The Tea Party and American Foreign Policy
This is actually an excellent read if you can get past the "blah-blah-blah" about the good and bad of "populist" "Jacksonian America's" common sense over the last two centuries, that might have some paranoid delusion about people with credentials (elitists) acting like they know better than the common man. All the while he writes as if he is talking about some "other" or examining a bug under a microscope. I'm sure it's not intended.
In response and agreement with some aspects: Part I Common Sense
If I had been allowed to interject into the (seven page) discourse I might have said something of the nature that people who can write the word "Jacksonianism" (and know what it means), but lack the "common sense" to "come in out of the rain" (or at least put a rain coat on) are more dangerous than a pig farmer with a sixth grade education that knows when the tree branches are blowing around, it's time to climb into the root cellar. There's a little Jacksonian common sense homily for ya'.
On a more serious note (admittedly busting on Msr Mead a little more), the idea that "Jacksonians" are "unsophisticated" in their view of the Revolution, its causes or the effect of populist ideas, is rather unsophisticated. We Jacksonians are "simple folk" so we basically distill things down to their simple concepts. Democracy good, despots bad. "No taxation without representation". That does not mean we aren't familiar with the economic issues, or the reasons the founding fathers contemplated the revolution beyond those two concepts. It just means we don't require a seven page tour de force to get across our ideas, but, if Mr. Mead insists....
One of the things that is troublesome is that Mr. Mead goes on for almost two pages about how Jacksonian "populism" gets as many things wrong as it does right. As if even the most intellectual thinker of each of those periods or the least educated relying on his "common sense" would have or should have come by some great "wisdom" preventing each of these "missteps" (only obviously viewable from an historical perspective), like Zeus being struck on the head with a hammer and having Athena (wisdom) born full grown.
No, Jacksonian America realizes that "common sense" is come by through "lessons learned". Usually through making mistakes and having to correct them, sometimes at a horrendous price. It makes a crooked path, but we at least get there eventually through that great market place of ideas called democracy (representative republic for the sticklers). Unlike various other misbegotten social, economic and political systems that have come and gone or still exist in the muck of their own making.
That, as stated in the Declaration, men are created equal, with a spark of divinity in each, but are not gods nor infallible. We have seen what the so-called "anointed" can do. These are the "lessons learned" at a horrendous price. We understand implicitly that allowing a man to claim to be anointed by some higher power (whether it is the Creator, Karl Marx or the Dean of Harvard) with a divine mission, is a foot on the threshold of despotism and tyranny. Despotism and tyranny that has an ugly way of spreading its bloody hand around.
It is why the existence and pernicious demagoguery of such men as Ahmedinijad, Chavez and Ghadaffi stepping foot on our soil to pound self-righteously on the podium of the United Nations irks us so much. We would prefer to invite them to depart the hard way (boot in ass, out the door and down the steps) as we would any reprehensible, drunken guest who had soiled our grandmother's lace doilies and threw our grandfather's ashes into the trash so he could puke in the urn. However, "common sense" and a good dose of manners these jack legs never learned, or believe is not required by their self-anointed divinity, prevents us from doing so.
At this time.
Instead, we open the door and wave them on their way, but they keep coming back and our patience is growing thin.
That brings us to the point of Mr. Mead's long discourse, written mainly to those politicians and think tankers floating around in the rarefied environs of Washington DC. Pay attention to Jacksonian America when planning foreign policy (if you plan to get elected or re-elected as is the case with the current administration). We aren't going away. We never have and we never will. We only get tired of leading the way once in awhile and allow some isolationist and realpolitik tendencies to take point. That never lasts long.
Largely because some other jack leg always comes long and sticks a finger in our eye. We have a tendency to demand a response. Throwing the glove down when somebody crosses the line. Much like Mr. Jackson when his political opponents moved from attacking him to attacking his wife.
After much historical review (interesting in developing the idea of Jacksonian politics), Mr. Mead finally arrives at his point:
AFTER THE END OF HISTORY
After the Soviet Union disobligingly collapsed in 1991, the United States endeavored to maintain and extend its efforts to build a liberal world order. On the one hand, these projects no longer faced the opposition of a single determined enemy; on the other hand, American leaders had to find domestic support for complex, risky, and expensive foreign initiatives without invoking the Soviet threat.
