What Happened To America First Foreign Policy?

Aside from immigration, there exists no other pursuit of the modern American regime that stands at such a stark contrast with the views of the majority than foreign policy.


Upon tacitly glancing at the 20th century, one might be left to conclude that the traditional America First position on war has all but been swept into the dustbin of history. George Washington quantified the position concisely by stating, the U.S. must “act for ourselves and not for others,” by forming an “American character wholly free of foreign attachments.” Likewise, in his 1801 inaugural address, Jefferson asserted, “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none.” How have we come so far from the types of foreign relationships our founders originally envisioned?

The answer can be gleamed by looking back to the Great War. Contrary to popular belief, traditional conservatism has always been staunchly anti-interventionist. Russell Kirk himself, who is widely considered to be the founding father of modern conservatism in America, said that there was nothing more anti-conservative than war as it uproots peoples and traditions, separates families and allows the government to do things that it could never get away with in peace time like institute price and wage controls and nationalize industries. In fact, Kirk even equated military conscription with slavery and called for its abolition.

This is pertinent because during World War I, the “progressive” Woodrow Wilson administration would take the opportunity to implement a regime of war time socialism that established many government controls of industry lauded by prominent socialists and progressives of the era who overran Washington working as bureaucrats and central planners in amounts never seen before. Among them was one Mr. Walter Lippmann.

Born Sept. 23, 1889 in New York City to an upper-middle class German Jewish family, Lippmann has been regarded as one of the most prolific journalists and influential public intellectuals of his age. Detailing Lippmann’s 60 year career in the 1999 biography, Walter Lippmann and the American Century, award-winning American writer, historian, and professor Ronald Steel outlines Lippmann’s central role in helping shape the 20th century American Empire.

At the age of 17, Lippmann entered Harvard University and began studying philosophy and languages under the likes of conservative intellectual and self-described “high Tory” George Santayana, and Fabian Socialist Graham Wallas. Perhaps it was the combination of the two schools of thought that informed Lippmann’s political positions, which might be properly typified in the modern context as “Neo-Conservative” – or socially and economically progressive while adhering to strong interventionist foreign policy. Prior to graduating after just three years in 1910, Lippmann would become president of the Harvard Socialist Club and a member of the Executive Committee of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. As a journalist he would later join the Socialist Party and the Socialist Press Club.

After helping found New Republic Magazine in 1914, where he and other editors rallied around the idea of U.S. involvement in World War I, Lippmann secured a draft exemption on behest of close associate Felix Frankfurter – who had just been hired to a special assistant position by Secretary of War Newton Baker. Lippmann, who was a public advocate of conscription at the time, wrote a letter pleading with Frankfurter for a job in Baker’s office where he could “serve [his] bit much more effectively than as a private in the new armies.” In other words, and in true north eastern establishment form, Lippmann was all to happy to send middle America to fight and die for a war that he helped propagandize for, but he was not willing to do the same.

Soon after, Lippmann joined Colonel Edward House’s secretive cadre of intellectuals in Washington that helped facilitate the war effort and shape the future postwar world by working on things like Wilson’s 14 Points and the Treaty of Versailles. The outcome of World War I would serve to be disastrous for the Central Powers. In addition, Wilsonian foreign policy would come to typify the modern bipartisan consensus on interventionism in the U.S. – which is primarily currently promoted by the Neo-Conservatives who came out of the left – many having originally been Marxists or socialists of some stripe. Indeed, the so-called “godfather of Neo-Conservatism” himself, Irving Kristol – along with other Neo-Cons – were part of an elite group of influential New York Intellectuals, mostly Jewish, who had held a staunchly anti-Stalinist but Trotskyite stance from around 1940 to 1970.

Interestingly, the roots of the type of military interventionism that was promoted by the progressive Wilson – and now by the Neo-Conservatives – appears to share an ideological thread rooted in the theory of Leon Trotsky. Trotsky was an advocate of perpetual war and revolution whereby he rationalized that a bourgeoisie (middle class) revolution would be unsuccessful at instituting political democracy in undeveloped countries. According to Trotsky, the proletariat (working class) would have to carry out not only the task of a democratic revolution in these countries, but would need to launch a socialist revolution as well. Trotsky believed that a new proletariat state would be unable to survive in a system of global capitalism unless similar revolutions took control of the state apparatus in other countries.

In this sense the revolution would be a permanent one making the world safe for socialism, inevitably leading to global communism. It appears that in a similar vein, on behest of intellectuals like Lippmann, Wilson launched his policies during WWI pertaining to the aristocratic order of Europe – with the view of “bringing democracy” to that part of the world and undermining the last monarchical systems of the west. For the progressive Wilson, the war was fought not over limited territorial objectives, it was fought over ideological ones. By the end of the war, the dynastic rulers of the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Russian Empires no longer existed, consequently aided in Russia’s case, by the Bolshevik revolution. Trotsky was no doubt pleased with the outcome, as was Lippmann.

According to page 147 in Charles Hirschfeld’s book, Nationalist Progressivism and World War I, Lippmann purportedly enthusiastically remarked in a public address after the U.S. had entered the war, “We who have gone to war to insure democracy in the world will have raised an aspiration here that will not end with the overthrow of the Prussian autocracy. We shall turn with fresh interests to our own tyrannies — to our Colorado mines, our autocratic steel industries, sweatshops, and our slums. A force is loose in America. Our own reactionaries will not assuage it. We shall know how to deal with them.”

Consequently, “making the world safe for democracy” has been the same refrain repeated by modern Neo-Conservatives – like those in the administration of George W. Bush – when launching and waging recent wars in the Middle East. To Wilson and the Neo-Cons however, the overt task, unlike Trotsky, was/is to remake the world in the image of American liberal democracy, not communism – but the ideological foundations for these two ideas seem to be very similar – and have established the benchmark for modern U.S. foreign policy. Enter President-Elect Donald Trump and the middle American radicals.

Throughout the 20th century, working people have always sought to form resistance to the foreign adventurism of the elite. During World War I, a coalition of labor union socialists, old right stalwarts, and pacifist religious groups opposed U.S. entry. Among the most famous was socialist Eugene Victor Debs, who was prosecuted under the Sedition Act of 1918 following an antiwar speech in Ohio where it was alleged that he implied listeners dodge the draft. According to Bill Kauffman’s book, Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism, a revulsion against militarism in the aftermath of the war led to the creation of the Veterans of Future Wars in 1936 and the America First Committee in 1940 – the latter speaking directly for middle America.

Opposing U.S. involvement in World War II, prominent America First members like aviation hero Charles Lindbergh were smeared as fascists and anti-Semites by the establishment. Similarly, Pat Buchanan would later be libeled as an anti-Semite for daring to promote an America First position and criticize Israel’s support for the U.S. invading Iraq, Kauffman writes. Other anti-Iraq-war right wingers would later be explicated by the National Review as “unpatriotic conservatives.” Likewise, during the Presidential election this year, Trump was labeled a “fascist” for promoting a foreign policy that serves the interests of America before other countries.

For the elite, the impending Trump presidency has many implications – none of which however, are likely as important to them as those concerning foreign policy. In 2016, middle America stood up for itself and its own interests. Trump has taken a hard line approach to ISIS, perceiving a legitimate national interest in their demise. For the most part however, his “peace through strength,” bring an end to nation building and do what’s best for America foreign policy positions mean the globalist plan of remaking the world in its own image is in distress. Will Trump uphold the mandate of working people when it comes to foreign interventionism? Only time will tell. His impending appointee selections will tell us much about what to expect in the coming weeks.