Putting the Real Back Into Realpolitik

All I know is that we have to find some way to censure M.B.S. for this — without seeming to attack

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  1. Avatar for ET82 ET82 says:

    The was a line from Syriana (2005) which comes to mind: “Corruption is our protection.” In short, I ascribe motivated self-interest to be far more prominent for both Trump and the Friedman crowd in dealing with our mischievous foreign partners.

    With Trump, I think it is literally his long sought after payday which is being mildly endangered by this incident. I have a hard time buying into the notion that Trump is a disciple of Great Man Theory and that he seeks to put a stamp on shaping world outcomes. A long track record as the ultimate huckster has me largely convinced Trump is truly involved in geopolitical machinations for individual gain. In the fun house mirrorland of Trump’s mind, US national interests are the equivalent of what personally benefits/glorifies himself. Nothing more. Like the Russians during his real estate years, the Saudis represent an intensely lucrative opportunity for Trump to rent out the American security apparatus for protection payments. A single WaPo contributor being disappeared won’t be permitted to soften any deals. I know Trump is in the Oval Office, but the office isn’t in Trump.

    For Team Elite, the Syriana line is perhaps even more obligatory. In addition to defending their own share of global wealth accumulation, the liberal class must at all times buttress their internal psychosis of enlightened benevolence. I may be extrapolating too far, but I’ve not encountered any other culture outside of America in which it is so absolutely imperative to constantly sustain a sense of one’s goodness. We witnessed a repulsive defense of it during the I’m-a-good-little-boy testimony of Kavanaugh. As in Friedman’s case, the elites are routinely reenacting much the same performance but tend to muster more creative eloquence and dizzying intellect in their delivery. Nevertheless, I would hazard that protecting the constructed fantasy of liberalism as an inherently benevolent force is an additional existential requirement for most elites. The liberal culture and wealth that emerged in post-WWII America has evolved into a singularly fragile world view addicted to both unlimited lifestyle comforts and impervious self-efficacy. Wealth alone is not enough, their good intentions must also reign with infallibility.

  2. Avatar for ET82 ET82 says:

    As for the realist necessity of working with foreign partners like the Saudis, I am less certain of what to believe. My own participation in our Middle East wars revealed the strategic failures of defense-industry adventurism in concrete terms. And I am heavily swayed by Andrew Bacevich’s argument that we remain in denial of having lost our Greater War for the Middle East. There is also the rampant ideology of crusaders like Bolton and Pompeo who perceive the world in terms of good and evil that would be better suited for a Star Wars script.

    What I can sense, but still do not have enough knowledge of, is the degree of systemic financial entanglement that has been mapped onto that part of the world. I have heard how the US retreated from an asset-backed currency, then cut a deal to ensure petroleum would only be priced in US dollars, and formally identified the Middle East as a US project under the Carter Doctrine. Yet I lack the economic indoctrination to know what the global implications of this amounts to. Like a lot of my generation, I really do not have a tremendous amount of assets which need defending and thus I am far more willing to say the hell with all of it. And if the upside of accumulating vast wealth is only to morph into a miserable regurgitator of Friedman, any off-ramp starts to become preferable.

  3. Avatar for cbeirn cbeirn says:

    “That if only they can sit down and look that other extremely wealthy and powerful man straight in the eye, then they can, in the immortal words of George W. Bush vis-a-vis Putin, “get a sense of his soul” and negotiate a treaty, work out a trade deal, push for reforms, denuclearize a war zone … accomplish anything, really.”

    I think Ben is exactly right about this. I take Thomas’s point about Trump’s hucksterism, but megalomania and narcissism strike me as his dominant traits. I have seen the irresistible attraction of taking a hand in the Great Game up close in the wake of the Camp David Accords, and watched the frustration and failure of those following this personality-based “roadmap to Middle East peace” as the process led nowhere except to an early grave for Sadat.

    Perhaps Ben should post that famous picture of the great men side by side in their great coats (and FDR’s even greater cape) at Yalta. These personal interventions never work out as planned, but that won’t stop alpha humans from trying.

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