In Democratic Individuality, I argued that at a high level of abstraction, modern conservatives, liberals and radicals believe that the best economic, social and political institutions foster each person’s individuality. Their differences are largely empirical or social theoretical. All clash with modern authoritarians. I will take up practical issues such as torture and the lineage of the neocons and link them to larger issues in how we conceive a decent regime, locally and internationally.
Robert Kagan, Victoria Nuland, Amanda Sloat, Hillary Clinton and the danger of war over the Ukraine
Key figures in neocon politics, one – Victoria Nuland – a very prominent State Department person who worked over time on overthrowing the elected government in the Ukraine and produced a crisis with Russia, the other the intellectual leader of the Project for a New American Century, are supporting Hillary Clinton.Kagan – and Bill Kristol who bruited about the Russia supports Trump position to distract from the DNC’s active suppression of Sanders’ supporters and the ugly words in the emails (who the Democratic National Committee is…) – are both active “for Hillary.”Rania Kalek’s Intercept piece has an interview with Kagan which makes clear that Hillary goes for war – and that means possible nuclear war – with the Ukraine – against Obama.For after unwisely being drawn into provoking this conflict, Obama has – wisely – stepped back.And oddly, though the line in the commercial press is that Russia is the firm enemy, actually Trump’s position on this is wiser.
Now Trump is a racist monster – and his and his campaign manager’s motives for ties with Russia may be venal. Russia took on Trump’s business after Trump stiffed his investors, workers in the four casino bankruptcies in Atlantic City and no American bank would lend to him. But I repeat: not taking Russia into NATO under Clinton and W., expanding up to its border, and expecting no response – well, consider the Soviet placing of missiles in Cuba in 1962 and the near miss for nuclear war. The nicest thing one might say about Barack’s foreign policy in this area is that it is naive. For as John Mearsheimer has rightly emphasized, this transadministration policy is way crazy, way provocative, way stupid – and has now produced a fearsome threat of war.
Robert Kagan has recast America historically as an expansionary, warmaking, land seizing “liberal” power.Insofar as the United States was genocidal toward indigenous people and blacks, the adjective “liberal” is a serious mistake.When pressed, Kagan sort of recognizes this.But he uses his cleverer interpretation of America’s “dangerous” history to advocate more war.For an account of his previous forays with Obama, see my article at Come Home Americahere.
And see also the New York Times report of his influential piece criticizing Obama (plus a sketch of family connections, Fred of the “surge”, father Don whom I debated on KGNU in the run-up to the Iraq war which led to Obama’s West Point speech about a more limited American war-making role here. This article indicates that Kagan was already strongly with Secretary of State Clinton, in Clinton’s circle of advisors.
In Dangerous Nation, the first chaoter “The First Imoerialists” traces the aim and activity of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin to expand a great empire Westward, by murdering Native Americans.In old-fashioned, i.e. German, geopolitics, Kagan even uses the German geopolitical phrase Lebensraum (Hitler referred to the “Wild East” at p. 25): “[Benjamin] Franklin’s was in essence an argument for living space.”There is the grim genocidal interplay of “geopolitics,” founded by Frederick Jackson Turner about the American Frontier and Friedrich Ratzel, who coined the term Lebensraum for the Wild West and conquering slavs in the Wild East.Ratzel was a founder of the Pan-German League which fought for the occupation of Poland in World War I.
This idea is basic to discussions, as Kagan says, to “high-level” foreign policy discussions opposed to ordinary people. For Americans now widely object to aggressions and slaughter of innocents and immense wars for no good reason and torture. Geopolics has nothing in common with a common good for ordinary people.This is concealed by the phrase “national security state” in the conventional security literature, a phrase which is empty or has the silly operational definition – the interests of the state (Huntington, Krasner). But this phrase has a sinister connotation in all of its links to American genocides – Vietnam; Iraq; Chile, too – many other places… – and Nazism.
Kagan’s Dangerous Nation was published in 2006, the same year as Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts, which treats all the world, divided into 6 American commands, as “Injun Country.”The first chapters of these two Bush-era imperial books – “The First Imperialists,” “Injun Country” – dangerously and creepily mirror each other.Kaplan invokes Karl Haushofer, drawing a map for Germany in 1931, of the 5 areas greater Germany should conquer.He claims that it is a mirror for CENTCOM, PACOM, EUCOM, and the other American regions.He does not say – he may not even know, that he is so flamingly racist that he would probably not care – that Haushofer’s military assistant and then student, was Rudolf Hess, secretary to Hitler.Haushofer want to Landsberg prison in 1923 where Hitler was jailed for the Munich putsch, and gave both of them 5 hour sessions once a week.Afterwards, Hitler spoke always of Lebensraum.
And Haushofer pushed this idea in Nazi Germany widely.
