Entangling Alliances are not America First

The problem for me with reading National Review is that just about every article there triggers me and inspires me to write a rebuttal, which if I did would make my family and my employer very unhappy. But some articles are more triggering than others. This one by abortive NeverTrump Presidential candidate David French in defense of US interventionist foreign policy is an example of an article that is maximally triggering. I cannot restrain my impulse to respond.

The article is entitled “Maintaining Alliances Puts ‘America First.’” Ummm… no it doesn’t. The article is in response to Donald Trump’s suggestion, which was greeted with hysteria by the interventionist “right,” that NATO members should pay their fair share for a mutual defense agreement that ostensibly benefits them. How outrageous! For anyone familiar with Donald Trump’s history on this issue, this position should not be surprising. When Trump was contemplating seeking the GOP nomination in 1988*, he took out a full page ad in several newspapers of record making the same point that wealthy foreign countries were freeloading off the U.S. for their defense. (*So much for the contention of some NeverTrumpers that Trump is a “lifelong Democrat.”)

While I would prefer that Trump go full non-interventionist and advocate U.S. withdrawal from NATO, suggesting that the U.S. not bear a grossly disproportionate financial share of the burden for supposedly defending Western Europe from an imagined Russian boogeyman is a perfectly sensible suggestion. Whether NATO was ever a necessary and wise alliance is the subject for another essay, but NATO has clearly outlived its usefulness. It was obsolete the day the former Soviet Union collapsed, and is kept alive to this day only because it benefits the military industrial complex and its “conservative” enablers to have imagined threats to inveigh against.

If David French wants to defend the U.S. continuing to be a sap and defend European countries that are perfectly capable of defending themselves, then I can’t stop him, but for the sake of intellectual honesty, he needs to quit pretending that this is somehow a conservative position. Foreign policy interventionism inherently betrays a globalist mindset. Authentic conservatism is localist, not globalist. French scoffs at the globalist epithet in his essay, but if the shoe fits…

French writes:

…within the conservative movement, there has long been a broad understanding that American military hegemony in many ways was the very definition of “America first” — because without such hegemony, power vacuums could and would be filled largely by hostile interests. Historically, it is the Left that has wobbled on those commitments. It is the Left that has placed American resolve in doubt. Now, it’s Trump’s GOP that is doing so.

No, the modern movement that calls itself conservative has long had this “broad understanding,” but this movement has remarkably little to do with actually conserving anything. Modern movement “conservatism” arose post World War II and therefore disproportionately emphasized foreign policy in response to the perceived threat of global Communism, but such a global focus was never consistent with authentic conservatism properly understood. No less an authority than  neo-conservative guru Robert Kagan supports this contention:

The first thing that could be said about this neoconservative worldview is that there is nothing very conservative about it…

The oldest, and in some ways most potent, critique has always been that of genuine conservatism, a powerful counter-tradition that goes back at least as far as the debates over the ratification of the Constitution in 1787…

Does David French disagree with Kagan’s analysis? The problem for “conservative” interventionists is that foreign intervention isn’t the inherently conservative position, which is obvious to anyone with even a superficial understanding of what conservatism really is. Modern “conservative” interventionism is closer to Jacobinism than it is to authentic conservatism.

Since this is patently obvious, I have long divided anyone who maintains that foreign meddling is the conservative position into either those who know better and are shills, or those who don’t know better and are therefore useful idiots. There has always been a certain earnestness to French’s usual fare that made me previously assume he was the latter. Quite frankly, I used to assume that French just wasn’t really all that bright. Once his name was floated as a possible NeverTrump Presidential candidate, however, I looked into his background. French is a graduate of Harvard Law and has authored some pretty sophisticated academic books related to British military history, so the option that he is just a slightly dull useful idiot is no longer a credible explanation. French is a shill. He’s just an unusually convincing one.

But no amount of cleverness is ever going to make up down. NATO added ex-Soviet satellites up to the Russian border, a clearly provocative act, for no good reason, risking U.S. blood and treasure to defend Estonia, Latvia, etc. Entangling alliances transparently do not put America first. They involve America in unwise trip wire agreements that could potentially plunge us into war with a nuclear Russia. There is nothing conservative about such recklessness or the globalist mindset that underlies it, and David French knows it.

This article was originally published at OpEd News.

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