The Accidental Superpower was written two years ago, and its author, Peter Zeihan, is probably feeling pretty good about himself right now. Donald Trump, of all people, is calling Emperor NATO naked, and is prospering as a result. Of the three Presidential candidates, only the Democrat is even nominally invested in the Old World Order represented by NATO.
I think there’s an excellent chance Libertarian Gary Johnson will make the debates this fall. One of them will be devoted to foreign policy, and only the Democrat will argue for international military engagement, and will do so tepidly, at best. Trump will strut and fret, but the guy to watch will be Johnson. Unlike Trump, he’s thought seriously about politics for a long time. The arguments he will make for American military disengagement will be coherent and reasonable. And they are what the American people want to hear. They’re what the American people have always wanted to hear, from the founding of the Republic and Washington’s Farewell Address. Nothing’s changed in over 200 years. We have the enormous good fortune to live on a continental island, with neighbors far weaker than ourselves. We don’t need to fight wars unless we choose to do so, and the people of this country vote against war just about every time they can.
Most of the Founders didn’t even want an army. Why did we need an army? We weren’t going to invade anybody, and nobody was going to invade us. What we needed was a navy, and once we had one it was no worries, mate. When you rule the waves, as Britain did for over 100 years, and you live on an island, you can’t be invaded. Armies can’t swim, and paratroopers can’t conquer countries.
I have a hunch Johnson understands all this, and will communicate it quite effectively. I’m very much looking forward to the reaction he gets. I’ll bet the people, if not the pundits, will get it. It’s really just common sense. Even Trump gets it.
The case for war is commercial. To the extent that the Iraq Wars made any sense, it was that they occurred where all the oil is, and we needed the oil. But now we don’t need the oil anymore. Without it, our friends and trading partners would be in big trouble, and we wish them well in securing a secure source of hydrocarbons. But we won’t fight a war for them. It’s not our job, man.
I hope Johnson points out that NATO is a misnomer. It’s not a mutual defense treaty. It’s a unilateral security guarantee by the United States, the only military superpower in the world. And we give it for free. Trump wants to get paid for it. He’s a mercenary at heart, and making mercenaries of our soldiers is no problem for him.
Johnson doesn’t want to get paid for it. He wants to withdraw it. The only reason to keep this commitment is to ensure peace in Europe, which is good for business. A war in Europe would hurt our economy very badly, but it wouldn’t kill us. We only get killed if we fight a war for their security, even though they won’t fight for it themselves. No mas.
There’s a reason neoconservative poster boy Bill Kristol is the last diehard looking for a warhawk independent. To him, Johnson’s foreign policy is just as bad as Trump’s. But the neocons are in a lonely place right now. They may be going extinct before our very eyes. They were helpful in the Cold War, and have been a nuisance ever since.
I gave up on this election when Cruz dropped out, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. This election won’t produce the change we need, but it will hopefully send a powerful message. It already has. Bushism is deader than a doornail. Dole, McCain and Romney were Bushites, and we’ll never nominate one of those losers again. Cruz and Trump were the last two standing, and both represented the repudiation of Bushism. Our 2020 candidate will be an unvarnished conservative.
But not a hawk. No one picked up any votes in the entire Republican primary by hawkishness. Lindsey Graham represented that wing of the Party — it doesn’t even count, it’s so small.
Trump has proven the power of American nationalism as well. He’s crude about it, but he hits the right chord. Our 2020 candidate must be a nationalist free trader. Free trade, but on our terms. Free trade, as long as it’s good for us. We don’t expect subsidies, and we won’t hand them out, either. Our attitude in international negotiations should be real simple — what’s in this for the American people?
And it’s the same with immigration policy. It should be based on one principle — what’s best for the people of this country?
I guess our 2020 candidate will sound like a rational Trump. That’s my real problem with this dude. He gives my ideas, and his, a bad name. But I’ve got Johnson to vote for.
I feel like a guy who’s been married for 50 years, and is being unfaithful for the first time. But, hell, I’m really a Libertarian at heart. Better late than never.