Friday, January 10, 2020

Recommended Foreign Policy Read: Conrad Black

Conrad Black's current article does an excellent job (IMO, of course) of setting out the basic dilemmas facing US foreign policy. In my view, the basic dilemmas are aggravated by the difficulty America has had in reconciling its republican governing institutions with its imperial global role since WW2. (You can see that difficulty on display in the Tucker Carlson/Matt Gaetz interview, especially Gaetz's expressed concern that Trump's national security team is trying to "slow walk" Trump into a major war.) To make matters even worse, America is caught in a civil war (ongoing, blowing hot and cold, since the late 19th century) in which a major political party is attempting to simply overthrow constitutional government

What Conrad Black explains in Claim That Trump Lacks a Strategy Rings False is that America finds itself left trying to clean up the mess left by the age of European imperialism and cultural self destruction--a task for which we as a country are not well suited. Black argues that Trump is doing his best to introduce a creative foreign policy to deal with these realities but has found himself hampered by the Washington establishment. We are dealing with failed states and dysfunctional civilizations while trying to cope with our own very real problems at home. Read it all. Some excerpts:

The Democratic charge that the Trump administration has no strategy for the Middle East is obviously false. It has elaborated a strategy that includes Russia and Turkey.

The problem the administration has faced is that Russia as an issue has been so aggravated by Democratic myth-makers, with the (presumably) inadvertent cooperation of some congressional Republicans, that it has been difficult for Mr. Trump to deal with Russia sensibly without exciting partisan hysteria and crowding the Democratic television news networks with the tiresome faces and voices of President Obama’s now-discredited intelligence chiefs (James Clapper and John Brennan), beating the old tambourines about Russia determining U.S. elections.
The danger posed by Russia is not the one raised by Democrats or Russia-preoccupied Republicans such as Senator Rubio. Russia is a great nation and civilization, but it is not now a great power like the United States and China; it is an economic paper tiger with a GDP smaller than Canada’s and no political institutions of any credibility or value. 
It is an overwhelmingly corrupt country that has never had one day of good government, wallowing in the frustrations of having gambled everything built up in 300 years from Peter the Great to Stalin in a relatively bloodless world struggle with the United States and its allies (when the U.S. had useful allies because of their self-interest), and of having lost. 
The danger Russia presents now is that if the United States adds to Russia’s humiliations, it could drive Russia into the arms of China, and millions of people from China’s surplus manpower could exploit the untapped resources of Siberia on a royalty basis. The resulting geopolitical threat to the United States and the whole world would be serious. 
President Trump senses all this, and what he seeks is to reach a modus operandi [vivendi?] with Russia, without the Democrats and their parrots in the press shrieking “Treason!” at him, that gives Russia some stabilizing role in the Middle East — cooperating with Turkey, whose return to Syria would be welcome, and with both of those powers countering Iran, which the United States will in any case force back into itself with the current policy of severe sanctions and reprisals to outrages. 
Iran can bluster and threaten all it wishes, but even its deluded theocracy must now realize that the free lunch of appeasement in Washington is over.


  1. Lot of needle threading required to make some semblance of Black's thesis work out--but an effort in that direction is surely better than the legions of ME envoys (over four decades) who garnered lots of air miles and zero results.

    I find it stupefying to go from the Obama/Hillary "reset" to open antagonism towards Russia from the Dems. Head-spinning bizarre.

    1. That's why I offered my own thumbnail of what I think the big picture problem is. But I'm offering no solutions in particular.