There is a confusion in international relations between realism – an often critical study of American expansionism – and geopolitics (Kissinger, Hillary Clinton et al).The former, as in Hans Morganthau and Ken Waltz was critical of all the American wars in modern history, especially Vietnam (see my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy, introduction, chs. 1-2).The latter is a Wild West, quasi-Nazi, frequently genocidal, often aggressive (Vietnam, Iraq) enterprise of world domination…
Amanda Sloat, a rising State Department “star” along with Nuland, is all for more bombing of Syria. The liberal interventionist/neocon establishment is quickly becoming – Obama was wiser with the Iran treaty – simply neocon. Bob Kagan and Victoria Nuland – frenzied lions of the new establishment…
We should focus a spotlight on the Wild West of imperial fantasy and put a stop to it…
AS HILLARY CLINTON puts together what she hopes will be a winning coalition in November, many progressives remain wary — but she has the war-hawks firmly behind her.
“I would say all Republican foreign policy professionals are anti-Trump,” leading neoconservative Robert Kagan told a group gathered around him, groupie-style, at a “foreign policy professionals for Hillary” fundraiser I attended last week. “I would say that a majority of people in my circle will vote for Hillary.”
As the co-founder of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century, Kagan played a leading role in pushing for America’s unilateral invasion of Iraq, and insisted for years afterwards that it had turned out great.
Despite the catastrophic effects of that war, Kagan insisted at last week’s fundraiser that U.S. foreign policy over the last 25 years has been “an extraordinary success.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s know-nothing isolationism has led many neocons to flee the Republican ticket. And some, like Kagan, are actively helping Clinton, whose hawkishness in many ways resembles their own.
The event raised $25,000 for Clinton. Two rising stars in the Democratic foreign policy establishment, Amanda Sloat and Julianne Smith, also spoke.
The way they described Clinton’s foreign policy vision suggested that if elected president in November, she will escalate tensions with Russia, double down on military belligerence in the Middle East and generally ignore the American public’s growing hostility to intervention.
Sloat, the former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, boasted that Clinton will be “more interventionist and forward-leaning than Obama’s been” in Syria. She also applauded Clinton for doing intervention the right way, through coalitions instead of the unilateral aggression that defined the Bush years.
“Nothing that [Clinton] did was more clear than the NATO coalition that she built to defend civilians in Libya,” said Sloat, referencing the Obama administration’s overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. That policy, spearheaded by Clinton, has transformed a once stable state into a lawless haven for extremist groups from across the region, including ISIS.
Kagan has advocated for muscular American intervention in Syria; Clinton’s likely pick for Pentagon chief, Michelle Flournoy, has similarly agitated for redirecting U.S. airstrikes in Syria toward ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Smith told the audience that unlike Trump, Clinton “understands the importance of deterring Russian aggression,” which is why “I’ll sleep better with her in the chair.” She is a former deputy national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden.
Smith left the government to become senior vice president of Beacon Global Strategies, a high-powered bipartisan consulting group founded by former high-ranking national security officials.
When Robbie Martin, a filmmaker who recently produced a three-part documentary on the neoconservative movement, asked how Clinton plans to deal with Ukraine, Kagan responded enthusiastically.
“I know Hillary cares more about Ukraine than the current president does,” Kagan replied. “[Obama] said to me [that he wouldn’t arm Ukraine because] he doesn’t want a nuclear war with Russia,” he added, rolling his eyes dismissively. “I don’t think Obama cares about Putin anymore at all. I think he’s hopeless.”
Kagan is married to Victoria Nuland, the Obama administration’s hardline assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. Nuland, who would likely serve in a senior position in a Clinton administration, supports shipping weapons to Ukraine despite major opposition from European countries and concerns about the neo-Nazi elements those weapons would empower.
Another thing neoconservatives and liberal hawks have in common is confidence that the foreign policy establishment is right, and the growing populist hostility to military intervention is naïve and uninformed.
Kagan complained that Americans are “so focused on the things that have gone wrong in recent years, they miss the sort of basic underlying, unusual quality of the international order that we’ve been living in.
“It’s not just Donald Trump,” Kagan said. “I think you can find in both parties a very strong sense that we don’t need to be out there anymore.”
“If, as I hope, Hillary Clinton is elected, she is going to immediately be confronting a country that is not where she is,” he said. “She is a believer in this world order. But a great section of the country is not and is going to require persuasion and education.”
Sloat agreed, arguing that “it’s dangerous” for people to draw anti-interventionist lessons from Libya and Iraq.
The Clinton-neocon partnership was solidified by Trump becoming the Republican nominee. But their affinity for each other has grown steadily over time.
The neoconservative Weekly Standard celebrated Clinton’s 2008 appointment as secretary of state as a victory for the right, hailing her transformation from “First Feminist” to “Warrior Queen, more Margaret Thatcher than Gloria Steinem.”
But the fundraiser was perhaps the most outward manifestation yet of the convergence between the Democratic foreign policy establishment and the neoconservative movement.
Hannah Morris of the liberal pro-Israel lobbying group J Street celebrated this bipartisanship as a “momentous occasion.”
“We could not be more proud to have [Kagan] here today,” she said.