Trump truly shined for one key reason: It was his top outlet for showcasing just how different he was from all past Republican candidates and nominees.

When had any other major Republican candidate openly attacked former President George W. Bush the way Trump did, and with such sharp and painfully accurate criticisms? By relentlessly bashing the dominance of an ultra-hawkish neoconservative foreign policy, Trump once again displayed his crossover appeal among both Republicans and Democrats; whether it was Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Obama in Libya and Syria, Trump never hesitated to take shots at all who were guilty of this policy of recklessness overseas. Theirs was not only a foreign policy that falsely assumed you could invade away all problems, but one that also sorely neglected the most important obligation of all: Defending the homeland.

President Trump repeatedly has invoked the fact that the $6 trillion wasted in our Middle East crusades could have rebuilt our entire infrastructure several times over. In the last week, he took it even further than that. Nothing can undo all the damage that has been done abroad, and thus the damage that was not addressed at home, but we can still return to a common sense approach. That is the definition of America First.

Buttress the Border, Leave Syria
And that is why two of the president’s most recent announcements could not be more necessary or more welcome.

First, in the latest development on the southern front, the president has proven that he truly does mean business when it comes to defending our borders. With the news of a caravan of thousands of illegal aliens from Central America marching toward the United States, President Trump took no chances and correctly treated this as a serious national security threat. His announcement that he will deploy the National Guard to help protect the southern border is a shining example of our armed forces doing what they do best as they serve their number one purpose: Protecting America at home from enemies abroad who seek to undermine our nation and endanger our people.

At the same time, the president has proven his commitment to doing the right thing on the other side of the world as well. While he rightfully did commit American troops to a foreign wasteland to eliminate an evil menace, he has made clear that he will not be led astray from the original goal; and that when that job is done, it is truly done and the troops can come back home.

That is why, with the physical caliphate of ISIS just about completely eradicated, the president announced that American troops would be withdrawing from Syria. He reaffirmed that when our part is done, even though the damage in that country and the surrounding region has not yet been undone, it will be up to Syria and its neighbors to rebuild—not us. Not anymore.

“America First” Doesn’t Mean Abandon the World 
Despite past calls to intervene more directly in the ongoing Syrian civil war out of some misguided and self-righteous sense of “humanitarianism,” President Trump has put his foot down and said, once and for all, no more unnecessary foreign wars.

One of the biggest “concerns” that the establishment leveled at then-candidate Trump was that he would be an “isolationist,” like Ron and Rand Paul. But President Trump has consistently proven them both wrong and right at the same time; yes, he is committed to defending America first more than any president in recent memory, but that does not mean a collapse in American hegemony either.

America has quickly become respected on the international stage again. Sanctions and tariffs against China and other cheating trade partners have been met with calls for trade negotiations, rather than the ever-feared possibility of a “trade war.” ISIS has been demolished with remarkable speed. North Korea appears to be on the verge of denuclearizing. Saudi Arabia, with pressure from Trump, is modernizing and taking a leading role in combating terrorism in the Middle East now more than ever before. We have reaffirmed a hardline stance against the Communist regime in Cuba and the Islamic theocracy in Iran.

And President Trump has done all of this, and so much more, without invading a single country or starting another pointless war. Instead, he is balancing America’s role as a peacekeeper with its top priority of protecting itself at all costs. That is just one more facet in the emerging success of the Trump Doctrine.

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Center for American Greatness • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • military • NATO • Post • Russia • Terrorism • The Media

Trump Should Make a Deal with Russia

The political establishment in Washington, D.C. remains angry with President Donald Trump for “coddling” Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. By now, the claims against Trump are well-known: he refuses to respond to Russian meddling in the 2016 election; he isn’t vocal enough about decrying Russia’s apparent chemical weapons attack in England; he hasn’t challenged the validity of Putin’s recent reelection.

In truth, Trump’s critics are being unfair.

Clearly, Russia cannot be trusted. The Russian presidential election was neither free nor fair. Yes, it is true that Putin’s regime has a terrible human rights record—as well as a history of major aggression directed against both his neighbors and the United States. It is also a fact that Russia sought to influence the American election in 2016.

But is this anything new?

Russia has tried to influence every democratic election around the world since the 1920s. Fact is, the Russians could never have made nearly 63 million Americans vote for Donald Trump—and this is something that even former President Barack Obama emphatically argued in 2016. Election tampering, unfortunately, is part-and-parcel of international espionage.

The reality is Russia is a power in decline. Moscow is its own worst enemy. China, on the other hand, is in ascendance. And, by the way, we’ve yet to finish our fight with the jihadists. Shouldn’t we be less concerned about dying Russia and more focused on China’s rise? Who knows, maybe the Russians could even help us in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism—if we give them something they want.

The Russians did use nerve agent against a former Russian spy and his daughter in Great Britain. Thus far, the British government has opted to take a measured approach. The NATO states have strongly condemned the Russian action, in solidarity with the British government, and we expelled a bunch of “diplomats” on Monday. What more can we do?

Assassinations, like election tampering, are an unfortunate part of international espionage. Stalin had Leon Trotsky, his long-time rival, murdered in Mexico City. In 2007, Vladimir Putin had a Russian opposition member, Alexander Litvinenko, murdered in London with radiation poison. Yet, the Western response in 2007 was even more muted than it is today. We’ve experienced similar attacks by Russia for 70 years. What makes this situation worse than all of the others throughout history?

It’s not as though the Trump Administration has failed to stand up to Russian aggression. Trump actually kept the Obama-era sanctions on Russia in place. Then Trump bombed Russia’s ally, Syria, twice last year for having unlawfully deployed chemical weapons against civilians. President Trump also increased pressure on Russia’s other ally, Iran. In Europe, Trump has increased NATO’s funding as well—despite his understandable consternation over Europe’s general unwillingness to adequately fund the alliance. Additionally, the president has approved selling weapons to Ukraine, against Russia’s wishes. And, more recently, U.S. forces in Syria destroyed a Russian military unit.

The Trump Administration’s massive defense budget calls for the greatest modernization of American nuclear weapons since the Cold War—something that directly challenges Russian power. The president wants to establish a space force, and he is taking seriously the prospect of new antiballistic missile defenses.

Equally, the administration is pushing for the development of North American energy sources, thereby reducing Russia’s ability to hold the world hostage with its massive fossil fuel stores (to say nothing of shepherding the White Stream natural gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan energy with Europe).

To say the Trump Administration has gone soft on Russia is absurd. Ultimately, Trump is reluctant to risk his personal relationship with Putin by criticizing him publicly. This is a smart move: while Trump has stood strong against Russian aggression, he has always left the door open for a better deal to be made. Trump would do well to meet with Putin before Cold War 2.0 begins in earnest.

Trump and Putin need to leash the dogs of war and open the art of the deal. The United States and Russia should be partners, not enemies.