There is some history of our back and forth in the 90's over military intervention, liberal, Wilsonian agenda, etc, our isolationist leanings coming to the fore, before reality smacks us in the face:
September 11, 2001, changed this. The high level of perceived threat after the attacks put U.S. foreign policy back to the position it had enjoyed in 1947-48: convinced that an external threat was immediate and real, the public was ready to support enormous expenditures of treasure and blood to counter it. Jacksonians cared about foreign policy again, and the George W. Bush administration had an opportunity to repeat the accomplishment of the Truman administration by using public concern about a genuine security threat to energize public support for a far-reaching program of building a liberal world order.
BUT...as many out here in the Jacksonian ether world had wondered for nearly seven years:
Historians will be discussing for years to come why the Bush administration missed this opportunity.
Yes. He failed to mobilize the masses, to organize a clear message, method and institutions that would bring the best of America forward and allow all sectors to participate. He did respond to our Jacksonian demand for immediate response. Mr. Mead suggests that this might have been another failure in good foreign policy making because it did not allow us to work with our "key partners" at home (I assume he means the congressional opposition to whoever is in the presidency, State Dept., CIA, various NGOs and businesses with international connections) and abroad (EU, various crackpot regimes) and go the long, slow road, completely forgetting the entire point of his paper which is that Jacksonian Americans have that "red line" we don't like to have crossed.
Come at us face to face and fist to fist, we want to kick the enemy's behind. Come at us side ways and we want to stomp a new mud hole (sand pit) in your ass. Further, we don't like to stop until we win. That's what irritated Jacksonian America about Vietnam. We weren't in it to win. When Jacksonians realized that, they let the Kumbaya crowd take control and drag us out. Not that we were happy about it, but screw pouring blood and treasure down the rice paddy for a "draw".
Those men and women in uniforms aren't high priced mercenaries from some other country doing our bidding for filthy lucre. They are the sons and daughters of "Jacksonian America" and we will damn your political ass to hell if you sell their lives cheap.
It isn't about the "winning", like the Super Bowl where we all celebrate in the end zone. It is about the most precious treasure we possess: the blood of our sons and daughters. Once that "spark of the divine" is spilled in a conflict, on some foreign soil, the value of that "win" increases exponentially by one hundred for every milliliter. If you are a politician and you do not place the same value on it that we do, well, see above comment about damning your ass to hell.
In any case, by January 2009, the United States was engaged in two wars and a variety of counterterrorism activities around the world but lacked anything like a domestic consensus on even the broadest outlines of foreign policy.
Now comes the next key point:
The Obama administration came into office believing that the Bush administration had been too Jacksonian and that its resulting policy choices were chaotic, incoherent, and self-defeating. Uncritically pro-Israel, unilateralist, indifferent to the requirements of international law, (blah-blah-blah redacted) ...the Bush administration was, the incoming Democrats believed, a textbook case of Jacksonianism run wild. Recognizing the enduring power of Jacksonians in U.S. politics but convinced that their ideas were wrong-headed and outdated, the Obama administration decided that it would make what it believed were the minimum necessary concessions to Jacksonian sentiments while committing itself to a set of policies intended to build a world order on a largely Wilsonian basis. Rather than embracing the "global war on terror" as an overarching strategic umbrella under which it could position a range of aid, trade, and institution-building initiatives, it has repositioned the terrorism threat as one among many threats the United States faces and has separated its world-order-building activities from its vigorous work to combat terrorism.
Sorry I excerpted so much, but it is really an infinitesimal amount considering the paper is seven pages long. What is important here is that Obama was elected because, after the long bloody effort in Iraq that we insisted we "win", after nearly five thousand dead and tens of thousands wounded, the Jacksonian center rightly asked if this was all we had in the repertoire. It isn't, but neither is tying our wagons to hopes and dreams without a good plan to point the engine of Jacksonian America in the right direction. Leadership that came to power through the same sort of populism Mr. Mead goes on and on about (yet, fails to mention in this regard).
