EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Conservative Diplomacy in American Thought
DATE: 5:00pm-6:00pm, 20th June 2019
VENUE: Committee Room 4A, House of Lords
SPEAKER: Dr Ashley Cox, Erol Morkoç, Dr Mark McClelland, Dr Paul Stott
EVENT CHAIR: Lord Howell of Guildford
Introduction is missing.
Lord Howell: …Wilsonian interpretation of American conflicts. Okay, over to you Dr Cox.
Dr Cox: Hi everyone. Firstly I want to thank everyone for coming, this is the sort of first seminar in what is to be a bigger research project. So just to give you some idea of where I’m coming from, I work in the Centre for International Service and Diplomacy, which is a sort of postgraduate centre attached to SOAS, University of London, and we broadly teach degrees in diplomatic studies and public policy and southern energy policy, and this project has come out of winning a small funding bid for a new research project that we’re undertaking and with Dr Stott’s help we’ve put together a sort of brief of areas of investigation and this sort of a launch event, it seems grandiose [laughs], but the first point where we’re going to sort of begin to sort of develop this project or we hope we’ll move on to interviews with our colleagues in Washington and bring together a sort of monograph or a manuscript for a feature book project on this issue.
So that’s where our research plans are going. What our panel are here to do really is, the first stage of any academic investigation is really to sort of define our terms and to see what we need to investigate. What constitutes conservative thought in American diplomacy? And to sort of point out that it isn’t the easiest thing. Conservatism has been a broad church, it’s been a broad church in the United States, it’s been a broad church in the United Kingdom, and it’s not a monolithic ideology, as freedom of speech and individual liberties is one of the tenants that we’re going to be interviewing, it’s probably good that it’s not a monolithic ideology, the two tend to be incompatible. But I think Dr Stott and myself have really sort of, wanted to highlight four or five sort of key tenants, pillars, whatever you want to call them, of conservative thought and how this has been applied, basically, to American diplomacy. Most of our work, the projects are going to be post-Eisenhower, effectively and post Second World War, although I’m a sort of historian in my training, in my last book I actually started with the War of 1812 so if we may go back further than that but I think post-war, at least, probably post-Eisenhower is going to be the limit of the project. Well it’s at it’s very early stages.
So, what do we think? Well I think it has to start with a sort of democratic, sovereign and representative state that’s the core of the international system. Today I think we come to reflect that there is, perhaps, an increasing gap in the Western world, certainly in the democratic world, about the distinction between what would represent ‘supranationalism’ and what would represent ‘internationalism’, and I think previously there has been a path that has led these two sort of concepts together, but I think as we’ve moved on then and certainly in the contemporary agenda, I think there is a separation of what… is the international system going to be one of separate, sovereign, democratic nations working together or will we be deferring authority to supranational bodies a mode of running the international system. It’s my suspicion that the conservative influences on diplomacy would form a nation, series of nations working together, and not delegating authority to higher institutions which may separate more broadly from their democratic base, That is the further you move up the international system , the less democratic and less representative and less connected to your own voters you may be.
And that’s my first research question if you like, I think that is a key in the development of equal and co-operating nations as a mode of international organisation and diplomacy, over a supranational authority. Free market and private property. I mean, domestically I would have thought conservative thought in the United States is very clear on this and I think as Lord Howell rightly points out, on the international sphere, there has been somewhat of a difference between what has operated within the United States and what the United States view to the rest of the world. Certainly we feel during the 19th Century that there were areas of tariff protection and to counter the British mercantile system at the same time. That said, since the war I think it is fair to say the United States has been a promoter of a global free trade rule. Not in every area but we would say these influences if you like that, what I think Russell Meade may have called the ‘Hamiltonian influences’ on American foreign relations, the point is that broadly, they would favour an international system that competed on an equal footing.
In terms of the current administrations view on this I think there’s not necessarily a discrepancy between the broad conservative free market approach and the President’s current policies. In a sense somehow there’s an assumption that a free market would be based on everyone playing by the same rules and I think in the present policy area, you might see that what the United States is acting here, is because other players in the system are not operated on the same rules and this is a re-balancing organisation rather than a protectionist attempt. We can revisit that, and obviously the support for private property, that is a broad international system where nations respect the private property of others, in particular, international corporations need to be insured to operate in system where… they’re not going to invest in a country and then the government’s just going to nationalize. The national grid for instance, if you’re a foreign investor that’s not quite good, and I think conservative thought would obviously say that you have to respect foreign assets and they shouldn’t be requisitioned.
Religious liberty. That’s something that I think, again, is broadly in line with these individual rights and their religious rights and I think the United States has been broadly a supporter of religious liberty around the globe, and that these influences come from a sort of American religious tradition, and we can see these as a sort of element of conservative thought. This is particularly poignant for relations with China as their treatment of both Christian and Muslim populations continues to be somewhat less than the standards we’d expect.
But I think really the ensuring that there’s support for the individual or individual rights as a centre of how an international system, or how diplomacy should function effectively, shows were conservatism has influenced America, in a way it has perhaps not influenced other states. I’m not going to speak about British foreign policy today, but classically it has been also a defender of individual liberties over group liberties. But in increasing, sort of, debate about this, what’s great about the individual and their importance vis a vis a sort of group or group identity putting pressure on, not just domestic systems in the United Kingdom, but I think globally.
