A couple of articles in the New York Times really struck me this Sunday. For they reveal with the utmost clarity the bizarre way that Americans view the world, especially the respectable folk of the ‘moderate’ Democratic left who write and read the New York Times.
First up was a front page article about the US withdrawal from northern Syria in the face of the newly commenced Turkish invasion. The withdrawal has driven good-thinking liberals into a really tizzy. Trump withdraws American troops from a country they had no legal right to be in in the first place! How dare he?! To express its indignation, The Times cited a series of experts who explained that the president’s decision would have serious consequences for America’s credibility (while ignoring the possibility that fighting a whole bunch of unwinnable wars might be rather worse for one’s reputation). Repeated promises by American leaders to reduce their country’s troop presence in the Middle East has had the result of ‘unnerving partners like Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies which rely on American protection’, The Times tells us. Why these countries can’t defend themselves given the vast amounts of money they spend on defence we aren’t told (Israel and Saudi Arabia are hardly military minnows). What we are told instead is that:
Critics say that Mr. Trump’s zigzagging in Middle Eastern politics has emboldened regional foes, unnerved American partners, and invited a variety of other regional or international players to seek to exert their influence. … ‘It is chaos’, said Michael Stephens, a scholar of the region at the Royal United Services Institute in London, ‘The region is in chaos because the hegemonic power does not seem to know what it wants to do, and so nobody else does.’
This really is the most palpable nonsense. Is the chaos in Iraq a product of the US not knowing what it wanted to do? Or is it a direct product of the USA knowing only too well what it wanted to do – invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein? Did the USA not know what it was doing when it supported regime change in Libya and Syria? Does it not know what’s it’s doing supporting the Saudis in their failed war in Yemen? Really? The chaos in the Middle East is due to the lack of American decisiveness and leadership?? Come on. This is ridiculous. But it tells us something about how The New York Times and the US establishment views itself and its military adventures – as necessary for world order. In this view of the world, American intervention is always benign; American withdrawal in circumstances short of absolute victory is inevitably bad, not just for America but for the world as a whole.
This attitude is so deeply entrenched that faced with somebody who argues the opposite, its believers are simply stumped. They can’t understand why anybody would challenge the obvious truth. It can’t be because they actually believe that the mainstream narrative is wrong – that would be incomprehensible. It must be because somebody somewhere is pulling their strings, probably some foreign power. And so it is that Trump completely baffles the liberal establishment. He doesn’t believe in America’s wars. He doesn’t see how ending them would be a disaster. There’s only one explanation – he must be a foreign agent.
But not just Trump. For in the second New York Times article, the newspaper takes on Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard thinks that America should be fighting fewer wars, a position which both the Times and much of the American left apparently find more than a little threatening. The overall sense of the article is well expressed by the headline: ‘Left Scratches Its Head and Far Right Swoons at Gabbard Campaign’. The first half of the headline confirms what I said above – that the mainstream left finds an anti-war platform utterly baffling, and leaves it scratching its head. The second half of the title then shows how it plans to bring Gabbard down – by smearing her through association and insinuation.
And so we are told that Gabbard has little support among Democrats, but
Alt-right internet stars, white nationalists, libertarian activists and some of the biggest boosters of Mr. Trump heap praise on Gabbard. … Then there is 4chan, the notorioiusly toxic online message board, where some right-wing trolls and anti-Semites fawn over Ms. Gabbard … In April, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, took credit for Ms. Gabbard’s qualification for the first two Democratic primary debates.
The Times provides not a jot of evidence to show that Gabbard herself is a ‘white nationalist’, ‘anti-Semite’, ‘neo-Nazi’, or the like. Moreover, they’re hardly the only people who favour non-interventionism. Opinion polls suggest that a majority of Americans consider that their country needs to end its wars and bring its troops home. So why doesn’t the newspaper focus on the fact that Gabbard’s views are in line with a large segment of the American population, across the political spectrum? Why mention only the far right? The obvious answer is to blacken her name by association. Put her name in the same paragraph as words like ‘neo-Nazi’ and some of the mud will stick.
But there’s more. Her platform, we are told, ‘reminds some Democrats of the narrative pushed by Russian actors during the 2016 presidential campaign.’ Furthermore,
Democrats are on high alert about foreign interference in the next election and the D.N.C. [Democratic National Committee] is well aware of the frequent mentions of Gabbard in the Russian state news media. An independent analysis of Russian new media found that RT, the Kremlin-backed news agency, mentioned Ms. Gabbard frequently for a candidate polling in single digits … Disinformation experts have also pointed to instances of suspicious activity surrounding Ms. Gabbard’s campaign. … Laura Rosenberger, a former policy aide to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign … sees Ms. Gabbard as a useful vector for Russian efforts to sow division within the Democratic Party.
Putting aside the fact that this is speculation, the New York Times fails to provide any evidence that Gabbard herself has anything to do any alleged ‘suspicious activity’ or is in any way furthering Russian goals. This is a smear by insinuation. The Times lacks the courage to come right out and say ‘Gabbard is a Russian stooge’, so it merely insinuates it by throwing in some unsubstantiated and entirely irrelevant claims. This is a hatchet job masquerading as journalism.
The article quotes Jon Stolz, charmain of the liberal veterans organization VoteVets.org, as saying that, ‘Tulsi is really running on antiwar message.’ But the message the Times wants to send comes at the end. For the article finishes with a quote from ‘pro-Israel activist’ Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. ‘I can’t figure her out,’ he says.
Let’s face it, an anti-war message is hardly complicated. But, according to the New York Times, when confronted by such a message, the ‘Left Scratches its Head’ and concludes that it just can’t ‘figure it out.’ If you want to know what’s wrong with American foreign policy thinking, you have the answer right there. War has become so normalized that peace has become unthinkable, so far outside the usual realm of experience as to be incomprehensible. It’s extremely sad.