The American war machine is not dominated by one party. An illuminating thing (not due to Trump’s campaign, but thanks to the Obama presidency), is the willingness of the American Left to embrace regime change and global disruption to spread democracy, enlightenment and progressive values. Polling from 2011 found Democrats to be just as eager or more supportive of intervention in Libya. America has a bipartisan War Party.
America runs on the illusion of the approval of the people, that is, electoral consent of the governed. America also runs an empire and has made moves to protect that empire, as well as feed the needs or desires of its controlling interests. Manufacturing consent and support matters, and so to pull in some unexpected support, the regime press spotlights the social benefits to pull in those progressive voters.
These motivations are the silly ones you heard when Egypt experienced massive protests month after month. There would be some Google employee tweeting from Cairo about the need to remove corrupt old forms and give the people their voice. The media would discuss inclusion, equality, etc., to spread the buzzwords and signal that this was okay to support. The most ridiculous of these examples was reportage on the millions of Afghani girls who were able to go to school as a result of the 2001 invasion. That was hyperspecific to appeal to feminists, so maybe the most absurd example was in thinking a liberal democracy could be planted in Iraq.
This is not a new, grotesque outgrowth of America’s empire. A similar situation happened in another empire (America’s direct predecessor, the British Empire) and a far-flung Arab nation: Egypt. The British elite found it necessary to occupy and administer Egypt for decades. Egypt was a part of the Ottoman empire, which was fading fast. The Brits had supported the Ottomans for decades, due to proper British economic and imperial interests. An Ottoman Empire supported by British naval supremacy in the Mediterranean could prevent the Russians from taking Istanbul and Asian Minor, the Austrians from taking the Balkans, and the French from consolidating the Levant, Syria, and rest of North Africa. Access to the Suez Canal also added to Egypt’s importance to British imperial security.
Similar to today’s meddling of economic interests and lending, the Europeans banks had made loans to the Khedive of Egypt, which apparently was for mass improvements, but the letters from Lord Cromer and others point to excessive luxuries and extravagance as a greater problem. Cromer constantly notes that the Khedive cannot be trusted, yet this did not stop major banking interest, including the Rothschilds, from lending millions to Egypt. The banks intended to collect and would use the might of British naval guns to enforce those loans, no mater how risky. This was a smaller economic concern, but the Suez Canal was enough for many leaders to support intervention.
When put to vote in the House of Commons, expenditures for intervention in Egypt won by 275-19. This might sound surprising if one considers the large Liberal presence in the Commons, but there were Liberal Imperialists who rose to power, and even the Radicals supported the vote. This support is unsurprising when using Gladstone’s own words that intervening in Egypt would be an opportunity to provide the Egyptians with “hope… for free institutions… for the attainment of those blessings of civilized life which they see have been achieved in so many countries in Europe”. That reads like any “export democracy” speech from George W. Bush or Barack Obama.
Exporting Western values via force and occupation is not a new trick. In this case, it was a simple con. This also explains why the liberal wing that supports interventions and wars quickly peels off. It is not a stab in the back as much as facing reality. Sending girls to school in Afghanistan with American guns behind them was only going to last as long as the guns were there and in full effect. Egypt was only going to pick and choose what it wanted from the West and would have difficulty with the bubbling Islamic fundamentalism that captivated the masses. Lord Cromer writes on that as the only widespread basis for any support in Egypt.
Reality rejects the imposition of what liberals consider abstract values when those values are divorced from the people who gave rise to them. When reality reveals the folly of third world interventions, those wishing to spread enlightenment become disillusioned, which makes turning on the war far easier: there is no cookie, no hit for them by continuing the foreign intervention. This is an illusion to persuade and mold support for an intervention that the imperial mandarins already felt had enough rationale behind it. This is a necessity in democracy. America’s bipartisan War Party is not a new phenomenon, but simply a product of the system in place.