Political Operations Orders – The American Conservative


Only when the American character abroad and at home is clarified can there be coherence in our policy goals.

Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally. Most of us learned this mnemonic at some point in our math education. Calculations must be performed in an appropriate order to reflect distributive and associative properties. So, PEMDAS: brackets, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction. Math has an order of operations.

So does political life. Certain policy areas require others. Some political decisions suggest or anticipate others. Politics is the art of the possible, where necessity and happiness are deliberately wrestled with. It is itself conditioned by history in the form of language and tradition, and nature in the form of people and geography. As with the rules or principles of any game, the more thoroughly a statesman understands the limits of political choices, the more freedom he actually has, able to act confidently and avoid obstacles.

The first step in the order of political operations is foreign policy and immigration. Just as brackets are grouping symbols that indicate what is to be treated as a unit and what will interact with that unit, so immigration policy and foreign policy demarcate the nation from the world and delimit the inner sphere. Without acknowledging this fact, no reformation or renaissance in political life is possible here at home. Just as ignoring parentheses in a math calculation leads to an incorrect answer, 30 years of American politicians ignoring borders at home and abroad in the quest for global liberal empire have harmed American citizens.

As we pray for a speedy resolution to the Russo-Ukrainian war with minimal loss of life, let us consider whether our leaders have learned anything from these long decades of schooling. No. NATO’s ever-eastward expansion ignored the limits of Russian influence and interest and attempted to separate Europe from Russia, damn the nuclear experts. When the predictable happened and Russia invaded Ukraine – while ordinary Americans were hoping for peace and wishing Ukrainian citizens well – our leaders saw an opportunity to punish the Russian people and weaken Vladimir Putin by prolonging the conflict and turn Ukraine into a Syria or Afghanistan that treats dead Ukrainians only as a function of dead Russians. Forget the domestic consequences of withdrawing Russian resources from the line.

Senators who have talked big about domestic reform have shown that they don’t know this kind of basic math. An American foreign policy geared towards liberal hegemony determines the political status quo. US sanctions and flirtation with further material involvement in the Russia conflict continue. You cannot make speeches praising industrial policies and the restoration of an economy transformed by globalism, and then turn to work to sustain the global superstructure that created the conditions you bemoan. Local politics and all that, local politics of Washington, DC, continues to be dominated by the military-industrial complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against. Foreign policy not only shapes the world; Here is the money, the prestige, the guns, here at home. Our Union’s miserable state arose in direct and indirect service to the maintenance of a Cold War apparatus that has grown fat on the self-licking ice cream cone of liberal internationalism. Our leaders should know that they cannot change anything else without changing that. Explanations for why they don’t contract – either they’re weak or they like things the way they are.

Borders, especially our borders, are the other bracket of all political calculations. How can we, the American people, as a nation, decide to do anything when we don’t know who we are? By that I mean not only that America’s character is being questioned right now, that we seem to be at odds with ourselves about what life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mean, or what America is on the world stage – the reality that mostly determined by foreign policy.

I also think that if we don’t know who is here, we can’t know who we are. There are estimated 46.6 million foreign-born people in the United States today, legally and illegally, and probably more. They make up about 14.2 percent of the population today, the largest percentage since 1910, and more than black Americans. The privileges of citizenship are being inflated. The flow does not stop and is rapidly approaching a peak of 1890. How can we assimilate these immigrants, and what character are they assimilated to? As a self-governing republic, unless the laws are enforced and the tide stemmed, citizens have no chance to think about it.

Only when the American character abroad and at home is clarified, after we have ceased our foolish pretense of being an indispensable nation to the world while questioning the very concept of our nationality here within our borders, can there be any coherence give to our political goals. The order of operations must be respected, exponential growth and exponential risk seen and understood, and only then can the basics of domestic politics—the multiplication and division, the addition and subtraction of infrastructure and social safety nets and cultural norms—be left to right.

Donald Trump won 2016 because he knew the brackets came first. His influence on American political life continues because no other figure of his stature sees immigration and foreign policy go together and condition everything else. Until more elected officials understand this order of political operations, he and his constituents will remain. Now, as tensions with Russia and China mount and Republicans eagerly slip back into 2012 formations, those who understand the stakes must do their best to articulate the issue clearly. We at The American Conservative are partnering with American Moment to conduct an emergency conference,”Up from Chaos: Maintaining American Security‘ to complement these efforts. We start with the brackets.

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