Le dernier mot: Washingtonian Madness
My farewell column has a melancholy air not only because all partings are inherently sad, but because the times are genuinely grim. The world is changing . . . not for the better, and America is making a disproportionate contribution to the process. There is a malaise at the very core of this country’s foreign-policymaking, on both sides of the dominant duopoly in Washington. At its poles there may be differences over tactics and means, but the alleged necessity of America’s continued, open-ended “engagement” in faraway lands is never questioned—and it will not be questioned under the new regime.
The madness is an amorphous beast, and it is still remarkably unaffected by the awful financial and economic reality. It has many names—multiculturalism, one-worldism, tolerantism, inclusivism, antidiscriminationism—that demand engagement abroad and wide-open doors at home. Both abroad and at home, the impulse is neurotic; its justification, gnostic. It reflects the collective loss of nerve, faith, and identity of a diseased society, producing a self-destructive malaise that is literally unprecedented in history.
The intoxication is the arrogant belief that our reason and our science and our technology can resolve all the dilemmas and challenges of our existence, and, in particular, that enlightened abstractions—democracy, human rights, free markets—can be spread across the world and are capable of transforming it in a way that would ultimately turn Muhammads into Joes (which is what they all want, we are assured, or would choose only if they could think clearly). Both the madness and the intoxication have a “left,” essentially Wilsonian, narrative (one-world, postnational, compassionate, multilateralist, therapeutic) and a “right,” or neoconservative, one (democracy-exporting, interventionist, monopolar, boastfully self-aggrandizing).
Though differing in practice, both outlooks are utopian and firmly rooted in the legacy of the Enlightenment and the rejection of any power independent of “the market” and the ostensible will of the multitude. Both hold that Man is naturally good and improvable, that human conflict is unnatural and vanquishable, that chaos and bloodshed around the world are primarily the fruits of some flawed policies of the West (Wilsonians) or the result of our insufficient “engagement” (neoconservatives).
The former find remedies in endless self-examination, in the supranational mechanisms of “collective security” controlled by themselves, and in the promotion of “dialogue” with every Third World tyrant and madman, for as long as he declares a grievance against us. The latter rely on the use of force to impose their benevolent global order on a supposedly grateful pre-postmodern humanity. Both are determined to make the world as they want it to be rather than to deal with the world as it is. This produces policies that are invariably flawed, often evil, and occasionally fatal. Both are united in their loathing of the realist view of America not as an ever-expanding empire but as a republic with definable borders and interests rooted in her history, culture, and tradition. When a realist warns of the Hobbesian nature of the real world and advocates national interest as the foundation of this country’s external affairs, they both cry in unison, “Isolationism!” “Racism!” or some other ism.
It is incorrect to describe Wilsonianism and neoconservatism as two “schools” of foreign policy. They are, rather, two sects of the same Western heresy that has its roots in the Renaissance and its fruits in liberal democracy. Their shared denominational genes are recognizable not in what they seek but in what they reject: polities based on national and cultural commonalities; durable elites and constitutions; and independent economies. Both view all permanent values and institutions with unrestrained hostility. Both exalt state power and reject any political tradition based on the desirability of limited government at home and nonintervention in foreign affairs. Both claim to favor the “market” but advocate a kind of state capitalism managed by the transnational apparatus of global financial and regulatory institutions.Their shared core belief—that society should be managed by the state in both its political and its economic life—is equally at odds with the tenets of the liberal left and those of the traditional right. Far from being “patriotic” in any conventional sense, they both reject the real, historic America in favor of a propositional construct devoid of all organic bonds and collective memories.
The two sects’ deep-seated distaste for the traditional societies, regimes, and religion of the European continent was manifested in President Clinton’s war against the Serbs in 1999 and in their unanimous support for Kosovo’s independence today.
For the same reason, they share a visceral Russophobia, a soft spot for Chechen jihadists, and a commitment to NATO expansion. Both Wilsonians and neoconservatives are united in opposing democracy in postcommunist Eastern Europe, lest it produce governments that will base the recovery of their ravaged societies on the revival of the family, sovereign nationhood, and the Christian Faith. Inevitably, they have joined forces in creating and funding political parties and NGOs east of the Trieste-Stettin Line that promote the entire spectrum of postmodern isms that have atomized America and the rest of the West for the past four decades. From Bratislava to Bucharest to Belgrade, both present the embrace of deviancy, perversion, and morbidity as the litmus test of an aspirant’s “Western” clubbability. Ultimately, both sects share the Straussian dictum that the perpetual manipulation of hoi polloi by those in power is necessary because they need to be told what is good for them.
The essential similarity of Wilsonians and neoconservatives is undeniable. The inability of most patriotic, traditionalist Middle Americans to recognize that similarity and its implications is a problem. Many have no difficulty in recognizing the weirdness or evil of, say, Hillary Clinton, but they would be hard-pressed to detect identical traits in an equally radical sectarian who has morphed into a self-styled “conservative” of the Weekly Standard variety.
As Brian Mitchell notes in the conclusion to his book Eight Ways to Run the Country, the obvious disharmony between the genuine conservatism of ancient ideals—whether Anglo-American or orthodox Christian—and the ruthlessly new ideology of “democratic capitalism” embodied in Michael Ledeen’s Creative Destructionism is lost on the average “Red” American who votes Republican and watches FOX News:
It remains to be seen how far capitalism will carry us before social conservatives awake to its dangers. When free men are allowed to amass great fortunes from global rackets in gambling, pornography, prostitution, narcotics, weaponry, and usury, the permanent things can only expect short shrift. Ultimately, such unrestrained capitalism is on the side of our enslavers. In a thoroughly capitalist world, men will buy and sell each other. Only a power independent of the free market can save us from the slave market.
Historically, Mitchell notes, only two institutions have been up to the task: the institutions of nondemocratic governments that guard against accumulation of wealth outside government control, and a unified Christian Church whose wealth and power are committed to nonmarket purposes. “Democracy alone is no match for the market,” Mitchell concludes, “for democracy is itself a market, selling power to the highest bidder.” Indeed, democracy in America is a corrupt “democratic process” run by an elite class that conspires both to make secondary issues important and to treat important issues as either irrelevant or illegitimate: One party may be in; another, out; but the regime is in power permanently.
The global power of the Wilsonian-neoconservative regime is unlikely to be broken incrementally by an America gradually coming to her senses. It will indeed be broken, but the price will be paid in Middle American blood and treasure. We cannot know when and how this will happen—but happen, it will. We cannot know what will be the theme of after-dinner discussions a hundred years hence, but we do know it will not be the global grandeur of the liberal-democratic-capitalist Pax Americana.
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