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Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Europe • Greatness Agenda • military • NATO • Post

An Outmoded Deterrence Strategy

Former Marine Corps General James Mattis is one of the best secretaries of defense the country has ever had. But even he might not have a firm enough grasp on the current threat environment that the United States faces.

During a White House press conference on Wednesday, a reporter asked Mattis about his intention to expand America’s arsenal of tactical nuclear warheads to help counter the strategic advantage that Russia currently enjoys in that area.

Mattis’s concept for this request was simple: since Russia believes that tactical nuclear weapons can be used as giant artillery pieces to soften up NATO lines in the event of a war, Mattis wants to ensure that the United States can retaliate in-kind. The secretary believes this will deter Russia from using such terrible weapons.

As Mattis (channeling Henry Kissinger) explained, “deterrence is dynamic” and is constantly changing. By making the investment into the development of our own tactical nuclear weapons—and expressing a willingness to deploy them in NATO states, to counter Russia’s deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad—Mattis believes that nuclear conflict can be avoided.

The Russians have spent years building up their tactical nuclear weapons while the United States has largely ignored its own arsenal. Russia believes they now have decisive advantages in this area. Mattis’ request to beef up America’s tactical nuclear arsenal is an understandable attempt to plug strategic holes in our defense apparatus. By removing this perceived disadvantage, Mattis and many other policymakers assume that it will force the Russians to shy away from their reliance on tactical nuclear weapons as a viable tool in effecting geopolitical change in their favor.

But, what if Russia isn’t really opposed to using these weapons—especially if they know that the United States is increasing its own arsenal? The national security establishment in Washington generally believes that by developing our own tactical nuclear arsenal, the United States could help mitigate the need for a larger nuclear confrontation with Russia. The argument goes that by building up our own tactical nuclear arsenal for deployment to Europe, we would be telling the Russians that trying anything with their own arsenal would most assuredly result in the United States responding in-kind (negating whatever gains they think they could make by using such weapons).

Unfortunately, I worry that the Pentagon’s description of deterrence is no longer as dynamic as many believe. What if the Russians, having little left to lose geopolitically (after suffering years of isolation, humiliation, and accusations from the West), don’t care about the “implied threat” of America rehabilitating its own ailing tactical nuclear arsenal?

Fact is, the Russians have never viewed nuclear weapons in the same apocalyptic fashion that the United States has (ironic, considering that the United States remains the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons in war). This is doubly true, considering how Russian strategists since 1962 have believed that a nuclear war against the West would be winnable, so long as the Russians struck first. Today, Vladimir Putin, a man who fancies himself as the new tsar of Russia, is not afraid of nuclear warfare—if he believes that all other options have been exhausted.

Deterrence rests on the credibility of the threat of force (if you threaten us with nuclear attack, we will threaten you with a similar attack). The implied retaliatory threat raises the costs of an attack on an attacker, and reduces the willingness of either side to attack. While America should modernize and expand its ancient tactical nuclear weapons arsenal irrespective of an external threat, there is no guarantee that this move would send a clear signal to Russia, and disincentivize Putin from making more land grabs in Europe.

Rather than being cowed by America’s new investment in tactical nuclear weapons, the Kremlin would likely be compelled to build off its own considerable arsenal (or worse, the Russians might take a “use-it-or-lose-it” approach to its tactical nuclear weapons arsenal). Russia might strike first with tactical nukes to prevent the United States from gaining parity with Russia in that area. This is especially true today, when severe asymmetries of power exist between the United States and its rivals, such as Russia. The Kremlin understands that the United States is the most powerful military in the world. But in specific areas, such as tactical nuclear weapons, Russia has serious advantages over the United States. The Russians would probably strive to maintain that lead at all costs.

There are only a few things that might deter Russia today. The United States should not waste its time (and money) struggling to keep parity with Russia. Rather, for conflict mitigation between the United States (and its European partners) and Russia to have a chance at success in this age of asymmetrical warfare, the United States must demonstrate its superiority over Russia (all the while extending our hand through diplomacy and trade).

Instead of taking the use of larger nuclear weapons off the table, then, Secretary Mattis should have clearly stated that, if Russia dares to launch a tactical nuclear weapons strike at any part of Europe, the United States would retaliate with its arsenal of larger, strategic nuclear weapons. While Putin might not fear American tactical nukes, he is unlikely to believe that engaging in a full-on nuclear exchange with the United States over Latvia or Estonia would be worth it.  

The Pentagon must understand that deterrence in the 21st century is not about mutually assured destruction. It is about nonreciprocal annihilation. The threats we face today are asymmetrical; the way America handles these challenges will necessarily be asymmetrical if they are to have a chance at success.

Rather than parity, the Pentagon must seek superiority.

America • Americanism • Cities • EU • Government Reform • NATO • Post • The Leviathian State

Rethinking the Geography of Power

Where the seats of power are located matters. Given the populist revolt in the United States and Europe against the so-called “global elite,” it is time to refigure the geography of governmental and transnational power.

Take the United Nations. Much of the international body’s perceived negatives derive from being in the world’s richest and most visible city, New York. But what if U.N. elites did not have easy access to instant television exposure, tony Manhattan digs, and who’s-who networking?

Most of the world is non-Western. Many Western elites are apologetic over past sins of imperialism and colonialism.

So why not move the United Nations to Haiti, Libya or Uganda? The transference would do wonders for any underdeveloped country, financially, culturally or psychologically. U.N. officials without easy access to Westernized media and the high life might instead have more time to concentrate on global problems such as hunger, disease, and violence—and be personally enmeshed in the dangers they address.

Given the controversy over President Trump’s supposed disparagements of such countries as “s—holes,” having an underdeveloped nation host the United Nations could refute such stereotyping. Relocating the U.N. to a capital such as Port-au-Prince, Tripoli, or Kampala would prove that such places are unduly underappreciated and surprisingly wonderful cities from which to conduct international governance.

Liberals treasure the United Nations. Conservatives don’t trust its often anti-democratic and anti-American tenor. So why not split the difference by staying in the United Nations but, after 66 years of a New York headquarters, finally allowing another country a chance at hosting the U.N.?

Washington, D.C., is often considered out of touch, both politically and geographically, with the rest of America. Given Washington’s huge number of federal workers, why not disperse at least some of its agencies westward to ensure demographic diversity?

Transferring the Department of Agriculture to, say, Topeka or Fresno would allow bureaucrats far more intimacy with the farmers they regulate.

Putting the Department of the Interior in Salt Lake City would make practical sense, given that the federal government owns about half the land of 11 coterminous Western states, including Utah.

Either Houston or Bismarck would be a seemingly ideal spot for the Department of Energy. Texas and North Dakota will be at the cutting edge of new gas and oil development for generations.

Youngstown and Flint seem like perfect locales for the Department of Labor and the Department of Commerce. These Rust Belt cities played historic roles in America’s industrialization and are in dire need of outside investment and attention.

Such moves would also reduce Washington’s congestion and the soaring cost of living in the nation’s capital. Moving the centers of federal power would defuse the populist rebellion by bringing the administrative state closer to those it administers — and by dousing bureaucratic fantasies with pragmatic realities.

