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David Stockman Takes Aim at the ‘Washington War Party’

David Stockman has always been a contrarian fellow. Indeed, following his long Wall Street and private equity career, he founded a kind of contrarian blog called David Stockman’s Contra Corner. Conventional wisdom seldom appears on that site.

Old-timers will remember Stockman as the brilliant two-term congressman tapped, as a very young man, to become Ronald Reagan’s first OMB director. He quickly ran afoul of the Republican establishment by demonstrating discomfort with the size of supply-side tax cuts pushed by his boss. Younger folks may recall his 2013 book, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America, a scathing indictment of the twin scourges of crony capitalism and massive governmental debt. Then there were the well-publicized allegations of financial fraud in 2007, which dissipated in 2009 when federal officials decided against prosecution.

For TAC readers, Stockman’s latest passion should stir interest. He has emerged as a vociferous and pugilistic critic of what he calls “the Washington War Party.” He distilled his realist foreign policy outlook in a recent piece for Antiwar.com entitled “The Tweet That Is Shaking the War Party.’’ The tweet in question was President Trump’s in conjunction with his decision to terminate U.S. support for rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The president called that support “massive, dangerous, and wasteful.’’

Stockman praised this characterization and said the president’s words demonstrate that he occasionally, despite his usual “street brawling” temperament, “slices through Imperial Washington’s sanctimonious cant.’’ He added, “No stouter blow to the neocon/Deep State ‘regime change’ folly has ever been issued by an elected public official.”


From there Stockman issued an attack on the man he calls “Senator McWar of Arizona,’’ otherwise known as John McCain, who denounced the president’s action as “playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin.” Writes Stockman: “That’s just plain pathetic because the issue is the gross stupidity and massive harm that has been done by McCain’s personally inspired and directed war on Assad—not Putin and not Russia’s historic role as an ally of the Syrian regime.”

Stockman punctures the conventional wisdom that the United States could identify “moderate’’ rebels in the anti-Assad campaign and buck them up for a possible takeover of the country once Assad was vanquished—while keeping at bay the ISIS and Nusra Front radicals who dominate the anti-Assad offensive. This, says Stockman, is a “sick joke.” Most of the weapons supplied by the CIA and the Gulf states were sold to jihadist factions or ended up in their hands when the CIA’s “moderate’’ forces crumbled or defected to the radicals.

Further, Stockman points to some highly pertinent facts about the Assad regime. First, it is Arab Baathist—nationalistic, anti-colonial, socialist, secular, and “inclusive in its religious orientation.” Given that the ruling Alawite tribes (a branch of Shia Islam) constituted a small minority of the country, the regime had to pull together other non-Sunni factions and groups, including Christians, Druze, Kurds, Jews, Yazidis, Turkomans, and others. “Never once,” writes Stockman, “did the Assads seek to impose religious conformity—to say nothing of the harsh regime of Sharia Law and medieval religious observance demanded by the Sunni Jihadists.”

So why should Assad be so vilified in America as a man who must go, when by any rational analysis he constitutes no threat to any nation beyond his borders—certainly not America and not even Israel, “which could dispatch Assad’s aging air force without breaking a sweat”? The underlying reason, writes Stockman, is that he is a Shiite, meaning he inevitably is aligned with “the endlessly vilified Shiite regime in Tehran.”

Here Stockman begins a narrative of America’s Mideast policy and seeks to demonstrate the folly of U.S. actions in the region. He puts forth a number of compelling points:

There’s a curious aspect to Stockman’s Antiwar.com piece. At the bottom, he offers readers a free copy of his latest book, Trumped! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin…And How to Bring It Back. Click on the accompanying link, he says, and get the details. The inside marketing material says the book “shows how the last 30 years of financial and political misrule by the Washington and Wall Street elites in BOTH PARTIES have brought the U.S. to the brink of ruin.” It sounds like a populist tract in the vein of Trump’s outlook, though seemingly with more discipline and coherence.

Stockman insists his new volume isn’t another “doom-and-gloom book about the end of the dollar or the collapse of the global financial system.” It isn’t “a tip sheet that’s going to give you a list of stocks to run out and buy.” But then he says his book explains why it could soon be “Sundown in America” and why the world financial markets are more vulnerable than at any time since 1929. It offers “[m]athematical proof” that the S&P 500 is set to fall by 40% soon—if you understand this, there are some simple ways to protect yourself and even make some nice, safe profits.”

Sounds like doom and gloom, accompanied by a tip sheet. The conclusion is inescapable that Stockman is engaging in some hucksterism here.

But the Antiwar.com piece speaks for itself—and speaks loudly and coherently in behalf of realism and restraint in American foreign policy.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington, D.C., journalist and publishing executive, is editor of The American Conservative. His next book, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century [1], is due out from Simon & Schuster in November.


7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "David Stockman Takes Aim at the ‘Washington War Party’"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 13, 2017 @ 12:15 am

Well, what can you do? In America, truth telling not only doesn’t pay, it can be downright ruinous. Hence, the attempt to subsidize it through hucksterism, which surely is a proven money maker.

Some of the ads on here are prime examples.

#2 Comment By MEOW On September 13, 2017 @ 9:51 am

President Carter [2]

#3 Comment By fabian On September 13, 2017 @ 3:30 pm

Well Stockman may be doom and gloom but he comes with figures and he builds his arguments around them. Whilst the majority only counters with: we are the greatest nation in the world. Of course most of our financial economy is build around trust and expectations and the charade can last a long time. Much longer than Stockman can imagine. After all the charade of the UDSSR lasted 8 decades and they never produced anything of value, whilst our economy does. The problem is always timing even if the problem doesn’t go away. In the meantime follow the trend and don’t fight the tape.

#4 Comment By wootendw On September 14, 2017 @ 1:34 am

‘The underlying reason, writes Stockman, is that he is a Shiite, meaning he inevitably is aligned with “the endlessly vilified Shiite regime in Tehran.”’

Assad is an Alawite; not a Shiite. And his highly intelligent English wife, Asma, is a Sunni.

#5 Comment By Michael Doliner On September 14, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

What exactly would a “moderate” rebel believe? What would he be fighting and dying for? How is it that anyone ever thought that such a preposterous being could exist? Who needs the facts to know that this is nonsense?

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On September 14, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

you say fly in the ointment.

that is hardly the issue. it’s those elephants in the room that won’t go away no matter how much the politicians pretend they will.

Clearly for this executive is becoming a deep disappointment. and this latest move of negotiating with democrats may save his popularity. and it is not entirely his fault, certainly republicans could have spent more time dealing with him as opposed to mocking him. but given the war by democrats, it’s hard to imagine this level of betrayal.

for a man spewing demands of loyalty, I hate to my own so mightily abused.

Mr. Stockman’s observation observation about the first Gulf conflict is fairly bold. Given that, i would say, its hard to find the huckersterism in his advocacy.

#7 Comment By Jett Rucker On September 16, 2017 @ 2:49 pm

The US SHOULD NOT HAVE a Mideast policy, any more than Switzerland should, or does.