David Jamieson

David Jamieson

In 2024, Liberal War Hawks Are Getting Honest

Reading Time: 4 minutes

From Scotland and London to Washington, liberal defenders of good governance and equality are finally admitting what we all knew – they just want to defend US global power, no matter the cost in blood and destruction, writes David Jamieson.

This is a text version of the regular Sunday Sermon. Sign up to all our free podcasts at Conter Radio.

War dominated many recaps of 2023, and rightly so. The bloodletting in Gaza was the nadir in the most conflict-ravaged annum since the end of the Cold War, according to the Peace Research Institute in Oslo.

To the Ukrainian offensive against Russian occupation, which resulted in terrible casualties among the western-coordinated and armed troops, we can add the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and a spate of wars and coups across Africa (many closely related to shifting allegiances in the world system). The opening weeks of the new year only heightened tensions across the Middle East, as the UK and US launched a bombing campaign in Yemen to ward off the Houthi blockade of shipping in the Red Sea. The old world is dying, and the new is born in blood and fire.

It’s not just the socialists saying so. The British Defence Minister Grant Schapps made the following bombastic appeal for a new war economy, to which British citizens must make sacrifices: “The world has become acutely dangerous. All around us, our enemies are preparing. And we are just seeing the start of the tragic consequences. From Ukraine to the middle east, the South China Sea to North Korea, South America to Africa, and new theatres from cyber to space warfare all of which could have a disastrous impact at home

“The era of the peace dividend is over. And now, just like our enemies, we must plan and invest for an era of confrontation.”

He was echoed at the top of the Nato military alliance, by the chair of its Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: “We have to realise it’s not a given that we are in peace. And that’s why we are preparing for a conflict with Russia.

“But the discussion is much wider. It is also the industrial base and also the people that have to understand they play a role.”

Here again is the refrain from the British Government. Not only is war coming, but the needs of war must limit the expectations of the European population for a better standard of life. It may be that these statements are motivated by diplomatic and political considerations. But they correspond, none the less, to an undeniable new reality.

When rumors of war arrive, people are not necessarily shocked from complacency into a new anti-war attitude. The warlike mode mixes with pre-conceived beliefs and traditions. The resulting cocktail is polluting, sometimes dangerous.

So it is with Neil Mackay. The Herald columnist’s latest essay focuses on his fears for the young generation. He is haunted by visions of them compelled into the horror of war. His only solace – the United States’ still vast powers of violence.

At all costs, he urges, Donald Trump must not be allowed to place his isolationist America First creed between the world and that war machine: “He’ll cut off military aid. It will all be over. Dictatorship will have beaten democracy. In Europe, we’ll be on our own.”

War with Russia and China threatens, and the only way to see that off is for the US to win, forever. Past generations of leftwing liberals would may once have viewed overweening American Imperium as a hubris, destined for calamity. That’s all forgotten now.

In years gone by, Mackay was a vocal proponent of the Palestinian cause. In this article, he breaks his recent quiet on the matter. He now views the Middle East as a third front, alongside Ukraine and China, in the necessary struggle to defend US global power and prestige. The unfolding chaos across Western Asia is the fault of “military aggression by Iran”.

This lends credence to a suspicion I’ve maintained since early 2022. That the war in Ukraine is a gateway drug for liberal war fever. Primed for a re-appreciation of western power by the co-incidence of Trump and Brexit in 2016, many embraced the supposed lesson of 2022 – that liberal democracy faced a final struggle with a new authoritarian evil. War was the only responsible course, just as it was against Hitler in the 1930s (Mackay naturally includes this worn-to-death analogy in his article). The tragedy for Mackay is that this posture, if widely enough adopted, will itself make war more likely.

I’m using him as a stand-in for a whole political ideology, what I’ve referred to before as the ‘syncretists’. They are paranoid liberal-cosmopolitans, fascinated with military violence. But they marry this muscular, frantic support for the western order with a touchy-feely moral leftism. This creed deserve special attention because, unlike ‘LARPers’ and social media scenes, it is not adopting the symbolism and lingo of deceased movements (Twitter Maoists, Traditionalists, Libertarians and so on). It is organic to our time, and the present configuration of class society. Its ideas are a mutation – appropriate to a certain class milieu – of the dominant ideas of powerful states in the world system. There’s no pretension here: syncretists have arrived earnestly and spontaneously (as much as anyone can), at their belief system. They now seem destined to become the most vocally pro-war faction in our new era of global conflict.

For Mackay, willing on the US war machine also means praying for a Biden victory in the coming US presidential election. Other parts of the liberal galaxy are thinking likewise.

The Economist ran a front cover with a burning hundred dollar bill and the headline: ‘He’s Winning: Business Beware’. But the fear isn’t of Trump’s supposed economic populism. As the flagship journal of economic liberalism for generations notes, under Trump: “Republicans in Congress may have talked about being the pro-worker party, but in practice they cut business taxes. It was hard for corporate America to be miserable amid a soaring stockmarket.”

Instead, they fear that a Trump presidency may undermine US global prestige. The struggle against Trumpist ‘fascism’ is unmasked for what it always was – a defence of brutal US global empire. Most liberals cannot fathom a world beyond it, and threats to it are deemed existential. The syncretists intend to enlist all of us for their war of civilisation against Russia, China and Iran. It is a mad dream, and yet in just a few short years the inevitability of such a war has become the mainstream view on foreign policy.

Enjoy reading this article?
Join our mailing list
Subscribe now