Breaking up Washington’s monopoly on power would also diminish the leapfrogging careerism of professional Washington bureaucrats and politicians. Often, they spend their lives crisscrossing capital boulevards between jobs at bureaucracies and nearby lobbying firms. Government certainly needs fresh faces and diversity.

Europe also could benefit from the same sort of decentralization. The NATO alliance is based in Brussels, Belgium. The institutional seats of the European Union are located in Brussels, Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.

In a geographic and demographic sense, all of these cities are fossilized relics of a bygone postwar age in which such organizations reflected their near-exclusive Northern European membership. But today, European integration extends from the Arctic Circle to Mediterranean Crete, and from the Iberian Peninsula to the Russian border. Why not relocate the European Parliament to Warsaw or Prague to reflect current concerns with European-Russian relations and the need to solidify Eastern and Western Europe?

The Council of the European Union could be transferred to Naples, especially considering the worries over migration influxes into Southern Europe and the north/south financial controversies.

Tiny and tony Luxembourg is hardly representative of the now-diverse EU. Why not at least transfer the European Court of Justice from Luxembourg to Athens, the historic birthplace of democratic government and a city in dire need of financial help?

NATO needs the same sort of shake-up. The transatlantic alliance’s worries are now as much about radical Islam as Russia. Moving its headquarters to Chania, Crete, would give NATO officers a perch at the crossroads of three continents and offer its bureaucracy a better chance to monitor transcontinental crises. If the purpose of the alliance is to protect Europe, it would be smart to defend the continent preemptively from its frontiers than reactively from its interior.

The elite of the Western world faces renewed political charges of hypocrisy and illegitimacy. Administrators often wax eloquently in the abstract. But rarely in the concrete do they live with those they purport to care about.

Transferring seats of power to the hoi polloi is not just practically smart but morally long overdue.

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America • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • NATO • Post • Trump White House

Trump’s Conservative-Realist Approach Will Outlast Trump

Anne Applebaum laments the death of Wilsonian world order, in her latest column for the Washington Post. Let us for a moment skip over the fact that the notion we ever had a Wilsonian order is debatable. It is also, arguably, impossible as an aspiration, as any international relations theorist worth his salt would tell you.

History is cyclical, with intense “Great Power” rivalries, sprinkled with short-lived Hegemonic peace. The post-Cold War era was one such peaceful era. But it is over. Applebaum, however, remains undeterred. Liberal ideologue that she is, she claims that Trump single handedly destroyed the Wilsonian order. Oh, how pristine it was, with never-ending nation building in toxic primitive regions, wars of choice, and unsurpassable war debt.

Applebaum isn’t the only one here, however. There are two distinct lines of argument against Trumpian mercantilist realpolitik, and both come from the reigning liberal/neoconservative coalition of American foreign policy intelligentsia. One is that the world without the United States is receding to undemocratic “illiberalism.” This is blatantly false, to put it charitably. The European “illiberal” countries like Poland and Hungary are still democratic, in the sense they reflect the will of their people. They are just a conservative/nationalist democracy, as opposed to a liberal or social democracy, with open borders, mass migration or state-directed trans rights, for example. That’s apparently their great fault, that they value “narrow” nationalism, as opposed to utopian internationalism.

The second line of attack from liberal/neoconservatives is the lament of America abdicating its global role. This is mostly meaningless, of course, and fails to take into account first, whether the United States has any choice given the new structural realities of world politics, and second, what the American public wants to prioritize. And all of them think Trump is the cause, of American retrenchment. Trump is not, obviously. He is simply the effect of a failed quarter century of foreign policy. And, given the new structural realities of global politics, Trumpism will live beyond Trump himself.

President Donald Trump’s first national security strategy document is a testament to that, and it is a significant break from the previous administrations, and immediate post-Cold War consensus. Great power rivalry is back, and Trump makes no effort to hide it. In fact, this strategy is at least superficially honest about what it wants or desires. While Trump in his speech was more conciliatory in tone, mentioning that Russia and the United States are cooperating in spheres concerning terrorism, or China and the United States are cooperating with regard to North Korea, the document itself is clear in its understanding that Russia and China are in a great power rivalry with the United States. It terms this rivalry “strategic competition.” There is a certain bravado in trying to take on all great power centers across the world like the EU, Russia, China, Iran, etc., at the same time, but one might argue that global politics post-Libyan intervention and migration crisis has created an inflection point. Documents like these are guidance, instead of action plans, but it gives a glimpse of the administration’s priorities.

The core theme of the policy document is a more accurate version of Reagan-era “peace through strength” thinking, which is finally making a comeback. The Trump Administration highlighted four key areas of focus. Protecting the American people and securing the border seems to be the first one, which reflects the growing sentiment to look inward , reflective of an American public who are tired of interventionism. Securing infrastructure, material and cyber, means that America is getting ready to retaliate against potential interference from outside, a hint to other nation states. Promoting American prosperity, which is a bit vague as to how that is to be done in the era of reneging of trade pacts, goes unmentioned. The document does highlight fair trade, so chances are there might be a tariff decision and protectionism against China and the EU coming soon. Finally, promoting American influence abroad by supporting the rule of law and private-sector-led economic growth among our allies and trading partners, acting generously while also avoiding policies that encourage dependency. This also follows labeling Iran and North Korea as rogue regimes.

But the major deviation comes in Trump’s break with Europe, which is long overdue. Conservative, Anglo-American realist foreign policy giants, from Lord Palmerston and John Quincy Adams to Winston Churchill and Henry Kissinger, always claimed that alliances are not, cannot, or should not be permanent. The underlying logic is simple. Nation-states change over time, and that includes demographics, values, technology, military power, economy and aggregate power. Those factors, along with a change in the global balance of power, result in changes in what a great power considers its vital interest. It is, therefore, foolish to expect alliances to remain the same over long periods of time. Britain was allied with several countries and balanced against different rising great powers in different periods of time in its history.

Likewise, it is foolish to imagine that the interests of United States will cause her to be aligned with the same countries with whom her interests were aligned in 1945, or even 1989. The European Union, for example, under the leadership of Brussels, Stockholm, and Berlin, consistently clashed with Washington  on Iran, mass-migration, Jerusalem, Cuba, the Nord Stream gas pipeline, Russian sanctions, and China to name just a few. This rift will only continue to grow.

The failure to understand the simple fact that Trumpism is purely an effect of a failed imperial foreign policy, and not a cause, in incredible to observe. The United States now stands as a hegemon, and now faces what Great Britain faced during the Suez Canal crisis in 1956: massive debt, a disinterested public that wants to avoid any foreign entanglement, new growing peer rivals and structural realities, a bygone unipolar moment, and a new multipolar great power rivalry.  In a way, Trump’s strategy simply reflects these structural changes and aspirations of Americans, who are tired of paying their hard-earned cash for this Wilsonian and imperial foreign policy. Conservative Realism is about strength at home and prudence and restraint abroad.