So those are the four tenets that we’re going to investigate. I sort of, I don’t want to go with any pre-decision but these are the things I think we’re going to find as we interview through our archival research and interviews in Washington with various conservative policy makers, think tanks and organisations, that these are the sort of ideas and influences that they will be promoting as policy, and to that end, I think that on this panel, everyone’s going to speak to something of this in various areas. That’s the outline of our project, and I think I’d like to give our, sort of, invitees a chance to speak on what they… you know, move on to what they think about our core ideas, and then hopefully some of you in the audience have some feedback to me about what you think, maybe I’ve missed something? Maybe I’ve overdone something, because this is really a sounding board to begin what is hopefully a sort of, a fairly rigorous and long-term, investigative piece of writing. So thank you and I’ll pass over.
Lord Howell: Right, well lots of fascinating thoughts there. I just wonder, listening to you, how the old vocabulary of politics really applies at all as to where we’re going now. No one can explain to me anymore what’s on the right and what’s on the left, frankly, and the more I look at the scene we face, the more I realise that the future is Asian and the future is not going to be consistent with our last 200 years of philosophical and political debate about left and right, and the individual and the state. Somehow all these things are being overtaken by completely different and more Confucian ideas about power and its distribution, but that’s for the future.
Dr Cox: The Confucian institute’s like 2 doors down from SOAS so [laughs].
Lord Howell: That’s right. Now my next speaker is going to be Erol Morkoç, I hope I pronounced the ‘C’ right, did I? Anyway, we’re going to get the voice of the Republicans overseas, we’re going to get the voice of American, dynamic entrepreneurship, which actually is the whole world, everyone’s an innovator now, and we’re going to get some comments I hope, from the American viewpoint on this little island and where we are. Your turn.
Erol Morkoç: Yes well, so I’m coming from a much more modern background, being a spokesperson for this organisation. The situation we have with modern day conservative diplomacy, I think we have to take a step back and look at what occurred following Breton Woods, as the restructuring of global quantitative easing required, sort of a conservative backing and that went into Korea, so the way that term changed and the way that conservatives in America view that term, can if you bring it into a modern day context, I would look at Donald Trump looking at, maybe calculators as opposed to missiles to fight wars, going back to outspending and using sanctions and things like that to sort of have a modern day take on how a conservative candidate or a Republican candidate can try to lower, perhaps, military conflict which, doesn’t really correspond with a lot of conservative values beyond protectionism in some ways, but as you said re-balancing also can be part of that.
No, if you look at the, sort of, US hegemony that brought the stability that we can all can kind of enjoy in the 20th Century to 21st Century. That in itself was a kind of conservative diplomacy that was built out of building a sort of multilateral event, so it’s a very different term to how modern day, especially the Trump campaign, how I’m representing here, looks at it. Now, how we look at how that comes into play with the special relationship between the UK and the United States, obviously as the number 1 direct investor in the United States, 15% I believe of the direct investment in the UK and the US, bilateral partnership is key, but there’s the obvious clear and present differences in what conservative means in both of our countries and how to further diplomatic objectives without stepping on the toes of the other one so, as we go into sort of, a brave new world of populism and new types of conservatives and the push back, it’s going to create a very dynamic environment for where we see that constant of conservative diplomacy and how it comes in.
So that’s a little bit of what I was looking at. Modern day you can look at the North Korea sanctions, the Iran sanctions, looking at ways to mitigate these sorts of global problems without high expenditures and loss of life, as well as massive resource expenditure, which have not been conservative values in America, despite the fact that when you look at budgets there seems to be very little in terms of savings on the back of [unintelligible]. Ultimately conservatism in America brings a message of jobs and nationalism, not meaning isolationism. So if that message can translate to conservative groups here, obviously we have a different situation with the way that we look at gay marriage and stuff as a much more acceptable debate than occurs in the UK, so it’s tough to bring it together, but in a lot of aspects the conservative diplomatic environment is ripe for expansion right now. That’s how I’m seeing it.
Lord Howell: Very quickly because of course we’re going to have questions, but I must ask as chairman and cheat a bit before we move on, is American evolving economic diplomacy going to be in favour of more inward investment or against more inward investment? Does America welcome investment by the Chinese and the Middle East and so on and indeed by the Brits in the new America? Or which side is a conservative of those two, less foreign investment or more foreign investment?
Erol Morkoç: That’s a great question, I could take a parallel example to the large Japanese investment that came in the 80s and how did people perceive that? When you look at Middle Eastern investment in the United States, obviously we’ve been very receptive to any and all of that. The Chinese situation ever since you know, the change in trade routes and all that, and who owns the means of production, there can maybe be more consternation in that area, but I mean the US is open for business, we welcome any sort of bilateral agreements that we can make right now and I think it’s going to be positive as long as it’s not unfair trade, that’s a big part of what’s going on with us and China, we’re not against trade, we’re just making sure everybody has a level playing field, because we’ve expended a lot of resources, time and blood to build sort of a world order that we can all prosper in and we’ve seen a little bit, like with the NATO stuff where it sort of makes a myth that makes in tough in the business environment to have the political backing that will still come from that, so that’s a little bit of how. But I think it’s a very positive future for global business. We’re not against trade whatsoever obviously, just making sure it’s safe for our workers.
