The Bipartisan Nature of the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment


In 1944, Senator William Langer (R-ND) asserted that small groups of u201Cmillionaire monopolists, international bankers, or crooksu201D were selecting the presidential nominees of both the Democratic and Republican parties. In 1951, Congressman Usher Burdick (R-ND) said, u201CBoth old parties want war and profits and the plain people like you and me have no means of bringing our vote to account. We will have to support one or the other of the great party candidates and when both are against us you can see how powerless we are.u201D Throughout the twentieth century, statism and imperialism were two other guiding principles of the U.S. government under both Democrats and Republicans. Today, regardless of party affiliation or ideological label, virtually all leading politicians favor u201Ccentral government control over diverse states, provinces, or regionsu201D and favor u201Ca permanent policy of massive global intervention by the United States.u201D1 It is obvious that Alexander Hamilton's vision for America has triumphed over Thomas Jefferson's vision:

The bureaucracy has become immense; there has been a spectacular rise in centralized fiscal and industrial power; the governing bodies have added incrementally to their own governing power; American behavior in the world has been largely based on standard geopolitical calculations involving wealth, power, and prestige…2

Many, if not most, Americans remain Jeffersonian in orientation, but their views are underrepresented in Washington.3 Political scientist Richard Falk does not exaggerate when he writes, u201CDisputes between leading Democrats and Republicans are generally restricted to tactics and nuances. Underlying assumptions are rarely questioned, and genuine alternatives of policy are almost never advocated.u201D4

With the end of the Cold War, announcement of a New World Order, and waging of the Persian Gulf War, President George Bush Sr. had gone so far in the direction of internationalism – an unrivaled American Empire managing the entire world – that a popular reaction set in among Americans who believed that foreign burdens were multiplying and domestic concerns were being ignored. When conservative Patrick Buchanan challenged Bush for renomination on an America First platform, he was attacked by Vice President Dan Quayle as being a u201Ccloset liberalu201D la George McGovern with his 1972 slogan u201CCome Home, America.u201D Democratic leaders temporarily cloaked their Wilson-Humphrey aura and sounded a quasi-isolationist note in attempting to appeal to voters.5 Bill Clinton unseated Bush by stressing unaddressed domestic issues. During his first term Clinton had more of a domestic focus than did his predecessor, but his Rhodes scholarship and Council on Foreign Relations membership were signs of a dormant commitment to an aggressive internationalist foreign policy. He pursued this agenda during his second term by intervening in Haiti, attacking Iraq, and waging wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. Clinton set aside the controversial New World Order phrase but continued to pursue the goal in a more discreet fashion. Republicans, who had supported the first war against Iraq and would later support the second, criticized Clinton for imperial overreaching and nation building in places having no direct bearing on national security. Madeleine Albright, a protge of Humphrey '68 advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, was the first woman to head the State Department and she did not exemplify the stereotype of women being more peaceful and less jingoistic than men. Justifying the 1998 bombing of Iraq, she remarked, u201CIf we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further into the future.u201D6 The inbred nature of the U.S. foreign policy establishment is illustrated by the fact that Secretary of State Albright (D) is the daughter of Josef Korbel, a former diplomat and professor. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (R) is also a protge of Korbel.

u201CLiberal internationalismu201D – the bipartisan, seemingly unchangeable foreign policy of the United States – is a twentieth-century manifestation of Hamilton's ideas of governance and international relations. Writing on the eve of the 1988 election, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger (Nixon-Ford) and Cyrus Vance (Carter) presented the Republican and Democratic views of foreign policy in the CFR journal Foreign Affairs. For the sake of convenience, the two parties’ views were combined into one article. Kissinger and Vance start out by saying, u201CWe disagree on some policy choices. But we are convinced that the American national purpose must at some point be fixed. If it is redefined – or even subject to redefinition – with every change of administration in Washington, the United States risks becoming a factor of inconstancy in the world.u201D Speaking for the bipartisan Power Elite, Kissinger and Vance declare that foreign policy must be u201Cfixed.u201D Not only do they oppose redefinition of foreign policy after the American people vote in a presidential election, but they oppose even the possibility of redefinition. They do not believe democracy should be allowed to jeopardize u201Cconstancy in the world.u201D The American people must not be allowed to tamper with the Hamiltonian status quo.7

