Foreign Policy Military Original Patrick Lawrence

Foreign Policy: The Warmonger’s Game

Patrick Lawerence on rescuing foreign policy from the elites.
“Raft of Doom” / Illustration by Mr. Fish

By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost

I had a letter in the mail the other week from someone named Barry Klein, who resides in Houston. I filed it knowing I would write about it, and now I shall.

Klein runs a group called “Wars without end?” reads the accordion brochure Klein sent. “Americans on the left and right are uniting to ask, Why? A call to reform U.S. foreign policy.” This guy has endorsements that glow in the dark. Dan Ellsberg, Andy Bacevich, Sharon Tennison, Gordon Adams, Larry Wilkerson, and Peter Kuznick: These are big names in the alternative foreign policy business.

Klein included a one-sheet flier with the ForeignPolicyAlliance prospectus. “How to immediately spur a movement to stop the proxy war in Ukraine,” is the headline. Good enough, but what stopped me cold was a Post–It note Klein stuck in the right-hand corner. “A strategy to make foreign policy a local issue,” he scribbled.

Klein is onto a question that has preoccupied me for years. This is the sequestration of the foreign policy cliques. They are not so utterly immune from political oversight as the CIA, but the cliques are in that direction. Ever watch a Senate hearing wherein the Foreign Relations Committee questions someone from State or the White House? It is pro forma start to finish. I think they issue rubber stamps to all senators on the panel.

In a related development (and how I miss the old newspaper clichés), I had an email note last week from the sui generis Fritzi Cohen, the energetic co-owner of the Tabard Inn in Washington. Fritzi is a driving force behind a thoughtful group called the Chaucerian Foundation, which is dedicated to policy questions rather than 14th century English poetry.

Fritzi has made the Tabard a wonderful meeting place for paying-attention people of all sorts, just what Washington needs. Last Saturday she hosted a gathering in the Tabard’s bar—where an excellent Negroni is to be had, I should mention—on the topic, “Biological Warfare In the 21st Century? Addressing Pentagon-funded Biolabs Around the World.”

It is another urgent question, given revelations this spring of 30–odd biolabs in Ukraine, and if I had to name one group of corrupt ideologues who should not be allowed anywhere near biolabs, it would be the Nazi-inspired fanatics infesting the regime in Kyiv.

I was unable to attend the event at the Tabard, but the video can be viewed here. As with Barry Klein’s ForeignPolicy Alliance, Fritzi Cohen’s caught my eye for two reasons. One, it once again brings foreign policy into the purview of the American citizenry. Two, the speakers and organizers were of a variety of stripes, from the left (Garland Nixon, Sam Husseini) all the way over to Mollie Hemingway, who edits The Federalist.   

“Tell me, what exactly is ‘an authentically progressive foreign policy.’” So a reader asked in the comment thread at the end of a column I published elsewhere many years ago. The U.S. had cultivated the coup in Ukraine a year earlier and it was just then coming to light that Washington was backing ISIS and other blood-soaked jihadist militias as it prosecuted its dirty war in Syria.

It was a good question, given the mess foreign policy had become in America’s late-imperial phase, which I date to the attacks of September 2001. I replied in a subsequent column.

Any honorable foreign policy dedicated to the betterment of the human condition, I wrote, must begin by wresting control of the policy process, from inception to execution, away from the elites who now control it. I counted this among the 21st century imperatives Americans must address if it is to alter course in the right direction.    

It is as true now as it was then.

Something else occurred at about that time that is worth recalling in this connection. It makes an excellent frame for the Foreign Policy Alliance project and the succession of events Fritzi Cohen hosts at the Tabard.

This was 2015. Frank–Walter Steinmeier was Germany’s Social Democratic foreign minister at that time. Alert readers will recognize the name: Steinmeier is now the Federal Republic of Germany’s president and is routinely subject to the abuses of Ukrainian officials simply because he insists that diplomatic channels between Moscow and the Western capitals should remain open.

Shame on Steinmeier. Curse him. A negotiated settlement to the Ukraine crisis that recognizes the interests of all sides: Nein, Herr Steinmeier. Niemals.  