Lord Howell: Yes, yes. Now we’re only going to need Dr McClelland up next, because he has got a PhD in US foreign policy, if he can explain the foreign policy of the United States to me now, I shall be very grateful.
Dr McClelland: Thank you Lord Howell, and thank you for the invitation Ashley, I’ve known Ashley for 10 years on and off and so I was very delighted to accept this invitation. So after, I’ll just give you a bit of my background, after doing my PhD in US foreign policy at the University of Birmingham, I dabbled a bit in academia but I wasn’t as clever as Ashley so I disappeared off into the private sector, trying to make some money instead so I was working for some oil and gas companies trying to invest in the US and Canada, and advising them on US foreign policy, US energy policy. I’m now actually working here in Westminster for John Glenn, the MP for Salisbury and economic secretary to the treasury and so I just need to add the caveat right at the beginning that I’m speaking in a personal capacity, not speaking for him or the treasury so, I don’t know, just put that in right at the beginning.
I was thinking about what to say this afternoon and I found myself reminiscing back to 2011 and I was in Washington for 6 months. My doctorate was looking at the evolution of neo-conservatism after the end of the Cold War, so I spent 6 months in Washington interviewing, sort of the great and the good of the republican foreign policy establishment, all senior neocons, and as a long-time admirer of Ronald Reagan, I was very familiar with his addresses to various conservative political action conferences, CPAC which I’m sure you’ve been to over the years, in the 70s and 80s, so I thought it’d be interesting to go along for the day, so I turned up, I think it was the 10th of February 2011, it was a Thursday. It was freezing cold, I think it was about 1 degree in this cavernous ballroom at the Marriott Hotel in Washington, and it was a real fascinating window into American foreign policy back in 2011, in terms of the speakers that were there.
The morning was kind of run of the mill and the afternoon was kind of a who’s who of the great of the good. Started with the CEO of the NRA Wayne La Pierre, then Donald Trump appeared on the stage and this was the very first time he’d identified as a Republican, and considering a run for the presidency. I didn’t quite realise the significance of the moment back then. After Trump finished, Dick Cheney walked on to the stage and presented Donald Rumsfeld with the Defender of the Constitution award, which was a rather grand title. Anyway to my astonishment, half the ballroom started booing. I thought ‘this is very, very strange. It’s all Republican Party supporters, they’re booing two of the most senior figures from the Bush administration, what’s going on here?’ And it so happened that half the room were these sort of die-hard libertarian, Ron Paul supporters that favoured a very sort of, neoisolationist vision of American foreign policy, and I was struck by how much it had changed in the last 8 years compared to 2003, when Cheney and Rumsfeld being lauded as architects of this successful invasion of Iraq, yet 8 years down the road and they’re being booed on the stage at CPAC. You know, the Tea Party’s in the ascendancy as well.
Now moving on another 8 years, so here we are 2019, and it’s all changed again. So the expansive democratic imperialism of the Bush Administration is not back in vogue, but also the Tea Party’s Ron Paul inspired moment has also faded away and we’ve now got this more, kind of Jacksonian, populism associated with Trump. So given the pace of change, what’s in fashion in Republican foreign policy circles, is it really possible to talk about a unified conservative approach to US foreign policy and diplomacy? Obvious difficulties lie in the task of identifying what is a conservative foreign policy approach is that some of these taxonomies around how we should think about foreign policy, they cut across ideological boundaries.
I think Ashley mentioned Walter Russel Mead at the beginning. So Walter Russell Mead’s a very influential US foreign policy academic, wrote a famous textbook called Special Providence back in 2001, and he said there’s four main foreign policy traditions in US foreign policy, and these really blurred the boundaries between sort of liberalism and conservatism. So one is the Hamiltonian, which mentions the promotion of commerce and free trade, secondly the Jeffersonian, maintenance of the US democratic system at home and minimizing foreign entanglements, thirdly the Jacksonian which is kind of populist, militaristic nationalist, and fourthly the Wilsonian, so internationalist and moralistic, so the idea of the US being on a democratic mission. Now I’ve always Mead’s four models to be very helpful when sort of engaging with US foreign policy, he comes in for criticism from kind of intellectual snobs in academia who say it’s far too simplistic, you know, but the idea is it helps make US foreign policy accessible using these things to hang what’s going on so you can engage with it.
So looking at the Republican Party over the last three decades we’ve gone from George H.W. Bush’s ‘New World Order’, to George W. Bush’s ‘New American century’, to the neoisolationism of the Tea Party and now to President Trump’s Jacksonian populism. So arguably since the end of the Cold War, US Republicans have at different times emphasized all four of Mead’s foreign policy schools. So how do we define conservatism when it’s so flexible that it can be found in all four of those schools? Now there are obviously some themes which we can emphasise which are very important, which will be a key part of the project, and Ashley’s mentioned them, so support for representative government, free market, private property, religious liberty, free speech, and then there’s obviously very strong support amongst the majority of Republicans for those themes, democracy, free markets, free speech, religious liberty, these all come on quite strong on the right of American politics, and I think even more so nowadays when it comes to a post-capitalist future which is being charted by many on the far-left of American politics, who are increasingly hostile to some of those things.
