Donald Trump and English Patriotism

Donald Trump and English Patriotism:
An Unexpected Wrinkle
by Sean Gabb
(14th November 2016)

The election last week of Donald Trump took nearly everyone by surprise. For some of us, it was a moment of joy, for others a terrible shock. I was in the first category. The British Government was in the second. From Theresa May downward, the Ministers had spent a year heaping scorn on Mr Trump. The scale and nature of their insults will not be quickly forgotten. Their earliest punishment appears to be that they have been told to approach Mr Trump only through Nigel Farage. I have no doubt there will be other humiliations.

Part of me is delighted. I like Donald Trump. I like Nigel Farage. Even if she is better than David Cameron, I remain suspicious of and hostile to Mrs May. Let her and her ministers eat dirt for a few weeks, and then come to a more reasonable view of British interests. All this does, however, leave part of me uncomfortable. This article, I must warn you, will be more than usually solipsistic. On the other hand, I have always tried to be intellectually honest, and I feel obliged at least to describe my present difficulty.

During the twenty years or so till last Tuesday, I held a set of opinions that – I always grant – may have been wrong, but that were internally consistent. They went something like this:

The fundamental interests of every country are the same. These are to give as much freedom and security to their citizens as local circumstances will allow, while living at peace with all other countries. What disturbs this view of the world is that interest and ability do not always coincide. The United States has been able to dominate the world, and it has. Britain is no longer able to do this, but has been able to act above its inherent power through becoming a satellite of the United States. I found both these facts irritating before 1989. After then, America became the home of political correctness and neoconservatism. For me, therefore, America became The Great Satan. Any British Government committed to our fundamental interests should begin by breaking off relations with the United States. In the meantime, I was even willing to see membership of the European Union as a useful counterweight to American power.

I do not know what a Trump Presidency will be really like. But it is possible that the opinions I have just summarised are suddenly obsolete. It is possible that, within a few weeks, America will cease being The Great Satan, and become the seat of the God-Emperor-Daddy. I already find myself in the same position as leftists did towards France in 1789, or towards Russia in 1917. It may, then, be that you can strip out all the Powellite rhetoric, and I shall be revealed as nothing more than a dissident Anglospherist. My only difference with the people I have been denouncing for a generation is nothing more than that I want a different American Empire.

There is some truth in this. The government of my own country is now at the head of the neoconservative interest. I shall certainly be relieved if stiff orders come out of Washington, and Theresa May and Boris Johnson go scuttling off to Moscow to patch up their differences with Mr Putin. But, if the facts are changed, my principles are not.

No hard reset button was pressed last week in America. The country will not revert to what it was supposed to become in the 1780s. America will remain the most powerful country in the world, with interests on every continent. It may conceive and pursue these in a more rational manner. But its interests are unlikely to become perfectly aligned with those of my own country. For this reason, our interests depend, in the long term, on close relations with France and Germany, and an adequate relationship with Russia. If we can add to this friendly relations with America, that will be a bonus.

I turn to the matter of what Mr Trump is already doing to Mrs May. For a long time, the British Establishment has been a wholly-owned franchise of the military-industrial complex in America, taken in its widest sense. British Governments are neoconservative because that is what Washington wanted. They are politically correct for the same reason. If American pressure is not to be removed, but merely changed in a better direction, I shall be grateful for that. I shall be grateful in the short term. In the longer term, I still want full independence. I will put up with a more sensible master when his bailiffs are told to go easy on the whip. The final ambition remains no master at all.

I turn now to how I view the “Anglosphere.” There is no doubt that England and America are rather in the position of Siamese twins. We share a language. We share a culture. Speaking for myself, I have as many American friends as English. When I go abroad, and am among Americans, we always find ourselves part of a single group, almost forgetting differences of passport, and sharing jokes about the foreigners we are among. Always taking account of our different weight, what was done to the world after 1989 was a joint British-American enterprise. The intellectual resistance to this has been no less a joint British-American enterprise – again taking account of our different weights. Libertarians and conservatives in our two countries have not merely worked together over the past few decades – we have belonged to the same movement, and we have worked against the same enemy, though in two different locations. My American friends rejoiced when the British Establishment got a bloody nose last June. We now rejoice that Mr Trump is to be the next President. Our struggle has been, and is, the same. Our victories are their victories. Their victories are ours.

