Even before the Iraq War, John Bolton was a leading brain behind the neoconservatives’ war-and-conquest agenda. Long ago I wrote about him, in “John Bolton and U.S. Lawlessness,” “The Bush administration’s international lawlessness did not come from nowhere. Its intellectual foundations were laid long before 9/11 by neoconservatives.” I quoted Bolton, “It is a big mistake to for us to grant any validity to international law … because over the long term, the goal of those who think that it really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States.” In fact I set up a web page, the John Bolton File, containing various links about him and the neocons.
Nearly all of Donald Trump’s appointments to his transition team are very encouraging. Indeed, I have known many of them for years. But he could undermine his whole agenda by allowing neocons back into their former staffing and leadership role over Republican foreign policy. The New York Times reported how many are now scrambling to get back into their old dominant positions. And now National Review, which supported all the disasters in Iraq, has come out to promote Bolton for secretary of state.
I have written about the neocons for many years. Their originators were former leftists who later became anti-communists. After the collapse of communism, they provided the intellectual firepower for hawks and imperialists who wanted an aggressive American foreign policy. Having lived and done business for many years in the Third World, I thought they would only bring about disasters for America. What especially interested me was their almost total lack of experience in and knowledge about the outside world, particularly Asia and Latin America. I even set up a web page called War Party Neoconservative Biographies as I researched their education and experience.
Brilliant academics as many of them were, their “foreign” experience was at best a semester or two in London or, for the more daring, some studies in Paris or, for the Jewish ones, a summer on a kibbutz in Israel. They are above all Washington insiders. John Bolton is very typical. A summa cum laude graduate of Yale, then Yale Law School, time with a top Washington law firm, and then various academic and political appointments, but no foreign living or work experience. Also, as sheltered intellectuals, often in cluttered small offices, many found it exciting to imagine themselves ruling much of the world, like the old Roman proconsuls. Long ago Peter Viereck explained them with his observation about the vicarious “lust of many intellectuals for brute violence.” No wonder they urged Bush on to his disastrous war and occupation policies. Even before Iraq they were first urging dominance over Russia and then military confrontation with China, when a U.S. spy plane was collided by a Chinese fighter plane. It wasn’t just the Arab world which was in their sights.
I write about all this based on my own experience of studying in Germany and France, working 15 years in South America, and speaking four languages fluently.
Trump appointments so far are really showing his focus upon getting America back on track with faster economic growth, which has been so stunted by Obama’s runaway regulatory regime. To understand their costs, see analysis in the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s “Ten Thousand Commandments.” But more unending wars will continue to sap America’s strength and prejudice the world’s former goodwill toward our nation. Empires all eventually make a transition from where they are profitable to when they become destructively bankrupting. Few would now doubt that America has crossed this threshold. When it costs us a million dollars per year per man to field combat infantry in unending wars, we will face economic ruin just like happened with the Roman Empire.
The risk is that Trump’s foreign-affairs transition team becomes infiltrated. Much of the transition is being run out of the Heritage Foundation, which was a big promoter of the Iraq War. Mainly, however, Vice President Mike Pence, who heads up the transition team, was another war wanter and still supports the neoconservative agenda—e.g., he strongly supported the attack on Libya. He also wants much more military spending. Pence is great on domestic issues but not on foreign policy. Although a Catholic, he also is very close to those evangelicals who believe that supporting Israel’s expansion will help to speed up the second coming of Christ and, consequently, Armageddon. One must assume that he, together with the military-industrial complex, is plugging for the neoconservatives again to work their agenda upon America and the world.
Jon Basil Utley is publisher of The American Conservative.