2 December 2014

The Use of Republican War Hawks

. @hjbentham. #EU. #USA. #Ukraine. #UkraineUnderAttack. #Novorossiya. #GOP.


With the achievement of their latest majority in the US Senate, Republican war hawks are in a stronger position to influence US foreign policy. Good news or bad news for the European powers?

The most common theme in President Obama’s foreign policy this year has been the idea of American “leadership” in the world. That word has been used over and over again by the US President in remarks on US foreign policy. We have all heard it, in practically every speech he made since he surrendered to the asinine Bushism of American “exceptionalism” that his voters elected him to end. The choice of that word is very telling. The US wants to “lead” its European allies. Apparently, it has no desire to cooperate with or engage with great powers like Germany and France as equals. They must obey.

On the “other” end of the political duopoly in Washington, Republicans love to champion issues of security, presenting themselves as realists who understand how to confront America’s enemies. This most famously surfaced during the debates in Obama’s re-election campaign of 2012, when Republican candidate Mitt Romney suggested the salient threat to US international relations came from the Russian Federation.

In view of the current crisis in Ukraine, Romney’s caution now looks like an eerily accurate prediction to many. However, given the extent to which Republican Senators like John McCain adamantly lobbied the United States into the present hostile dispute with Russia over Ukraine’s political future in the first place, it looks more like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In reality, Republican foreign policy hardliners like Senator John McCain are not realists but idealists. They are infatuated with their country’s sense of immunity among the international community, which makes them the biggest advocates of their country’s military aggression and grave offenses against civil liberties, as they proved during their time in the George W. Bush administration. It is true that their influence makes US foreign policy more capricious, but it’s also true that their influence destabilizes America’s ability to form effective international coalitions. As such, the influence of the war hawks ironically discredits the very global “leadership” role Obama tries to cultivate.

Most obviously of all, Republican hawks threaten to destabilize the ongoing diplomatic talks on Iran’s nuclear energy program. Both the Obama administration and the other five world powers, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, are committed to showing goodwill towards Iran as the negotiations continue. This is in line with the consensus of the international community, which overwhelmingly does not want to repeat the ultimate failure of the United Nations to prevent the 2003 American aggression against Iraq.

Since the recent Republican success in the Senate, hardliners have already clashed with the White House on Iran. Senators Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker attempted to push through new sanctions on Iran, if no nuclear deal is reached by a November 24 deadline. The move was blocked by Democrats, who warned that it would send the wrong message that Congress did not stand with the President as the negotiations proceed.

The people whom this reapplication of sanctions would send the wrong message to are not the Iranians, who are already highly distrustful of the US, but the European powers. There is no appetite among European, or indeed Russian or Chinese negotiators, to place new sanctions on Iran. Many are hopeful that a deal will be achieved before the November 24 deadline, but a willingness to extend the deadline if needed is also apparent.

Sources like the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank even go out of their way to label any future Republican hawk in the White House as a dangerous obstacle to a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. In its candor, such a view indicates just how capricious the United States has become in the eyes of reluctant European allies, and how little the Europeans actually value the US’s so-called global “leadership” role.

Increasingly, the United States cannot shake off its image as a capricious and meddlesome regime, even in the view of its closest European so-called allies. This distrust arguably reached its heights in the NSA spying scandal following the disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden, when Germany’s relations with the United States reached their lowest since the Second World War. This was described as an “unprecedented breach” by commentators, and it would be an error to think the consequences are going to go away simply because of newer distractions.

Perhaps most damaging to relations between the Europeans and a Republican-beleaguered administration are the votes to recognize Palestinian statehood as part of the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict. In the sensibilities of Republican war hawks in Washington, this will be seen as no less than a declaration of jihad by Europe against America, placing such countries as Sweden and Britain who voted to recognize Palestine firmly in the camp of the “terrorists”. It is just one among many insults to America’s arrogant sense of “leadership” over the European community.

Unfortunately, we are now forced to endure the largely distracting crisis in Ukraine, which might have hidden the US schism with European powers temporarily, but doesn’t mend the rift that is actually growing between the US and Europe. Obama, in line with all that he has said this year, has attempted to project a very strong image of “leadership” over his European allies in the face of the supposed “threat” of Russia’s military confidence in Crimea and on the Ukrainian border. In the crisis in Ukraine, we can see a strong US drive to revitalize the obsolete NATO alliance, the main institution of its “leadership” in Europe.

Unlike the Obama administration, the foreign policy aims of Republican hawks and their allies in power like the State Department’s Victoria Nuland include minimizing the role of the European Union and key powers France and Germany in Europe’s future. Robert Kagan, husband of Victoria Nuland and a key neocon influence on US hardliners, is known to have described Europe as soft and effeminate, incapable of surviving without America’s “leadership”. Under the guidance of these personages, the United States patronizes European powers, trying to convince them that they can’t survive without trusting their security to the US through the senescent Cold War institutions of NATO.

Remember the way Donald Rumsfeld once dismissively termed Germany and France “old Europe” for refusing to support the aggression against Iraq, while “new Europe” referred to America’s more servile partners like Britain and Eastern European states. Even Britain is now behaving increasingly like the “old Europe” described by Rumsfeld, with its refusal to join the US coalition against Syria in 2013 and the increasing consensus among the public that British involvement in US-led wars is futile and bad for our security.

The neocons hate the French and the Germans more than they hate the Russians, and would exploit the fictional Russian “threat” to cow Europeans into giving the US back its leadership role on their continent. Their ideal world includes a cowed EU under American patronage, and an expanded, US-led NATO alliance harking back to the days of the Cold War. This anti-European sentiment at the heart of the hawks’ approach to US foreign policy is what neocon Victoria Nuland betrayed to us all when she famously said “fuck the EU” in a leaked telephone conversation. To paraphrase NATO’s founding Secretary General, Hastings Ismay, US leadership in Europe is still about keeping the Germans down.

US scaremongering over Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine is not about the security of Europe, but about preserving a role for the Americans as the masters of Europe and a role for the Europeans as powerless hosts to the occupier’s military bases and nuclear missiles. Such a selfish goal defies the guarantees of peace that the European Union was created to maintain, and the asserted “independence and territorial integrity” that the US claims to worry about in Ukraine. Let us hope, therefore, that the fabricated issue of Ukraine will subside and the true geopolitical tension between the US regime and European powers will come back to the fore.

In the fanatical and extremist worldview of Republican neocons, we European countries are already waging jihad against them by acknowledging Palestinian statehood. Given this fact, it is amazing that these Republicans claim to care at all about what they describe as Russian “aggression” in Europe. If anyone is likely to attack Europe, it is not Russia, but the United States or some political fringe therein.

Perhaps Republican war hawks aren’t without some use in the struggle to remove Europe from American bondage. The more destabilized and unpalatable the “leadership” of the US is, thanks to them, the less the political capital of the United States and the greater the political capital of European powers. Europe’s future will belong to neither the Americans nor the Russians, but to the Europeans.

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

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