19 January 2018

Don’t be a sucker

I denied the ‘bromance’ in 2016, and I still deny it now. In fact, I’d say there’s more evidence of a bromance between the White House and a certain Slovenian Marxo-Freudian pop ‘philosopher’ than there ever was of one between the White House and the Kremlin.

The problem is, of course, that there’s never been that much ‘there’ there, when it comes to any sort of sub rosa relationship between the Russian and the American heads of state, and subsequent events have long since proven it. Trump’s surrogates have been attacking Russian interests in Syria and the Ukraine more actively than Obama’s had done, and just recently Tillerson has announced that the United States will be keeping a military presence in Syria, one committed to the removal of Assad, indefinitely. Obama’s one foreign policy initiative to have drawn praise and support from Putin, has been the one foreign policy initiative Trump has been the most assiduous about wanting to undo (to Putin’s chagrin).

The thing is, all of this was foreseeable, if one knew where to look. Trump did not offer substantive change, only a change of style. He was friendly with the NED; he was friendly with the big banks; he was friendly with the military contractors. What it boils down to is this: if Putin were for a moment to have believed that Trump was a trustworthy or useful surrogate in Washington, he would have to have been an idiot of colossal proportions.

And whatever else you may think of Russia’s President, an idiot he is not.

My advice to my fellows on the left would be to stop baying after the Russian collusion red-herrings, and start looking at what Trump actually does in office, whom his policies are actually meant to benefit. If you want to beat him, get a sense of strategy. Start looking at the big picture. Be as innocent as doves, but as wise as serpents. Don’t be blinkered by ideological blather from the American think-tank industrial complex. Trump’s closest friends on the international stage are decidedly not in Moscow and still less in Beijing, but in Riyadh and Tel Aviv. The more astute observers of American foreign policy, those with the best track record, have already seen ample enough evidence of this to draw that conclusion, and deplore it.

If we want to get serious about rebuilding an equitable, just, prosperous and respected America again, then we need to get back to basics. Liberal bromides from the Cold War – followed by people across the political board – need to be checked at the door. We need to look further back, to the éminences grises of great power politics in the past: specifically Metternich and Pobedonostsev. We need to focus on our domestic problems – particularly those related to healthcare, jobs, infrastructure, education and local government – and in so doing we need to rid ourselves, as the Federalists and British Tories of days past did, of the illusion that we have either permanent friends or permanent enemies on the international stage.

I say we’d do well to follow Dr Bacevich’s lead.

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