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In Opposing War with Russia, Tucker Carlson Champions the Hard-Won Truths of Putting American Interests First


REPORTED BY: SUMANTRA MAITRA | JANUARY 31, 2022

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2022/01/31/in-opposing-war-with-russia-tucker-carlson-champions-the-hard-won-truths-of-putting-american-interests-first/

Tucker Carlson monologue on Russia

Arecent Tucker Carlson monologue questioned the relentless narrative insisting Americans must compulsively side with Ukraine against Russia in their conflict.

“We are potentially on the verge of a land war in Europe aimed at extinguishing democracy and sovereignty, and the American right wing is on the side of ethno-nationalist authoritarianism. That’s where we’re at,” tweeted President Obama’s former speechwriter Ben Rhodes, who coined the phrase “DC blob,” in reply to Carlson without a hint of irony.

Another Democrat operative, who allegedly worked with the Ukrainian embassy to dig up dirt on President Trump, tweeted that Carlson should be prosecuted as a foreign agent. To top it all, President Obama’s former Russia hand quite literally called for war against a nuclear rival to ensure the sovereignty of Ukraine, a proposition unthinkable during Cold War bipartisanship, when the first instinct was to ensure great power equilibrium and avoid mutually assured destruction.

They are not the only ones. A recent New Yorker profile makes it clearer than any:

Vladimir Putin presents himself to his citizens and to the world as the standard-bearer of a modern counter-enlightenment. He has declared liberal democracy ‘obsolete,’ a political arrangement that has ‘outlived its purpose. One of his historical role models is said to be Alexander III, a reactionary tsar in the Romanov dynasty who instituted draconian restrictions on the press, sought to ‘Russify’ his multi-ethnic empire, and mobilized against internal and external threats. Four years ago, Putin expressed his deep admiration for the tsar while visiting the Crimean Peninsula, a substantial and distinctly unthreatening parcel of Ukraine that Russia invaded in 2014 and has occupied ever since.

A Rabid Response to the New Right’s Power

There is a palpable panic at Carlson arguably driving the GOP towards a more pre-war conservatism. It’s even being hysterically termed Putinism and Russia First” by some commentators. Michael McFaul, Obama’s Russia ambassador, was vocal on Twitter arguing that opposing Russia is a moral duty of anyone who opposes “imperialism,” alongside both prominent liberal theorists and second-tier neoconservative internationalist gadflies.

There has also been relentless fearmongering about Carlson, authoritarianism, and nationalism. Some have gone so far as to bizarrely tag Carlson a “comrade,” which is absurd because Putin’s Russia is far more Christian and conservative than the increasingly secular West.

“Why is it disloyal to side with Russia but loyal to side with Ukraine?” Carlson asked, provoking commentary noting Putin murders dissidents. Yet the world is full of rulers who murderously abuse power—for example, by sending drones that kill non-combatants and children.

It cannot be a matter of American patriotism to send U.S. troops to die for evils in other nations, or United States must attempt to police the entire globe. Experience has shown that is practically impossible and deeply damaging to U.S. national interests.

Thus in recent years, the ascendant New Right has led a bipartisan push for a more restrained foreign policy, one predicated on cutting down on foreign entanglements (termed as foreign policy realism in academic circles) especially from the Middle East, pushing Europe to spend a lot more for its own defense, and focusing more on domestic issues, as well as the rise of China. Carlson is perhaps the most prominent voice of that school in the right and has consistently opposed needless foreign confrontation, especially over Iran and Russia.

Matt Walsh and Sohrab Ahmari recently also opposed further confrontation with Russia over ensuring democracy and rights in Ukraine, as this conflict does not directly threaten the American landmass or way of life. Prominent next-gen Republican lawmakers and foreign policy leaders, such as Adam Laxalt, Bernie Moreno, J. D. Vance, Blake Masters, and Peter Meijer also often voice more realist rhetoric.

Is It America’s Job to Change Other Nations’ Regimes?

This realignment has also included questioning whether the ascending conservative foreign-policy realism in America, based on a narrow definition of national interest, is compatible with progressivism. Progressivism, as John Mearsheimer noted, is by definition universalist, radical, and revolutionary.

Mearsheimer wrote, “because liberalism prizes the concept of inalienable or natural rights, committed liberals are deeply concerned about the rights of virtually every individual on the planet. This universalist logic creates a powerful incentive for liberal states to get involved in the affairs of countries that seriously violate their citizens’ rights. To take this a step further, the best way to ensure that the rights of foreigners are not trampled is for them to live in a liberal democracy. This logic leads straight to an active policy of regime change, where the goal is to topple autocrats and put liberal democracies in their place.”

Consider the relentless number of tweets by a section of the commentariat about Western support for ensuring LGBT-favoring laws in Ukraine, and Mearsheimer sounds prescient. Whatever these people are, their constant revolutionary and internationalist rhetoric would make Leon Trotsky blush.

