How President Trump Normalized Neoconservatism
By ilana mercer
It’s fact: Neoconservatives are pleased with President Trump’s foreign policy.
A couple of months back, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake let it know he was in neoconservative nirvana:
“… for Venezuela, [Donald Trump] came very close to calling for regime change. ‘The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable,’ Trump said. ‘We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.'”
“For a moment,” swooned Lake, “I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to a Weekly Standard editorial meeting.”
Onward to Venezuela!
Mr. Lake, a neoconservative, was loving every moment. In error, he and his kind confuse an expansionist foreign policy with “American exceptionalism.”
As it happens, neocons are in luck. Most Americans know little of the ideas that animated their country’s founding. They’re more likely to hold ideas in opposition to the classical-liberal philosophy of the Founders, and, hence, wish to see the aggrandizement of the coercive, colossal, Warfare State.
That’s just the way things are.
So, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have enlisted the West in “a proxy Sunni-Shia religious war,” Riyadh’s ultimate aim. Donald Trump has been perfectly willing to partake.
After a campaign of “America First,” the president sided with Sunni Islam while demonizing Iran. Iranians have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks in the US between 1975-2015; Saudi Arabians murdered 2369!
Iranians recently reelected a reformer. Pray tell who elected the Gulf petrostate sheiks?
Moderates danced in the streets of Tehran when President Hassan Rouhani was reelected. Curiously, they’re currently rioting.
If past is prologue, Ron Paul is probably right when he says the CIA is likely meddling in Iranian politics. For the Left and the pseudo-Right, this is a look-away issue. As the left-liberal establishment lectures daily, to question the Central Intelligence Agency—its spooks are also agitating against all vestiges of President Trump’s original “America First” plank—is to “undermine American democracy.”
Besides, “good” Americans know that only the Russians “meddle.”
In Saudi Arabia, a new, more-dangerous regime is consolidating regional power. Almost overnight has the kingdom shifted from rule by family dynasty (like that of the Clintons and the Bushes), to a more authoritarian style of one-man rule.
When it comes to the Saudi-Israeli-American-Axis-of-Angels, the Kushner-Trump Administration—is that another bloodline in-the-making?—has not broken with America’s ruling dynastic families (the Clintons and the Bushes, aforementioned).
It’s comforting to know Saudi Arabia plays a crucial role in the UN’s human rights affairs. In January of last year, the Kingdom executed 47 people in one day, including a rather benign Shiite cleric. Fear not, they went quickly, beheaded with a sword.
Then US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, a woman as dumb and dangerous as Nikki Haley, was cool with the carnage. (One almost misses Henry Kissinger’s realpolitik. At least the man was highly educated and deeply knowledgeable about history and world affairs. Second only to Jared Kushner, of course.)
Our bosom buddies, the Saudi’s, are currently barricading Yemeni ports. No aid gets through her hermetically sealed ports. Yemenis are dying. Some Twitter followers twittered with joy at the sight of starving Yemeni babies, like this one. Oh well, Yemeni babies can be sinister.
No one would deny the largely neoconservative nature of Trump’s National Security Strategy. Tucked in there somewhere is the Trumpian theme of “sovereignty,” but in watered-down words. The promised Wall has given way to “multilayered technology”; to the “deployment of additional personnel,” and to the tried-and-tested (not!) “vetting of prospective immigrants, refugees, and other foreign visitors.”
These are mouthfuls Barack Obama and Genghis Bush would hardly oppose.
“It’s often said that the Trump administration is ‘isolationist,'” wrote historian Andrew J. Bacevich, in the UK Spectator. Untrue. “In fact, we are now witnessing a dramatic escalation in the militarization of US foreign policy in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan. This has not been announced, but it is happening, and much of it without … any debate in Congress or the media.”
Indeed, while outlining his “new” Afghanistan plan, POTUS had conceded that “the American people are weary of war without victory.” (Make that war, full-stop.) Depressingly, the president went on to promise an increase in American presence in Afghanistan. By sending 4000 additional soldiers there, President Trump alleged he was fighting terrorism, yet not undertaking nation building.
This is tantamount to talking out of both sides of one’s mouth.
Teasing apart these two elements is near-impossible. Send “4,000 additional soldiers to add to the 8,400 now deployed in Afghanistan,” and you’ve done what Obama and Bush before you did in that blighted and benighted region: muddle along; kill some civilians mixed in with some bad guys; break bread with tribal leaders (who hate your guts); mediate and bribe.
Above all, spend billions not your own to perfect the credo of a global fighting force that doesn’t know Shiite from Shinola.
The upshot? It’s quite acceptable, on the Left and the pseudo-Right, to casually quip about troops in Niger and Norway. “We have soldiers in Niger and Norway? Of course we do. We need them.”
With neoconservatism normalized, there is no debate, disagreement or daylight between our dangerously united political factions.
This is the gift President Trump has given mainstream neoconservatives—who now comfortably include neoliberals and all Conservatism Inc., with the exceptions of Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson.
How exactly did the president normalize neoconservatism: In 2016, liberals accused candidate Trump of isolationism. Neoconservatives—aka Conservatism Inc.—did the same.
Having consistently complained of his isolationism, the Left and the phony Right cannot but sanction President Trump’s interventionism. The other option is to admit that we of the callused Old Right, who rejoiced at the prospects and promise of non-interventionism, were always right.
Not going to happen.
To some, the normalizing of neoconservatism by a president who ran against it is a stroke of genius; of a piece with Bill Clinton’s triangulation tactics. To others, it’s a cynical sleight of hand.
Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly paleolibertarian column since 1999, and is the author of The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed (June, 2016) & Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011). Follow her on Twitter, Facebook & YouTube.