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Sunday, 21 February 2010

Anglo-Saxonism as one basis of Anglo-American relations

"The Empire Strikes Back: Liberal Imperialism, Anglosphere and Anglo-Saxonism"

As Britain approaches a General Election in the next few months, foreign policy and Britain’s role in the world will be discussed from time to time. This is particularly likely to be the case in regard to the Iraq War and the escalating war in Afghanistan. Both wars involve a very close relationship between Britain and the United States, the basis of which will undoubtedly lead to allegations that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are mere puppets or ‘poodles’ of US power, or that they are ‘slavish’ in following the US lead. Indeed, David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, has already used such language as part of his campaign to suggest that he would inaugurate a sea-change in Anglo-American relations.

The post below is the first of several that provide a broader context than party politics for understanding the relationship between Britain and the United States. In it, I suggest that Anglo-American relations may be better understood, at least in part, if considered in an ethno-racial context.

In The Breaking of Nations (2003), Robert Cooper, Tony Blair's pro-imperial former foreign policy adviser, called for a return to colonialism by advanced states to mop up the problems caused by 'failed states'. Right wing historian, Robert Conquest, calls for an Anglosphere, a union of English-speaking nations with Anglo values, to be constructed in the world, to promote order, peace and progress. Anglo-Canadian press magnate, Conrad Black, along similar lines, argues that Britain's future lies less with the European Union and more within the North American Free Trade Area - in the Atlantic, not on the Continent. At a Hudson Institute meeting, Margaret Thatcher referred to the need for greater "Anglo-Saxon" cooperation, while the Heritage Foundation's John Hulsman pointed to its economic, cultural and psychological underpinnings. Less than one hundred years ago, Anglo-Saxonism, empire, the "white man's burden", and Christianity's civilising mission, were all the rage in Britain and America. Since the late 1990s, they seem to have made a comeback, albeit in a more sophisticated guise.

Cooper's essay caused a storm of controversy in Labour and other leftist circles, being denounced as a return to slavery, colonial oppression and militarism. But his views resonate with some sections of the publics of Anglo-America, and the press and politicians who exert so powerful a hold on opinion. The argument goes thus: there are 'failed', 'rogue' and 'weak' states in the world that are, in varying ways, brutalising and killing their own people, disrupting regional stability, developing weapons of mass destruction, engaging in acts of terror or are linked with violent anti-Western terrorist organisations, such as Al-Qaeda. In such cases, it is the moral duty of successful states, such as Britain and the United States, to intervene in a variety of ways, including militarily, and even pre-emptively, to ensure that humanitarian crises are brought to an end, that good government is restored or implanted, and that order reigns. In short, a doctrine of global interventionism, sanctions and blockades, not to mention covert intervention and the arming of pro-Western guerilla organisations.

Robert Conquest and, even more, the American internet entrepreneur, James C. Bennett, enthuse about the importance of Anglo-Saxon civilisation and the benefits of exporting it to the rest of the world. Federal Europe divides the civilised world and is anti-American, Conquest claims. The "natural" alternative is an association of like-minded countries, an "English-Speaking Union". "We are… the main bastion against the various barbarisms that have reared their heads so devastatingly in the past half century," Conquest argues. However, this is not a racial union but one based on a "shared commitment to concepts of Law and Liberty…" Conquest wants such a union to "define political civilization" and open up "the world to joint solutions of economic and social problems." More alarmingly, for Third World states, the union would transform "politically backward areas and creat[e] the conditions for a genuine world community," founded on the assimilation of Anglo-Saxon values.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, no less, has endorsed the idea of an Anglosphere – a union of English-speaking nations – to lead the world.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, many Anglo-American 'idealists' - such as Lionel Curtis and Clarence Streit - proposed a Federal Union of the US, Britain and the British Empire, plus one or two Scandinavian democracies. The plan was overtly racist, especially in the beginning, and ignored Indian representation. The problem was, if India were to be represented in the federal parliament, on a population basis, it would 'swamp' the Anglo-Saxons and dominate proceedings. After much deliberation, the federalists came up with a solution: make representation dependent upon individual taxable capacity, rather than on one person, one vote, and Anglo-Saxon New Zealand would emerge as the best represented! The idea had emerged after the federalists had studied the notoriously undemocratic and racist disenfranchisement techniques perfected by the segregationists of the southern US states like Alabama and Mississippi. Not for nothing was the federal plan denounced, even at the time, as "a great Blond beast" that would bring disaster to the world. The fact that Britain was engaged in a war against the racially-inspired Nazis cut no ice with the federalists.