Our Job Is to Govern Ourselves First

Foreign policy realism, on the other hand, enacts a grand strategy based on amoral narrow national interest, one formulated by early American statesmen from George Washington to James Monroe to John Quincy Adams. If it ever comes back as an administrative principle, then it will become the domain solely of the right.

The aversion against great powers and spheres of influence is an egalitarian instinct claiming all states are equal, regardless of any other variable. This instinct is by definition unnatural and revolutionary. It defies geography, aggregate power, history, and most importantly, narrow nationalism.

Believing that “History” is progressive, and therefore acting on it to liberate everyone everywhere and promote rights and democracy, then becomes part of an inflated American national interest. The side that does not believe in nation-states or nationalism cannot by definition side with a narrow interpretation of national interest.

It’s Natural to Defend Yourself

Carlson is increasingly influential because he sides with something very natural: a human urge to be a nationalist, and therefore opposed to a relentless and crusading global revolution, whether promoting a borderless Marxism or an equally borderless liberalism.

The ascendant New Right believes in peace through strength, and a very narrow Jacksonian definition of nationalism, in which Europeans pay for their own security and Americans only come at the last moment if things go wrong. In this view, China is a far bigger threat to American prosperity and its land-mass than Russia or Iran will ever be, and defending porous American borders matters a lot more to Americans than Ukrainian borders.

The other side, a duopoly of Never Trump neoconservatives and liberal-internationalists, wants to continue to allegedly ensure human rights across the globe while neglecting the way of life at home. It may be a noble goal, but ultimately it’s one that the majority of Americans and an overwhelming number of conservatives are tired of after 30 years, thousands of lost lives, and trillions of dollars in deficits.

The instinct for promoting a global revolution to promote LGBT rights, liberalism, and feminism is as radical an instinct as it can get, and that argument is increasingly opposed by a majority of Americans who simply don’t care enough to spend blood and treasure in places they cannot spot on a map.

Self-Government Means No Country Is Too Big to Fail

When Rhodes and McFaul yell about defending human rights in Ukraine, and Carlson and others on the right remind everyone of American failures in pursuing such an unlimited global policy, it’s important to rethink the priors and understand the re-alignment in foreign policy is complete. Powerful realist voices on the left such as Matthew Duss, Stephen Wertheim, Tulsi Gabbard, and Rep. Ro Khanna notwithstanding, it is becoming increasingly clear that true restrained foreign policy realism is connected to a very narrow form of nationalism, and that is fundamentally a reactionary and therefore conservative concept.

Second, as I wrote recently, “selling” such foreign policy, even to a very instinctively nationalist electorate like America, means talking in a language that most people will get. Carlson (and Donald Trump, for that matter) connected with the normal crowd, arguing about the futility of sending their sons to die for Ukraine, Afghanistan, or Libya. That has more impact than a bunch of Foreign Affairs Snapshots.

This recent debate on Ukraine, therefore, has brought forth troubling questions for those trying to sell oxymoronic “progressive” foreign policy realism, which took a hell of a beating in the last few weeks.


Dr. Sumantra Maitra is a national-security fellow at The Center for the National Interest; a non-resident fellow at the James G Martin Center; and an elected early career historian member at the Royal Historical Society. He is a senior contributor to The Federalist, and can be reached on Twitter @MrMaitra.

Americans Voted To End War In Syria, But This Unelected Bureaucrat Lied To Overrule Them


Reported by Willis L. Krumholz  18, 2020

Americans Voted To End War In Syria, But This Unelected Bureaucrat Lied To Overrule Them

Defense One, a subsidiary of The Atlantic, came out with a story last week about a man named Jim Jeffrey. If you haven’t heard of him, don’t feel bad, but he’s pretty important in Washington, D.C. Under his fancy title, he’s been appointed to oversee the U.S. fight against ISIS and what are supposed to be the limited operations of the American troops who still remain in Syria.

Jeffrey is now also a hero in D.C., because in the interview with Defense One he bragged about how he misled President Donald Trump and other top White House officials about the real number of U.S. troops in Syria. “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” Jeffrey told the Defense One reporter.

The Establishment Wants War in Syria

To say that the D.C. foreign policy establishment wants a U.S. ground presence in Syria is an understatement. During the Obama administration, partisan former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan spent $1 billion from taxpayers per year trying to arm “moderate” rebels in Syria. What Brennan got was loads of American weapons in the hands of jihadists, including ISIS affiliates. In one example, a particular program trained 15,000 rebels in Jordan and returned them to Syria. Only “four or five” recruits out of the 15,000 turned up to fight. The rest either joined jihadist forces, including ISIS, or sold their American weapons to these forces.

The futility of regime change efforts didn’t deter official Washington, however. Western media raved about “the white helmets.” They also glossed over the fact that there were few moderate rebels and that many of America’s preferred rebels to take on the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad were guilty of unspeakable brutalities.

