The current CCP (for Chinese Communist Party) Virus outbreak has intensified a broad debate about America’s grand strategy in world affairs.
Specifically, supporters of an America First-type strategy (including, to some extent, President Trump) believe that the key to current and future anti-pandemic success, and overall national success, is building up national capabilities – like restoring lost production capacity in healthcare goods like pharmaceuticals and medical devices (think “ventilators”).
Pushing back is a school of thought now called “globalism” – a handy shorthand for backers of pre-Trump U.S. foreign policies who have long insisted that the nation’s best bet for adequate levels of security and freedom and prosperity is strengthening mechanisms of international cooperation. Not that the globalists completely neglected the need for national self-sufficiency, especially in terms of purely military products, or national sovereignty. But they clearly sought to “bend the curve” of American national security and foreign economic policy toward buttressing global capacities instead of national capacities. My evidence? The very healthcare goods shortages America is facing today.
As RealityChek regulars know, I’m squarely in the America First camp. And my confidence in this strategy has just been immeasurably bolstered by having read Madeleine Albright’s new essay in TIME defending the focus on cooperation.
I’m this confident not simply because Albright has long been one of the dimmest bulbs in the globalists’ ranks – despite having served as Secretary of State (during the Clinton administration). As I’ve previously noted, she never seemed to have learned the definition of “deterrence.” Instead, I’m mainly confident because her own new post (unwittingly) explains why it’s globalism that – in her words – reflects “childish” beliefs.
To oversimplify a little, the America First strategy doesn’t softpedal cooperative efforts because it’s selfish or mean or any of those human character traits that so commonly (yet so misleadingly) are used to characterize approaches to world affairs and the motives underlying them. Instead, its emphases stem from the assumption that American leaders can’t count anytime soon on the rest of the world adopting the kind of cooperative ethos needed to transition to globalism safely, and that as a result self-reliance is the only realistic choice available.
It’s also important to note that support for the America First strategy doesn’t require believing that all of most or even any other countries can rely on their own devices as well. Rather, it requires understanding how distinctively capable of self-reliance the United States has always been – and how much more self-reliant it can become.
Albright regurgitates the standard globalist points about how the main foreign dangers to the United States, including pandemics
“do not respect boundaries. They include rogue governments, terrorists, cyber warriors, the uncontrolled spread of advanced weapons, multinational criminal networks and environmental catastrophe. These perils cannot be defeated by any country acting alone, and any country would be foolish to try.”
Yet here’s what she also observes about the current state of world affairs:
>”[T]he largest and most powerful national governments are not prioritizing the improvement of our capacity for international cooperation.”
>”Hyper-nationalist leaders across the globe seem determined to ignore the awareness of interdependence that was—in the last century—drummed into our minds at a nearly unbearable cost.”
>”In the past two decades, jingoism has returned and spread in the manner of a contagious disease. Instead of highlighting the need for global teamwork, the doctrine of “every nation for itself” has taken hold on matters involving oil prices, trade, refugees, climate change, the regulation of communications technology and more.”
>“Look around: where are the leaders who will remind us of our mutual obligations and shared fate? In Moscow? Beijing? London? Rome? Paris? New Delhi? Ankara?”
>”[A] huge gap has opened between what the international community needs and the patchy, underfunded, under-energized reality now in place. The size of this gap represents a failure on the part of leaders on every continent….”
It’s true that Albright seeks to pin the blame on “a vacuum at the top that only the United States can fill.” But is claim is not only loony, but clueless. For this kind of leadership obviously requires the kind of superior material power and wealth that, in a world lacking common rules because common values are missing, have always been essential to influence behavior abroad. And relative American power in all fields except actual weapons and military equipment (though not in the materials, parts, and components needed to build them) has always been dismissed by the globalists as a pipe dream.
In one of the dark comedy classic novel Catch 22‘s numerous stunningly insightful exchanges, Yossarian, the main character who’s trying to have himself declared crazy and therefore unfit for combat or any kind of military service, tells one of his superior officers, “From now on I’m thinking only of me.” As author Joseph Heller continues:
“Major Danby replied indulgently with a superior smile: ‘But, Yossarian, suppose everyone felt that way.’
“‘Then,” said Yossarian, ‘I’d certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn’t I?’”
That’s obviously disastrous advice for Americans today – and inexcusably so, since the nation unmistakably has built up a network of shared values that marks it as a genuine community, and consequently a political unit that makes cooperation both necessary and possible to begin with. When it comes to the (undeniably anarchic) “international community” – not nearly so much.
Which is why until Madeleine Albright and other globalists acknowledge this situation, and the policy imperatives flowing logically therefrom, you’d need to be a damned fool to take them seriously as well.