I am not sure if I have made myself as clear as I want to be. Perhaps I need to think more about the events of this year before I can become as self-assured again as I have been for the past third of a century. It remains, however, that I am delighted that the uncertainty I describe has become necessary. All those American leftists last week, their faces like burst balloons, were an early Christmas present. The strained faces of Theresa May and her ministers are of exactly the same kind.

I look forward to Mrs May’s first trip to Washington next year, and I shall have a good laugh when she prostrates herself in the appropriate manner before the God-Emperor-Daddy. It will be a victory for me and everyone else in the world who wants the best for England and America in particular, and for a suffering humanity in general.


  1. That’s very good from Sean. I admit to having had tendencies to believe that Sean was becoming as anti-USA as I was fearing that he was becoming. “The Churchill memorandum” didn’t help matters with me, despite the fact it has been the most rewardingly, uproariously-funny novel I have read since P G Wodehouse thingies in the 60s.

    For me, this clears the air with relief.

    • I’m sure Sean made it up in a flash. Wordy sorts of people do it, you know.

      You’ll be inventing sobriquets as intricate as that in time, if you don’t watch your arse.

    • Your eyes do not deceive you, Keir,
      As you stand on Selwyn Bridge,
      And watch the sunset disappear
      Beneath the Fulbourn ridge.

      You need to learn what’s true, my friend;
      And then, for truth to fight.
      And Donald Trump, whate’er his end,
      Has just done something right.

      • Seven and thirty years our Sean
        Has waited for some rightist dawn –
        Waited and watched, watched and waited,
        Mostly with his breath unbated.
        So tell me, tell me, who’ll complain
        If Sean has found a smile again?
        Best give his back a friendly thump,
        And let him worship Donald Trump.

  2. I advise caution in unleashing optimism. As the transition team takes shape, early indications suggest that Il Duce will be surrounded by Repugnican establishment reptiles and that Amerika will continue her slide into global oblivion. It is rare for me to find myself less optimistic than the good Doctor, yet here I am; I pray that he is correct.

  3. “The fundamental interests of every country are the same. These are to give as much freedom and security to their citizens as local circumstances will allow, while living at peace with all other countries.”

    I have to beg to differ on this one, Sean. They might be the fundamental interests of the people in every country, but they are not the interests of the state or of its rulers. Neither Blair, nor Brown, nor Cameron, nor May, nor their hangers-on, have shown any desire to stop violating our rights and freedoms, or to leave the people of the Middle East (in particular) in peace.

    That said, I do share some of your delight at the situation (I feel it rather as an emerging belly-laugh). And I hope Trump makes ’em grovel.

  4. Good article. Let’s hope that this election represents the first step on a long road to a decentralized Anglosphere, where each country is free to conduct its own domestic affairs as it sees fit and pursue whatever foreign policy each finds most agreeable to its own particular interests and situation without compromising the vital interests and security of the others, while retaining their cultural bonds and a shared sense of a common, if tangential, patriotism and fraternal duty. Not to mention, of course, a vastly scaled back American empire!

  5. [quote]”The government of my own country is now at the head of the neoconservative interest.”[unquote]

    Here I will make exactly similar comments to those I made to Mr Webb on the other thread, though I make these observations with the greatest possible respect.

    Your article is flawed. You are saying that Trump is not a neo-conservative. This suggests that you are, at best, inobservant.

    Your basic problem seems to be that you do not know what neoconservatism is – at least, if your article is anything to go by (and assuming the disinformation is not intentional).

    Furthermore, as with Mr Webb, your impressions seem to have been formed, not by a process of independent thought, but entirely by the media, which has served Trump’s purposes by presenting his unsophisticated beliefs about foreign policy as a vague and inchoate departure from the standard neoconservative agenda.

    Of course, Trump really is different in some ways, I accept that, but I would argue that these differences are of emphases not of substance. A closer examination of what Trump and his advisers really say reveals that his Administration will be neoconservative – whether Trump likes it or not. Iran is the pivotal point in this regard.

    I must add my standard disclaimer: I accept I could be wrong, and I also hope that I am wrong. But if I do turn out to be wrong, that will not prove you right as that would depend on how you have formed your conclusions, and as I state above, I do not believe your conclusions are in any sense intellectually formed. You’re just stringing together received concepts and soundbites.

    • Iran, I agree, is the test. However, since DT wants to be friends with Mr Putin, who is friends with Iran, tearing up that agreement would be hard. I don’t think DT is a neoconservative. More reasonably, he has a dash of American imperialism – something we can live with.

