Neocon-like Groupthink Dominates Both Conventions
Hardline foreign policy prevails
The mass migration of apparently hundreds of nominally GOP neocon apparatchiks to the Hillary Clinton camp has moved Democratic Party foreign policy farther to the right, not that the presidential nominee herself needed much persuading. The Democratic convention platform is a template of the hardline foreign policy positions espoused by Clinton and the convention itself concluded with a prolonged bout of Russian bashing that could have been orchestrated by Hillary protégé Victoria Nuland.
The inside the beltway crowd has realized that when in doubt it is always a safe bet to blame Vladimir Putin based on the assumption that Russia is and always will be an enemy of the United States. Wikileaks recently published some thousands of emails that painted the Democratic National Committee, then headed by Hillary loyalist Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in a very bad light. Needing a scapegoat, Russia was blamed for the original hack that obtained the information, even though there is no hard evidence that Moscow had anything to do with it.
Those in the media and around Hillary who were baying the loudest about how outraged they were over the hack curiously appear to have no knowledge of the existence of the National Security Agency, located at Fort Meade Maryland, which routinely breaks into the government computers of friends and foes alike worldwide. Apparently what is fair game for American codebreakers is no longer seen so positively when there is any suggestion that the tables might have been turned.
Republican nominee Donald Trump noted that if the Russians were in truth behind the hack he would like them to search for the 30,000 emails that Hillary Clinton reportedly deleted from her home server. The comment, which to my mind was sarcastically making a point about Clinton’s mendacity, brought down the wrath of the media, with the New York Times reporting that “foreign policy experts,” also sometimes known as “carefully selected ‘Trump haters,’” were shocked by The Donald. The paper quoted one William Inboden, allegedly a University of Texas professor who served on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council. Inboden complained that the comments were “an assault on the Constitution” and “tantamount to treason.” Now I have never heard of Inboden, which might be sheer ignorance on my part, but he really should refresh himself on what the Constitution actually says about treason, tantamount or otherwise. According to Article III of the Constitution of the United States one can only commit treason if there is a declared war going on and one is actively aiding an enemy, which as far as I know is not currently the case as applied to the U.S. relationship with Russia.
Another interesting aspect of the Russian scandal is the widespread assertion that Moscow is attempting to interfere in U.S. politics and is both clandestinely and openly supporting Donald Trump. This is presumably a bad thing, if true, because Putin would, according to the pundits, be able to steamroll “Manchurian Candidate” President Trump and subvert U.S. foreign policy in Russia’s favor. Alternatively, as the narrative continues, the stalwart Hillary would presumably defend American values and the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world at any time against all comers including Putin and those rascals in China and North Korea. Professor Inboden might no doubt be able to provide a reference to the part of the Constitution that grants Washington that right as he and his former boss George W. Bush were also partial to that interpretation.
And the alleged Russian involvement leads inevitably to some thoughts about interference by other governments in our electoral system. Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did so in a rather heavy handed fashion in 2012 on behalf of candidate Mitt Romney but I don’t recall even a squeak coming out of Hillary and her friends when that took place. That just might be due to the fact that Netanyahu owns Bill and Hillary, which leads inevitably to consideration of the other big winner now that the two conventions are concluded. The team that one sees doing the victory lap is the state of Israel, which dodged a bigtime bullet when it managed to exploit its bought and paid for friends to eliminate any criticism of its military occupation and settlements policies. Indeed, Israel emerged from the two party platforms as America’s best friend and number one ally, a position it has occupied since its Lobby took control of the Congress, White House and the mainstream media around thirty years ago.
Donald Trump, who has perversely promised to be an honest broker in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, has also described himself as the best friend in the White House that Tel Aviv is ever likely to have. In addition to Trump speaking for himself, Israel was mentioned fourteen times in GOP convention speeches, always being described as the greatest ally and friend to the U.S., never as the pain in the ass and drain on the treasury that it actually represents.
No other foreign country was mentioned as often as Israel apart from Iran, which was regularly cited as an enemy of both the U.S. and – you guessed it – Israel. Indeed, the constant thumping of Iran is a reflection of the overweening affection for Netanyahu and his right wing government. Regarding Iran, the GOP foreign policy platform states “We consider the Administration’s deal with Iran, to lift international sanctions and make hundreds of billions of dollars available to the Mullahs, a personal agreement between the President and his negotiating partners and non-binding on the next president. Without a two-thirds endorsement by the Senate, it does not have treaty status. Because of it, the defiant and emboldened regime in Tehran continues to sponsor terrorism across the region, develop a nuclear weapon, test-fire ballistic missiles inscribed with ‘Death to Israel,’ and abuse the basic human rights of its citizens.”