NATO funding remains a major thorn, and while Trump took credit for some countries increasing their funding for NATO, the strategy still makes it a point that countries should pay for their security. Trump is right about rich European countries living on American taxpayers. But it is not true that Europe is  supposed to pay for Trump. That’s not how it works. And there’s no way Trump will be able to make Western European countries pay 2 percent of GDP for NATO, simply because there is no longer a Soviet Union to fear. American foreign policy at this stage is more aligned with East and Central European states, which are traditionally socially conservative and are wary of Russian military designs and EU social engineering. That is unlikely to change, and sooner or later, American policymakers will need to adjust to this new reality.

What Trump’s national security strategy does, however, is highlight how Americans define a conservative foreign policy for centuries. The last quarter-century was one of imperial hubris, which even when under nominally conservative governance wasn’t conservative in nature. It was a coalition of the liberal and neoconservative alliance, which was as radical and utopian as it gets. Conservatism or realism isn’t about changing the world according to our own values and vision. It is about conserving and preserving strength and having a hard-nosed understanding of capabilities. It is about strong law and order, security on the city streets, and defense of the realm. And most importantly, it is about a narrow understanding of patriotism, renewed civic nationalism and loyalty to the land under one’s feet, and not some vague broad allegiance to some internationalist ideology, whether Trotskyist Marxism,  radical Islamist, liberal/neoconservative interventionism, or institutionalism.

The national security strategy document, while simply a guideline, is important in the sense that it renews focus on realpolitik rather than values. Trump will be gone, but Trumpism will live, simply because of the structural changes that occurred in the world in the last decade and a half.  Neverending mindless interventionism promoting human rights and democracy in toxic regions is out, and narrow nationalist great power politics is back, whether one likes it or not. A foreign policy, based on Westphalian sovereignty, imitating the Concert of Europe, must make a comeback. This policy document just reflects the simple reality, something Applebaum and other latter-day Wilsonians fail to comprehend.

Americanism • Asia • Center for American Greatness • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Europe • feminists • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • NATO • Post

Turkey Is No Ally

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Turkey has turned its back on the West. To be fair, we in the West didn’t do much to prevent it.

When Turkey sought entry into the European Union, other members balked and resisted—though not without reason. Many Europeans were alarmed by the rise of Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP sought to undo the reforms that made Turkey a modern, secular nation upon its independence in 1923. Up to that point, Turkey had been the seat of power for the Ottoman Empire—the last, great Islamic empire—and was dismantled after World War I. From 1923 onward, the country was ruled by a secular autocracy and became an integral component of NATO’s southern flank during the Cold War.

Now, Turkey is becoming fast friends with Russia and pushing the West away.

The move away from the West in Turkey began around 2002. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP Party burst onto the political scene, taking advantage of deep divisions within Turkish society. Erdogan supplanted the autocratic, secular junta that had ruled the country for decades.

Once firmly ensconced in power, Erdogan’s Islamists began methodically enacting “reforms” to make Turkey comport with traditional Islamic values. In the intervening years, Turkey has banned the sale of liquor, cracked down on any form of political opposition, and instituted a requirement for Turkish women to wear a headscarf—not exactly the stuff of European liberalism or Western freedom.

Today, Turkey is strengthening ties with China, as the Chinese carry out their One-Belt-One-Road-Initiative to link Eurasia as never before (under Beijing’s control, of course). In fact, President Erdogan has repeatedly said that Turkey’s future lies to its east, with the Turkish population in China and Central Asia, rather than in Europe and the West.

Turkey is currently purchasing Russian S-400 air defense batteries instead of Western-made systems, such as the U.S. Patriot missile, thereby complicating NATO’s collective defense measures. The Turkish government insists that it is only buying Russian-made air defense systems because Western governments balked at selling Patriot missiles to Ankara in 2015. That’s true. The reason is Turkey has a long history of doing illicit business with Iran and funding jihadist terror groups operating in Syria, including ISIS. The United States doesn’t want some of its best weapons falling into Iranian or jihadist hands.

The Turks still refuse to crack down on the virtually ceaseless flow of refugees from the Middle East over its borders into Europe, despite official promises to their European “partners” that they would. The Turkish government has become a primary element in facilitating Iran’s rise in the Mideast by backing an Iranian-Russian pipeline meant to deliver Iranian natural gas and oil to Europe—negating a similar U.S.-backed Saudi pipeline to bring energy sources from Qatar onto the Continent. Thus, Turkey supports Russia’s play to monopolize all energy flows into Europe, thereby isolating Europe from the United States, and forcing Europe to become a mere vassal of Russia.

Further, Erdogan’s government remains convinced that the Obama Administration and U.S. intelligence services backed a coup attempt against Erdogan in the summer of 2016. The coup was perpetrated by a handful of disgruntled Turkish military officers who supposedly were members of the Gülenist religious movement, a small group of Sufi Muslims seeking to purify what they perceive as Turkey’s corrupt political culture. The Gülenists initially supported Erdogan’s rise in 2002, but slowly turned against him, as Erdogan’s rule became increasingly autocratic and corrupt.

Fethullah Gülen, the leader of this politico-religious opposition movement, took refuge in the United States several years ago and has spent his time in the country making alliances with key political figures of both parties. Because of his presence in the United States, Erdogan’s supporters in Turkey believe last year’s coup was directed by the United States. Gülen’s influence with America’s political elites is limited, however, and there is no evidence he managed to get American leaders to back the coup effort. In fact, many analysts today question whether the coup attempt had anything to do with the Gülen movement at all (or if it was fabricated by Erdogan to accrue more power at a time when his rule was becoming increasingly unpopular domestically).

Even if the United States were planning to overthrow Erdogan, the truth is that Turkey moved beyond the reach of the West long ago.

Turkey’s moves to align more closely with China, Iran, and Russia are not a result of feckless covert American action against Erdogan’s government. They are the result of a rabidly Islamist regime rising to power in Turkey, and finding no common cause with their purported Western allies.

Turkey also assumes (as does much of the rest of the world) that the United States and the West are in decline and the East is rising. Erdogan believes he can make a better deal for both his political future and his country with the Chinese, Russians, and Iranians.

That means NATO no longer has a reliable partner in Ankara. Without a viable southern defensive flank, the United States will have trouble operating effectively in Europe and the Middle East. A new southern flank is needed, one that not only protects Europe from traditional threats but also prevents Turkey from becoming the tip of a Russia, Iranian, or jihadist spear pointed at Europe’s soft underbelly. That means Greece and Cyprus—two historical enemies of Turkey—should assume the role (at least until NATO disbands or fundamentally changes). The West should further limit Turkey’s influence in the Middle East by recognizing an independent Kurdistan.

Turkey isn’t an ally; it’s a strategic competitor. President Trump has praised Erdogan as “a friend.” But the administration would do well to acknowledge reality before America’s strategic position is hopelessly undermined in Europe and the Middle East.