      • I don’t see how you can come to that conclusion given what Trump has been saying about Iran, and Trunp hasn’t so far as I can recall said he wants to be friends with Putin. In fact, he hasn’t really said anything of substance or specificity, other than

        As I see it, the factors behind neoconservatism are:

        (i). a strategic alliance with Israel and a commitment to aid her defence. During the late 1940s, the nascent Jewish ethno-state aligned with the US at the expense of the USSR (to the fury of Stalin, who then proceeded to institute an organised bureaucratic and terroristic purge of ethnic Jews from the Soviet hierarchy);

        (ii). a strategic view that America should maintain unipolarity for as long as possible;

        (iii). a prevailing orthodoxy in the American foreign policy establishment that the Middle East is the primary global staging area for maintaining unipolarity.

        I know you don’t want to have any discussion of Jewish influence on this forum, and I’m not proposing to start one. My point is a bit more prosaic: what I mean to say is that American politicians and advisers are being influenced by the ‘Israel factor’, but only because of a doctrine that gives primacy to the Middle East in the first place.

        For that reason, I see neoconservatism as a rationalisation of perceived geopolitical interests, and I find it quite difficult to believe that Trump could or would adopt a novel approach. His foreign policy philosophy, such as it is, seems quite naive and uninformed. In reality, I doubt Trump will change America’s approach to Syria or Iran. Maybe things will change slightly with Russia, but I think Russia’s military capability must be seen as something of a joke in Washington, D.C. anyway. The hostility is for show. So Trump does a Nixon and goes to Russia, or Guiliani does – so what? America will still be the preeminent power.

        I agree that Trump is not a neoconservative, but I’m not suggesting he is. My point is that regardless of what Trump wants, his foreign policy is likely to be neoconservative and all the signs so far are that he will be selecting neoconservatives or individuals aligned with neoconservatism for the key roles. Not because he has to, but because certain individuals have been carefully planted close to him to pressure and influence him, including advisers and also high-profile creeps like Guiliani and Gingrich, who could actually start a war with Russia or Iran.

        The dream team for me would be:

        Secretary of State – Ron Paul
        Defense Secretary – Jim Webb [a prominent Democrat, anti-neocon]
        Homeland Security – Jesse Ventura
        Attorney-General – Kris Kobach
        Ambassador to the UN – John Bolton [my token neocon – would shake things up at the UN]
        Interior Secretary – Sarah Palin

        …etc., etc. I provide that list just to illustrate how far a shift Trump would have to make to adopt a genuinely palaeoconservative/nationalistic foreign policy. It would be a radical departure and I think very unlikely.

          • Yes, of course.

            I listened the other day to John Bolton’s interview and I would commend it. If it would help, I will link to it, with your permission.

            I think the approach he outlines gives us a more realistic picture of what a Trump Administration will be doing diplomatically. It’s neoconservatism, just with a different emphasis: more neo-Reaganite than Bushite. Bolton is very hawkish on Iran and wants regime change.

            • Thanks. I think the Chinese might object to unipolarity.

              I worry more that one or more of the leaders might be bipolar.

              • The Chinese can object to it all they want, but for the time being, PRK China is not a superpower. Nor, in my opinion, is Russia, though some experts would disagree and hold that the international situation is one of bipolarity. Nevertheless, Russia is contained. To that extent, the neoconservative approach to things has ‘worked’ (in the sense that the Beltway Establishment want their foreign policy to work).

  6. The view from Fort Worth, Texas:
    The value of Mr. Trump is strictly limited to the hard, crunching kick in the cojones that he has delivered to the ruling elite. But our — mine, at least — wolfish satisfaction will be short-term. Further success would mean Trump’s ability to unravel the following contradiction: Delivering on his manifold promises means bloviating Leviathan beyond its current $20 trillion national debt; while failing to deliver means handing back his supporters, whimpering and whipped, to that archly smirking elite.
    Alas, Mr. Trump is an impending train wreck, hurtling to doom on two rails: The 2017 monetary collapse, and the bitter refusal of the elite to allow him even a picayune success.

  7. It has been suggested that Nigel Farage should be UK ambassador to Washington.

    What would be more fun is if The Donald appointed him US Ambassador to London.

  8. A very good and well-written piece. Actually, it’s more exciting to live in a period when third-of-a-century-old certainties are dissolving, and so there is nothing to dislike about allowing one’s views to evolve – the best thing is that things long frozen are unfreezing. Long live the thaw!

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