However for me, what the fundamental quality that distinguishes conservative approaches to US diplomacy is nationalism, and I use that phrase not in any way pejoratively, I’m well aware that people on the left use it interchangeably with you know, fascism or something like that, that’s not what I’m using it for. What I mean is the essential theme that unites US conservatives around the various foreign policy schools and distinct from liberals, is the idea that the legitimacy to act on the international plain, is rooted in an idea in the American nation and the US Constitution, and it’s not found in international institutions or a multilateral global order, or kind of this supranationalism which Ashley was talking about in the beginning.
I’ll finish quickly with a discussion around the attitude of US conservatives towards Brexit. Now we’re not going to get into a debate about Brexit itself but I’m very interested in how this gives us a prism to examine US conservatism. Now I know there are obviously some dissenters amongst American conservatives but I’ve been interested in how, generally, conservatives in the US who are seemingly poles apart on a whole range of other issues, when it comes to Brexit have generally been quite supportive of the UK leaving the EU. Now obviously President Trump’s backing of Brexit is well known, he famously predicted it the day after it happened [audience laughs], but how about this quote from fierce Trump critic Elliot Cohen, now he was writing two weeks after the referendum. The London of today was sliding into becoming a bigger, brighter and more lively Brussels, so international that it had no discernible identity, so cosmopolitan in its self-understanding that it had no pride in its own history and unique character, so unwilling to accept the burdens of self-government that it preferred the administration of well-meaning but unaccountable bureaucrats to the crash and bang of democracy in action.
Now there’s a danger here that I go into a big debate which was 15 years ago around Bob Kagan who wrote a book around paradise and power saying Europe and America are very, very different, but there are obviously distinctive ways that US conservatives approach foreign policy, international institutions, diplomacy, that is, to put it politely, very different from how the average liberal in the EU or even in the US would approach diplomacy. Obviously US and European liberals typically to emphasise multilateralism, international law, international institutions, supranationalism, soft power, environmentalism. Kind of the opposite of what the US conservative diplomatic vision is, and I mean it’s opposite compared to whether you see it in the neoconservative form of George W. Bush or the neoisolationist Jeffersonianism of Ron Paul or the Jacksonian populism of Trump, even though those three foreign policy schools among conservatives are different, all three of those would share a kind of shared conception of nationalism, and I think you see that best in the fact that many of the most controversial actions taken by the Trump administration, so I’m thinking here about pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement, pulling out of the Iran deal, backing Brexit, these will have all taken place regardless of which Republican was in the White House, if someone else other than Trump had won in 2016, and these actions show the essential quality of US conservatism, that is a deep scepticism of the legitimacy of supranationalism. Thank you.
Lord Howell: Lovely. Thank you very much indeed, I’m listening to all three and listening to what’s coming, as to how nationalism, and old style nationalism fit in with the fact of inter-connectivity. The entire planet is wired up and connected up on a scale… I think it’s 5 quintillion bytes a day in exchange in views across the planet, the communications load is so many times larger than anything else that existed in history, even 5 or 10 years ago. What is this doing to these old concepts of nationalism and internationalism? I think all will have to be re-examined in the totally new global pattern in which we’re now living, which is like nothing else we’ve ever had in history. Over to you Dr Paul Stott, who will give us some hard facts on this.
Dr Stott: Okay, thank you. Good afternoon everyone. My contribution really seeks to apply some of the principles that Ashley Cox and indeed other panellists have been talking about in terms of support for representative government, free markets, religious liberty, freedom of speech, and really looking at those principles and how they weigh up against the record of a very high profile conservative commentator from the latter half of the 20th century and that’s William F. Buckley, and some of you may remember, I think you can find him on YouTube, I won’t attempt his remarkable accent or the exaggerated Buckley lean which he would do in talk shows, sort of testing the furniture, but Buckley really was a tireless advocate of conservative principles and the founder of the National Review magazine so I think looking at Buckley allows us to test some of these principles. He wrote a 1990 article, An Agenda for Conservatives, which a lot of this contribution’s based upon.
Buckley was greatly concerned that in the 1970’s the United States had moved back in the direction of what he saw as a Wilsonian commitment, a commitment to the human rights of the world, and he argued that this continued to an extent under both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Buckley really saw the Wilsonian approach as pivoting around a particular question: ‘what is the nature of our responsibilities for human freedom in the rest of the world?’ and Buckley’s answer was quite distinct: “the safety of our own nation is of paramount concern and the strategic relevance of other nations to that concern has to be the operative consideration,” and this is tempered by being interested in the development of human rights elsewhere in the world, but Buckley goes as far back as the views of the 6th President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, for the quote: “the American people are friends of liberty everywhere, but custodians only of their own.” So I think here we see isolated one of these principles, national sovereignty, really at the centre of Buckley’s thinking, or as Mark might put it: nationalism.
Now, I’ve also begun to think in terms of Buckley’s approach, and how he might view some contemporary events. In some areas his views I think are remarkably prescient. A major concern for diplomats today is the environment and Buckley argues that it is essentially conservative to conserve, whether it be timber, elephants or bald eagles. He argues against an environmental movement which seems to see the creation of man as almost an act of aggression against the animal and mineral kingdoms, and he worried about an element here of fanaticism. Consider here Ed Miliband, Layla Moran MP, Michael Gove, staring approvingly at the teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. I don’t think Buckley would have approved of any proposals that would upset what he saw as the natural relationships between man, animal and nature, there’s an inherent caution to conservatism here.