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Americanism • Asia • Center for American Greatness • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • NATO • Religion of Peace • Terrorism

A Blank Check for Afghanistan

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The trouble with the new (or, rather, not-so-new) Trump Administration war plan for Afghanistan is that it’s a loser. Sure, the president gets high marks for finally talking about “victory” in Afghanistan—after 17 years of seemingly endless warfare, it’s nice to hear the word mentioned. Yet, for all of the talk of victory, the president offered nothing new, at least strategically, that would achieve that goal.

Angelo Codevilla has also argued that we got nothing new from Trump on Afghanistan. At a tactical level, the president made much sense: we would no longer have the onerous rules of engagement that have prevented our gallant troops from fully bringing the hurt to our enemies. Battlefield commanders, not politicians in Washington, would have near-complete autonomy over the day-to-day course of the war. This is a refreshing change from the previous administration, which squandered Americans’ time, money, and lives in Afghanistan fighting simply to hold on, rather than win or withdraw. The restraining tactics of the Obama years were perfectly suited to a strategy of stalemate.

But do improved and sensible tactics automatically suggest a more sensible strategy? What is our strategy?

The best President Trump gave us was that “conditions on the ground,” rather than arbitrary time tables, would dictate the course of the war. Although sound policy, that remains a tactical rather than strategic consideration. And, really, this rhetoric sounds eerily reminiscent of George W. Bush and his “low energy” brother, Jeb!

To be clear, I am not an outright opponent of the plan, but I am a skeptic. For instance, supporters of the president’s plan argue that this rehash of the old plan is exactly what the president promised during the campaign. “Right now,” F. H. Buckley argues, “the principal breeding ground of Islamic jihadism is Afghanistan, not Syria, and Trump correctly concluded that the very best way to prevent another 9/11 is to continue the fight in that country. It’s just what he promised on the campaign trail.”

Respectfully, no, it is not.

First, people like myself supported what was once referred to as the “Counterterrorism-Plus” strategy advanced by that broken clock and former Vice President Joe Biden. This plan called for focusing on the counterterrorism, rather than on the counterinsurgency aspects of the war. Right now, President Trump’s plan sounds dreadfully similar to our current counterinsurgency effort—sending more forces (around 4,000 troops) to win the fickle hearts and minds of the Afghan people, thereby denying insurgents, such as the Taliban or al-Qaeda, recruits. This plan has never worked in Afghanistan. So, whether it’s 4,000 or 40,000 more troops, it’s still a bad plan. Some hearts can’t be won.

Second, although it’s true Afghanistan is a front in the “Global War on Terror,” the geography, political system, and historical realities of the country make a massive invasion with conventional forces primed for “bolstering” the unpopular local government a waste of time. As Peter Tomsen has shown, the true path to political stability in Afghanistan lies not in Kabul, but with the local tribes—and they generally want foreigners to leave them alone. The larger our presence is, the more the locals will turn against us. It’s just that simple.

The military keeps arguing that larger troop numbers will “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghans. Yet, when America had nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, it did little to persuade the bulk of the population to support our cause. What makes the president think that 15,000 troops total would make a difference now?

Fact is, the real fight is not Afghanistan, which remains only partially controlled by the Islamist Taliban (and where both the foreign al-Qaeda and ISIS elements are not as popular as their propaganda would have you believe), but in the Levant. What’s more, the war is actually shifting away from the Mideast, and toward Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. What are we doing to counter the rise of jihadists in Asia? We’re sending special forces, which is the proper way to fight terrorism.

Third, there is no upper limit to the troop surge. This is potentially Vietnam redux. In Vietnam, America’s leaders didn’t fight to win. They fought merely to preserve the government of South Vietnam. That was not a sound strategy. The United States spent a decade, and deployed hundreds of thousands of its brave young men—while dropping more ordnance on Vietnam than we dropped on Europe during World War II—to no effect. The Communists still enjoyed a political victory. Under current plans for Afghanistan, we’ll likely keep sending more troops, and the insurgents will keep resisting. Just like Vietnam. Get the picture?

Fourth, the president has laughably demanded that NATO forces “step up to the plate” in Afghanistan. Sure, after 17 years of not stepping up to the plate (in some cases, not even taking the field), presidential shaming will draw the hapless Germans and the recalcitrant French into the fight. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump rightly pointed out the systemic flaws of NATO. Now, he seems to have thrown those views out with his erstwhile strategic adviser, Steve Bannon.

One of the many reasons many of us supported Trump over his more conventional political opponents was precisely because he spent the entire campaign attacking ignorant bromides (such as “the ultimate weapon in war is no weapon”) perpetuated by a self-indulgent political elite. Trump supporters, like myself, refused to support a political elite that seeks to convert our military into little more than armed humanitarians any longer. We wanted a turnaround.

I thought the president, being an astute businessman, would not write blank checks. Yet, like it or not, that’s what he just did in Afghanistan. Trump supporters wanted the president to call in America’s chips, cash us out, and move on from that notorious “graveyard of empires.” Although, it’s fair to say that President Trump has an uncanny ability to shock his detractors with success by going big, this is Afghanistan, not Atlantic City. To the Afghans, America looks more like that foolish gambling addict so desperate to win against a stacked deck that he’s willing to bet his kid’s college funds to “get lucky” on the next hand. In Afghanistan, as in any casino, we should remember that the odds are always with the house. Nation-building and counterinsurgency do not work over there.

Is it really possible that Trump (or any modern Western leader) could succeed where Alexander the Great failed? Records may be meant to be broken, but there is such a thing as the “sunk cost fallacy.” Let’s break this cycle and not make the mistakes of previous great powers in Afghanistan. Let’s come home.

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America • Center for American Greatness • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • History • NATO • Russia

The Way Forward is Up

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In 1983, Ronald Reagan gave a monumental speech declaring his administration’s intention to build and place space-based missile defense systems in low Earth orbit. The United States and the Soviet Union, at that time, were locked in a seeming eternal struggle for global ideological supremacy. When the Soviets successfully tested their first nuclear weapon in the Kazakhstan desert in 1949, that conflict took on an apocalyptic tone—now both the United States and Soviet Union had the ability to annihilate each other at a distance, in a matter of hours.

As time progressed, the Soviets ramped up their nuclear arsenal. They also looked to a newfound strategic domain for greater supremacy: space. By 1962, the Soviet military space program was in full swing. Things such as space-based laser systems, military space stations, and orbital nuclear weapons were already well established research areas in the USSR.

Meanwhile, the United States was beginning to buy into the self-destructive notion of deterrence through Mutual Assured Destruction. The basis for this fundamentally flawed assumption was that the Soviets were rational actors who viewed both the world and nuclear weapons in the same apocalyptic ways that we did. Yet, as official Soviet military doctrine from that era outlines, the Soviet Union not only thought nuclear warfare was winnable (whereas American policymakers had convinced themselves nuclear warfare was unwinnable) the Russians also had a preemptive nuclear warfare doctrine.