The final written Republican platform for 2016 as relating to the Middle East, drawn up with the input of two Trump advisors Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, rather supports the suggestion that Trump would be pro-Israel rather than the claim of impartiality. The plank entitled “Our Unequivocal Support of Israel and Jerusalem,” promises to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, praises Israel in five different sections, eulogizing it as a “beacon of democracy and humanity” brimming over with freedom of speech and religion while concluding that “support for Israel is an expression of Americanism.” It pledges “no daylight” between the two countries, denies that Israel is an “occupier,” and slams the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), which it describes as anti-Semitic and seeking to destroy Israel. It calls for legal action to “thwart” BDS. There is no mention of a Palestinian state or of any Palestinian rights to anything at all.
The Democratic plank on the Middle East gives lip service to a two state solution for Israel-Palestine but is mostly notable for what it chose to address. Two Bernie Sanders supporters on the platform drafting committee James Zogby and Cornel West wanted to remove any illegal under international law affirmation that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel and also sought to eliminated any condemnation of BDS. They failed on both issues and then tried to have included mild language criticizing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its settlement building. They were outvoted by Hillary supporters on all the issues they considered important. Indeed, there is no language at all critical in any way of Israel, instead asserting that “a strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism.” That none of that was or is true apparently bothered no one in the Hillary camp.
The Democratic platform document explicitly condemns any support for BDS. Hillary Clinton, who has promised to take the relationship with Israel to a whole new level, has reportedly agreed to an anti-BDS pledge to appease her principal financial supporter Haim Saban, an Israeli-American film producer. Clinton also directly and personally intervened through her surrogate on the committee Wendy Sherman to make sure that the party platform would remain pro-Israel.
But many Democrats on the floor of the convention hall have, to their credit, promoted a somewhat different perspective, displaying signs and stickers while calling for support of Palestinian rights. One demonstrator outside the convention center burned an Israeli flag, producing a sharp response from Hillary’s spokeswoman for Jewish outreach Sarah Bard, “Hillary Clinton has always stood against efforts to marginalize Israel and incitement, and she strongly condemns this kind of hatred. Burning the Israeli flag is a reckless act that undermines peace and our values.” Bill meanwhile was seen in the hall wearing a Hillary button written in Hebrew. It was a full court press pander and one has to wonder how Hillary would have felt about someone burning a Russian flag or seeing Bill sport a button in Cyrillic.
Team Hillary also ignored chants from the convention floor demanding “No More War” and there are separate reports suggesting that one of her first priorities as president will be to initiate a “full review” of the “murderous” al-Assad regime in Syria with the intention of taking care of him once and for all. “No More War” coming from the Democratic base somehow became “More War Please” for the elites that run the party.
The Democratic platform also beats down on Iran, declaring only tepid support for the nuclear deal while focusing more on draconian enforcement, asserting that they would “not hesitate to take military action if Iran violates the agreement.” It also cited Iran as “the leading state sponsor of terrorism” and claimed that Tehran “has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East.” For what it’s worth, neither assertion about Iran’s regional role is true and Tehran reportedly has complied completely with the multilateral nuclear agreement. It is the U.S. government that is failing to live up to its commitments by refusing to allow Iranian access to financial markets while the Congress has even blocked an Iranian bid to buy Made-in-the-U.S.A. civilian jetliners.
So those of us who had hoped for at least a partial abandonment of the hitherto dominant foreign policy consensus have to be disappointed as they in the pro-war crowd in their various guises as liberal interventionists or global supremacy warriors continue to control much of the discourse from left to right. Russia continues to be a popular target to vent Administration frustration over its inept posturing overseas, though there is some hope that Donald Trump might actually reverse that tendency. Iran serves as a useful punchline whenever a politician on the make runs out of other things to vilify. And then there is always Israel, ever the victim, perpetually the greatest ally and friend. And invariably needing some extra cash, a warplane or two or a little political protection in venues like the United Nations.
If you read through the two party platforms on foreign policy, admittedly a brutal and thankless task, you will rarely find any explanation of actual American interests at play in terms of the involvement of the U.S. in what are essentially other people’s quarrels. That is as it should be as our political class has almost nothing to do with reality but instead is consumed with delusions linked solely to acquisition of power and money. That realization on the part of the public has driven both the Trump and Sanders movements and, even if they predictably flame out, there is always the hope that the dissidents will grow stronger with rejection and something might actually happen in 2020.
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