Now we’ve touched on already the importance of the principles of private property and the free market, and Buckley was a conservative who resolutely opposed protectionism, he argued it does not work in the long run. Lord Howell set out how these debates, divisions, have lasted and extremely long time within conservative thought. Buckley also argued that protectionism is morally wrong. It’s wrong to exclude products, because that is damaging to the home consumer, and it’s also damaging to those workers and producers in developing countries. So as President Trump attempts to plot his course as regards to Chinese economic, political and military development, we have here a point of divergence.
On religion, Buckley saw the importance of duty and morality, but he didn’t just believe in religious freedom as an abstract, he felt the public square would be naked without faith, so faith should inform society. Equally, he argued, that representative government requires commitment on both sides. There is no such thing as free liberty. Now I think he’s talking here primarily about the relationship between the individual and the nation state, that we owe a contribution here to the state that protects us, but I think there’s also echoes of some of the messages that Trump has been delivering to America’s allies, that you need to do more in your own defence, which was his message to NATO and indeed to other parts of the world.
Now, my final section’s just to say a few things on interventionism but just before I do I’d like to go back to that first issue of National Review, way back in 1955, where the authors, including Buckley, had seen it their duty to stand athwart history, yelling “stop!” Now he later qualified that statement, to argue that it was actually a conservative rejection of the once widespread belief in the inevitability of Marxism, that history progresses along a dialectic towards socialism, and with the defeat of the Soviet version of communism in 1991, some conservatives arguably became much more ambitious in their thinking, which takes us to the George W. Bush era.
Now in an interview in 2006, shortly before died, Buckley was asked to consider the neoconservatives and their case for intervention in the Middle East, and he took, I think, a comparatively nuanced position, he’d certainly been willing to support an intervention in Iraq to capture WMD’s, but he was scathing about the neocons intellectual base, which he saw as assigning to America some kind of geo-strategic responsibility for maximizing democracy. This overstretches the resources of a free country, so it is not conservatism. A conservative always measures capabilities and resources, and I think that’s a useful point with which to draw this to a close, because it indicates that although he might draw up a set of principles with regards to what conservative diplomacy may be, what may shape conservative foreign policy, the application of those principles has to be realistic. To dare is not to do, to dare without the requisite resources or likelihood of success, is to take too big a risk. So our principles, the tentative principles Ashley Cox set out and indeed any others that may come up in this research project, are I think limited by the need for realism. Conservative diplomacy as William F. Buckley Jr would have understood it, is not utopian. Thank you.
Lord Howell: Right, well there we are, we’re certainly not bringing it to a close because we’re going to have an open discussion and I welcome questions from the floor, can I just put a string into the pool straight off, what do we mean by fair trade? Fair between whom? The Chinese with their per capita income of $8,000 dollars and the American’s with their per capita income of, what is it? $38,000. Is it fair between them? What do we mean by a level playing field? What happens when trust in hierarchy collapses? What happened to a responsibility to protect that wonderful time 15 years ago when the nations got together to say we really must intervene everywhere in the name of human rights? What about, I was taught at school by Mrs Thatcher that democracy was necessary for economic progress, but unfortunately the most economic progress is in areas where there isn’t democracy, namely China and elsewhere, and it’s all very puzzling. So there are a few questions which seem to create endless contradictions in all these great principles of William Buckley and others. Now, who would like to start? There.
Simon Anglim: Thank you, Simon Anglim, King’s War Studies, we know each other of old.
Lord Howell: We do.
Simon Anglim: We do. I’m a War Studies person, this brings up questions of defence policy and indeed responsibility to protect [unintelligible].
Lord Howell: Yeah.
Simon Anglim: What is the role of military power in all of this? If the Republicans in the room will pardon the use of the metaphor but that’s really the elephant in the room, and I’ve heard only mild allusions to military power throughout the presentation, but of course this is seen throughout the world as being the major instrument of American influence.
Lord Howell: Right, let’s just focus on military power. What is military power? Is it military expenditure and if it is why hasn’t America won a war for years except I suppose they won the early Kuwait war, but on the whole more public expenditure that the military doesn’t seem to mean more power. I’ll let you start on that.
Erol Morkoç: Just briefly on that topic I understand the sentiment, but if you look at, for example Vietnam certainly wasn’t a military victory, but a lot of proxy wars and things that occurred in the 20th Century had larger goals, and eventually you did bring down the Soviet Union through military power, which then stands for the nation state. You know the nation state is defined by the democracy and democracy defined by borders, and military is what protects national sovereignty around the world, so it’s very hard to have conservative stability without military guarantees of that and you have to have that kind of stability in your society for, let’s say 100 years so academics and liberals and progressives can build an egalitarian society which is protected by the conservative side, so that would be my response.
Lord Howell: Very fair point. I just admired how the other day, I love the way Mr Trump in Hanoi was trying to coax Kim along by promising to turn North Korea into another Vietnam. Vietnam? [Audience laughs]
Dr Cox: It’s a two edged sword that!
Erol Morkoç: Haven’t you seen the resorts?
Lord Howell: That’s what I call long term aim thinking. Very good, anyway who else would like a turn?
Dr Cox: [Beginning unintelligible] I think we’ve put together on our committee, where you on the University of London military committee?
Simon Anglim: We are yes, I knew I’d seen you somewhere before.
