How the Elites Blew Up the World
Those who squandered America's economic and strategic advantage are trying to distract from their record
“We should be more than worried. Neither America nor the world can afford a lurch into Trumpian isolationism,” wrote Philip Stevens in the Financial Times on Sept. 21.
Everyone from The New York Times to Hillary Clinton herself touted the letter signed by 50 former GOP officials in August, stating their opposition to Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Like the generals in World War I who kept sending larger and larger numbers of men to die in hopeless battles, our elites believe that we need more of the same.
Among other things, the group contended that Trump has little knowledge regarding America’s “vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values” that should undergird our foreign policy.
There is no end to their handwringing and alarmism over the supposed damage a President Trump would do to the United States. The so-called “mainstream” press — which WikiLeaks has revealed to be little more than a Hillary super PAC — is full of stories about how Trump presents a threat to the “world order” that has purportedly governed foreign affairs since the end of World War II. But the truth is that the “world order” in question exists only in the minds of those pundits who aren’t paying attention to life on this planet.
The entire concept of a continuous, stable, and peaceful “world order” that goes back to 1945 would come as a shock to the many Americans who lost friends and loved ones on battlefields in Korea, Vietnam, and countless other places during that period. The reality of the situation is that between 1945 and 1990, the United States faced very severe challenges — not only to any type of “world order,” but to its very freedom. Some presidents — like Reagan and Eisenhower — dealt with those challenges successfully, helping Americans to enjoy brief periods of peace and prosperity. Others — like Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter — failed to meet the foreign policy challenges of their time, and left a more dangerous world to their successors. The whole notion that the world simply ran on autopilot, and that U.S. policymakers had few critical decisions to make, is simply wrong.
After America’s triumph in the Cold War, however, the difficulties of that struggle were quickly forgotten in Washington and the capitals of Europe. Instead, Western leaders congratulated themselves on the notion that they had reached “the end of history,” and that liberal capitalism would reign supreme in perpetuity — a conclusion directly contradicted by centuries of real-world experience. Armed with this false premise, U.S. foreign policymakers on both sides of the aisle made a serious of disastrous blunders:
- They believed that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would promote better relations in North America, and reduce concerns over illegal immigration. They were wrong. Instead, illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States surged, while relations between all three NAFTA countries have generally deteriorated. By 2008, even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were calling for NAFTA to be re-negotiated — but of course, that was just another empty promise.
- They believed that the World Trade Organization (WTO) would serve as a bastion of support for market economies, and would encourage countries like Japan to give up their mercantilist practices. They were wrong. Instead, the United States has become the main target of the WTO’s dispute settlement system, as our trading partners regularly treat us as a punching bag, winning disputes and forcing us to change our laws to better suit their preferences. This year, the globalists in the Obama administration blocked an appointment to the WTO’s Appellate Body — because even they are tired of losing so many cases there.
- They believed that facilitating the rise of China — by giving the Chinese practically unlimited access to Western markets and technology — would lead to a freer and safer world. They were wrong. The relentless dictators in China are using their newfound wealth to consolidate their power, both inside China and around the world. If current trends continue, we will soon be driven from Asia, and a Communist dictatorship will replace the United States as the world’s largest economy.
- They believed that a weakened Russia could do little to challenge the West. They were wrong. Vladimir Putin’s government, despite an economy smaller than that of Canada, has tied Western policymakers in knots — making them look feckless and weak, and undermining NATO.
- They believed that spreading democracy in the Middle East would lead to more stable and peaceful governments in that part of the world. They were wrong. The disastrous wars and other mistakes of the last 15 years have created a Middle East that appears to be more violent and dangerous than ever. Furthermore, the Middle East is now flooding the West with refugees and terrorists, who are creating huge political problems in the United States and Western Europe.
- They believed that cramming most of the historic nations of Europe into a single union with a shared currency would lead to peace and prosperity. They were wrong. Europe’s economy has been staggering for years, and the voters of the United Kingdom grew so disgusted with the European Union that they voted to leave it altogether — another development our elites failed to anticipate.
