The King of the Hill syndrome and US foreign policy [Video]
Mel Brooks had a famous line in several of his movies: It’s good to be the king. His off-color comedies put this principle into practice to great comedic effect, and although a bit bawdy, the line is certainly memorable. The only problem is that Life does not show that this statement is always true. In fact, quite the opposite. The game King of the Hill, is fun for kids to play, but it is almost always a situation where the “king of the hill” has the most precarious position in the whole game. He is the most unstable person in the game, but often tries very hard to defy this instability, usually blissfully unaware of the fact that it cannot last.
When applied to US foreign policy in the years following World War II and more clearly in the time that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to now, the Americans found their nation and its leadership to be King of the Hill. At first, this victorious position was intoxicating to many Americans. I remember personally the notion that “soon, Russia is going to be our best friend, (because they will be just like us)”, and that seemed exhilirating after so many years of the Cold War and its often ominous presence in our lives. Now it was over and we won. So from now on, life is going to be wonderful!
The truth is quite different. How wonderful life actually is for most Americans (and most Russians or Chinese for that matter) is not really dependent on who is king of the hill. In fact, when the governments of these three nations are looked at presently, the present King of the Hill is in a perpetual state of chaos, with forces internally doing more to pull him down than anything that the other two countries might be doing.
President Trump seems to understand this, at least in an oblique fashion. His campaign committment to pull America out of “senseless and endless foreign wars” is a carefully worded admission of the basic fact that being on top is the most vulnerable place, and that it is perhaps unneccesary for any one power to be on top of this hill.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky noted this problem several months ago when he said this about China:
China has unleashed its full potential, but it doesn’t know what to do next. China knows it could be on top but it isn’t because it doesn’t know what to do with such power, and the US is visibly having problems with such a role.
The same problem appears to have happened with the United States, but the US’ reaction in the 1990’s was to gladly take the top position, come what may. And now, the US is having problems in its role as sole superpower. Those people who saw the US’ mountaintop position as an advantage which must be protected at all costs are slow to realize that part of the problem with being on top is that (1) envy can drive others to try to push you off the top and (2) being on top means there is nowhere else to go but down.
This is apparently the point of view the Chinese have that Mr. Zhirinovsky reflected on. Russia is in the same place. While Russia is not presently seen as a superpower in the way the US is, the country is lean and strong in terms of national defense, and under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, it has recently shown itself most capable of extending its power where desired, as is the case in Syria.
But neither China nor Russia, when honestly examined for motive, has the desire or motivation to climb on top of the hill. This may come as news to those thoroughly innoculated against the truth by American propagandists (the media, pretty much all of it, too), but neither Russia nor China have aspirations to pull the US off the top of the mountain. The instability we perceive as “coming from the rest of the world, those threats to democracy, to the American way of life, etc…” is not coming from outside at all.
The instability is largely generated by the very fact that the US is on top of the mountain, and every step from the top only leads down. This is as real psychologically and spiritually as it is physically. Mountaintops usually come to the highest point, not to a height that is bigger than the mountain itself. Whatever (or whoever) is on top is only stable when supported from the sides and below.
President Trump does give indications that he sees this. His 2017 address to the United Nations reflected his vision of that body as a “brotherhood of sovereign states” working together to solve their problems. This counters the liberal notion of the UN becoming the leader of some sort of “world state” which is an absurd notion in a world with so many different traditions and cultures. His move to leave Syria and by default, to let the Russians take care of the problems in this region is wise. Russia is close by. The common understanding of Eastern nations probably helps in discussions that the Americans cannot get at this time.
The resistance of the powerful political, media and business establishments in the US and the West are reactions to the King of the Hill beginning to question whether or not the place of greatest strength is truly at the top of the hill. (Hint: it isn’t.) In a way it is the perplexed reaction of a bunch of boys and girls playing this game, wondering why the boy or girl who has the top of the hill suddenly remarks, “I think I have had enough of the view here. Someone else is welcome to come and look”, and walks down from the hilltop without being pulled down.
To do this, of course, reflects maturity. However, there are ways that it has been tried that are absolutely wrong.
President Obama spoke the catchphrase “leading from behind” when he discussed Middle East Policy and other foreign policy issues. He was wrong, largely because his position was so purely ideological that it took no account of the real situation on the ground. His further anti-Christian bias made him unable to discern those times that it is necessary to make a stand and lead. For him, the notion of leaving the top of the hill was tied in with letting and encouraging the worst sort of people (the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, and ISIS) to take their positions at the top. This reaction caused many deaths and a lot of destruction across northern Africa and Iraq as the caliphate swept into power in a way that became a truly nightmarish geopolitical threat to all nations.
This policy viewpoint nevertheless is in stark contrast with that of the would-have-been Queen of the Hill, his former Secretary of State Hill-Ary (yes, there is a pun here, isn’t there?) Clinton. For her, wielding massive power was her favorite toy, and lying about it to cover her tail was her second favorite. It is also a creepy coincidence just how many dead Clinton opponents or would-be opponents there are, one of the most recent being a certain Jeffrey Epstein, whose Lolita Express provided ‘services’ to the rich and powerful of the world, and with whom the Clintons were close friends.
President Trump really is different on this. While he has always been capable of moving in the same circles with the elite, he was never really considered one of them. Even before becoming President, Donald Trump had the air of someone “slightly less than respectful” in the elite’s eyes. For his part, it is apparent that he knew about it, but did not care too much about changing this. Instead, he worked with everyone to build his own business empire and lived as he wished. While no saint, Donald Trump has never been bound to any convention or group of people he did not want to be associated with. This freedom is what makes him so formidable as a politician in our days, because he does what every politician for the last thirty years has claimed to be able to to: to serve without being beholden to scratch anyone else’s back.
This all helps President Trump to be nimble, pragmatic and realistic. It also allows him to do pretty much what he said he wanted to do if elected – to serve the American people and restore the country to true greatness. It allows him to be like that most unusual kid who realizes that the top of the mountain is probably the worst place to be, and, having enjoyed the view, is more than willing to do other things in greater freedom.
This is one way of examining both the domestic and foreign paroxyms of outrage coming at the President from all points in the West, especially within his own country. By revealing the fallacy of the game, the other kids who want the top are forced to pause and consider that maybe, just maybe, trying to be on top is unwise.
This thought probably terrifies them because they do not know how to handle it.