Quite frankly, at this point, those lyrics might as well be describing the last quarter century of US foreign policy. Now, finally, we are seeing its rotten fruit, and realizing that even if everybody wants to rule the world, almost no one could actually pull it off.
That applies especially to America’s foreign policy blob, who actually had the chance to rule the world after the fall of the Soviet Union and, as we are seeing now, blew it so spectacularly that we can barely rule ourselves, let alone look after our allies.
Let me take you back over 20 years, to when Vladimir Putin first assumed power in Russia. According to then-British Defense Secretary George Robertson, who led NATO between 1999 and 2003, far from being the anti-Western caricature so many neoconservatives and flag-in-bio #Resistance types imagine, Putin approached Robertson about Russia itself joining NATO. The catch? Putin wanted to be invited into the alliance, rather than “standing in line with a lot of countries that don’t matter.”
Can you imagine what would have happened if Robertson had said “yes,” rather than (presumably) giving Putin – the head of a literal superpower, albeit a weakened one – the brush-off? Actually, you don’t have to. We saw what it would’ve looked like in the aftermath of 9/11, when Putin was one of then-President Bush’s first calls. A call which, by the way, led to a working relationship between Russia and the United States throughout the War on Terror, and even prompted then-President Bush to opine that when he looked into Putin’s eyes, he saw a soul: a comment that he has since tried to unconvincingly handwave away by claiming it was only because Russia was “broke” at the time, and Putin was manipulating him. Uh huh. Look, George W. Bush was no one’s idea of a Nobel Prize winner, but no one gets to be president if they’re that dumb.
More likely, if Putin had gotten his wish to join NATO at the time, thus cementing his alliance with the West, that would have turned the organization into the biggest anti-terror coalition in the world. It would have isolated China. It would have rendered countless wars that the US has entered into with Russian proxy states, like Syria, not only unnecessary but inconceivable. Iran would never have had Russian help in building its nuclear reactors, and as a result, may even have never built them. And as for Iran’s puppets in Hamas? They’d be staring down the barrel of two out of three of the world’s superpowers supporting their enemies, if they were even still around by now.
So why aren’t we in that world? Simple: Because the Republican foreign policy elite is stuck in their mindset from 1980, and the liberal foreign policy elite is stuck in their mindset from their college postcolonial studies classes. Which has led to a foreign policy approach that, except for the brief interregnum of sanity under President Trump, essentially amounts to dropping bombs on anyone who dissents from globalist neoliberal social norms, snapping selfies with the locals, heightening regional tensions (and prolonging conflict), and then running off to DC to pat ourselves on the back for showing “global leadership.” Oh, and we must never, ever normalize relations with Russia, either because (according to Republicans) they’re still commies at heart, or because (according to Democrats) they’re too mean to their LGBTQIAOMGWTFBBQ+ population.
Which is all well and good, until you realize that this version of “global leadership” has spread the US so thin that it’s practically an open secret that once we enter a war, we either never stop (Iraq) or quit after losing embarrassingly (Afghanistan). Meanwhile, as we waste blood and treasure in every single conflict that triggers a staffer in the State Department, our enemies are growing closer together. The BRICS group (a sort of reverse NATO comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) becomes more appealing to non-Western countries by the day. Where a NATO membership for Russia could have made the US and Russia isolate China, just as China and the US isolated the Soviet Union, now the US is the one being isolated by an increasingly unbreakable Russo-Chinese alliance. An alliance, by the way, that we helped create due to our actions in Ukraine, and which is now only strengthening another of Russia’s most dangerous allies, Iran. And no, they’re not just dangerous because of Israel, though make no mistake, Iran is funding attacks on Israel with money we paid it in a prisoner exchange. But no; Iran is also arming Russia. Even the Washington Post admits it. The kamikaze drones that Russia uses in its Ukraine offensive are of Iranian make.
And all the while, apologists for neoconservative bungling like Mike Pence and Nikki Haley keep protesting that we don’t have to choose between rebuilding our country and being leaders of the free world. Ironically, they’re right; the problem isn’t that we lead, it’s how. President Trump showed that all too well when he ran US foreign policy with a combination of threats, assassinations, and peace deals that ultimately resulted in zero new wars, and helped to rebuild US influence on the world stage. All it took was abandoning the bleeding-heart utopian globalism of the uniparty, and for our class of Marvel Movie-brained leaders, that was too high a cost. For them, again, with apologies to Tears for Fears, no cost is too high to defend their version of freedom and pleasure. But nothing – including their bipartisan regime – lasts forever, and everybody, including our enemies, still wants to rule the world. Whether they manage it will depend entirely on whether the US can learn its lesson from all these years turning its back on mother nature.