Steinmeier ran an extraordinary project during his years as FM, 2013 to 2017. As soon as he took office he authorized a study to determine how Germany could renovate foreign policy and the policy-setting process in response to a drastically changing global environment.

The broader objectives of “Review 2014—Foreign Policy Thinking Ahead,” as the ministry titled its working draft, was to establish the core principles by which Germany would conduct its relations with the rest of the world. In brief, Steinmeier and his people argued that German policy in the 21st century must rest on international law more or less as it is, no need to add much other than a stricter insistence on observance. It is to derive from a holistic community of thinkers, not merely the policy cliques in Berlin.

The third objective, arching over the others, is simply put. Steinmeier’s ministry proposed not less than the democratization of German foreign policy. I doubt it was lost on anyone that this was, in the climate of the time, an implicit challenge to the overweening, overstepping policy cliques in Washington. “It is almost certainly intended to be so,” I wrote then, “although those courteous Germans would never say as much.”

Steinmeier’s people identified three core challenges in the years ahead: There is crisis prevention, crisis management, and post-crisis stabilization; there is the maintenance of a world order worthy of the designation, and there is the European context in which Germany would fashion its policy. Let us consider these briefly in the order the ministry stated them.

As we go through these, let me invite readers to imagine, as I did, any American political or diplomatic figure, as in any, making these surmises and proposing this map into the future:

● Steinmeier saw crisis, much to the worse, as the norm for the two decades out from the time of his project. In response, the ministry was to create an independent department to anticipate crises, address them when they erupt, and help advance beyond them afterward.

The key intent was to gather all resources in one room. “We want to learn from the experience of our crisis response center,” Steinmeier explained when the ministry’s work was done.  Political solutions are to be paramount, and not merely in word.  

● As already suggested, Steinmeier’s ministry saw the future in stricter adherence to international law and regulation. On the bureaucratic side, this meant merging the ministry’s disarmament and U.N. departments—which would be much more that a rearrangement of the Federal Foreign Office’s furniture.  “We thus create a place where the principle for international order that is closest to our hearts—multilateralism—fully applies,” as the FM explained it.

● There was for Steinmeier the question—touchy, this—of Europe and Germany’s place in it. Berlin must look beyond Germany from now on and embed its policy in the European context, the report argued. Translation: We will speak for Europe now and will act accordingly. Intent: “to give Europe more influence in world affairs,” in Steinmeier’s words.

I read this last as an argument that Germany must move beyond the boundaries imposed by its past and as a declaration that Europe must turn its own preferences into policies and advance them with more determination than it has to date: a call for a more independent Europe, in other words. Remember, the U.S. had just engineered the fateful coup in Ukraine and begun imposing sanctions on Russia that were not going to serve Europe well.

The truly innovative features of Steinmeier’s project concerned how foreign policies were to be developed and who would have a say in what was finally executed. Policy was to derive not from wonks and technocrats with narrow fields of vision, but from a holistic community of thinkers: Political experts, economists, urban planners, sociologists, historians, educators, aid people, military people, foreign advisers, and so on would gather with the policy people to shape the strategy.

Out of this, something like an 11th commandment: Military force would be re-rated as a last resort.

Most interesting to me are Steinmeier’s provisions for public participation in policy planning. This would be by way of elaborate provisions for town meetings, referenda, opinion surveys, and other administrative mechanisms—all with the intent to make foreign policy authentically an expression of the German citizenry’s aspirations—who they wanted to be, how they wanted the community called the Federal Republic of Germany to conduct itself in their names.

The foreign ministry’s final report, Crisis—Order—Europe, was named for the above-noted questions it sought to answer and was published in March 2015.  Steinmeier was excellently forceful when he presented it in the Bundestag the previous month.

“Foreign policy is about more than just two extremes: either just talking or shooting, either futile diplomacy or Bundeswehr deployments abroad,” the FM said as he introduced his ministry’s conclusions.  “The world has changed, and the Federal Foreign Office must change with it.”

Much has transpired since then. Germany is learning to assert itself in a healthier manner, but the occasion for this is the West’s misguided determination to arm an objectionable regime in a proxy war against Russia. It is actively in search of a new foreign policy but it appears to be groping blindly for it, as Sylvie Kauffmann, the Le Monde columnist, put it in the FT recently..