The war is no longer called a war. It isn't even on the top three agenda items. It is shoved into the back with nary a mention of its causes or dangers to our national security. Even as tens of thousands of our men and women toil amongst the dirt and rocks, destroying nodes of the "enemy" that are not even referred to as "the enemy". Shedding their blood in a war that the administration is now signaling as "un-winnable" and soon to be abandoned. Here we repeat: precious treasure, sold cheap, damn you to hell.
Actually, it isn't that hard. First, we're not that fond of Wilsonian tendencies. There are plenty of Jacksonians out here who passed eighth grade history (that might be eleventh grade in today's educational morass) and know what happened to the League of Nations and why. We are fairly convinced that is the fate of the United Nations (see above re: Ghaddafi, Chavez and Ahmedinijad, add to it giving murderous, scumbags like Ghaddafi the UN Chair on Human Rights who is right now massacring the people of Libya so he can continue his FORTY YEAR RULE!). Jacksonians are content to let the rancid bag of bureaucratic bilge swilling go on as long as it is in a secondary (even tertiary) role. A part of the whole plan, not the primary arena for developing and guiding the foreign policy of the United States. A part of the plan that is expendable if necessary.
the development of foreign policy strategies that can satisfy Jacksonian requirements at home while also working effectively in the international arena is likely to be the greatest single challenge facing U.S. administrations for some time to come.
Why? Because, as stated twice already, it is half full of despots and half-baked bloody tyrants. The other half seems to be made up of people with "rational actor bias" that some how assumes that somewhere in the insanity of these regimes is a rational person that can be brought to a reasonable agreement of some sort. Over time. Lots of time. Because we all possess that "spark of divinity".
That goes against every ounce of common sense Jacksonian America possesses. Being given a mind to reason with does not a reasonable man make.
You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not been reasoned into. - George Orwell
Second, we need leadership with a clear vision and a set of unswerving principles from which important decisions and policy are made. We are not speaking of faith and the belief of good and evil alone nor rationality for the sake of reasoning that goes on and on without actually making a rational decision. We are speaking of the basic principles on which this nation was founded: freedom.
It is not Communism, Socialism or Islamism that lifts a slave out of the dust and puts him on the path to self-realization and prosperity. It is freedom. It is not some ubiquitous "self-determination". Self-determination without basic principles of equality and freedom for all, the protection of the minority against the majority or any basic concept of human rights leads to those "horrendous costs" Jacksonian America is all too familiar with.
This leader cannot dismiss Jacksonian America nor succumb to it's populist blandishments completely. Instead, he needs a plan to harness the drive, point it in the right direction based on the guiding principle, the must cornerstone of our foreign policy and let off the reins. Lead or get out of the way. Not use it to get to power then dismiss it out of hand. Ratings will plummet uncontrollably.
Find people who will understand these principles and help establish the mechanisms to push them forward and align our institutions to this basic policy from NSA, CIA, State Department and, yes, even the military along with revitalizing some form of "Peace Corps" who can act as informal ambassadors among the many potential GOs and NGOs to foreign nations. A leader who understands that the great engine of democracy, a thriving economy and the businesses that drive it, are not the enemy, but a positive force in the development of liberalizing economies, spreading freedom and securing the long term safety of our nation.
Liberalized economies build wealth and create a growing middle class. A growing middle class that eventually demands it's political voice to be heard, to choose it's government and be represented in the circle of once "anointed" elites. An impetuous to break their chains and gain greatest gift given to man: freedom.
Above all, we need a leading principle, the cornerstone of our Foreign Policy: the Defense of Liberty. Freedom Forward. Call it what you will, but get the principle right.
This is not militant Jacksonian America demanding we march to the sands of Tripoli with pitch forks at the ready or take a jack hammer to the Black Stone in Mecca (though we've thought about it). We do know that war is not the answer to everything. Remember how we feel about our most precious asset, the blood of our sons and daughters. Forty years against the giant and ravenous Bear that has yet to go into everlasting hibernation. We are ready, willing and able to expend great amounts of sweat and energy for a good fight.
There is nothing so stirring as the fight for liberty.
An idea that both we and Mr. Mead can agree on. Why, it is Common Sense.