The anti-Nazi war, the Cold War, and decolonisation, appeared to have destroyed the credibility and respectability of Anglo-Saxonism, although, under the guise of the Anglo-American 'special relationship', the central ideas of cultural superiority were kept on a backburner. Yet, with the end of the Cold War, a clear opportunity presented itself as 'new' rationales for US power were sought. The "clash of civilisations" thesis presented a coherent view of upcoming crises of world order confronting the West; 9/11 appeared to confirm the thesis, and the war on terror since then institutionalised it in the Bush Doctrine, and in Anglo-American cooperation in defence of "civilisation" against the "barbarism and savagery" of Islamic terror groups.

The war against the terrorist Al-Qaeda network, Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban followed 9/11, although Iraq was seen as the hidden hand behind the attacks on New York and the Pentagon: a 'rogue state', brutal in the extreme, aggressive and expansionist, linked to terror groups, and constituting an "imminent threat" to the US and Britain. Iraq was 'made-to-measure', even if the Al-Qaeda link was as non-existent as its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq remains occupied by American military forces, and the subject of intense interest among construction and engineering, let alone, petroleum, corporations. The Americans' timetable for withdrawal, as suggested by President Obama in late 2009, has already been revised: withdrawal will now begin, if conditions permit, in summer 2011. Some neo-conservatives in the Bush Administration, such as Paul Wolfowitz, considered Iraq to be "the new Germany" -- to be occupied for a long time while democracy is built there; President Obama is implementing the policy.

Anglo-Saxonism remains an influential current in Anglo-American thought. As noted above, it has support at the very top of British government and politics. This is not to suggest that an Anglosphere will result: it merely serves to illustrate the point that there are deeper currents than party politics and accusations of ‘slavishness’ and poodle-ism’ that animate Anglo-American relations.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Was Bush So Different?

Continuing the theme of continuities in US foreign policy, below is a post that reviews an interesting book arguing to the contrary: that there is clear daylight between the policies pursued by George W. Bush and the administration of Barack Obama. Although I disagree with the author, I think he is right to criticise the Bush administration for violating human rights, engaging in torture as a matter of policy, continuing the practice of ‘extraordinary rendition’ (it was used by the Clinton administration and endorsed by Al Gore as a ‘no-brainer’), and preventive war.

A More Legitimate, Benevolent American Hegemony

Professor Ilan Peleg has written a well-argued and accessible book (The Legacy of George W. Bush's Foreign Policy, 2009) criticising the national security and foreign policies – and their underlying neoconservative ideology – of the George W. Bush administrations (2001-2009). Peleg also criticises Bush’s personality and the character of the top-down loyalty-based decision-making process that he developed and operated as America’s first “MBA president” (p.103). Peleg holds Bush’s personality and his adoption of neoconservative ideology for what are widely held to be major US foreign policy disasters – particularly the war on Iraq. To Peleg, the United States must remain globally hegemonic by which he means it ought to try consensually, sensitively and multilaterally to recapture the levels of ‘popularity’, ‘legitimacy’ and effectiveness it enjoyed during the 1990s and even the Cold War. Well-structured and organized, this book is ideally suited to students’ use – indeed, I can see myself recommending the book to my upper level students.

This book is one of many that examine the policies and legacies of the Bush presidency. In one sense, however, this book stands out: it provides a most robust argument for the discontinuities of the Bush administration’s policies with practically all previous Republican and Democratic administrations, and the more or less complete separation of neoconservatism from American conservatism, liberalism and Realism alike. In short, Bush and the neoconservatives are to blame for the disastrous war on Iraq, the faltering war in Afghanistan, and so on. Peleg follows this argument throughout the book thus providing coherence to the whole volume. It also makes the book read a little more polemically than he may have intended but, I suspect, it will make very comfortable reading for Democrats – whether or not they supported the Iraq war of 2003.

At one level, of course, it can hardly be denied that President George W. Bush was responsible – he was, after all, in charge. It is also the case that the neoconservatives were highly influential within the Bush administration. At another level, however, there are difficulties associated with arguments that isolate too much particular presidents and belief systems for the assignment of blame (or success). And, to Peleg’s credit, he does empirically step back from such strong positions from time to time; indeed, it is necessary to his argument that he does so, as every political actor has a past, often in previous administrations, where clues to the causes of their behaviour may sometimes be found. This is the case, for example, when Peleg traces the role of certain influential Bush appointees, such as Paul Wolfowitz, to the George H.W. Bush administration.

