Donald Trump may have been too wilful and too much of a know-it-all to be indoctrinated by what James Burnham called, as early as 1964, “the ideology of Western suicide”. Trump-haters will loathe me saying so, but there is at least one connection between Trump and Churchill. The latter, despite the lengthening shadow of Nazi Germany, was himself too wilful and too much of a know-it-all to accept what others regarded as “inevitable”. His opposition to appeasement throughout the 1930s and his determination, as prime minister in 1940, to spurn Hitler’s overtures in the aftermath of the Battle of France might seem straightforward enough now, but that is with the benefit of hindsight. Equally, with Trump. Recall his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, impose tariffs on goods imported from China, insist on a hard border with Mexico, call North Korea’s bluff, quit the Paris Agreement, ad infinitum. Like it or not, Trump’s aversion to mollification, which is just another word for appeasement, makes him in a sense Churchillian.
This essay appears in the latest Quadrant.
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The ideology of civilisational suicide, argued Burnham in Suicide of the West (1964), had its origins in the Great War. The war was a calamity with consequences still playing out half-a-century later, and we could now say more than a century later. There was an observable decline in confidence about the merits of Western civilisation, from both internal and external points of view, during the inter-war period. This process only accelerated after the Second World War. James Burnham based his claim, partly at least, on the withdrawal of Western-sponsored governance in Africa, the greater Middle East and South Asia. As the West literally shrank during the decolonisation era, foreign policy experts had to come up with a new worldview, a new kind of liberalism, to account for this changing reality. Some of the military adventurism involved in the Cold War—for instance, the Korean War and America’s Vietnam War—disguised (and acerbated) a surge of unabashed anti-West creeds throughout the world. The Muslim Brotherhood, Maoism, Guevaraism, Khomeinism, Juche, Fanonism and so on are but a few examples. Edward Said’s Orientalism, as a radical form of liberal “broadmindedness”, has encouraged one generation after another to cast off their Westocentric and patriotic “biases” in order to accommodate themselves to a post-America global community.
Is it any wonder, then, that the America First credo strikes liberal sophisticates—progressives, if you like—as the opposite of broadminded? Everything Donald Trump does, including his criticism of South Korea’s Parasite winning the 2020 Academy Award for Best Picture, seems blinkered and parochial. “Can we get Gone with the Wind back, please?” he asked, at one of his Make America Great Again rallies. The makers of the South Korean film, Neon, immediately responded with: “Understandable, he can’t read.” Neon’s insinuation that Trump is incapable of reading their movie’s subtitles was no doubt founded on the unproven accusation that Trump suffers from dyslexia. It might be true, of course, although his capacity to read speech notes with not only fluency but actual comedic timing suggests otherwise. Parasite, in my own opinion, is a borderline ridiculous film that makes the case against “capitalism” in an excessively heavy-handed manner. All this is mostly beside the point, nevertheless, since Trump claims not to have seen the film. His real point is that PC Hollywood no longer knows the difference between genuine merit and virtue-signalling. The PC mainstream media confirmed this when it subsequently accused Trump of dual racism: that is, simultaneously denigrating a foreign film while extolling a classic American one (for stereotyping African-Americans).
The self-designation of America as a racist nation—“still part of our DNA”, according to Barack Obama—is critical. The meme that Trump wants to “bring back slavery” emerged before he took up residence in the White House, and his fondness for Gone with the Wind reinforced this absurdity in the minds of the anti-Trump fanatics. Max Boot, the NeverTrump conservative, the only kind of conservative the Washington Post endorses, found it “very telling” that President Trump is partial to a “pro-Confederate” film. LGBTQ+ advocate Charlotte Clymer asserted that Trump “openly pining” for the movie was “the doggiest dogwhistle that ever dogwhistled”. The calumny that the USA is inherently racist was promoted by the Soviet Union, America’s Cold War foe, which indicates the potency of the charge. Amerikkka must be burnt to the ground, not unlike Atlanta in Gone with the Wind, so that a brand-new post-America LGBTQ+ people’s community may be born in its stead. The growing support amongst the African-American community for Donald Trump’s presidency, exemplified by Candace Owens’s Blexit movement, is rarely referenced in the mainstream media because it is an obvious repudiation of the Democratic Party’s PC narrative. More significantly, however, it suggests that the American Creed, as Samuel P. Huntington put it, has life in it yet.
