Twitterret Stephens, arguably themost hawkishvoice atThe Wall Street Journal throughout the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, now occupies an even more prominent perch atTheNew York Times. Bari Weiss, also formerly of theJournal, has also moved to theTimes, despite ahistory of smearingMuslim and Arab professors. And Max Boot, yet anotherJournal veteran, has been rewarded with columnist status atThe Washington Post for hisintrepid defenseof America’s wars. A similar pattern can be discerned across network television and public radio, where proponents of American hegemony—ranging from former Bush speechwriterDavid Frumto founder ofThe Weekly Standard Bill Kristolto editor in chief ofThe Atlantic Jeffrey Goldbergto former US ambassador to the UNSamantha Powerand a daunting litany of national-security-state officials—are presented as wise sages.
Since Trump was elected, both parties have backed massive increases to the military budget; the extension of Bush-era surveillance powers; sanctions on Russia, North Korea, and Iran; US strikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria; and provocations on Russia’s periphery, specifically in Ukraine, where weapons and other forms of military assistance continue to flow to a coalition government riddled with fascist sympathizers. Some of these policies, like sanctions on Russia and North Korea, are debatable. But debate has been absent, even in most marquee left outlets. The presumptions of empire are conceded at the outset. Either by unashamed affirmation or complicit silence, the mainstream American left has endorsed the latest restoration of the empire and the accompanying resurgence of militarism.
Unfortunately, none of this is an aberration. The history of the left in the United States is in large part a history of betrayal: of the repeated embrace of imperial ventures for the sake of shortsighted aims, always coming back to haunt the left and the empire’s victims. It is a history blighted by the self-serving conceit that the domestic and the foreign, or what was once the interior and the frontier, can be understood apart from each other. And until very recently, it was a history forged by white elites too sheltered from the racial consequences of their choices to anticipate the havoc they would unleash.