State of the Union: Vivek Ramaswamy is correct about American interests in Ukraine. Naturally he is about to face some stiff “resistance.”
Vivek Ramaswamy is the Andrew Yang of the right, albeit less soporific, more verbose, and with occasionally questionable sartorial style consisting of bright red ties and glossy brown shoes. Doesn’t necessarily mean he is always right, and often I don’t agree with him. But he has been correct on one specific angle. On Ukraine, Ramaswamy channels a school of thought regarding the affairs of the state that is so old that it feels lost and alien to generations brought up as hyper-democratic mediocrities.
Vivek is not in a position yet to win the presidency. But if he is successful, he might be able to do two things. One, he might be able to push the foreign policy debate to a direction which is truly favorable to old-school realism, and can help prioritize this sclerotic establishment, and shift the Overton Window for future generations to come. He might, also, if he plays his cards correctly, get himself a position in a favorable future Republican administration, similar to Gina Raimondo, in trade, commerce, or the State Department, where he will shine.
In the eyes of our mediocre elite, Ramaswamy’s biggest mistake was his opposition to further entanglement in Europe. Ramaswamy is talking about amoral realpolitik, of the executive branch pursuing ruthless politics, and are alien to the human-rights-addicted curricula churning out our surplus Nat-Sec elites and media talking heads. What next, is he going to call on private militias to avenge fentanyl deaths in Mexico? Call for letters of marque and reprisal to be issued by the Congress against the cartels? Call for private companies to have their own security and army restoring order in Latin America?
Shocking. All of that technically doable by the executive branch, but often unspeakable and even unthinkable in sophisticated circles. No one quite knows why.
“The job of the U.S. president is to look after American interests,” Vivek said to a rattled Martha Raddatz who couldn’t seem to believe the audacity of a man who said in a campaign that not a dime more should be given to Ukraine, if he became president. “You don't think the possibility of Russia taking over Ukraine is in our interest?” (Raddatz looked as if she had been having a stroke.)
“I don't think that's a top foreign policy priority, I don’t think it is preferable for Russia to be able to invade a sovereign country that is its neighbor. But...I think the number one threat to the U.S. military is right now, our top military threat, is the China-Russian alliance. I think that by fighting further in Russia, by further arming Ukraine, we are driving Russia into China's hands,” Ramaswamy explained, demonstrating that he has done his reading of canonical realists.
In another segment, when faced with expected midwittery of being equated to Neville Chamberlain, Ramaswamy doubled down. “It’s a reverse maneuver of what [Richard] Nixon did with Mao [Zedong]. Mao was not some…paragon of democracy. I don't trust Putin any more than Nixon trusted Mao, except this time Putin is the new Mao: Disrupt that alliance.” He repeated the same principle at CNN with Kaitlan Collins last night.
The usual suspects were of course apoplectic.
But what they miss is a certain social angle to it. Ramaswamy frivolously calls himself a non-white nationalist. He is unironically called “anti-diversity, anti-environment, and anti-gender equality” by some mid-tier professor of a fake discipline from Sweden. His parents were, respectively, an engineer-cum-attorney and a psychiatrist. He earned his B.A. and J.D. from Harvard and Yale, respectively. He made a ton of money in asset management. He has been a valedictorian, and won the Bowdoin Prize, as well as a post-graduate scholarship. He tweets about Washington’s Farewell address, about not being entangled in a war far away in Europe, and having goodwill and trade with regimes regardless of their internal politics. He comes from a Hindu Brahmin background. Listen to “Viv” on the radio, and there you have it. He is a patrician WASP in politics, just without the Protestantism, and the sardonic reticence. He is a classic example of Teddy Rooseveltian assimilation in a republic. In Macho Man’s sage wisdom, he is quintessentially representative of the dictum “the cream rises to the top.”
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Realism is an ultimately amoral worldview fundamentally predicated on elite nationalism at home and patrician deal-making abroad. It therefore needs an elite who is unapologetically American First, instead of identifying with either abstract global causes, or, if foreign-born, their countries of birth.
Vivek is of course right about Ukraine, a bare-minimal great-power detente with Russia, non-interventionism abroad, European burden-sharing, and prioritizing China as a hegemonic challenge. But America is not a WASPy middle-power from the time of Calvin Coolidge, with a nationalist elite, deciding on a very narrow set of strategic interests, priorities, and theaters of engagement, and deprioritizing evangelical human rights promotion.
He will naturally face the primary resistance of a changed America with foreign lobbies, Nat-Sec bureaucracies, and an activist media much more worried about LGBT rights in Kiev than fentanyl addiction in Kansas. I am not his foreign policy advisor, but I’d suggest he look to ensure his ideology is implemented from within from a sympathetic Republican administration, and try to find a place much more suited to his talents: the State Department.