It would be too much to call the neoconservatives a cabal in Washington. They just made more convincing arguments than the realists and the doves at the time of 9/11. Their arguments on military power, American supremacy and the ‘evil’ that exists in the world are so well bought that it takes a bombastic President who makes fatuous comments like Trump to get oxygen into the foreign policy debate.
Almost all of the electorate can see
that the West and in particular America needs to reassess what its priorities
should be. Why is it attempting to build democracies in the Middle East when
its own airports and highways are in disrepair? Whether you’re left or right-leaning,
exporting democracy seems like
a fool’s game now. The Iraq war wasn’t an oil grab or a way to increase
Halliburton’s profit – it was ideological. It was a part of a morally inspired
‘total war’ on the Axis of Evil to show just how benign America’s power really
was. Trump clearly has no time for morally inspired wars.
The neoconservatives would love a new Cold War with Russia. They hate Trump because he sees no interest in engaging in that – why should American blood be shed in eastern Europe without trying to make a deal with Putin first? Putin may not sign the deal or break his promise after, but is it so bad to try diplomacy first? For the US to survive as the global leader it is going to have to talk to people it doesn’t like. If Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan can only prove one thing, it’s that hard military power doesn’t guarantee success or enhance power and credibility. Putin’s military power is small compared to America’s – its obvious he sees the American military as a threat. Russia is in a weak position, its economy runs poorly, it’s suffering demographically and it has few friends in the world, and none which are that powerful. It is the junior partner in the relationship with China. Russia is fond of cyber- and hybrid-warfare which means that containment can’t be done through sheer hard military power alone anyway.
Liberalism is in retreat in the West. Its model for economics has badly affected those people it once tempted to help – the poor and the disenfranchised. The cosmopolitan culture it fostered has failed too – it’s made people feel as if they have lost their home. But the idea that Trump will end the American-led world is an exaggeration. Trump cannot reinvent history – it may not be the ‘liberal’ world order, but the core elements of it will still be American-led. Current free trade deals will be reorganized to be fairer. Trump will keep the hard military power but may use it more wisely. Ironically then, it might mean that the seemingly thoughtless Trump will make Americans and the West think longer and harder about the use of military intervention.