Dr Cox: There we go. I’m that memorable! First in terms of this project, yeah no one’s debating the military power apart from American foreign policy. It’s the most powerful military the world has ever seen by a country mile. You’d have spend a million dollars a day since the birth of Christ to spend what America spends on defence in two years right, it’s extraordinary, amazing and it is part of American foreign policy. I suppose in terms of the way I haven’t spoken about it, it’s because the focus is more diplomatic. There’s lots of studies of American power, and I was sort of making a more principled, diplomatic approach for this particular project.
Now, where military project is important is of course that everybody knows in a negotiation if you’re not going to back down the Americans probably do have a stealth bomber they can send after you and your diplomatic power is informed by your military power, how you can walk away from the table is all military power, and far be it from me to debate my colleague but I don’t think the Soviet Union was defeated by American military power, it was defeated because communism doesn’t work.
Dr McClelland: What American military power did do was prevent the expansion of communism into the rest of the world so that the contradictions of the system could defeat itself.
Erol Morkoç: It also did force the Soviets to go out of their budget completely to compete which, that’s a huge part of it.
Dr Cox: But even if they spent nothing on the military communism still doesn’t work. It still doesn’t work.
Erol Morkoç: In complete agreement there.
Dr Cox: They could have spent $0 on defence and the Soviet Union still would have collapsed because it’s an awful system of government.
Erol Morkoç: Depends on how fast.
Dr Cox: But what American military power did do during the Cold War was prevent communist military power from expanding to the rest of the world and obviously that informs diplomacy. Like I said there’s no specific focus on military power but it obviously does inform you know, what you can do, but the project itself in sort of my eyes has remained, I mean there are lots of studies to do with American military power, and it’s not my focus but obviously we realise it is going to come up, it can’t not do.
Lord Howell: Dr McClelland have you got a view on this?
Dr McClelland: It’s almost a given I guess for most Republican foreign policy schools that military power is an essential aspect of their approach to foreign affairs.
Lord Howell: But what do we mean by military power? More gizmos or cleverer electronics?
Dr McClelland: All of the above. I mean just this week America’s announced a quarter of a billion dollars of military assistance to Ukraine, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, counter artillery radars, I mean these are still tools at the disposal of the American President. I mean it’s quite interesting with Russia, there’s this impression given with the Mueller investigation that Trump’s in the pocket of Putin, in some ways he’s been more hostile to Russia’s interests than Obama was, not at a rhetorical level, in the White House he’s not openly critical of Putin, but in terms of his actual policy, you know, there’s hard military power being used.
Lord Howell: Anyone else got any comment on that?
Dr Stott: Just very briefly I think it’s interesting to compare in terms of counter terrorism strategy George W. Bush and Obama and indeed for a shorter period Trump, because if you look at the way the American’s fought against Al Qaeda eventually in the Afghan/Pakistan theatre, was Obama’s strategy of drones, you know you look at the number of drone strikes under George W. Bush, number of drone strikes under Obama, you know Obama really took the gloves off, drew up a kill list and they killed people, which you might think, oh the big, bad conservative guy would do it, no it was nice cuddly Obama.
Erol Morkoç: And a US citizen, he drone striked a US citizen.
Lord Howell: We could go on and this is fascinating, but let’s have another one from the floor. Any other people want to get the debate going. Well if not we certainly get it going further here on this subject, I mean I’m fascinated Doctor, as Mr Morkoç was saying that really the justification for all of this expenditure, indeed in the end was that the Cold War was lost by communism and Russia, and won by the free world, and that was done by military power I suppose, you could argue it was done by other things but anyway, so now what is the enemy? What is America spending 9 times the amount of defence expenditure of the next country down the line on? What’s the enemy now?
Erol Morkoç: Well it’s a two pronged sort of answer to that, and a two pronged threat. Obviously the enemy, optically, that they’ve liked to trot out for the last 20 years has been of the enemy is the jihadis and all that, and yes in some very realistic ways it is but the modern day enemy, the modern day Cold War, if you look at, take a great example, Africom being heavily funded going into this year, looking at the new Cold War that’s going on in Africa. I did some work in Namibia and Tanzania for the last few years and when I was working in Namibia the amount of Chinese workers who are there, who have the communist party in there, so there’s a huge ideological Cold War going on there.
On the flip side you have the fact that the US empire, and I hate to use that word, is built on a series of 800 bases, that are locking in and coordinating sort of the Western ethos of civilization, so in absence of anyone else willing to step up and fulfil that role, considering they’re our greatest allies, for the most part sadly can’t even contribute 2%. You look at the other fact that both with military and pharmaceuticals for example, yes we spend an abnormally high amount of money, part of of when you bring in the VA benefits and stuff that sort of augments it, but where’s the R&D for advancement coming out in both medical and both robotics and all of that, that’s coming out of the United States, now that spills down historically into GPS, internet, all those things. My dad does device optics, physics, you know that came out of Bell Labs, that came out of Skunkworks, that came out of those sort of innovative things, so the US military-industrial complex, for all of the problems you point to with it, god forbid the other guys have it.
Lord Howell: Yeah that’s a very, very good point, and the internet, the whole internet came from defence as well.
Erol Morkoç: Yeah, internet, transistors, cell phones…
Lord Howell: Very valid point.