Meanwhile, a civil war pitting Muslim Sunnis against Shias — which was partly fueled by American money and weapons and certainly fueled by weapons and money from Gulf Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia — caused a humanitarian crisis. Millions of refugees flooded Europe. Into this chaos and power vacuum stepped ISIS, which at its pinnacle had amassed a huge amount of territory in Iraq and Syria.

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump repeatedly promised to destroy ISIS and then get U.S. troops out of Syria. This was a large difference between Trump and his Republican primary opponents and then later Hillary Clinton, who argued that U.S. involvement in Syria should not be limited to destroying the Islamic State and that the United States should topple Assad.

Trump’s view was that if Assad was toppled, the power vacuum would be greater, and the jihadist problem would worsen. He also argued that such a move was not in America’s interest, had no clear exit strategy, and would cause an even greater humanitarian disaster, including thousands of dead American troops.

As president, Trump routinely called Syria a place of “sand and death.” Multiple times he attempted to pull the United States out of Syria, only to be met with Assad allegedly striking civilians and official Washington clamoring for a response. Finally, in December 2018, Trump gave a withdrawal order. This led to the resignation (or firing) of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, along with Brett McGurk, the former special envoy for Syria. Trump repeated that order in October 2019.

Jeffrey called Trump’s decision to fulfill his campaign promise and remove U.S. troops from Syria “the most controversial thing in my fifty years in government.” Each time Trump gave the withdrawal order, according to Jeffrey, Trump was “convinced to leave a residual force in Syria and the fight continued.” In reality, officials kept troops behind far above the “residual force,” unbeknownst to the president.

“What Syria withdrawal? There was never a Syria withdrawal,” Jeffrey bragged. “When the situation in northeast Syria had been fairly stable after we defeated ISIS, [Trump] was inclined to pull out. In each case, we then decided to come up with five better arguments for why we needed to stay. And we succeeded both times. That’s the story.”

Officially, America has 200 to 400 troops on the ground in northeast Syria, ostensibly to guard the oil fields in that area held by U.S. Kurdish allies. Anonymous officials say the number is more like 900 today, however, and Jeffrey told Defense One that the number of troops in Syria is “a lot more than” the roughly 200 troops that Trump agreed to leave behind there in October 2019.

Defense One concluded its story by noting that Jeffrey didn’t support Trump but agrees with Trump’s “realpolitik” Middle East foreign policy and efforts to make North Atlantic Treaty Organization members pay more for defense. Jeffrey also said he views Joe Biden favorably. In fact, after signing a letter in 2016 that said Trump was unfit for the presidency, it appears as if Jeffrey still opposes Trump: “I know what I did in 2016, I do not disagree with that,” Jeffrey said.

While Defense One quoted colleagues who said Jeffrey is a “consummate apolitical public servant,” many others were upset by Jeffrey’s admissions. Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is furious and called for Jeffrey to be “punished.”

Who Has the Power in America?

People in Middle America should be enraged by Jeffrey’s interview. Washington, D.C., should be terrified that the American people might realize people like Jeffrey are only the tip of the iceberg. Jeffrey might be completely right about his view of the world and probably thinks he was doing the right thing, but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make Jeffrey’s behavior any less abhorrent.

People didn’t elect Jeffrey to anything. They elected Trump in 2016, and one factor in a bunch of working-class Americans opting for Trump was his promise not to start a new war in the Middle East. A large majority of Americans don’t want U.S. ground troops in Syria. Even a large chunk of Democrats who abhor Trump technically agree with his Syria policy. Labeling Jeffrey a “public servant” is a sick joke. Jeffrey is serving himself, or at least serving his ideology — and he does have an ideology.

Yes, it was Trump’s fault he hired people like John Bolton, a neoconservative ideologue who thought it was his job to stop Trump from following through with his campaign promises. Yet Trump isn’t ideological, and he often filled positions based on the recommendations of those around him, many of whom were card-carrying members of the Republican establishment.

Either way, Trump took a lot of heat for his order to pull troops out of Syria. Mattis resigned, and Democrats, media outlets, and Republicans such as Liz Cheney attacked Trump. Detractors hurled constant accusations that Trump wanting to get U.S. troops out of Syria was yet further proof he was a stooge of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s differences on foreign policy compared to the D.C. establishment, including over Syria policy, was even a significant factor in the FBI’s decision to legitimize baseless conspiracy theories that Trump was an agent of Russia.

Let’s step back for a second. Millions of working-class Americans, who also voted for Barack Obama, voted for Trump in 2016 because they wanted a change to policy. Now assume Trump is gone, and, truthfully, not much has changed on a fundamental level for many of these working-class citizens. What will happen when a large chunk of the American people realize their votes don’t affect policy?

Trump was considered norm-breaking and obnoxious to these D.C. insiders. Have these insiders not considered that the same people who sent Trump to the White House to shake things up might eventually opt for someone even more norm-breaking than Trump?

Willis L. Krumholz holds a JD and MBA degree from the University of St. Thomas. The views expressed are those of the author only. You can follow Willis on Twitter @WillKrumholz.

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