It is the area of the degree to which George W. Bush and the neoconservatives are actually separate, alien, to previous administrations and from conservatism and liberalism, and Realism for that matter, that Peleg’s argument, for this reviewer, is weakest. For example, Peleg suggests several times that Bush and the neoconservatives were democracy crusaders due to their attachment to democratic peace theory (DPT), the idea that democracies do not wage wars against each other (p.41). He cites Francis Fukuyama, in effect, as the source of such views, especially in his triumphalist “end of history” messages at the end of the cold war. Yet, to imply thereby that the democratic peace thesis is sourced in neoconservative thought is a little misleading; as Professor Peleg will know, the likes of Michael Doyle, Jack Levy, Jack Snyder, and Bruce Russett, none of them neocons, were fundamental to the development of democratic peace theory and its testing and refinement. It is also clear that the Clinton administrations – with their development of strategies of ‘democratic enlargement’ and ‘democratic engagement’ (the latter most clearly influenced by some of the aforementioned scholars’ work) – were highly influenced by DPT. In Clinton’s case, Larry Diamond (labelled by many a neocon but certainly a militant democracy promoter) played a key role in the adoption of DPT through his work with the Democrats’ Progressive Policy Institute in the early 1990s and through his Journal of Democracy. It was also during Clinton’s presidency that “regime change” in Iraq was established – with bipartisan support – as desirable, though through supporting anti-Saddam Hussein opponents, such as Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. Chalabi, as Peleg notes (pp.119-120), remained a key US ally, and supplier of misleadingly optimistic scenarios in a post-US- invasion Iraq.

The liberal internationalists’ culpability in the Iraq war is explored in Tony Smith’s A Pact With the Devil (Routledge, 2007), a volume missing from Peleg’s bibliography. Smith shows, very convincingly, that liberals, mainly after the Cold war, were increasingly interventionist, casting off their reticence about military interventions overseas, less burdened by the fall out of the Vietnam War. He explores how liberal internationalist scholars developed DPT, along with arguments about the relative ease with which states could be democratised (on this aspect, Nicolas Guilhot’s The Democracy Makers is excellent), and the necessity of loosening the protective power of the concept of national sovereignty to ease military intervention. That is, the intellectual building blocks of the Bush doctrine were not the work of neocons but liberals who wished to use American power in a Soviet-free world in order to ‘improve’ it, to spread democracy and freedom. In the words of President Clinton’s national security adviser, Tony Lake, the idea was to expand the zone of liberal market democracies, to expand the zone of peace.

It is certainly the case that the Bush administration took the implications of the DPT agenda far further forward, mainly after the terror attacks of 11 September 2001. It would have been interesting to see, had the Al Gore-Joe Lieberman ticket been allowed to take office after the 2000 presidential elections, how a supporter of ‘rendition’ (Gore) and a neocon (Lieberman) would have reacted to 9-11. Of course, this is speculation, but interesting all the same to see whether a Democratic administration – always seen as weak on national security – could have weathered the Republican storm, principally a conservative-nationalist Republican storm, after 9-11. As it is, Vice-President Joe Biden was an early supporter of the Iraq war, as was the current secretary of state, and many other appointees of President Barack Obama’s administration. Once again, there are many continuities between the politics of one administration and another, across party divides.

It is also the case that neocons’ think tank affiliations were not exclusively in the watertight ‘neocon’ think tank world, but ranged across liberal and conservative divides, wherein reside all manner of ‘Realists’. For example, George Shultz, President Reagan’s secretary of state (1982-89), was a supporter of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a militant pro-war ‘neo-con’ grouping, of the PNAC, a member of the conservative Hoover Institution and the ‘liberal’ Council on Foreign Relations, as well as co-chair of the liberal internationalist Princeton Project on National Security. Detailed analysis of the interconnections and overlapping membership of ‘neocon’, ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ think tanks – even among George W. Bush’s appointees, makes this point rather forcefully, once again confirming the degree of consensus across political-ideological groupings on goals and policy objectives, if not details of timing and tactics (Parmar, 2009; Abelson, 2006). Unfortunately, Peleg devotes just one paragraph to the role of think tanks in the run up to the Iraq war (p.124-125).

