Giuliani’s Foreign Policy
War Today, War Tomorrow, War Forever
Rudy Giuliani’s foreign policy paper in Foreign Affairs—part of the journal’s series inviting every presidential candidate (well, every candidate they consider appropriately submissive to the establishment game) to write an oath to the 9/11 and Iraq War status quo—begins with this pompous sentence: “We are all members of the 9/11 generation.” It’s a pretentious reference to World War II’s supposed “greatest generation,” mixing nostalgia with aspiration: Giuliani wants his own war. He has it. He calls it, even more pompously, “the Terrorists’ War on Us.” (His capitals, our bane.) It gets worse from there.
While Americans are spending money like air, guzzling oil like booze and replicating the go-go 90s with twice the ostentation and four times the selfishness, he claims, with a straight face, that “civilization itself, and the international system,” came under attack, and that “this war will be long, and we are still in the early stages. Much like at the beginning of the Cold War.” Can you see him rubbing his hands together and stretching that lipless wonder of a smirk into a clench? That’s Giuliani’s foreign policy for you.
The problem, if also the entertainment, of these Foreign Affairs position papers by presidential candidates is that, like preachers, herbologists and shout-show hosts, they can pretty much fart their way through phantasmagorical assumptions without anyone ever holding them to account. So Giuliani can say things like this: The next president will “set a course for victory in the terrorists’ war on global terror” (because the last one set a course for what, exactly?), or like this: “The next decade can be a positive era for our country and the world so long as the next president realistically mobilizes the 9/11 generation for the momentous task ahead” (because the previous one, obviously, mobilized the nation to be a more freebasing spender at the mall). Or like this, referring to “radical Islamic fascism,” whatever that is beyond what a few bored and boring campus hate-mongers make it: “Our retreat from Lebanon in 1983 and from Somalia in 1993 convinced them that our will was weak.” Actually, it was 1994 when U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia, but never mind those small details. What would Giuliani have proposed instead, in Lebanon and Somalia? He doesn’t say. He doesn’t have to. Like the guy who calls a shout show just to vent, Giuliani can spill his peace and move on to the next howler. No Foreign Affairs editor is going to ask him to clarify.
So he moves on. Iraq and Afghanistan? Open-ended occupation, even when peace there breaks out sometime in the 21 st century because “some U.S. forces will need to remain for sometime in order to deter external threats.” From the French, maybe? Consider Iraq and Afghanistan charter members of NATO.
He also re-writes the history of the Vietnam War: “Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency.” That’s a new one. I’d be curious to know who those historians are, considering that the Pentagon Papers, the secret Pentagon history of the war published in the New York Times in 1971, had reached the opposite conclusions. “But America then withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South. The consequences were dire, and not only in Vietnam: numerous deaths in places such as the killing fields of Cambodia, a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union, and a weaker America.”
A newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union? Under that walking dead Brezhnev? Who would eventually lead his country into Afghanistan and straight toward the demise of the Soviet empire? Giuliani must be getting his history from delusional xenophobes like Henry Kissinger. So by the time he adds that “the consequences of abandoning Iraq would be worse,” we’re clearly in troll territory.
There’s a lot of revisionism here, including a whole new invention of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Reykjavik in 1986 where, according to Giuliani, Reagan “was open to the possibility of negotiations but ready to walk away if talks went nowhere.” Actually, Reagan was about to agree to wholesale bi-lateral nuclear disarmament, and to share the technology of the missile defense shield. It was his aides who pulled him back from that brink of peace.
In a more earnest homage to Reagan, Giuliani wants a much bigger army. The army alone “needs a minimum of ten new combat brigades. “We must also take a hard look at other requirements, especially in terms of submarines, modern long-range bombers, and in-flight refueling tankers. Rebuilding will not be cheap, but it is necessary.” Especially for weapons manufacturers and their shareholders. It’s Ronald Reagan all over again. Did I mention he wants to continue with a “missile defense system”? And satellites—satellites everywhere? “Constellations of satellites that can watch arms factories everywhere around the globe, day and night, above—and belowground.” I feel compelled to stress that these are, in fact, Giuliani’s words, not a Strangelove nitwit.
Besides Giuliani’s dangerous if juvenile adulation for war, the most disturbing proposal in the whole piece is one that’s been lost, so far, on the entire press corps: Giuliani wants to politicize the federal civil and foreign service. The State Department’s Foreign Service is just about the most educated, broad-minded, experienced and critical foreign policy establishment in the United States. Presidents generally hate it because it’s always a factual, tempering force on ideology and the gossipy impulses of foreign policy. George W. Bush has hated it especially, and literally sidelined it. Now Giuliani wants to reinstitute a form of oath of allegiance in the State Department as a condition of employment there:
Another step in rebuilding a strong diplomacy will be to make changes in the State Department and the Foreign Service. The time has come to refine the diplomats' mission down to their core purpose: presenting U.S. policy to the rest of the world. Reforming the State Department is a matter not of changing its organizational chart -- although simplification is needed -- but of changing the way we practice diplomacy and the way we measure results. Our ambassadors must clearly understand and clearly advocate for U.S. policies and be judged on the results. Too many people denounce our country or our policies simply because they are confident that they will not hear any serious refutation from our representatives. The American ideals of freedom and democracy deserve stronger advocacy. And the era of cost-free anti-Americanism must end.
Dangerous words. Ruinous consequences, if anything like this proposal is enacted. Just as dangerous is the press’ silence on the matter, so far.
Amazingly throughout the essay, George W. Bush’s name might as well be the plague. It appears once in the first third of the essay, but only in recognition of Bush’s lust for a missile shield (a $10 billion a year lottery, by the way), and only to obliquely criticize Bush’s slowness on the issue: “progress needs to be accelerated.” Half-way through the essay there’s acknowledgement of the Bush administration’s (not Bush himself) efforts regarding AIDS funding for Africa. Bush’s name appears in earnest, respectfully, only in the penultimate paragraph: “After the attacks of 9/11, President Bush put America on the offensive against terrorists, orchestrating the most fundamental change in U.S. strategy since President Harry Truman reoriented American foreign and defense policy at the outset of the Cold War.”
In other words, to commend him for reminding the nation of what America stands for today. Hear Giuliani roar on his imaginary threshold: war today, war tomorrow, war forever.