- They believed that Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, was a force of calm and stability within the Western alliance. They were wrong. She has proven to be an unyielding fanatic whose absolute refusal to change course — no matter how bad that course may be — has not only damaged the economies of southern Europe, and driven Britain from the E.U., but has destabilized Germany itself by opening that country to a surge of Middle Eastern refugees for which the German people, and their government, were not ready.
- They believed that giving away our manufacturing base and welcoming illegal immigrants from around the world would lead to a happier and more prosperous America. They were wrong. The U.S. economy has performed so poorly that experts like Larry Summers now suggest we have entered a period of permanent “secular stagnation.” Meanwhile, U.S. politics are riven by the utter mistrust that many voters feel for the elites who govern them — and by the contempt many of those elites feel for those voters.
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- They believed that as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton — a donor-controlled hack who may be the least persuasive person ever to hold high public office in this country — could help resolve the significant foreign policy problems that were already becoming obvious by 2009. Instead, she failed at that job, and the world is now less stable and more dangerous than when she went to Foggy Bottom.
I could go on, but surely these examples are more than sufficient to prove that our leaders have committed blunder after blunder since the end of the Cold War. History is not kind to fools, and the United States is paying an enormous price for throwing away the strategic advantages it enjoyed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Consider the following facts:
- Last year, for the 16th year in a row, real median household incomes in the United States were lower than they were in 1999. Middle-aged Americans have now lost most of their careers to an era in which the standard of living for the typical household has fallen.
- In 1999, the year before Congress agreed to let China join the WTO, the United States accounted for 25.78 percent of world GDP. By 2014 (the last year for which data is publicly available), that figure was down to 22.43 percent — the lowest it has been in government records going back to 1969, according to the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- In 1999, China’s annual GDP was $1.094 trillion. Last year, it was more than $11 trillion.
- In 1999, the U.S. national debt was $5.7 trillion. Last year, it was $18.1 trillion.
In short, by almost any measure, the United States is weaker than it was during the afterglow of the Cold War — while China, our chief geopolitical adversary, has gotten much stronger. This decline was not inevitable — certainly no major U.S. policymakers predicted it. Instead, it is the result of a series of foolish mistakes that have consistently undermined our position while making life easier for our enemies.
At this point, it should be obvious that the “world order” for which our elites pine has gone the way of the flip phone and other artifacts from the 1990s. For most Americans, the global economy has become a nightmare from which they are trying to escape. But like the generals in World War I who kept sending larger and larger numbers of men to die in hopeless battles, our elites believe that we need more of the same. Not satisfied by a series of trade agreements that have failed to work as advertised, they now promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Not satisfied by an immigration policy that has roiled U.S. and European politics for most of the last two decades, they scheme to bring more illegal immigrants into the West. Not satisfied by the losses we have already suffered in the Middle East, they dream of sending new armies to die in that war-torn region. No wonder they are uniting behind Hillary Clinton — the author and supporter of so many of these disastrous policies.
Let us be clear: If Hillary Clinton is elected president, all of the problems we see around the world today will continue to fester — because she will continue the same policies that got us here. Four years from now, if she is president, the United States will be weaker, China will be stronger, Russia will be more dangerous, terrorists will be more emboldened, the Middle East will be more unstable, and conditions in Europe will be worse than they are now. We already know that our current policies lead to these results. Why would we want to let things worsen for four more years?
The time has come to strike out on a different path. When you look past all the elite blather about Trump’s “temperament” and “tone,” one thing becomes obvious: On the big foreign policy issues facing America, Trump is right, and the elites are wrong. It is insane — and dangerous — to keep propping up a global trading regime that treats Chinese companies better than American companies. It is insane — and dangerous — to keep wasting the U.S. military on missions that cannot succeed. It is insane — and dangerous — to continue trying to maintain a position in the world that we can no longer afford. It is insane — and dangerous — to tear down all borders and effectively dissolve the nations of the West. Most of all, it is insane to install, as president of the United States, a vapid and untrustworthy politician who has consistently been wrong on every major foreign policy issue of the last 20 years.
Hillary Clinton may win this election. But Trump and his supporters will ultimately win the argument over foreign policy — because his policies at least have a chance of making the world better, while hers never will.