Having isolated neocons and Bush from liberalism and conservatism and from previous and current administrations, Peleg sees clear daylight between his own positions and those of Bush et al. Yet, his own approach, in some degree, bears resemblance to the aims of American power animating the Bush administration. He sees America as the “natural leader” of the capitalist-democratic world, especially the “West”. He sees American global leadership as essential, and as essentially well meant and for the world’s general good. A great deal of Peleg’s criticism of the Bush administration relates to the excessive attachment to military means (“overuse of the military option backfired” – p.132), excessive nationalism, excessive insensitivity to other states, and so on, rather than fundamental rejection of the administration’s goals. At other times, Peleg appears more concerned with the disastrous effects of Bush policies rather than the policies themselves. That is, a case may be made for some overlaps between the objects of Peleg’s critique and his own fundamental beliefs.

This is further underlined by the author’s general support of a number of neocons’ core beliefs – which are really ‘American’ core beliefs, such as ‘exceptionalism’, ‘imperial universalism’, evangelism and unilateralism - or, at least, practices of several traditions in US foreign policy (pp.45-74). Peleg calls for a return to the cold war values and norms of the US foreign policy establishment – moderation, “incrementalism, compromise, gradualism, pragmatism” (p.131; see also Hodgson, 1972-3), although it was the practice of such values that led to the Vietnam War (Barnett, 1972).

Peleg is optimistic about the current Obama administration's foreign policy which, though it has exhibited the language of diplomacy, consensus and moderation, has been largely continuous with that of the Bush administration. Peleg recommends that America aim at consensus-based hegemony rather than global domination, that it work through international organisations and with allies, especially in Europe and the “West”. It is the world’s ‘natural leader’, after all. Yet, Obama’s appointments show significant continuity with both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, as well as a strongly militarist character. That is, the case for continuity between administrations – Republican and Democratic, liberal and conservative – remains strong, suggesting that radical, as opposed to stylistic, changes in US foreign policy were always unlikely. Indeed, Peleg recognises that Bush’s second administration inaugurated several changes in its attitude to Iran, North Korea, and Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, effectively paving the way to continuity with the administration of President Barak Obama.

Professor Peleg’s book is stimulating and refreshing: he takes a stand and makes a very strong case. I am not sure that the analysis will stand the test of time but it does provide a strongly argued case that puts the presidency of George W. Bush in the dock and finds it guilty of many crimes. This is thoroughly justified.


Abelson, Donald (2006), A Capitol Idea: Think Tanks and US Foreign Policy (London: McGill-Queen’s University Press)

Barnett, R. (1972), Roots of War

Guilhot, N (2005), The Democracy Makers (New York: Columbia University Press)

Hodgson, G. (1972-73), “The Establishment,” Foreign Policy 9 (Fall), pp.3-40

Parmar, I. (2009), “Foreign policy fusion: Liberal interventionists, conservative nationalists and neoconservatives – the new alliance dominating the US foreign policy establishment,” International Politics 46 2/3, pp.177-209

Smith (2007), A Pact With the Devil (New York: Routledge)

Saturday, 6 February 2010

9-11 - America's 21st Century Pearl Harbor?

Last week, I posted an article about the continuities between President Barack Obama's foreign and national security policies and those of George W. Bush. Below is an article - published in Arab News - from October 2003 in which I suggested that 9-11 had had an impact on US foreign policy similar to that of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor of December 1941, and that the United States was likely aggressively to renew its long-term commitment to global preponderance, and that even a Democrat in the White House would be unlikely to alter course. I think the conclusions still hold good although I may have given a little too much credit for the changes wrought in US foreign policy after 9-11 to 'neo-conservatives'. The political bloc assembled behind the war on terror is far larger and stronger than the neoconservatives: it is composed of the core elements of the American foreign policy establishment - conservative nationalists and liberal internationalists, across both main political parties.

Anyone wishing to read the full version of the argument should go to: "Catalysing Events, Think Tanks and American Foreign Policy Shifts: A comparative analysis of the Impacts of Pearl Harbor 1941 and 11 September 2001," Government and Opposition volume 40 (1) Winter 2005, pp.1-25.