The United States spent nearly two decades trying to convince the Soviets that our nuclear arsenal was only a threat if they decided to challenge the United States. Meanwhile, the Soviets sought new and innovative ways to overcome American nuclear supremacy. Not only did they continue to augment and modernize their nuclear arsenal, but they continued looking to space for a way to break the West’s encirclement and defeat capitalism.

The only saving grace at the time was the fact that America’s economic health was fundamentally sound whereas the Soviet economy was tragically decrepit. By the 1980s, however, the Soviets were feeling triumphal following America’s great “malaise” caused by our internal struggles over Vietnam, America’s desire for arms control agreements (that the Soviets happily signed and then ignored), and the flailing Carter presidency.

When Reagan entered the White House, however, everything changed. Reagan viewed the Communists not as just another state with a different worldview—as so many Leftists and elite Republicans did—but through moral lenses and, therefore, with an understanding that their regime was evil. Reagan’s mission, then, was not simple peaceful coexistence. It was the rollback of Communism and the inevitable defeat of the Soviet Union, whether through peaceable means or, more pointedly, through force of arms.

Reagan was not a creature of the rarified Washington establishment. He did not buy into the groupthink about deterrence, safety through arms control, and Mutual Assured Destruction. Reagan understood that the Soviet threat was inherently offensive and could not be defeated with the United States assuming a purely self-defensive posture. He could not abide measures or policies that ultimately negated America’s considerable economic and scientific advantages. So, instead of looking to Mutual Assured Destruction to prevent a nuclear conflagration, Reagan began to look to space for a better, more strategic solution. If Soviet nuclear arms were keeping America from fully exerting its justified will, then the United States had a moral duty to reach up toward the stars and use space—the ultimate high ground—to America’s strategic advantage.

Thus, missile defense—or as it was derisively called by its opponents,“Star Wars”—was born. It was in this moment that Reagan began to break the Soviets’ back. Reagan envisioned that America would pour its considerable economic might and scientific advantage into this revolutionary project; much as it had with the Manhattan Project during World War II. Upon completion, Reagan reasoned, America would have created the world’s first real defense against nuclear weapons.

Overnight, then, the United States would move beyond what Reagan correctly believed was the immoral and, truly, mad stance of Mutual Assured Destruction toward the proper policy of “Mutually Assured Survival.” Reagan believed that once the Soviets saw how advanced American defenses were, they would be more than willing to meet American demands for mutual nuclear disarmament, and the world could go on in peace, free from fear of nuclear annihilation.

Ultimately, the project had mixed results. While the intended result of defeating the Soviet Union was achieved, the technical feasibility of the project was still years off.

Yet, with Reagan’s announcement, he set off a chain reaction both within the Kremlin and throughout America’s policy and scientific communities. The Soviets tried desperately to keep pace with America’s military developments, but this attempt ultimately broke them. Meanwhile, in spite of not actually achieving a working space-based missile defense, American scientists did begin the research into new space-based technologies that are finally coming to fruition today.

Today the United States faces nuclear threats on several fronts. These nuclear threats—particularly the cases of Iran and North Korea—are every bit as evil as the Soviet Union was. Thankfully, and for the time being, their reach is mostly regional. But as we saw over the July 4 holiday weekend with North Korea, should they be allowed to continue developing nuclear arms, these threats will multiply, and threaten the world. The problems on the Korean peninsula may already be beyond containment. However, with Iran (as well as with China and Russia), the threats can—and should—be contained. As I note in my recent risk assessment on space weapons at my website, The Weichert Report, the historical model of containment (as it was practiced in the Cold War) will prove insufficient, however, given today’s technology and the the fact that our rivals are wily adversaries who routinely use asymmetric means to threaten America’s perceived military dominance.

But it remains that we have it within our reach today to embrace another Manhattan-like project. The technological and economic means are within our grasp to build and deploy the magnificent space-based weapons that Reagan could only dream of deploying. While the Trump Administration has signaled its intent to fully develop space, mere talk is not enough this time. We’ve been doing that since the 1980s and our bluff is sure to be called. The United States is beset by enemies who mean to destroy us at all costs. We cannot wage war against everyone at once. But, we can keep these forces at bay by making it impossible for them effectively to reach us through an ICBM or other nuclear strike. It’s time to deploy space-based missile defense. We should also look at deploying offensive weapons systems as a further means of deterring our foes. The United States, despite the rising challenges to its supremacy, remains the strongest and most capable force in the world. It’s time to remind the world of our dominance again.

We need space dominance now more than ever.

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Administrative State • America • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • NATO • Russia • The Culture • The Leviathian State • Trump White House

On Trump’s Defense of the West: “Every Foot of Ground, Every Last Inch”

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President Trump’s remarkable speech in Poland on Thursday reminded me in some respects of Churchill’s Zurich Speech, Solzhenitsyn’s Warnings to the West, Coolidge’s Speech on the Declaration, and, at the end, of Churchill’s speech of June 4, 1940, to the House of Commons (“We shall fight on the beaches…”). Yet the president’s speech has its own peculiar scope and ambition.

The official title of the speech is deceptively modest: “Remarks by President Trump to the People of Poland.” But the speech taken as a whole moves from the particular example of Poland, to Western Europe, and then to the West as a whole.

The setting of the speech is Krasinski Square, the site of the memorial to the Warsaw Uprising. The speech ends with a lengthy reflection on that uprising. In light of this, it is worth reminding ourselves of the bare facts regarding it. On July 31, 1944, with the Soviet Army only 15 miles from Warsaw, patriotic Poles rose up against the German occupation forces with the goal of establishing an independent Polish authority before the arrival of the Russians. Five days later, Russian air activity over Warsaw ceased and the Red Army stopped their westward advance. The Russian intention was to allow the Germans to crush the Polish resistance so that they could more easily establish their own authority. That is in fact what happened: The Polish resistance lasted two months, but in the end was savagely crushed and thousands of Poles were executed.

The theme of the first part of the speech is the pride of Poland. “The story of Poland is the story of a people . . . who have never been broken” because they have “never, ever, forgotten who they are.” Poland is a “land.” It is a place. It is “beautiful.” It is at the “geographic heart of Europe.” But more importantly, Poland shows the “soul of Europe.” Poland is great because its “spirit’ is great. In its time of testing, Poland was not erased from the map because its history could not be erased from the hearts of its people.

Why could Poland not be broken? Why did the Polish people never forget who they were? Why did their spirits not collapse after suffering many humiliations and defeats in arms? In answering these questions, the president recounts Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland in June 1979 and the very moment the Polish Communist state ceased to be. A million Poles shouted, “We want God!” The things of the spirit come first: “They did not ask for wealth, they did not ask for privilege.”

Then, as a transition to the second part of the speech, the president makes a surprising statement. In the face of statistics he asserts not only that the people of Poland, but also the people of America and Europe “still cry out, We want God.” Could the meaning be that spiritually arid Europe and increasing arid America still need God in order to understand who they are? That must be, for the president follows by stating, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit, the Poles “reasserted their identity as a nation devoted to God.”