These are not, surely, the outcomes Frank–Walter Steinmeier had in mind. And there is little sign that authority over German foreign policy has devolved downward to German citizens or that that holistic community of thinkers recruited to formulate policy has coalesced to any meaningful extent.

But let us not miss the larger point. There’s a long tradition in the West wherein foreign policy is the preserve of an elite not answerable to any electorate. This has been the case in the U.S. since it first had a foreign policy to speak of, in the late 19th century.

To propose subjecting policy to democratic processes by way of continuing national dialogue is thus a call to revolution of a sort. As Steinmeier and his ministry concluded, the globalization process makes policy everyone’s business now.

The columns I wrote on Steinimeier’s project are here and here. The foreign ministry’s report, in English, is here. An essay Steinmeier published in Project Syndicate on February 25, the date of his presentation in the Bundestag, is here.

I cannot think of one, even minor, aspect of Crisis—Order—Europe that the policy cliques in Washington are even remotely considering. But one of the key questions of our time, the control of foreign policy, now has substance and a framework within which we can think about breaking with the long tradition on this question.

It is impossible to predict how long this project will take—except to say a long time in all likelihood. The last time Americans made any such effort was during the Vietnam War, and the antiwar movement proved effective in asserting the popular will.

But too much has changed since then, especially in the matter of public attitudes, atomization, and the privatization of consciousness, for a comparison to be useful. And there is the media: A transformation of this kind would require media of integrity, balance, and situated the proper distance from power. The mainstream media as we have it has not one of these attributes.

The endeavor is more encompassing now, too: It’s not focused on a war but on a system and long-entrenched practices. All we know is that the process is set in motion. In the Steinmeier case, this was from the top down, in the cases of Klein, Cohen, and others making the same effort in the American context, it is bottom up.

This is no bad thing. When a fundamental shift in the policy process is at last achieved, it will belong to those who insisted on it. Barry Klein, Fritzi Cohen, and those who stand with them are taking an important step. I commend this column to them.

Patrick Lawrence

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site


  1. Putin’s goal is the Russification of Ukraine – its subjugation to its neighbour’s megalomaniac whines.

    Ukraine’s goal is independence and democracy.

    The two are simply incompatible.

  2. Democracy Gone Astray, you need to turn off the propaganda from the ministry of truth and start thinking for yourself. Either that, or your a paid troll because no one with a thinking brain believes that crap anymore.

  3. The American public was never consulted in the blind pursuit of Hegemony. The establishment was prepared to pay any cost, bear any burden to be number one. In the process any discussion of foreign policy was the exclusive domain of the elite and only a handful who were trusted by the MIC to faithfully carry out their nefarious schemes of world domination.

    That the public was duped for so long is a tragedy and proof that we do not live in a democracy.

  4. Connect the dots. The core problem with foreign policy is the problem with U.S. so-called democracy: as so, so many have said, it is corporate power; i.e., U.S. democracy has been corporatized. Meaning, it has been corrupted from a process of broad consensus dependent upon citizen participation to control by a tiny oligarchy: Top executives + boards of directors, who do what they please behind closed doors, substantially anonymously, using huge amounts of wealth that is not theirs, without any outside controls, and with virtual impunity. About 50 years ago Germany mildly tamped this type of power by mandating that its large companies have substantial numbers of labor reps on their boards. Amongst many other things, this not only prevented Germany from developing an American style “Rust Belt”, it also produced far greater harmony between management and labor – which necessarily includes a broader base of German citizens – and a much fairer, more egalitarian society when compared to the U.S. It also is what allows Steinmeiers to rise in government and present rational proposals, like democratizing foreign policy. We need to crush corporate power by democratizing it like Germany did. All that is required is but one piece of federal legislation, as President Theodore Roosevelt proposed in 1906.

    1. @L. Kevin Coleman
      Worker-owned coops is a better idea. Corporations are both unnecessary and harmful, and should be eliminated. Private owners provide no benefit to anyone but themselves.