MANCHESTER. 3 October 2003 — Sept. 11 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, have frequently been compared by political leaders and press commentators alike. Indeed, both are acknowledged as attacks from “out of the blue”, unprovoked, and as “wake-up calls” to the American people about the nature of the world in which they reside.
Two issues have been neglected in comparing the two cases, however: First, few have noted the degree of influence wielded by a dense network of think tanks and lobbying organizations that predated both Sept. 11and Pearl Harbor; and secondly, even fewer have asked whether the most profound long-term consequence of Pearl Harbor — the rise of a coherent, bipartisan, and globalist, east coast foreign policy establishment that reigned at least until the end of the Vietnam War — is likely to follow Sept. 11. In short, is there a new cross-party foreign policy consensus on the “neoconservative” agenda being followed by the Bush administration, focusing on pre-emption, military preparedness, and unilateralism?
That Sept. 11 has had a profound independent impact on US foreign policy should not be discounted. The public popularity of Bush in its wake, increased military budgets, development of a federal Homeland Security bureaucracy, perceived burying of the “Vietnam syndrome”, and the strengthening of unilateralism, are all key changes. Yet, it is also clear that there were well-prepared political and ideological forces — specifically a neoconservative network of lobbyists and policy advisers — waiting in the wings with a new agenda for US foreign policy, waiting to press home their own radical plans for policy shift. Their agenda refers to exporting American democracy but not nation-building, to policing but not “international social work”, and even speaks of the advantages of empire, the “E” word.
A neoconservative movement has been getting stronger since the 1970s, when Irving Kristol resurrected the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), from which Bush has borrowed at least twenty members for his administration, including John Bolton, Michael Rubin, and Richard Perle. In the early 1990s, Edwin J. Fuelner, Jr., head of the conservative Heritage Foundation, vowed to “build a new governing establishment by the end of the decade.” Currently, that establishment is headed by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) which, since its founding in 1997, has lobbied for a war for regime change and eliminating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, his deputy, Vice President Richard Cheney, and ex-CIA Director James Woolsey are leading founder members. Kristol’s son, William, heads up the PNAC. PNAC is thoroughly interconnected with a number of right-wing pro-war organizations, including Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, an exposure committee for fighting the “enemy within”, to which, among others, the current American administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, belongs.
One year before Sept. 11, PNAC published a radical plan (Rebuilding American Defenses) outlining most of what became US foreign policy after Sept. 11: The Bush doctrine. But they were not, in September 2000, optimistic about their plans’ practicability. Indeed, they thought the only way their ideas would stand a chance of adoption was if something dramatic happened, “some cataclysmic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor,” they argued.
Back in 1941, before the real Pearl Harbor, there was an interesting parallel: A dense political-intellectual network, headed by the globalist New York Council on Foreign Relations, of anti-isolationist, liberal internationalists, who had been preparing since 1919 for US global leadership, a pax-Americana. But as war raged in Europe and the Far East, American opinion was solidly isolationist and anti-war. CFR men, in May 1941, over six months before Pearl Harbor, felt that the only way Americans would be awakened from their well-fed, rationing-free long-vacation torpor was from “a shock (preferably a military one)”. On Dec. 7, the shock came, and the United States entered the war, promoted the “four freedoms”, an Anglo-American alliance, built new international institutions (such as the United Nations and the World Bank), and offered a New Deal for the world. The US foreign policy establishment and the Vietnam generation were born, as noted many years ago by Richard J. Barnett.
But has Sept. 11 also created a new establishment, behind the Bush doctrine, that is set to outlast the man himself? It’s too early to tell — history is still in the making, although there are some useful pointers. First, where do leading Democrats stand on Bush’s foreign policy? The current leading fund-raiser for the party’s nomination — Howard Dean — opposed the Iraq war and is tapping a reservoir of anti-war and anti-Democratic Party establishment sentiment. Karl Rove, Bush’s chief of staff, however, hopes Dean wins the Democratic nomination, as patriotic sentiment remains high, especially in the South.
Among other Democratic contenders — Joseph Lieberman, John Kerry, Richard Gephardt — there is greater pragmatism. They dare not speak up for fear of being labeled anti-American and weak in the war on terror, much as they were during the Cold War in regard to the “Soviet threat”. Lieberman is a neoconservative, in fact, and looks forward to reversing Bush’s tax cuts in order better to finance “a lighter, more lethal,” American military. Along with Kerry and Gephardt, Lieberman speaks of “swords and plowshares,” including some nation-building and pragmatic multilateralism for good measure.
The liberal internationalism of the Council on Foreign Relations also seems to be yielding to the Bush doctrine. Indeed, its next president, Richard Haass, as head of policy planning at the State Department, has helped define the doctrine, while Wolfowitz sits on the editorial board of Foreign Affairs, the CFR’s influential review, and other neoconservatives are employed as research fellows.
Even more surprisingly, leading liberal doves such as Christopher Hitchens and Paul Berman have come out in support of Iraqi regime change and for confronting “rogue states” such as Syria, Libya, and North Korea. For too long, comments Hitchens, has the US supported “political slums” in the Middle East; time for a “slum clearance” program, he argues.
To be sure, mounting casualties in Iraq may yet undermine the Bush administration, and provide ballast for opposition party criticism over the elusive weapons of mass destruction. But no serious Democrat is for total withdrawal from either Iraq or Afghanistan, or for throwing in the towel over the war on terror. Their uncosted proposals for nation-building may be mere “product differentiation”. If so, we may be in for a prolonged period of American neoimperialism in world affairs.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Obama's Foreign Policy

