The Americans who won't be celebrating Nato's 50th

Bill Kauffman on Main Street folk who are blithely ignored by their 'globalist' leaders
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The Independent Online
Hell hath no fury like a noncombatant. Bellicose talking heads froth on our television screens: spindly journalists, the sort you'd pick last when choosing sides for a game of kickball, bluster like John Wayne as they fidget with the thingamyjig in their ear and coolly calculate how many Serbs to slaughter. The CNN Brits - to the American viewer, their plummy accents add 20 points to their IQs - plead for a ground war in Kosovo, barely containing their disgust that parents are reluctant to sacrifice their boys to Moloch. Don't they know, as Tony Blair told us last week, that "we are all internationalists now, whether we like it or not"? (As if he doesn't.)

We may be sure that much the same fury is on display at Nato's 50th anniversary bash in Washington this weekend, as canapes are crunched with feral vigour while the missiles fall on Belgrade. The partygoers are the placeless and the powerful: diplomats, politicians and nomadic employees of the Atlanticist military-industrial complex, people who are no more indigenous to the space they occupy than a Starbucks or a McDonald's.

Half a century ago Harry Truman's Anglophile Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, responded with "a clear and absolute No" when asked by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if US membership in Nato meant that the US was "going to be expected to send substantial numbers of troops over there as a more or less permanent" force. But the troops went, in the hundreds of thousands - and if they did not leave when the Soviet Union disintegrated, you may be sure they are never going to leave. The very locution "over there" strikes our foreign-policy establishment as a quaint archaism: after all, Concorde has made London as close to Washington as, say, Nebraska.

Yet for the vast majority of Americans who have never been to Europe "over there" remains remote, no matter how often we are told (by those with a stake in the matter, and often one aimed at our hearts) that the world is shrinking. Main Street Americans ask of the Serbian war, "What in hell are we doing over there?". At Nato's hideous jubilee party, these doubters are the great uninvited.

Such Americans are the dreaded isolationists who haunt the globalist dreams of the Clintons and Blairs (if such men can be said to dream). For their pacific concerns they are vilified as nativists and xenophobes. Why is it, by the way, that those who oppose killing foreigners are the ones called xenophobes?

The Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has called isolationism a "cancer". If so, the cancer is congenital. Mrs Albright may be unfamiliar with the basic foreign-policy statement of the American founding, the Farewell Address of George Washington, in which the father of our country adjured his posterity to "steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the world".

Washington's carcinogenic advice is still regarded as sound by millions of his countrymen. Even at the height of the Cold War, opinion polls found that one-third of the citizenry wanted to bring the boys home from Europe, and, despite nightly lectures by the Instant Balkan Experts of the idiot box, they would really rather sit this one out. But the two parties will not let them do so. Just as in the early 1960s, liberal Democrat technocrats have stumbled into an unpopular and potentially disastrous war, and the Republicans have demanded ... escalation!

The corporate media's favourite Republican presidential contender, the Arizona Senator John McCain, is calling for a ground war in a disgusting attempt to appear "presidential". Also plumping for ground troops is the Republican hopeful Elizabeth Dole, wife of the world's most famous sufferer from erectile dysfunction. (Though it must be added that Viagra succeeded where his wife did not: Bob Dole is again tumid, or so the advertisers assure us.)

It should not surprise us that the leading Republican hawks are placeless persons: Senator McCain is from a military family, son of a bizarre subculture that elevates rootlessness to a virtue. He represents Arizona, a state composed largely of arthritic dotards who left colder climes. Fittingly, Mr McCain was born in that malarial symbol of American imperialism, the Panama Canal Zone.

Mrs Dole, a North Carolinian by birth, has lived as a Washington bureaucrat for most of her life. Her husband was once a Kansan, but unlike that most famous and admirable Kansan, Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, Bob Dole never learnt that there's no place like home. For the Doles, "home" is an apartment in the antiseptic Watergate hotel.

The only national political figure who speaks in the isolationist accent of Middle America is the Republican Patrick J Buchanan, who has denounced the war as imperialistic and called for a withdrawal of all US troops from Europe. Mr Buchanan has been the most clamant anti-war voice of the 1990s; he is also the only prominent politician of either party who addresses the appalling maldistribution of wealth in our erstwhile republic - all of which makes him the nation's leading leftist. Because Mr Buchanan holds traditional Roman Catholic views on abortion and homosexuality, however, he is dismissed as a fascist by the pallid yuppies who fancy themselves as our activist left.

But then there is no left in America any more, at least at a visible level. Like the Republicans, the Democrats are subsidised by the amoral rich. Anti-war and working-class tendencies have been purged and replaced by the only two groups that Bill Clinton never sold out: Hollywood and the establishment feminists. Both are affluent and internationalist: Tony Blair Americans.

The mewling assent to Mr Clinton's war by today's Democrats is testament to the emasculatory effect that Clintonism has had on the party. In 1971, when Nato was still a putatively defensive alliance, an amendment to withdraw half of our troops from Europe won 36 votes (to 61 against), including those of such liberal fixtures as Senators McGovern, Kennedy and Mondale. In 1999 the typical Democratic response to Nato was given by one chicken hawk in the belligerently liberal New Republic, who chirped with delight: "The Dow closed above 10,000 about a week into the Kosovo mission."

The "great battle" of our day, as President Clinton said earlier this month, pits "the forces of globalism versus tribalism". It is easy to caricature where this is headed, as the devil dogs of Nato descend upon any odd clan of bushmen who refuse to rent Disney videos or install the latest Windows program in the computers that US foreign aid will soon be sending them. But the ground war being designed by the globalists pits one set of tribalists (our rural, working-class and inner-city kids) against another (the Serbs). Thus will the world be rid of xenophobia - one proletarian corpse at a time.

Bill Kauffman is the author of 'America First! Its History, Culture, and Politics'.