The ideology of Western suicide has evolved somewhat since Burnham first postulated it in 1964. Foreign anti-Western doctrines no longer just inhabit far-off lands but permeate the very citadels of power. Evidence of advanced civilisational suicide is epitomised by the rise of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the Somali-born Muslim woman whose affinity for Hamas (“freedom fighters”) and hatred for Israel defenders (“pro-occupation groups”) is visceral. The Democratic Party backed her entry into the House of Representatives and then promoted her to a role in the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Every Omar scandal, from irregularities in her family’s relocation to America, anti-Semitic jibes and an affair with her chief fundraiser, is dismissed by her defenders as the work of “anti-Muslim bigots”. Although she is transparently a radical, PC etiquette now demands she be referred to as simply a regular member of the progressive wing of the Democrat-controlled Congress; implying otherwise is racist, sexist, Islamophobic and xenophobic. Here we witness the consummation of post-America liberal tolerance with anti-America radical intolerance.
Philip Haney and Art Moore’s See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad (2016) was a ground-breaking exposé of the Obama administration’s preference for appeasement. It ordered all records, as logged by America’s various intelligence agencies, connecting Muslim Brotherhood-associated organisations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to counter-terrorism investigations to be deleted. Haney, formerly a high-ranking official in the Department of Homeland Security, asserted in his book that President Obama’s Secretary of DHS from 2009 to 2013, Janet Napolitano, was persuaded by advocates of the Muslim Brotherhood, who self-identify as an Islamic version of the African-American civil rights movement, to expunge the reports. The December 2015 San Bernardino massacre, in the opinion of Haney, was a direct consequence of Napolitano’s PC policy to remove the Muslim Brotherhood from counter-intelligence inquiry. The husband-and-wife terrorist team of Syed Rizwan and Tashfeen Malik were devotees of the Brotherhood and they went under the radar for years. Philip Haney, on February 21 this year, was on the verge of finalising a new exposé, The National Security Meltdown. He was also two months away from marrying his fiancée. None of his close associates believed the police’s initial assessment that Haney chose this moment to commit suicide by the unlikely means of shooting himself in the chest.
Officially, at least, it was not until July 31, 2016, that the FBI commenced its counter-intelligence operation, Operation Crossfire Hurricane, into Candidate Trump’s alleged treasonous relationship with the Kremlin. The abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Carter Page, the farcical Trump-Russia dossier, the entrapment of George Papadopoulos, the Mueller investigation’s blind alley and so on, all begin to suggest that Big Brother had Donald Trump in its sights from at least the time he was describing the San Bernardino massacre as the work of “radical Islamic terrorists”. That expression does not condemn Muslims per se but acknowledges the obvious fact that amongst the wider world of Islamic believers (the supra-national community referred to as the ummah) a violent, apocalyptic millennialism has taken root. Radical Islamic terrorism, or Salafi-jihadism, is the cousin of the ostensibly less violent activist Salafism, also known as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Haney claimed, in See Something, Say Nothing, that the San Bernardino massacre could have been prevented if pertinent DHS investigations had not been stymied by officials at the highest level. Those who controlled Obama’s intelligence agencies—Mueller, Napolitano, James Clapper, Jim Comey, John Brennan and so on—saw the problem of terrorism/extremism very differently from Philip Haney, not to mention Candidate Trump. It is hardly a tinfoil-hat conspiracy to suggest that long before July 31, 2016, the candidature of Donald Trump was judged by the Deep State to be a clear and present danger to “American democracy”.
The treatment meted out to Winston Churchill during the height of appeasement is instructive. The political class not only ridiculed his protests against Westminster’s facilitating the rise of Adolf Hitler, it regarded him as an danger to peace. He was to be shunned and marginalised at every step of the way lest he provoke the hoi polloi into anti-Nazi fervour and incite war. Even after the Wehrmacht seized Prague in March 1939, entirely discrediting the 1938 Munich Agreement, Prime Minister Chamberlain spurned Churchill’s advice to commence far-reaching negotiations with Moscow. Chamberlain feared, even at this late stage, that a Soviet-British Pact might provoke war with Hitler. Chamberlain’s men, liberal-minded, formally educated and possessing average intelligence and sometimes more, occupying positions of great responsibility at a crucial juncture in history, remained faithful to their farcical scheme—until, of course, Nazi Germany launched its blitzkrieg on Poland.