Dr Cox: I think it’s important to point out that actually the United States, although it does spend far more, actually only spends about four percent of GDP. It’s not an unsustainable number. I mean we’re not talking about an unsustainable amount of money, the Cold War was higher, the countries in the world that spend more than 4% GDP on defence… The fact is the United States looks like it spends enough because it’s richer and more successful than everybody else and it spends 4%. This isn’t a crippling amount of money we’re talking about.
Erol Morkoç: It’s a $22 trillion economy.
Audience member: 7% under Carter.
Dr Cox: If Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer, is more of a war monger than Donald Trump, you know.
Erol Morkoç: He’s a trilateralist so you know [laughs].
Audience member: 6% of Reagan’s GDP was a hell of a lot better than 7% of Carter’s so there is some math…
Dr Cox: But not only is it not an unsustainable amount of money for what the American’s get out of it, effectively a global military presence unparalleled in the rest of the world, but a fair chunk of that money goes down to military Keynesianism in the South, there are people employed in bases in the poorer states of the United States, that money goes back in, the soldiers based there, they eat out in restaurants, they spend money in the local economy. So, it’s not only… it’s often viewed I think the 4% as money down the drain, effectively, but actually between the R&D benefits, the companies that America buys… Boeing has developed planes, it develops plane technology, that goes back into its… [Unintelligible] civilian industry, but there’s also elements in the poorer states whereby soldiers go there and just spend money. I think you’ve got to take into context that 4%, it’s not like it’s North Korea where it’s spending money on nuclear weapons while people are eating grass, it’s not the same thing. I think often in this debate it’s sort of, because it’s such a large figure, people sort of don’t know that it’s a relatively sustainable amount for the United States as far as I can see.
Lord Howell: Right. I’m still left with a question here if there’s not one [unintelligible], what are we trying to defeat. Jihadism, Chinese rival superiority or Russian trouble making, Russia’s a tinny little place with a collapsing economy, floating on gas and oil revenues, somehow sustaining a big military and a very clever leader, but it’s hardly worth America’s attention, so who’s the enemy?
Erol Morkoç: We are here, we are nobody’s enemy, we’re looking to build an American world order, but right now the enemy is the communist government in China is how we’re looking at it as far as trade, as far as their initiatives in the Silk Road and these kind of things. Russia’s more of, I think Joe Biden called it an oil company masquerading as a country [audience laughs], so we’re not too worried about them. The Middle East is kind of building coalitions through MBS of all people and people kind of coming round there, so I think the real threat is what the horrors of communism in my generation, certainly doesn’t have the history to remember and the sort of willingness to accept things, as you mentioned with connectivity coming through, look at the Chinese social credit system, I mean that’s a horrifying thing that’s being done by Silicon Valley, where I’m from, all of those guys are the ones making those facial recognition tech and they’re testing it all out there. I mean that’s stuff that infringes on the core of, you know, Lockean democracy, all the things that we have, so I think that the number one threat is there and that’s where we’re putting the bulwark in, in our allies of Taiwan, Korea, Japan, I mean they, Japan was sort of brought toothless in some ways in return for this guarantee, so there’a lot of, obviously we shift our forces from NATO all the way to Asia so that’s where the new Cold War is and it’s going to spill into Africa because that’s where all the minerals are, except the rare earth ones that we need to get out of the Chinese for something. I’m sure President Trump’s got that.
Dr McClelland: Going back to the Middle East and specifically Iran, obviously we’ve had these two tankers that have been attacked and a US drone that’s been shot out the sky, I mean, what from your Republican’s Overseas hat, with your Republican’s Overseas hat on , what’s John Bolton telling Donald Trump to do on Iran.
Erol Morkoç: Good question and I think John Bolton is, he was almost like the antithesis of what you’d have expected Trump to bring in, right in the beginning, but when you look at the people that you want to have in the room for those kinds of negotiations, you get taken a lot more seriously if you say “look if you don’t deal with me right now, that’s the guy behind me, and he’s standing there and you know what his beliefs are,” so John Bolton’s sort of kept in the back, you know what he wants to do, but as I said earlier, Trump wants to fight with calculators, he wants to use economics, not soldiers, not things on the ground, so when you look at how John Bolton… [unintelligible], I bet they’ve got a planned strategic way to take it down and in 72 hours they’ll get Mossad on it, they’re ready to go, but I don’t think Trump is at all interested because that’s not the kind of… he ran actually in his campaign, which really stood out to me, especially as a Berkley conservative, he said “no more more nation building,” and that was the first time a President came and said we’re not here to rebuild the world order, we did that for you once, but there’s problems at home. In the US we had 72,000 people die last year of opiate overdoses, that’s more than the Vietnam War. You know 1 in 5 students in CSU system in California is homeless, like these are the problems we have at home so there’s a bigger ethos to that question I think.
Dr Stott: I think there’s some parallels with regards to Iran to where we were, around about, I think it was 1988, right at the end of the Iran-Iraq War where there was basically a 1 day conflict between the US Navy and Iran, which the US Navy won comprehensively, and the Iranians quite quickly sued for peace with Saddam and rather backed away. The difficulty perhaps with that parallel, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw that type of very brief conflict, is that Iran has had 30 odd years since to build up its influence and structure in countries like Lebanon and Hezbollah are a formidable ally, stronger for example than the Lebanese Army, so the danger would be keeping any conflict in the Gulf of Oman, and I’m not sure that would happen.