The president then turns to Europe. The first theme is the “strength” of Europe, which would be “a blessing to the West and to the world.” One is reminded by this of Europe’s grudging resistance to the president’s insistence NATO member nations pony up and contribute their share to their own defense. Is Europe strong? We already know from the Polish example what else is meant by strength.

President Trump then presents a list of “dire threats,” both to “our security and our way of life.” He focuses on three: radical Islamism, Russian adventurism, and the growing administrative centralism in all European countries. In summarizing how we can confront these threats, Trump points to  a common thread in these threats. Whether domestic or foreign, they are all aimed at sapping our spirit and weakening our will to self-preservation. They threaten “to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”

There is a question or a doubt about whether or not we will forget. The president asserts in pep talk fashion that America and Europe will never forget who they are, but in the context of a qualification. “If we don’t forget who we are, we just can’t be beaten.”

The third part of the speech then begins. It is a remembering, an attempt to articulate what is the West, the spirit of the West, who we are.

We are first a civilization that has a political form, “a community of nations.” We are a special community of nations, unlike any others. The president then recounts the major elements of the West, our common inheritance, in which we should take pride. Politics and cultural achievements are included. Science, philosophy, Western music, religious art, political liberty, the rule of law, and the special status of women stand out. Trump wishes to emphasize we have inherited these things. The past is more important to our survival than any progress. No pride can survive the loss of memory. “As long as we know our history, we will know how to build our future.” Concrete things will show whether there will be a way back for Europe, whether there is a will to survive. One concrete thing would be increased spending on national priorities, such as defense. Another would be cultivating “strong families.” European men and women must marry and have children. Let them come to Poland and see.

Trump wishes to emphasize we have inherited these things. The past is more important to our survival than any progress. No pride can survive the loss of memory. 

The very significant peroration of the speech comes after a lengthy metaphor, a tale of the Warsaw Uprising. Jerusalem Avenue was a main road in the city. For the resistance to continue it had to be kept open so that fighters could pass and communications could be kept open throughout the city. The blood of many patriots was shed defending this roadway, as the Germans poured relentless fire on anyone who crossed. It was kept open till the very end of the resistance.

What conclusion is drawn from this tale of courage, which ended in temporary defeat? “Each generation must rise up and play their part” in defending the West, and “every foot of ground, and every last inch of civilization, is worth defending with your life.”

Every foot of ground and every last inch, of what? Of civilization. Of civilization, which can mean every block of Jerusalem Avenue, or every last inch of our spiritual selves.

Indeed, the president explains, our fight doesn’t begin at all on the battlefield, but “with our minds, our wills, and our souls.” As long as Poland’s will to live survived, Poland could not be broken. The president’s speech as a deed is an instance testifying to his manly assertion at the end, that “the West will never, ever, be broken.” Followed by: “Let us fight like the Poles—for family, for country, for freedom, and for God.”

“Each generation must rise up and play their part” in defending the West, and “every foot of ground, and every last inch of civilization, is worth defending with your life.”

I said at the beginning that President Trump’s speech reminded me of Churchill’s Zurich Speech, delivered in September 1946. In it, amidst the ashes following the war, Churchill reflected on a possible future for Europe. In a striking remark, Churchill stated that the revival of Europe depended on a “spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany.” Trump’s  speech explains well what Churchill meant by national spiritual greatness, particularly European greatness. For what is Europe? In that speech Churchill said: “This noble continent . . . is the home of all the great parent races of the western world. It is the fountain of Christian faith and ethics. It is the origin of most of the culture, arts, philosophy and science, both of ancient and modern times.”

Of course, in many respects Europe is worse off than in 1946. A friend of German parentage recently told me a story. She remembered the German women after the war. In the ruins they came out to clean up, they eked out a living, they fed their children. She contrasted that with today. Today, she said, they have lost the will to live. I will see her Saturday. She will be happy with the president’s speech.

 

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America • Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Germany • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Middle East • NATO • Religion of Peace • Russia • The ME Agenda • Trump White House

What Is NATO Good For Today?

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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has lost its purpose. Created following the devastation of the Second World War, NATO was intended to “keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Throughout the Cold War, NATO proved to be an effective cudgel stunting the revolutionary push of Soviet Communism into Western Europe. Yet, following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO became a defensive alliance with no clear enemy from which to defend itself. It became listless. Even as it expanded into former Soviet-occupied states, NATO became a purposeless, multilateral, intergovernmental bureaucracy.

Charles Krauthammer recently excoriated President Donald Trump for not explicitly stating his Administration’s commitment to upholding Article V of the NATO Charter. Article V simply states that an attack on one NATO member constitutes an attack on all of NATO. Krauthammer takes the view that by publicly humiliating America’s European partners and then refusing to reaffirm America’s commitment to Article V, NATO’s deterrent capability has been weakened. In turn, Krauthammer believes that, “deterrence weakened is an invitation to instability, miscalculation, provocation and worse.”

To be fair, Krauthammer’s assessment of the delicacy of deterrence and the threat that President Trump’s statements may pose to NATO’s deterrence capacity is not necessarily wrong. Krauthammer’s assertion that “deterrence is a barely believable bluff,” however, is absurd and illustrates the moral bankruptcy of maintaining the NATO alliance as it currently exists.

Fact is, NATO’s deterrent capabilities could be very believable if fundamental changes to the structure of the alliance are made. After all, if NATO’s deterrent factor during the Cold War was “barely believable” then its deterrent factor today is totally unbelievable. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the entirety of the post-Cold War period for proof.

From the Balkans to Afghanistan; from Georgia to Ukraine, does anyone seriously buy into the notion that deterrence in Europe is still a thing? Really? In each case, the decisive factor was the presence of American forces (or the lack thereof).

Fact is, NATO’s deterrent capabilities could be very believable if fundamental changes to the structure of the alliance are made. After all, if NATO’s deterrent factor during the Cold War was “barely believable” then its deterrent factor today is totally unbelievable.

In the Balkans, it was not until the United States stepped up its military commitment that there was even any hope of resolving the seemingly intractable ethno-religious conflicts of the region. In the cases of Georgia and Ukraine, two countries who were up for NATO membership (Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014), it was the lack of American forces that permitted Russia’s military interventions there (ditto for Syria, but that’s another issue entirely). And NATO has done little to help America accomplish its mission in Afghanistan. If anything, NATO forces have hindered American forces in Afghanistan with restrictive Rules of Engagement and organization that have resulted in an inability to complete basic tasks,

The fact of the matter is that endless puffing up of our European friends is not a viable or sustainable foreign policy. It was “barely” viable during the Cold War, when most Europeans agreed (however nominally) that all were threatened by Soviet Communism. Today  no such consensus about the threat to the West exists (indeed, many even deny  that any threat exists).

