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Nationalism and “Internationalism”

September 21, 2020

Presidents of the United States from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush inherited a civil religion that Woodrow Wilson founded when he sent American troops to fight in the European war that we now refer to as “the first World War.”

My 2015 study, The Conservative Rebellion, explains how Woodrow Wilson’s war and the Progressive movement were true and faithful believers in a civil, or political religion, of “democracy.” A first principle of that political religion is belief in a system of international cooperation that aspires to supersede “balance of power” as the basis of political order and make the world “safe.” 

The “League of Nations,” championed by Woodrow Wilson, was ahead of its time, but thanks to demands rooted in the Great Depression and the addled mind of President Franklin Roosevelt during his fourth term in office, this Internationalist ideology prevailed. Donald Trump’s program—”Make America Great”—represents a rejection of Wilsonian idealism and the international organizations carrying out Woodrow Wilson’s idealism.

The conflict between President Trump’s “Nationalism” and the belief in “Internationalism,” whether that be practical cooperation or “religion” became clear when it was revealed that in a 2017 meeting at the Pentagon, Trump called the military brass, “dopes and babies.” On December 20, 2018, General Mathis resigned citing “disagreements” with President Donald Trump ranging from Syria to global alliances. On June 3, 2020, Trump tweeted “I didn’t like his ‘leadership’ style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!”

General Officers in the U.S. Military are trained to obey, which means working within a system of “global alliances,” international law and organizations shaped and sustained by Presidents from FDR to Obama. Confronted with a new nationalistic policy, highly critical of international organizations such as NATO, the world of these officers is challenged. Instead of the tactical doctrines they learned, the are now confronted with a demand that they think strategically.

Generals Patton and MacArthur thought strategically, Mathis does not.

Even President Trump has not explained his strategic doctrine of “Make America Great.” nor has he acknowledged any similarity between “Make America Great” and a new “nationalism” that is driving countries that were once satellites of the USSR, like Romania, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia and Slovenia, to become “Great” as well. 

That lapse or inability to connect “American nationalism” to the striving to become “Great” of foreign countries does not bode well for American foreign policy after Trump leaves office and may shift a renewed American nationalism into more coercive modes than those which General Mathis criticized. After all, the “Jacobin” impulses now embodied by Democrat Party leaders in Washington State, Oregon, Wisconsin and Minnesota can only lead to forceful, even violent, reaction.

Liberal Education

September 20, 2020

Confusion reigns as students and parents decide to attend college. Especially today when a Coronavirus Pandemic has shuttered classroom instruction, colleges rapidly, but inexpertly, place classroom courses online and struggle to remain open, even as students on campus become infected.

While we await a safe and effective vaccine, we should invest a little time on reflection.

What is an education and, especially, what is a liberal education.

“Education” has been my love and concern from my first semester in graduate school when I took classes from Eric Voegelin, Gerhart Niemeyer and Stanley Parry.

For that reason, I was appalled by parents who paid bribes to enroll their students in prestigious universities. I felt that many parents needed to understand what’s involved in striving for an “education” and published an essay in which I offered some fundamental insights.

I also gave an interview on the subject and, in response to an opportunity to design a “Mission Statement” for a new college, I outlined what is involved in a “Liberal Education.

Before heading off to visit a college, take some time to reflect on what Education really offers to young and old alike.

Choosing a New King and a Judicial Consort

September 19, 2020

To the Framers of the Constitution, the three branches of the national government were unequal–not equal.  Of the three branches, the legislature was supreme, the Executive was more powerful than the Judiciary, but for that reason the Framers suspected that if any mischief were to occur, it would probably occur in the Executive. The popular myth that the Constitution established three separate but equal branches of government has no basis in fact. You can read about in my October 29, 2019 essay that I titled “The Myth of Coequal Branches.”

The Federalists believed to the contrary that representative government was unstable and that popular rule required a guiding hand that could check popular enthusiasm.  Thus these Federalists proposed a procedure called a “Council of Revision” as a check on the deliberations of Congress. Much to their consternation, proposals for such a “Council” were rejected four times at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. But the Federalists were able to impose what we call “judicial review” by forceful legal opinions that commenced in Marbury vs. Madison.

With the Judiciary established as a check on representative democracy came ascendancy of our Supreme Court that, coupled with a powerful Chief Executive, has led to circumstances in today’s America that make judicial appointments of prime importance.

In November of 2020, an older United States but not necessarily better America, transformed into near monarchy by circumstances that could not have been envisioned in 1789, will elect a new “King” and the current monarch will choose a new member of the Supreme Court to protect us from the will of the people.

The Bulwark Again

September 18, 2020

What is going on with our “Neoconservatives”?

Back in August 2011, I likened them to Diane Keating in the feature film, Looking for Mr. Goodbar. “Neoconservatism” is a name that they gave to themselves, but not because they were interested in limited government. Though Irving Kristol and Jeane Kirkpatrick are dead; Norman Podhoretz is 90, and Midge Decter is 93, their successor “Neos” still believe that Americans want big government.

The problem with Neoconservatism is the absence of principles of classical liberalism of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and modern day Friedrich Hayek that gave rise to the conservative Movement. I listened, however, to a podcast of “The Bulwark.”  What attracted me to listen was the topic “If Trump loses, should we lock him up.”

Putting opponents in jail is something we expect from totalitarians (Castro, Putin, Kim Jong-un) and the mere raising of that possibility without condemning it is dangerous.

Mona Charen and the others at The Bulwark are playing with fire and should stop. And Bill Kristol should reexamine his association with Charles Sykes.