Discourses

Last Tuesday night President Trump told Congress and the country, “As a candidate for President, I pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars.” He’s dead right. Even the winners do not come out of long wars well. Ask our British cousins what winning both world wars – much longer wars for them than for us – got them. Regardless of how cheap our fruitless campaigns to reform the Greater Middle East appear to be, they are chipping away at American power, virtue, and solvency.

Trump might have added that “War is the health of the state,” as the Progressive essayist Randolph Bourne wrote in the midst of World War I (Progressives get things right on occasion). Looking around today’s Long War America, its surveillance state never stronger, its police departments boasting hand-me-down armored vehicles, and its Department of Defense the largest provider of childcare in the land, it is safe to say that Bourne understated the case.

One can and should question Trump’s commitment to restraint, retrenchment, and realism. We still have troops in Syria and Afghanistan, and the President’s foreign policy team keeps adding more votaries of the disastrous Bush agenda. Trump asks the right questions, questions that Washington’s foreign policy echo chamber invariably seeks to ignore or de-legitimize. But thus far he has provided few satisfactory answers.

And yet, Trump can confidently ask the majority of Americans who are sick of foolish foreign wars: where else are you going to go? To a Democratic Party that, in sync with its media cheerleaders, is embracing Sisyphean Forever War and flaying heretics like Tulsi Gabbard? Almost overnight, the Democrats have become the War Party. Polling, or a few minutes with CNN, confirms this. As erratic a foreign policy president as Trump has been, his opponents appear ready to allow him to ask that hoary political question with a straight face.

is Director of Middle East Studies at the Center for the National Interest.

More Thoughts

discourse

Which Way—Of Life?

Daniel McCarthy’s recent First Things essay eloquently articulates two points that have become central to the discourse of our more thoughtful nationalists. First, economic growth isn’t everything. Second, it’s necessary at this juncture to re-negotiate our social contract, making it more responsive to the needs of struggling middle-class Americans. In very broad form, it’s hard…

discourse

Toward a Citizen Economics

Travel in certain circles and you will hear people lament the dearth of fiscally conservative, socially liberal political options. That’s the logic driving former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to explore an independent presidential bid, for example. Anecdotally, on careful examination the social liberalism of these voters is normally more pronounced than their fiscal conservatism. Empirically,…

discourse

No War, No Nationalism?

Daniel McCarthy’s First Things essay on “A New Conservative Agenda” is a crucial reminder that the America we know is no longer the founders’ republic, the Cold War superpower, or even the liberal hegemon of the 1990s. The first step toward a governing conservatism is to come to terms with “the century in which we actually…