For the Baltic and Nordic states of Eastern and Northern Europe, they are focused squarely on countering Russian irredentism. They care little for addressing the overwhelming (and apparently ceaseless) flow of refugees and immigrants coming into Europe from the Muslim world. Meanwhile, the Southern and Western European states wholeheartedly embrace the Russians and continue to lament their Faustian bargain of letting as many immigrants into their countries as possible (which had more to do with the economics of Western and Southern Europe than the morality of it). Frankly, the Western and Southern Europeans needed cheap labor and did not have enough native-born citizens to accomplish this goal, so they encouraged foreigners to come to Europe as workers. This is a primary reason behind Angela Merkel’s push for more refugees to come to Germany, despite the unpopularity of the decision.

Make no mistake: the old axiom that the only thing worse for American foreign policy than having NATO is not having NATO remains true today. Yet, NATO in its current form does little to further American strategic goals.


Thus, there is little consensus among Europeans about what constitutes a defense of the West. There is even less agreement on how best to counter those threats. There are only three things about which the Europeans seem to be able to reach agreement: 1) that Global Warming is the real threat to Europe; 2) that America must continue footing the bill for a relatively purposeless NATO; 3) that, whenever possible, America should always be painted as the villain in European politics.

Gee, thanks. With friends like these, right?

Make no mistake: the old axiom that the only thing worse for American foreign policy than having NATO is not having NATO remains true today. Yet, NATO in its current form does little to further American strategic goals. Apparently, NATO’s purpose is to perpetuate its own existence. A defensive alliance without an enemy to defend itself against is, by definition, a waste of resources (and could actually encourage the kind of aggression that NATO was meant to prevent). Should we discount everything the Russians have been saying about how NATO and EU “double expansion” (as the Russians call it) into their periphery has encouraged Russia to be more aggressive toward Europe? Most certainly not. Though, to be sure, Russia would always be a perpetual thorn in the West’s side simply because Russia does not share the West’s worldview.

Of course, there are real challenges that threaten both the United States and the Europeans. There is still a chance for a unity of purpose to exist between America and its European allies. Yet, that purpose is not all-encompassing and it can never be unifying on a regional level.

That’s why the United States should begin looking for new ways at the sub-regional level to further its interests. For the Eastern and Northern Europeans, who believe that Russia is their primary geostrategic threat, the United States should look at bolstering the preexisting Viségrad and Nordic Battle Groups. Together, at the sub-regional level, these two alliances can be used as the proverbial tip of the spear in stunting Russia’s push into Europe (after all, these states are on the frontline of Russian aggression).

As Angelo Codevilla wrote in 2016, Putin has been pushing up against “mostly open doors” in Europe; it would behoove the West to slam those doors shut. Since the Western and Southern Europeans disagree about the threat that Russia poses to Europe (and seem far more intent on humiliating America), the United States should simply go over their heads and stop trying to go through the NATO bureaucracy to achieve its goals of sealing Europe off to the Russians.

Writing in his recent book, “All Measures Short of War,” foreign policy expert, Thomas J. Wright, explains that, “Europe’s exposure to its southern neighborhood is, at its heart, a geopolitical problem. It is rooted in the collapse of the Middle East regional order. Russia’s intervention [in Syria] was one part of that drama. The changing stance of the United States [under Obama] in the Middle East was another.”

Wright’s statement echoes the great European historian and environmentalist, Fernand Baudel’s belief that Europe’s southern periphery ended not where the Mediterranean Sea began, but rather, where the Sahara Desert ended. Neither the United States nor Russia fully understood just how much their military interventions in the Mideast would impact Europe. For the United States, this has had a destabilizing effect on the European status quo ante that it traditionally preferred. For the Russians, as Wright explains in his book, it has been beneficial (by making Western and Southern Europeans look to Vladimir Putin as a bulwark against the rising Islamist tide in Europe).

Wright’s assessment is apt and troubling also, since both Italy and Greece, the two powerhouses of Southern Europe, are governed by Russophiles. For the Italians, they do a large portion of trade with Russia. For the Greeks, there are cultural and political affinities between themselves and Russia. Getting them to agree on a harder stance on Russia would be like pulling teeth.

Also, the Western Europeans (particularly the Germans and French) have close economic ties with Russia and favor increased migration flows into Europe from places like the Mideast, North Africa, and South Asia. Yet, these are the very same states that have been the hardest hit by jihadist terrorism in the last few years. Despite their support of immigration, the Western Europeans have started to recognize the threat and have begun calling for more stringent counterterrorism and immigration policies. So, while resisting Russian revanchism is not a priority for either the Western or Southern Europeans, they are more willing to address the issue of jihadist terror, which is a benefit for the United States.

The creation of Southern and Western European defensive blocs aimed at countering terrorism and stemming migration flows would be essential. What’s more, there is a chance to unify these two regions through France. You see, historically, France has always had influence over both Western and Southern Europe. It would not be hard to form a German-dominated Western European defensive bloc (with France as a member), and then form a French-dominated Southern European defensive bloc. This would serve two functions: It would buttress the militarily and economically weak Greece and Italy while  also curbing the growth of German power in Europe. It might also work to counter the increasing influence that Russia has over both Germany and France, by splitting the Franco-German alliance apart.

And, yes, while many ascribe the budding Franco-German alliance as a new unbreakable bond, we must remember that France and Germany have far longer histories of being competitive with one another than they do of being friendly. The deep-seated French distrust of Germany will likely become exacerbated, the stronger Germany becomes and the weaker France becomes over time. The United States should play these two forces off of each other by granting them their own sub-regional blocs to manage.

The Europeans must take the reins of their own defense. Since the disagreement over what threatens Europe is widespread, the United States should stop wasting its time and money being the “big daddy” in Europe. The children are unruly and America’s generous support makes them less inclined to take care of their own problems.

Taken together, the presence of four sub-regional defensive blocs would be far more useful for American foreign policy than continuing to support a mindless, multinational, centralized bureaucracy of the sort that exists at NATO headquarters today. Such American-backed sub-regional alliances would also be contingent on the indigenous forces not only providing for their own defense, but also, ultimately, becoming entirely self-sufficient over the next two decades. Hard power and national interests would unify these states together with America, as opposed to idealistic language and wishful thinking.

The Europeans must take the reins of their own defense. Since the disagreement over what threatens Europe is widespread, the United States should stop wasting its time and money being the “big daddy” in Europe. The children are unruly and America’s generous support makes them less inclined to take care of their own problems. It’s time for the Europeans to grow up and fully return to history. We can help them in this transition, but we will no longer shoulder the burden. Further, building up these four regional blocs while diffusing power and funds away from the bloated bureaucracy in Brussels and into the coffers of those states that will actually do what they’ve promised to do, will be far more beneficial to the United States in the long-run.

Dr. Krauthammer worried about the damage that President Trump’s remarks did to NATO’s deterrent capabilities. I, on the other hand, worry that America’s mindless commitment to propping up NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union has made Europe permanently weak and unable to defend itself. Such a weakened Europe is bad for everyone.

So, I ask you: What is NATO as currently constituted good for these days?

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