  5. “USA is the most aggressive nation in modern history”. Istvan Meszaros
    amerikan racism and fascism cannot be understated—80+% amerikans fully supported I visions of Vietnam an Iraq, 90% invasion of Afghanistan….unable to compete US sanctions 42 nations—only those that reject amerikan fascism—Russia, Cuba, Nicaragua, etc
    Russia has humilited amerikan nazis by terminating the US war in Ukraine. Hegel explicitly justified such wars on moral grounds…..most recent IPSOS study: only 15% of amerikan adults moral enough too believe torture never justified. Apparently the peculiar amerikan cult sensitivity training has trained few amerikans how to feel

  6. Hah, Garland Nixon looked awfully uncomfortable in this (Tabard) video. It was the first time I heard him admit that he worked for the FBI for a year, just like his buddy Tom Luongo… Make of that what you will, but it provides a partial explaination for me why Nixon generates daily tweets and videos claiming that the political class of western nations are stupid, confused, and freaking out about their failures in Ukraine, rather than just being the puppets of billionaires. Hmmm, why is that narrative so important?

  7. The ‘ anti war movement’ over Vietnam Civil War was only because white Middle class families had enough of their college kids killed in jungles for ridiculous reasons.
    Vietnam had no strategic impact on any American whatsoever. The universal draft was then abolished but it created an unintended consequence.
    Contractors/ mercenaries took over and the military could let troops die without public outcry. People don’t grieve too much when
    Soldiers of fortune die, so our 4 star generals have a free hand to war without limit. When ordinary folks, farmers, school kids, construction workers, or fishermen are killed in wars, then the public holds the politicians to a bit of accountability.
    Perhaps the Iraq, Afghanistan war would be different if precious drafted kids, from middle class families, were risked in battles, – – – – not professional soldiers.

    1. @Keith Mcmaugh
      I agree except for the reason for the Vietnam war. Fighting to stop the draft was the biggest political mistake of my life, and now I want the draft reinstated.

      As to the reason the U.S. got involved in the Vietnam war: U.S. capitalists were terrified of the “domino effect.” Some people still refuse to believe that was the reason the U.S. was fighting in Vietnam, but leaked letters and memos prove it.

    2. The military industrial complex instead has convinced a lot of poor unsuspecting precious kids and some from middle class families to voluntarily join, They can all be heroes! Killers

  8. MLK s aid the America is worse purveyor of violence and war in the world. Ukraine proved that fact for millionth time.

    The last week poll run by EU pollsters found 83% of Ukrainians want immediate end to this war so they can go on with their lives regardless of political settlement.

    Less than 10% want to continue to..victory.

    This confirms other estimations that not more than 10% of Ukrainian people have been brainwashed by Nazi Ideology and are driven by anti Russian hatred.

    In the same poll over 90% want to stop the military draft immediately and want men to come home alive.

    Did they finally understand that they became cannon fodder for the murderous imperial west? I think so but 22 millions of ethic Russians knew that long ago.

    How this desire of Ukrainian people to end the war squares with indefinite support for Ukrainian war just declared by G7 gang of warmongers and usurpers?

    Russian and Ukrainian people wish that this was never started by US backed coup in 2014 and want it to end immediately.

    Now Even Ukrainians are sick and tired of western warmongering hypocrites who want them dead just to weaken Russia.

    In 2022 support among Ukrainian population to join EU and NATO collapsed to a small fraction.

    This sentiment reflects reality of military frontlines near collapse and worsening great Ukrainian economic depression and serve as an argument of some EU political factions that feel the pain of suicidal, self defeating sanctions and NATO warmongering that leads to their global isolation and pariah status .

    That is why those devastating to Zelensky regime and his western puppet masters, poll results were published in EU amid ocean of propaganda warfare.

    1. Kalen, thank you.
      I am as patriotic as any one, and anti commie as everybody.
      But for the last 50 years, we ordinary people are left out of the immense wealth gain. The bottom half is suffering financially and inequality is growing tremendously.
      Imagine the 4 trillions wasted for Iraq and Afghanistan wars that could have been spent on America.
      Those wars should have been fought more effectively and efficiently and cheaply.
      The Ukraine proxy war probably will cost another 1 trillion.
      Instead of having 30.5 trillion in debt, we could be 22 trillion – optimistically. Hopefully people much brighter than me will advocate for smarter war expenditures.
      If we keep on war spending at this break neck speed, our nation’s health is at risk.
      It is very simple – – – just imagine all the good things that money should have spent on Americans, not on the Bankers, M I complex, weapons manufacturers, war lobbyists, politi-tudes.
      After many, many, many wars, ordinary people must ask: what is in it for me any more?? We little guys keep getting less and less and less. And it’s getting worse and worse.

