iStock Credit:

Adolf Hilter (yes, I used his name) should be on people’s minds these days, although not in any kind of lazy, alarmist way. He was, after all, just a man of flesh and blood, albeit one with some evil and lethal obsessions. One of his preoccupations was his distaste for the Austrian monarchy and his desire that the Germanic people in the Austrian-Hungarian empire be united with the German nation and not have to share power with the Slavic people in the East and in the Balkans.  When the empire was broken up after World War One, Hitler’s desire to unite the Germans in one nation only increased. Based, as his ideas were, on premises of national and ethnic supremacy, they led inexorably to the worst war mankind has ever seen.

It used to be fresh in everyone’s mind that ideologies based on national or racial superiority were inconsistent with continued life on this planet, and that conviction only increased as atomic weapons evolved into thermonuclear weapons attached to rockets. The establishment of the United Nations was the world’s way of acknowledging this and attempting to prevent the worst from happening.

Of course, something similar had been attempted after the First World War, when the League of Nations was established. The effort was undermined by the U.S. Senate’s refusal to join, but it was still active on October 14th, 1933, when Hitler announced that Germany would be withdrawing from both the League of Nations and the World Disarmament Conference.

Naturally, the Germans employed some political rhetoric to rationalize their decision, and they made sure to suggest that they’d actually prefer to stay engaged in international organizations, provided that every nation destroyed all their guns and demobilize all their soldiers.

In truth, however, Hitler’s desire to unite Germany and Austria and to bring Germans living in Czechoslovakia and Poland into one nation made it impossible for him to work with the existing international order. If you add his greater goal to destroy Bolshevism, this is even more obvious. Any ideology based on national or racial or ethno-religious superiority is inconsistent with working with other nations as good faith partners. If you marry that ideology to militarism and imperial or territorial ambitions, the existence of international peace-brokering organizations is nothing but a public relations problem.

After the war, Europe internalized these lessons. Now they are beginning to forget them.

As for our country, our president is unabashedly pursuing an ideology based on the national superiority of the United States and the supremacy of ethnically white Christians. He is looking to expel racially inferior people, deny entry to religiously inferior people, and to pursue policies of raw power based on the narrowly defined self-interest of America. Along with this, he intends to spend tens of billions more on weapons.

This is familiar stuff, and it should not shock anyone to see it accompanied by other familiar stuff.

State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs, signaling an unprecedented retreat by President Donald Trump’s administration from international operations that keep the peace, provide vaccines for children, monitor rogue nuclear weapons programs, and promote peace talks from Syria to Yemen, according to three sources.

The push for such draconian measures comes as the White House is scheduled on Thursday to release its 2018 budget proposal, which is expected to include cuts of up to 37 percent for spending on the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign assistance programs, including the U.N., in next year’s budget. The United States spends about $10 billion a year on the United Nations.

The UN and the State Department operate within norms that diminish the legitimacy of raw nationalism and constrain the raw exercise of power. They are irritants that can be defunded and delegitimized. And if that undermines their humanitarian work, that will only help undermine the case for their continued existence and influence.

The cuts would fall heaviest on U.N. programs, like peacekeeping, UNICEF, and the U.N. Development Programme, that are funded out of the budget of the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs. It remains to be seen whether other U.N. agencies popular with Congress, like the World Food Programme and U.N. refugee operations — which are funded out of separate accounts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State Department, respectively — will get hit as hard. But one source tracking the budget proposal said the Trump administration is considering cuts of up to 36 percent on humanitarian aid programs.

Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said cuts of this magnitude would create “chaos.”

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) received $1.5 billion of its $4 billion budget from the United States last year, he said. Cutting the U.S. contribution would “leave a gaping hole that other big donors would struggle to fill.”

“Multiply that across other humanitarian agencies, like the World Food Programme, and you are basically talking about the breakdown of the international humanitarian system as we know it,” he added.

Breaking down the international humanitarian system is an obvious goal for a nationalist movement based on racial or ethno-religious supremacy, especially if that movement does not want to be constrained by international treaties or laws banning torture, indefinite detention and other basic human rights.

This isn’t just some arbitrary debate about the relative funding level of the State Department versus the Pentagon. It’s an ideological marker, showing us what kind of ambitions and goals are coming out of the white supremacist minds of Trump, Miller, and Bannon.

With Europe moving in the same direction of renewed ethno-religious nationalism, this is now a global movement on the upswing, aligned with Russia and looking to undo the European Union and all post-nationalist organizations.

Fighting back means fighting to protect the funding for the State Department and the United Nations, but also to protect civilization from another calamity.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at