Erol Morkoç: Do you think it would spill very nearby but not farther?
Lord Howell: Yeah if it’s no more nation building, I’m sorry I’m being devils advocate, if there’s no more nation building, and it’s America first and in his election rhetoric, no more foreign adventures, we’ll get America out of these useless foreign adventures, what’s America doing in the Middle East, 1,000 more troop are going to squash Iran, the Kushner ‘deal of the century’ is coming out, Saudi’s are up or we’ll overlook the Khashoggi and a few other things and we’ll stick with the Saudi’s. How does that square with no more nation building? Where does conservatism, how does Jeffersonian conservatism and Hamiltonian conservatism fit in with all that?
Erol Morkoç: For an interesting question like that perhaps I could offer an abstract answer that might not be most PC, but if you look at how nation building was done, especially in the Middle East and stuff, it was done when that was the main source of oil and income.
Lord Howell: Right. Now we’re getting to it.
Erol Morkoç: So as that power wanes, as the United States became the largest exporter of energy, renewables passes coal in America for the first time in April, the motivation to do any new nation building before the house of Saud picks up camp and flies to their palace in Paris, and that entire thing comes down around, outside of Dubai and the Gulf States that have planned for it, I mean we don’t really need to do it because it’s going to break down completely without a very solid international effort and I think that only the Russians would have the stomach for it, the Chinese and then that’s the way America could get drawn back in because they wouldn’t want to lose the geographical striking distance of that, to surround our other enemies, but that’s sort of a more [unintelligible] answer to it.
Lord Howell: What about, there were two things in that one, first of all you were absolutely right, 95% of the oil coming through the straits of Hormuz actually goes East, not West.
Erol Morkoç: Yes.
Lord Howell: So it really is the Chinese and the Japanese who should be sweating on this.
Erol Morkoç: And that goes back to the original Saudi Aramco and all that stuff, the majority of post-World War 2 oil was being brought from American companies but for sale outside of the US so they wouldn’t undercut the US thing, so it’s always been a multi-thing.
Lord Howell: But secondly what about little Israel, the great Israel which a taxi driver told me, he said “they’re our front line out there.” That’s Israel, and what about the plan of getting the Gulf Arabs and Israel all aligned together so they can add in the squashing of Iran. Isn’t that a great American interventionist plan?
Erol Morkoç: Yes, it is in a way, in the same way that I would point at Venezuela, the current situation, especially because we’re going back to Trump’s no nation building, the fact of the matter though is Donald Trump came into the Presidency, he wasn’t involved in any of this, so there’s certain things that are going on that he can’t quite come in and wipe the slate with, you know if he had been there for 20 years like some senators who are in there who’ve voted for these things, that’s one thing but he’s coming in from the outside, trying to fix things and wouldn’t it be hilarious if Jared Kushner of all people, I think that’s a little bit funny and maybe he’s got it, I mean so many more interesting people have tried, what’s the result? And at least he’s definitive, which is something that’s been lacking on the Middle East. We’ll see where he goes but there’s a lot, I mean… with my business background and the people I know in politics, I mean the connection between Saudi Arabia and Israel right now, even Turkey coming back into the fold after that nonsense. I mean it’s the Sunni world trying to destroy the Shia world and the Israeli’s are happy to go with whoever’s the better friends and it’s not the Iranians.
Lord Howell: I think your business background gives you a much better political performance than a lot of politicians who haven’t got a business background.
Erol Morkoç: Well that’s kind to say, maybe one day I can get into politics then.
Lord Howell: Look it’s six o’clock, it’s a fascinating discussion we’re having and I suspect that if the British media even began, or let alone these ridiculous competitions as to who should be the next prime minister, if they touched any of these issues then they’d really be facing the British public honestly with the real matters that are going to affect our future, rather than a lot of the tripe that is paraded around as serious public debate at present. So lets, I’m afraid we’re going to have to bring to an end what I regard as a real adventure into the real world and real issues. Very, just quick last word from the leader of the project and then Dr McClellan and Dr Stott, and that’s it.
Dr Cox: Okay, well I just want to thank everyone for coming an listening to us. If you do have any feedback or want to be involved in the project in some way, have some input for us or some suggestions, I’m happy to hear from you, I think my email is probably on the… You can look me up, you’ll just have to google me. Do stay in touch and hopefully we can return in a year or so and present the findings of the project to you.
Dr McClelland: There was one other thing I wanted to bring up earlier and that was touching on the theme you talked about the role of sort of faith in foreign policy and I think that is something that’s going to be quite interesting looking forward. I think people assume five years ago that was a theme in Republican policy, they kind of made their peace with the social liberalism of the 60’s but there seems to be much more of a, in domestic American politics, bit more of that post-liberal kind of approach, kind of social conservatism, I think that might have something to do with ramifications in foreign policy, which would be interesting to explore in the project.
Lord Howell: Certainly would. Dr Stott.
Dr Stott: Yes, just one of the things that I want to focus on in this project is testing to what extent Trump is a conservative actor in his foreign policy, is influenced by conservatism or not, one of the interesting things there is the Poland speech which he made, which did talk about things in quite big civilization terms and yeah, I’ll be testing that going forward so if anybody’s particularly interested in Trump’s security, counter terrorism, foreign policy, do contact me. Thank you.
Lord Howell: We all are [audience laughs]. Okay, thank you.