Life in "interesting times" - a curse or an opportunity ?
A lot of the confusion and anger exhibited by the political class - still in shock over Hillary Clinton's defeat - is due to their inability to accept the pace and character of change. Our Korea "experts" are universally naysaying the Singapore summit not only because they hate Trump to a man (and woman!), but because they are generals fighting the last war - the cold war, that is.
Long after the fall of the Soviet empire, and the semi-formal rejection of Marxist-Leninist dogma by most of the Communist parties of the world, including - in practice - the Chinese, the assumptions that shaped the cold war universe are still canonical in Washington, D.C. The reason for this is that human beings are creatures of habit: and they're lazy. Rather than recognize a new reality and adapt, most would rather just continue the same old routine. It's easier, at least in the short term....
Reality eventually catches up with those who choose to ignore it, however, and that's when that old Chinese saying - or it is a curse? - "May you live in interesting times" takes on new meaning.
We are living in just such a time, with the blowback from decades of errors, miscalculations, and outright crimes coming to visit their vengeance on our political class: unfortunately, the rest of us have to suffer along with them. The difference, however, is that ordinary people have more of an inkling of what's going on than the pundits and other professional prognosticators who litter the public discourse.
To start with the most obvious example: the media, the pollsters, the Professor Know-it-alls, the Washington mandarins, the oligarchs who are now called the "donor class" - all missed the momentum and meaning of Donald J. Trump. More than a year later, they still don't know what hit them, and so they've had to invent a conspiracy theory involving Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange, and presumably Trump himself to "steal" the election from the one who was entitled to win, even if she did not in fact win. As "Russia-gate" crumbles into dust, along with the influence of the Clintons even on their own party, Hillary's list of blameworthy villains gets longer, and her paladins on Twitter keep the faith alive. However, nobody is listening anymore. As that old Clintonian pep rally song put it: "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow!"
While other issues certainly played a more visible role, I'm of the opinion that the decisive factor that propelled Trump into the White House was his relatively pacific foreign policy stance, and there's a very good study that seems to confirm this. And, despite the naysayers, who caricatured Trump as a typical Republican hawk, we are already seeing the President translating that promise into policy.
It was inevitable that some politician with vision would see the opportunity in challenging the cold war structures that have evolved into a sinecure for our "allies" and a source of money and prestige for the national security bureaucracy - but which are otherwise outmoded, unaffordable, and a danger to the peace of the world. Trump campaigned against NATO, against "bad deals," and challenged an antiquated system that has us defending countries all over the world while they erect trade barriers that keep our products out.
Like any innovator who takes on vested interests, Trump and his America Firsters took a lot of abuse: They're "destroying the liberal international order"! They're ushering in a policy of reckless unilateralism! They're going to start World War III!
The exact opposite has happened: it is Trump who's trying to prevent World War III, while the naysayers are now declaring that peace is impossible. As the rotted structures of the cold war come tumbling down - as they would have anyway, without a push from Trump - the President of the United States is waging the fight for peace on two fronts simultaneously.
After Singapore, the Helsinki summit is the second front in this struggle, and that Trump has chosen to do this now, even as the Russia-gate hoax reaches its moment of climactic fakery, is proof of his courage. He knows how the Deep State will use this as grist for their mill of demagoguery, yet he is going ahead for the good of the country and the world - oh yes, and his own glory.
Trump is merely a vessel. The basic conception behind his America First foreign policy has been percolating in the political culture since the fall of the Berlin wall, waiting for some energetic political figure with an especially combative persona to act as its champion.
Contrast Trump's realism with the vapid utopianism of the globalists. The expectation that the end of the Soviet monstrosity and the fact of American unipolarity would usher in a "world homogenous state," to utilize the Hegelian phrase deployed by Francis Fukuyama in "The End of History," was one of those pretty theories that have nothing whatsoever to do with reality. Like its Marxist predecessor, this neoconservative fantasy was imbued with an air of inevitability, although the late Charles Krauthammer insisted that the automatic mechanism of History had to be helped along by US force of arms. In any case, the final triumph of internationalism was assured.
What happened instead was an outburst of nationalism throughout the world, including in the United States and Europe, supposedly the core of the international metropolis. The Trump victory, Brexit, the rise of nationalist parties and governments in central and eastern Europe, the triumph of a left-right nationalist coalition in Italy - and, more significantly, in my view, the rise of nationalism in Eastasia - took the elites by surprise. It is the same nationalism that is driving the spirit of Singapore.
Communism is over: Kim Jong-un knows it. Donald Trump knows it. Our "experts" don't really know it, however, because they insist that the North will never change voluntarily and never give up its nuclear arsenal. What they don't understand, and what Trump seems to get, is that Kim wants to dismantle much more than a few nukes: he wants to upend the entire ramshackle system handed down to him by his father, and get some of that good stuff he saw in Singapore. And his stylish sister seems of the same mind.
In Europe, they don't get that the cold war is over, although Putin certainly does. And so does Trump, who recently opined that it's high time we got those 35,000 troops out of Germany. Long after their original purpose is no longer operative, those US bases continue to host thousands of our troops. What accounts, in part, for their longevity is that entire towns grew up around them, a number of military contractors have grown enormously wealthy, and the host country derives considerable economic benefits from this outmoded arrangement - while US taxpayers foot the bill. Trump wants to end that. Pay up, says Trump of NATO, or else we're outta here. That's language every normal American can understand: it naturally horrifies our political class.
The plan was that the idea of national sovereignty was to be relegated to the dustbin of history, along with all national particularities, which would be absorbed into the global mono-culture. That scheme has been spoiled by a global rebellion against ... globalism! The characterless utopia envisioned by the Davos crowd has been overthrown even before they managed to impose it on us.
Not that they've given up: not by a long shot! The Deep State, which was created to fight the cold war, is determined to maintain the conditions that provoked its birth. Trump threatens their agenda of perpetual war, however inconsistently and haltingly, and so he must be eliminated: that's what motivates their domestic regime change operation, in which the ‘mainstream" media and the Democratic party (or do I repeat myself?) play major roles. These forces represent the old order, fighting like hell to maintain their power, their perks, and their privileges.
They are putting up quite a fight, yet they are passing into history whether they like it or not. There's no longer any reason for the division of Korea: the justification for NATO no longer exists. The rationale for both has long since disappeared from the pages of history, and a good thing, too. That Trump is the one to point this out is just an accident, a detail, albeit one certain commentators focus on to the exclusion of all else.
It's important to go into the details, to do some close analysis of events as they are occurring. Yet this can lead to a kind of myopia, a particular blindness that renders larger patterns invisible as one gets lost in a mire of minutiae. Every once in a while it's necessary to step back and try to see the immense forces at work in the world, and, if possible, chart their general direction. This gives meaning to the close analysis of everyday events.
That, at least, is my method: it's what informs me as I try to cover events as they unfold. I don't mind living in "interesting times," as long as I have something to guide me, some underlying principle that oversees and organizes the way I perceive the world. In the post-imperial era - which has been inaugurated by the presidency of Trump - those principles are best understood as a triad. As against the Davos crowd agenda of globalism, centralism, and constant conflict, mine is sovereignty, liberty, and peace.
A special note: I want to thank everyone who gave to the Antiwar.com fund drive. It was a great success, thanks to you, our readers and supporters, and vindication - once more - of my rather contrarian take on the "interesting times" we live in. We couldn't do what we do without the support of people like you, and on behalf of the whole staff here at Antiwar.com I want to thank you all once again for your vote of confidence.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I've written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon(ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.