      1. Money? That’s it for the argument against USA Nazi’s supporting UkoNazis?

        Washington’s support for the regime in Kiev, which has collaborated with the Nazi Azov Battallion, facilitated marches commemorating Nazi collaborators, and committed war crimes against Russian speakers motivated by Hitler’s Lebensraum ideology, is one giant stochastic terrorism generator. Throughout the U.S. anti-Russian proxy war in Ukraine, American white supremacists have been routinely traveling to the battlefields to gain firsthand combat experience. And now that the conflict has expanded, the probability of this producing domestic blowback in the form of further U.S. racial terrorist attacks is heightened.

        The many instances where the U.S. media has directly platformed Ukraine’s Nazis by positively featuring individuals wearing the Azov logo, where cold warriors have promoted a Ukrainian Nazi slogan by declaring “Slava Ukraini,” and where Western leaders have repeated the anti-Russian narratives Kiev uses to justify its atrocities, are all feeding in to the mass radicalization process. When the CIA breeds Nazi terror abroad, you can be sure this will come to extend into the imperial center, whether through a propaganda pipeline or through actual military training for the terrorists.

        This echoes back to the incidental nature behind many of the stories of how intelligence activity has contributed to serial murders. The evidence indicates that though the Manson murders were a product of the CIA’s violent mind control conditioning going intentionally right, Ted Kaczynski’s bombing project was not. Whereas the Manson cult members were deliberately primed to be numb to taking lives, the experiments Kaczynski was subjected to as a teenager were intended to break him down into giving up his anti-capitalist convictions. The latter experiments were a Cold War study on how to turn captured Soviet spies into double agents, and they had the side effect of making one boy feel so attacked that he decided to take violent revenge against the system. Whitey Bulger, the gang leader who became a mass murderer after being subjected to traumizing MK ULTRA experiments in prison, is another example. When today’s government engages in psyops, and these psyops lead to people committing terrorism, it has a similar nature: violence as a byproduct of the manipulations the state uses to wage war.

  9. Patrick, the NY ‘Times’ seem to be blocking this:

    IMHO, “Fight Like Hell” is the ‘call code word’ for the possible involvement of any alt-right coup d’état attempt by portions of the U. S. military.

    While this might well seem hyperbolic, even paranoid, the media’s apparent ‘messaging’ this week, particularly by former Admiral James Stavridis, former SACEUR NATO, and current Managing Director of the global weapons investment firm the Carlyle Group’s involvement in the Defense Industry, qua. “Merchants of Death”, seems to be predicated/signalling the terms and conditions of eliminating the weaker of the three current, but conflicted possible Empires.

    Admiral James Stavridis’s near saturation broadcasting of the “seven times greater” troop levels of ships, sailors, aircraft, pilots, special services, and other weapons from the ‘four minute NPR’ radio ‘messaging’ regrading his position as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations prepare to meet this week in Madrid presents shockingly provocative fodder with respect to being ‘War inducing’.

    Admiral’s Quote: trying to down play his own words, “The War Plans are very specific”

    The full transcript to the Admiral’s broadcast message should be considered akin to Hearst’s message in 1898; “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

    But in this case on 6/29/2022, Stavridis seems to be saying, “Please remain. You furnish the radio broadcast and I’ll furnish the war.”

    There has ‘So Far’ been no transcript released by NPR, but the Admiral’s speech is still available at NPR:

    Is anyone in the ‘Anti-War’ or ‘Anti-Empire’ community awake to this obvious “Quiet American” War and Empire plan??

  10. May they all die a quick or slow painful death. Millions in the way profiteering biz. Die, baby, die,

    800 American companies want to produce weapons for Ukraine. The US Department of Defense has received 1,300 proposals from 800 companies for the manufacture of innovative weapons for Ukraine (c) CNN‼️

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