Obama one year on: America was never likely to change its foreign policy

With two major, and increasingly unpopular, wars and the global collapse of financial markets America’s international standing was at an all time low. The newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama faced an unenviable task - and no doubt braced himself for a turbulent time, as did the American people. It’s hardly surprising that his clarion call of “Change We Can Believe In” during the presidential election campaign hit home. The premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama sums up the widespread, perhaps desperate, hopes of those calling for a multilateral US foreign policy. But one year later, US foreign policy scholars on left and right agree that, in reality, little has fundamentally changed. Actually, since the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour in 1941, America has been set on a globalist, American preponderance, course from which it has hardly strayed. It was never likely that any president could change this in any substantial way, even if they genuinely wanted to.

If Obama was serious about change, he would not have appointed officials implicated in the policies of the past or in the mindsets of the US foreign policy Establishment which broadly supported Bush’s policies. But leading militarists close to Bush, such as Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and close John McCain ally General James Jones were given the nod. Pro-war Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden, became Secretary of State and Vice President, respectively. Admiral Michael Mullen was retained from Bush as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Admiral Dennis Blair as Director of National Intelligence. The list is endless: Obama appointed conservatives such as Michael McFaul and John Brennan, a controversial supporter during the Bush administration of “enhanced interrogation methods”, torture in all but name, to the Office of National Counter-terrorism.

Not surprising then that one year into his presidency, Obama is firmly supportive of Bush’s Iraq policy and has also followed Bush into the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, now defined as the real frontline of the global war on terror. With US troop levels at 100,000 (up from 34,000 when Bush left office), this is now Obama’s war. He had other options, took weeks to decide upon his preferred policy, but chose military escalation. The main problem with Bush, from Obama’s viewpoint, was that he brought American power into disrepute and made US national interests unrealisable. The resurgence of the Vietnam ‘syndrome’, which severely limited American military interventions overseas, and which liberals thought had been buried by the ‘good’ wars in Kosovo and Bosnia, was re-emerging as America’s foreign wars failed to end in spectacular victories. Obama’s mission is, through changes in rhetoric and style, to achieve those ‘undisputed’ national interests. His appointments are from among those who thought they could do it better than Bush.

Change, therefore, of a meaningful kind, was always unlikely. In fact, the deepest underlying source of continuity between administrations of both main political parties is the persisting influence of the east coast foreign policy Establishment in the United States, forged since Japan’s attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941 during the Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This Establishment is composed of Wall Street bankers and lawyers, many Ivy League university professors, executives of the largest industrial corporations, the major philanthropic foundations like Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie, Republican and Democratic party insiders and key think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations and Brookings. It is, of course, very close to the US military establishment and, therefore, strongly resembles the ‘military-industrial complex’ of which President Eisenhower – a fully paid-up member - warned Americans about in his farewell address in 1961.

So Pearl Harbor, among other catalytic events such as the Chinese revolution of 1949, outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the Cuban revolution of 1959, the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989-91, and indeed 9-11, galvanised the foreign policy Establishment and has remained, within fairly narrow boundaries, the dominant, ‘hardwired’ mindset. Pearl Harbour effectively ended ‘isolationism’ as a significant force in American foreign policy.

In reality, the differences between the leading elements of both the US main political parties revolve around details, rhetoric and means, not policy ends or, indeed, interpretations of American national interests: both are inextricably attached to American global hegemony, preponderance or ‘leadership’. President Obama, like Bush, believes America is destined to lead the world, to police it, and that American values are ripe for export. America’s inherent and self-evident virtue and moral stature demand the nation takes upon itself the burden of global responsibility, with or without allies, using varying combinations of ‘hard’, ‘soft’ and ‘smart’ power. Those hard-wired attitudes, however subtly held and expressed by the current commander-in-chief – and appointments based on them to high office in his administration - largely explain Obama’s foreign and national security policies and why they so closely resemble those of his deeply flawed and unpopular predecessor in the White House.