In 1989, a neoconservative primer entitled The Democratic Imperative: Exporting the American Revolution was published. According to Richard Nixon's blurb on the book jacket, u201CIsolationists of both the left and the right will not like Fossedal's conclusions: that if the Democratic trend is to continue, it will be because the United States ensures that it does by pursuing an activist, even interventionist, foreign policy.u201D Who else praised the book? Republican Jack Kemp and Democrat Al Gore also commended this work. Both Kemp and Gore had run for their party's presidential nomination the previous year. Seven years later, these men would compete against one another as vice-presidential nominees. By the 1990s, Kemp, a u201CNeoconservative,u201D and Gore, a u201CNew Democrat,u201D represented the bipartisan legacy of Humphrey-Jackson Cold War liberalism. Gore's words of praise for the Fossedal book – u201Ca forceful analysis of what American foreign policy should stand for, and how it can prevailu201D – cast doubt on the widely held assumption that the Iraq War and broader war on terror would not have occurred after 9/11 had Gore been in the White House. Given Gore's own neoconservative philosophy, his support for the first Gulf War, his anti-Iraq stance during eight years as vice president, and his choosing of hawk Joseph Lieberman as a running mate, we cannot assume that Gore would not have initiated an attack on Iraq during his presidency. Or he may have chosen instead to launch full-blown military intervention into Colombia, a country linked to both u201Cthe war on drugsu201D and the Gore family's extensive ties to Occidental Petroleum.8 It is inaccurate to see Gore as a principled opponent of interventionism or war.

In the mid-1990s, a Democratic sage, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., warned that if we are not prepared to pay for a New World Order u201Cin blood as well as in words and money,u201D we will be left with the u201Canarchy of nation-states,u201D while a Republican sage, William Kristol, told us that the u201Cappropriate goalu201D of U.S. foreign policy is the preservation of u201CAmerican hegemonyu201D so we can continue to fulfill our u201Cresponsibility to lead the world.u201D9 The rsum of Kristol's coauthor, Robert Kagan, could be considered quintessential for a servant of the Power Elite. All of the usual suspects are found: Yale, Harvard, Public Interest, Washington Post, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, U.S. Information Agency, State Department, George Pratt Shultz, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Council on Foreign Relations, Henry Jackson Society, Project for the New American Century, New World Order, and – appropriately enough – an Alexander Hamilton fellowship at American University.

A recent jointly authored article by two Establishment heavyweights continues this theme. James Schlesinger was Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Secretary of Defense under Nixon (R) before becoming Secretary of Energy under Carter (D). Thomas Pickering was a career diplomat, with ambassadorial stints in key places such as El Salvador, Israel, India, and Russia before becoming United Nations Ambassador under Bush Sr. (R) and Under Secretary of State under Clinton (D). The ease with which they moved from Republican to Democratic administrations is indicative of the bipartisan nature of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. In 2004, they were serving as cochairs of a task force on postwar Iraq convened by the Council on Foreign Relations. The full title of their newspaper editorial sums up their advice to presidential rivals Bush and Kerry: u201CKeep Iraq Above Politics: Washington Needs to Remain Deeply Engaged in the Postwar Mission Despite Shifts in American Public Opinion.u201D In other words, politicians should not allow the people to interfere with policy. Schlesinger and Pickering write, u201CElection-year politics must not be allowed to jeopardize the U.S. commitment to security and reconstruction…. It is critical that the shift in the perceptions of the American public not create a momentum for withdrawal during this election year. The presidential candidates need to rise above partisanship and lead on this issue.u201D There was no need to worry. Bush and Kerry did rise above democracy and they did keep the Iraq issue high on a shelf (safely tucked away from the childish masses who might have been tempted to tamper with u201Cvital national security interestsu201D). That is the elite perspective.10

January 22, 2007