If America Can’t Reconcile Its Values With Its Interests, It Doesn’t Have Them

Just in time for Halloween, foreign-policy spook, James Baker had an op-ed in the NY Times (The Trump Administration’s Hard Choices On Saudi Arabia, Oct.23rd)needlessly coaxing Trump to go easy on the Saudi government for Jamal Kashoggi’s death.   Lest human decency stand in the way of progress, “the US should balance its values with its national interests,” in his words.

An ambassador, himself (I’ll come back to that), Baker concedes, bone-saws don’t exactly dignify the trade.  Still, “America has worked close in recent years with the Saudis to stabilize oil markets, counter Iranian adventurism (whatever that is), and combat terrorism.” Not sure if that last one counts as Orwellian -or just pure grade- nonsense, considering Baker was with the Bin Laden family on 9/11, and his firm defended the Saudi government when 9/11 victims filed suit.

We used to call provocateurs like Baker ‘statesmen’ (instead of ‘patriots’, which suggests your ‘values’ include your fellow countrymen), back when states were the strongest geo-policy configurers.  But now that private and corporate power trumps state power, Baker and his ilk ‘gig’ like the rest of us.  His firm, Baker-Botts represents the Saudi government through its offices in D.C. and Riyadh.  Plus, Saudi-Aramco, the state-owned oil company funds The James Baker, III Foundation for Energy-Policy Studies; a Texas think-tank, he runs and Madeline Albright heads the boardI’ll come back to that, too.

Ergo, America’s interests are easy to define: they’re his.  But what of its values?   Baker’s associated with the New American Century, which preached continued American aggression after the Cold War (i.e., our interests), and with a slew of neoliberal presidencies that made dismantling the government’s social commitments a priority (our free-market ‘values’).  (In fairness, Baker uses ‘its’, not ‘our’.)   In sum,  with social divestment, redacted civil liberties, violence, and trans-national corporate hegemony.

So far no conflict.

Until he elaborates. Dismembering a reporter was “a clear affront to America values”, since “a free and robust press are fundamental American principles.”  Not sure if it was this latent advertisement that inspired the Times to run him. (They grandstandingly disclosed his Saudi ties in the footnote.)  But if Baker meant humanist or Enlightenment, or even libertarian or actually-free ‘free’ market values, I’m sure anyone reading this knows that our interests and values rarely thread.  Rather, considering we never forgo our interests, the values part might not exist.

To put it another way, if you track our success in the region in terms of ‘interests’, the global oil-market is still in US dollars, the US is still the richest country, and despite being only 5% of the population we still consume a quarter of the fuel.

If you track our success in the region in terms of ‘values’, our principal allies are a butcherous monarchy and an apartheid state.  Our principal enemy exists because we overthrew a secular democracy and installed an autocrat, so abusive (we supplied his SEVAK thugs) that the ‘adventurous’ Iranian people felt freer under theocracy.

Much of the rest of the region is war zone.  Allies that lost US favor, like in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so were liberated by permanent war, or were part of the spill-over.

Or take Libya. Somehow, American values -the same America that elected Trump, and didn’t elect, but still endured George W. Bush (James Baker did the Florida recount)- couldn’t abide a dictator.  So five years ago last week Omar Qaddafi was impaled, after NATO air-strikes turned the country over to warlords. -They’re, still at war, though it gets little mention in our ‘free and robust’ press.

But if Qaddafi’s offense was single-handedness, than it bears mention he was responsible for the highest standard of living in Africa.  He also had plans to unite Africa, much the way the NAFTA united North America and the EU united Europe.  Unfortunately, the value of healthy, educated, even safe-from-cannon-fire Africans, doesn’t thread with our interest in a divided Africa.

This is far from an exhaustive list, but suffice to say America’s ambassador-class erases a lot more than it builds.

And what does it build? Essentially, private financial structures to bill the decimated countries for the taxpayer-funded cost of invading them.  Let me give you an example.

As Special Envoy on Iraq Debt, James Baker III, redirected upward to 57 billion dollars of reparations to, jointly, the Carlyle Group (he heads their board), and the Albright Group.  Founder, Madeline Albright, recall, was responsible for the chlorine ban that killed 100,00 civilian Iraqis. -Mostly kids.

Yes, she thinks it was “worth it”.

But 57 billion while on state duty?  Perhaps Baker misses that sort of white House connection, and that, not our interests, drove him to the NY Times.  Trump has spots opening constantly.  Defense Secretary is rumored to be next.

Be great to plot black-ops wars with Pompeo and Bolton, again.  Sharp guys.

Virtually bone-saws.