Walter Russell Mead & ‘The Godfather’, and other Hollywood Kitsch, are the rhetorical frames for Niall Ferguson’s latest War Mongering. Old Socialist comments

Mr. Ferguson’s bellicosity is unslakable, and never a surprise. The Qassem Soleimani murder forces Ferguson to  resort to Walter Russel Mead’s Wall Street Journal celebration of ‘Jacksonian foreign policy’. And his ‘Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World’  This, part of the long tradition of a toxic American Exceptionalism.

Yet, as Walter Russell Mead explained in The Wall Street Journal, this is a quintessentially Jacksonian foreign policy move, in the spirit of Andrew Jackson, the president whom the former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon told his old boss to make his role model. Like his supporters in red-state America, Trump has no appetite for the “endless wars” they associate with George W Bush’s administration. But he and they also believe that the United States should retaliate against attacks on Americans. (Nawres Hamid, a naturalised US citizen, was killed by an Iranian-backed militia attack while working as an interpreter near Kirkuk on December 27.)

As Mead put it in his 2001 book Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World, a Jacksonian believes “that the most important goal of the US government in both foreign and domestic policy should be the physical security and the economic wellbeing of the American people”. Neoconservative nation-building or liberal interventionism are not on the Jacksonian menu. It’s all about “Don’t tread on me” — the rattlesnake’s warning on the American Revolutionary War battle flag.

Next, as part of his weak rhetorical framing device, is the American Gangster film ‘The Godfather’ a celebration of terror, murder and thuggery, that is the perfect vulgar Pop Culture reference point of that ‘Jacksonian foreign policy’. The perfect blend of high and low?  Along with other Hollywood dreck: Bloodsport, Goodfellas, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Mr. Ferguson’s fascination with Hollywood kitsch is surprising for an Historian of some renown! Instead of actual history, the newspaper reader gets the Readymades of Hollywood, as reference points!

Note that ‘Jacksonian foreign policy’ had as its domestic corollary The Trail of Tears:

Mr. Ferguson’s special talent is to studiously ignore the crimes of the White Male Elites, that Colonized the World for profit. And its instruments of oppression: Sykes-Picot and Balfour Declaration- and now wonder at the active Rebellion, that has manifested itself since 1979, as The Islamic Republic of Iran!

Old Socialist


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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