Fake News, Failed States, and 'America First'

Jan. 24, 2013 Executive Producer Stephen Bannon poses at the premiere of "Sweetwater" during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP, File)

One would have thought that a 90-day suspension of immigration from seven countries with minimal economic ties to the United States would be minor news. It has to be the best thing an American president has done since Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, because all the people I dislike have gone bat-guano crazy.


The mainstream press is blaming Trump for everything including a down day on the stock market. This is how Bloomberg News began its lead stock market story today: “U.S. stocks fell the most since the presidential election, while Treasuries advanced with gold as Donald Trump’s order on immigration raised concern that he may follow through with isolationist policies touted on the campaign trail, overshadowing a pro-growth agenda.” Now, that is perhaps the silliest piece of financial commentary that I have read in half a century of market-watching. What do immigrants from Syria and and Somalia have to do with the U.S. stock market? If the idea weren’t idiotic on the face of it, one might point out that the Mexican peso–the shaky currency of the one country subject to protectionist threats from Washington during the past week–rose today while the U.S. stock market fell. In fact, the Mexico peso has risen almost 4% during the past week. If the market is worried about Trump’s supposed isolationism, why is the country most affected doing better?

Then we have Starbucks, Lyft, and the whole Silicon Valley circus denouncing Trump for cutting off their labor supply–as if they employed Somalis or Yemenis.

It’s just fake news, folks. Fake news has metastasized from the gossip columns (vicious personal attacks against Trump family members) to the political columns (scurrilous slanders against Trump team members like Gen. Mike Flynn and Steve Bannon) to the financial page. I’m waiting for the mainstream media to blend fake news into the weather report (“Tornadoes struck the Midwest today in response to President Trump’s failure to address global warming,” or something like that).


The biggest piece of fake news is that Trump is isolationist. It’s true that the catchphrase “America First” originated with isolationists. In the 1930s, Charles Lindbergh’s “America First” movement opposed intervention against the Nazis. De facto it was an instrument of German foreign policy.

By sharp contrast, President Trump has promised to “eradicate” the contemporary equivalent of Nazism, namely radical Islam terrorism.  That means to eradicate it anywhere in the world. It’s the polar opposite of Lindbergh’s isolationism: It means that America is going use all of its power all over the world to stamp out the present-day version of Nazism. Radical Islam is a lineal descendant of Nazism. See Paul Berman’s book The Flight of the Intellectuals for documentation of the common history of Nazism and modern Islamism.

That isn’t isolationism. It’s an activist foreign policy. It happens to be the kind of activism that the Democratic Party and the McCain wing of the Republican Party don’t like. What Trump means by America First is that America will not sacrifice the blood of its soldiers and the security of its citizens in a Utopian quest to save other countries and cultures who, sadly, insist on destroying themselves. Instead, we will insulate ourselves from their failure and take measures to protect ourselves from their hatred and rage against us.

The Muslim world is full of failed and soon-to-be-failed states that no force on earth will save from self-destruction. In my 2011 book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too), I argued that Muslim society goes from infancy to senescence without passing through adulthood. As soon as Muslim countries achieve adult female literacy, the bonds of traditional society dissolve and post-modern pathologies replace pre-modern constraints. Iran is the poster-child for civilizational failure. Iranian women had seven children in 1979 and have just 1.7 children today, which means that Iran will be the first country to get old before it gets rich. By 2040 it will have an elderly dependent ratio like Europe’s with a tenth the per capita income, and that is a social death sentence.


A quarter of Iran’s married couples claim to be infertile, the highest rate in the world, probably because between 12% and 21% of Iranian women are infected with venereal disease, as I have reported previously. That is the case because Iran’s mullahs make most of their income by pimping, that is, signing “temporary marriage” certificates. Iran is the most dissolute and depraved society in modern history, and its demographic collapse is already baked in the cake. Little wonder that its ruling mullahs look at the world through an apocalyptic lens.

In a March 13, 2016, essay for Asia Times, I compared the present war-without-end in the Middle East to previous wars of long-term attrition–the Peloponnesian War, the Thirty Years’ War, the Napoleonic Wars, the First and Second World Wars–and noted a consistent pattern: such wars continue until the available military manpower is exhausted, usually when 30% of military-age men have been killed. Arguably America’s intervention in the region set in motion what I once called General Petraeus’ Thirty Years’ War, but our mistakes were well-intentioned responses to the region’s underlying instability in the first place.

We can’t send in American soldiers to fix these countries. We can’t import their problems by admitting a horde of refugees who bring with them the pathologies that ruined these countries in the first place. We have to draw a bright line between the United States of America and the failed states of the Middle East. There are lots of little things wrong with the refugee ban but one very big thing right about it: It sends the message that we will not prejudice American interests in a Quixotic effort to fix the unfixable problems of other peoples.


President Trump has offended the core belief of modern liberalism, the notion that we have both the capacity and responsibility to fix all the world’s problems. Instead of sin and punishment we have therapy, social work, and foreign aid.

Something went sour in American public life a century ago when mainline Protestantism embraced Walter Rauschenbusch’s “Social Gospel” and Woodrow Wilson declared that it was America’s responsibility to make the world safe for democracy. Rather than the exceptionalism of the Puritan founders and Abraham Lincoln, who saw Americans as an “almost chosen people” set apart from the Old World, Wilsonian liberalism styled the elite as little gods on earth whose job it was to remake the world in our image. Sadly, a red thread connects Wilson with George W. Bush’s failed Freedom Agenda.

Most Americans have had enough of this. We elected Donald Trump to protect us. His promise to halt Muslim immigration was the turning point in his campaign fortunes, and rightly so. To declare that we will no longer bear the burdens of failed states, though, is to tell the elite that they are not an elite at all–they simply are unemployed. And it tells liberals that their secular path to salvation is shut down for the duration.

“I haven’t had so much fun since the hogs ate my kid brother,” said Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op. Watching the liberals squeak and gibber is a treat. Enjoy the show, and don’t believe what you read in the papers.




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