Tory, Tory Hallelujah 

In the wake of one of the most outspoken political campaigns in American history, the most inspiring political address that I have heard in a decade did not come from an American leader, but an English one.

Not everyone will agree with all of what British Prime Minister Theresa May says. Yet even her opponents must concede that hers was the most coherent expression of a right-centrist approach to the world order that we have heard in America in a very long time. It was positively Churchillian.

Her speech was to me as much a silent pointed finger at the intellectual bankruptcy of the American right as it was a foreign policy manifesto for the American center. It pandered to neither left nor right. It was liberal internationalism tempered by realpolitik, a recognition that whole-cloth globalism must be amalgamated with a respect for the nation-state as the best servant of the people, and a focus on the well-being of all people, not just oligarchs and corporations.

She covered a great deal of ground, and I’ll be excerpting over her speech over next few weeks.

The Republic of Mischief

We hear constantly from our politicians and from the Saudis and their allies about the need to “counter” or “contain” Iran, but the reality is that Iran’s government has done a fine job of alienating almost the entire region and greatly reducing whatever influence they may have had as recently as ten years ago.

Source: The Hawkish Fantasy of an Iranian ‘Empire’ | The American Conservative

All true and fair. An Iranian empire is, at this point in time, probably a Neocon’s wet dream more than a genuine possibility.

But let’s not forget that Iran has the motive and opportunity to create considerable mischief, death, and destruction even if it never expands an inch beyond its current borders.

At the very least, we should be wary.

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The White House and The Russia House

Is Russia Trying to Keep Montenegro out of NATO?

Source: A Russian Hand in Montenegro’s Coup | commentary

The first hint of a critical question: will the President-Elect cede to Russia a sphere of influence in the Baltics?

And if so, exactly how far does that sphere extend?

One can only wonder whether we are setting the stage for Cold War II.

The South China Sea Problem Begins in Manila

The powerful lawmaker wants to get tough now to stop China’s island-building efforts before it’s too late.

Source: John McCain is done pussyfooting around with China

We can argue about whether America has the wherewithal to contain Chinese irredentism, but the responsibility to contain China’s territorial ambitions begins with the states in the region. It is past time for the leaders of Southeast Asia to accept that they cannot canoodle with China via ASEAN and bilateral trade, and then expect America to guard them against Chinese adventurism. Responsibility for regional security begins in region, must be led in region, and the United States should only step in  when the maximum concerted efforts of the region’s nations have proven incapable of stopping China. And even then, we should do so as a part of a clear, united front, not as the sole bearer of burdens.

In particular, it is difficult to conjure much sympathy for the Philippines. The late Corazon Aquino called U.S. bases on Philippine soil “an affront to national sovereignty.” We can argue about whether she was right, but what is clear is that once she managed to summarily eject the U.S. Navy from Subic Bay and the Air Force from Clark Air Base, she – and her successors – utterly failed to replace the shield the US military had provided. The Philippine armed forces are a bad joke, first tossing their professionalism to the wind in a series of domestic political interventions, then intentionally weakened by sequential administrations who (not without reason) feared the specter of a military coup.

Such is the lot of a bored military with no external threats. But times have changed, and China’s actions are enabled in no small part by their unvarnished assessment of the Philippine military as being aught more than toy soldiers.

The Philippines is overdue to create an armed force capable of defending the nation. Until they at least begin such an effort in earnest, the US should live by the letter of its treaty obligations, and no more.

Time for a New Security Order for Europe

Why, 70 years after the conclusion of World War II, 26 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and 22 years after creation of the European Union, are the Europeans still dependent on America?

Source: Should the U.S. Leave NATO? | The National Interest Blog

I tend to use caution with trial balloons from CATO scholars because I see the organization as a front for corporate interests. Nonetheless, Doug Bandow raises a valid question: why are the Europeans still dependent on the U.S. for their security.

The answer that you are unlikely to find in a CATO publication is this: Europe is dependent upon us because we wanted the Europeans dependent upon us – especially our large military contractors – and the Europeans were happy to have their defense subsidized by the US taxpayers in exchange for the occasional purchase of a few dozen fighter planes.

But that is not really what Bandow is asking. The real question is why are we still permitting the Europeans to depend upon us? Is it not time that we at last put the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to rest, to send Europe an unequivocal message that the subsidy is over? After 70 years in Europe, America is finally coming home. The Cold War, the raison d’etre of NATO’s existence, has now ended, and it is time to close the books on that august, well-intended, but outdated institution.

And it is time for us to reassess, in the view of a very different geopolitical environment and domestic political economy than those we faced when the NATO alliance was at its height, our needs for collective security and the limits of our ability to contribute to the defense of any region beyond our shores.

The process must be conducted with wisdom. We cannot simply abruptly disavow our obligations and go home. Rather, we need to view this as a process, beginning with informing the leaders of Europe that we are on this course, and that Europe must be prepared to step in and take up the burden of its own defense.

We also need to recognize that the process of re-framing our defense relationship with Europe must be conducted in a way that addresses both our legal and moral obligations under the treaty structure that gave rise to NATO. If our friends are to remain our friends, we must leave (or retire) NATO in a way that observes the diplomatic forms, and that gives the nations of Europe a reasonable amount of time to build the forces and doctrine to step into whatever breach we decide to leave.

Because that process is long, it must begin as soon as possible. The process is unlikely to be driven by an administration with a scant year left in office, but it should be at the top of the foreign policy to-do list for the next occupant of the White House. We can make that happen by starting the public discussion ourselves, right now.

 

No More Quixotic Crusades

Any government action should be constrained by moral principles. But the Pentagon exists to protect the American people, and the liberal republic which governs them, not conduct grand “liberal” crusades around the world, no matter how attractive in theory. Thus, support for limited government and individual liberty at home necessitates a commitment to a foreign policy of restraint, even humility, to quote George W. Bush before he gave in to the Dark Side.

Doug Bandow
The American Conservative

If we have drawn no other liberal internationalist lesson from the Second World War, it is that America should never feel constrained from joining the fight against existential threats even before they reach our shores.

Unfortunately, the history of American foreign policy since World War II offers ample evidence that we have too often not constrained ourselves enough. While we have leapt into overseas adventures that have proven beneficial both to America and those we sought to help, the preponderance of evidence suggests that we should intervene in far fewer situations than our force projection capabilities make possible.

We have made ourselves the adjudicator of domestic squabbles and regional fights that arguably did not need our intervention. We have appointed ourselves the world’s foremost exporter of the one commodity that cannot be exported: democracy. We have embroiled ourselves in conflict without end. And in doing all of the above we have created a military footprint that exceeds our ability to maintain in peace or sustain in war.

The time has come for our foreign policy maturity, a time to recognize that we are incapable of forming the world to our desires using force or its threat, but that at the same time the world has grown too interconnected to allow us to retreat behind two oceans and walled borders.

We need, above all, a foreign policy that is driven by a practical vision of our role in the world that is within our means to sustain indefinitely, and that provides for an active defense against existential threats.

We must, at last, bid farewell to the Wilsonian urge to grand crusades and set ourselves to the task of finding a new grand strategy, to build from that a broader doctrine that will guide American policymaking regardless of whose posterior is warming the big chair at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Precisely what that grand strategy should be is what must animate our debates going forward.