It seems only yesterday that America was being humiliated by President Xi Jinping at the 2016 G20 Conference in Hangzhou. Obliged to disembark Air Force One via the emergency exit, President Obama’s security agents demanded to know what was going on. A Chinese representative, according to a reporter for the Guardian, was recorded shouting in response: “This is our country! This is our airport!” Beijing’s neo-imperialist hubris has been under challenge ever since Candidate Trump first appeared on the campaign trail in 2015 and accused Beijing of economic larceny. Trump’s entente with India, including the recent state visit, is but one part of a scheme to reduce America’s across-the-board dependence on Communist China. Critics of Trump did not, for the most part, envisage Xi Jinping assenting to the “Phase One” trade agreement, let alone the down-scaling of China as the source of virtually everything, including pharmaceutical supplies. The advent of Covid-19 coronavirus demonstrates, if nothing else, that an over-reliance on one foreign country—especially an imperialist-Leninist one—might have been a bad idea all along. Candidate Biden, with all his family connections, is not the only member of America’s political class who views Sino-American interactions in a different light from Trump.
We could say the same about US-Russian dealings. President Obama not only allowed the Kremlin to renege on the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, he also yielded to its demand that America refuse Poland and the Czech Republic their requests for modern missile defence systems. Obama appeared to be rewriting the dénouement of the Cold War, only this time with a different outcome. As the world watched Russia annex northern Georgia and eastern Ukraine, insert itself into the Syrian civil war, deepen its affiliation with Iran and broaden ties with China, the original 2009 Obama-Clinton plan to “re-set” relations with Moscow took on the qualities of a phantasm. President Trump, in contrast, threatened Putin with a Reagan-style arms race that Russia could never hope to win. Moscow, as I noted in “America v Russia: Who Won the Cold War?” (Quadrant, April 2019), would “only immiserate its population and add to President Putin’s growing domestic unpopularity”. Twelve months later, a panicked Kremlin is desperate to avoid an arms race, its propaganda-media outlets demanding America forthwith extend the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement. Trump has been in no rush to comply, because he wants China, America’s real strategic adversary, to come on board. For this to happen, though, a Russia leveraged by America must in turn leverage China. This is exactly the kind of “art of the deal” that the professorial and formulaic Obama never countenanced.
Last, we come to matters of the nation-state. The West, as a geopolitical entity, is less a union than a confederation (if we may use that word without triggering anyone). The independence of the nation-state, in association with the sovereignty of parliamentary rule, is the modus operandi of a Western democracy. Tenable borders, properly scrutinised immigration, enlightened patriotism and so forth are not the negation of the individual’s freedom but the guarantor of it. Candidate Trump’s call for a “big, beautiful wall” during the 2016 presidential campaign was a rallying cry for those who believed in America First—and, by extension, Western revivalism and Western particularism. For globalists, of both the ideological and business variety, the Trump Wall is a dagger to the heart of their post-America belief that real borders must vanish so that (a) the world may live as one, and (b) undocumented labourers maintain a downward pressure on wages. Bernie Sanders, the aspirant champion of blue-collar workers, is the one populist voice amongst the Democratic candidates who might have supported a hard border. In his case, however, the pro-PC ideology of (a) outweighed the anti-PC reality of (b).
Suicide does not mean there is no killer. Latter-day progressives recommend accommodation with all things non-Western and, more ominously, all things anti-Western. To take the contrary view, as Donald Trump has done, makes him the enemy of some very powerful interests. Likewise, to come out as even remotely sympathetic to the Provocateur-in-Chief is to leave yourself open to every kind of social disapprobation. Take, for instance, the Trump Wall. The charge that it might cost almost twice as much as Candidate Trump’s original estimate of $12 billion could, like a number of other quibbles about the project, turn out to be accurate. That said, the idea that the Trump Wall is racist and xenophobic will be challenged by the estimated 40 per cent or more of Hispanics likely to vote for Trump in this year’s presidential election.
Sadly, the West is still a long way from being able to take comfort in Churchill’s eulogy to Chamberlain: “Long, hard and hazardous years lie before us, but at least we enter upon them united and with clean hearts.” The one consolation, for the moment, is that the naysayers are almost always wrong about almost everything.
Daryl McCann, a regular contributor to Quadrant, has a blog at http://darylmccann.blogspot.com.au, and tweets at @dosakamccann. He contributed “The Trump Doctrine and the Return of Pax Americana” to the March issue.