Since the end of the Cold War, American foreign policy could almost have been designed to undermine our national interests. Whether under Republican George W. Bush or Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, we have seen “regime changes” and “color revolutions,” facilitation of global jihadism while claiming to combat it, and gratuitous confrontation with post-communist Russia which was going out of its way to become our reliable ally.
For those familiar with the operational code of the late Soviet Union, the counterproductive skew of American policy has a familiar ring. The Bolsheviks sacrificed the interests of the Russian people in pursuit of their Marxist-Leninist vision. In his famous work, “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism,” Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, described the roots of his ruling ideology in 19th century German philosophy, British political economy, and French utopian socialism.
It’s time to ask why, under GOP and Democrat administrations alike, American foreign policy is so dysfunctional. Also, one could notice that this policy has three components as well.
First, consider the power of money centered in the Washington establishment, sometimes summarized as the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC). This huge network of institutions, both public and private, whose bread and butter depend on global adventurism, today extends well beyond the MIC that outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower described in 1960. Reportedly, an earlier draft of the speech used the term “military-industrial-Congressional” complex. Asked about the omission from the final text, Eisenhower is said to have answered: “It was more than enough to take on the military and private industry. I couldn't take on the Congress as well.”
The bipartisan “oligarchy” (as Senator Jeff Sessions calls it) or the “deep state” (as author Mike Lofgren calls it) includes elements of all three branches of the US government, the financial industry, government contractors, think tanks, many NGOs, the political parties and their campaign operatives, lobbyists and PR flacks for any of the foregoing as well as for foreign interests (think of Saudi contributions to the Clinton Foundation), and of course the Mainstream Media that serve as bulletin boards for official information (ask Ben Rhodes). Somebody is making a lot of money, but it sure isn’t the ordinary folk in what the elite of both parties concentrated on the coasts disdain as “Flyover Country.”
Second, it would be a mistake to think this is all just money-grubbing. The same way as members of the old Soviet nomenklatura depended on Marxism-Leninism both as a working methodology and as a justification for their prerogatives and privileges, the entrenched duopoly of Democrat liberal interventionists and Republican neoconservatives relies upon an ideological imperative. A 1996 article by William Kristol and Robert Kagan, misleadingly titled “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy called for the US to establish and maintain indefinitely “benevolent global hegemony”—American world domination for its own sake. Kristol and Kagan laid down virtually all of the elements that have guided US foreign policy during the ensuing years, including confronting Russia and China.
It is no accident that the same folks were enthusiastic supporters of Bill Clinton’s Balkan interventions of 1990s, under the guidance of people like then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who once opined regarding the sanctions-related deaths of a half million Iraqi children that “the price is worth it.” Few on either side of the partisan aisle would dissent from Albright’s conviction that a militant United States has a special wisdom: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future”, said Albright, with Nobel Peace laureate Barack Obama repeating this line over and over again. We are the midwife of history: Lenin couldn’t have said it better.
Third, the bipartisan Washington network and its ideological “software” are an open invitation to ethnic and foreign lobbies bent on spoiling the historic opportunity for rapprochement with Russia and making Moscow an ally instead of an adversary. The first round of NATO expansion (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary) was thoughtlessly influenced by the above mentioned MIC and neocons/neolibs and Bill Clinton’s belief that it would help him to win reelection in 1996 by bolstering his appeal with immigrant communities. Today, weak allies like the Baltic States and Poland that contribute nothing to American security—along with non-allies Ukraine and Georgia—are happy to behave provocatively towards Russia, the only power on earth capable of destroying us, because Uncle Sam has their back. How many Americans would imperil New York for Tallinn, if they even know where that is? One could say the same for Obama’s game of chicken with Beijing in the South China Sea, risking war to support the claims of Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei. In Syria, Saudi and Turkish intelligence services support Wahhabist jihadists with Washington’s blessing—and then we’re shocked when terrorists hit us at home.
Donald Trump is right to question the value of these foolish and dangerous commitments. If he is elected, he needs to take a hard look at the three components that have ill-served us for so long and should be jettisoned the same way Russia dumped Marxism-Leninism in 1991. If on the other hand Hillary Clinton, a Leninist if ever there was one, is elected, we know that she will continue and even intensify them with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow. Jim Jatras is a former US diplomat and foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership. He shortly will release a major study on the media’s role as a transmission belt for “wars of choice.”
Reprinted from Chronicles with authors' permission.