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Obama’s Circle of Bad Advice

Washington’s unwillingness to use diplomacy to resolve international conflicts has proven remarkably consistent over the past 13 years. Even chalking it up to ineptitude would let the Bush and Obama administrations off the hook for what are apparently more systemic failures. I am referring to an inability to think outside the box, coupled with a kind of policymaking cronyism that automatically limits any ability to craft a careful and proportionate response to developing situations. Ukraine is the latest example of American failure to see what is plainly visible, but one can go through an entire catalog of misconceived policies starting with Bosnia and continuing through Georgia and the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, all of which have turned out poorly. If the current pattern is repeated, catastrophe awaits as involvement in Ukraine deepens and the drive to somehow confront Iran gains momentum in Congress and the media.

Part of the problem is psychological. The United States has not experienced war on its own soil in any serious way since 1865, nor have many congressmen or journalists actually served in the military. For them war is an abstraction, something that is inflicted on other people but not on the United States. Unfortunately, that assessment of American invulnerability is increasingly fragile. Russia is one of the few world powers that can actually hit back at the U.S. with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, a threat that should not be considered outside the realm of possibility should Moscow be pushed into a corner.

Meanwhile the likely failure to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program will only encourage Tehran to build a weapon, which will in turn likely lead to a profusion of nuclear states in response, including unstable regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. As the number of nuclear weapons in the hands of governments with internal security problems increases, so too does the risk that a stray weapon or weapons will wind up in the hands of genuine terrorists, whose own numbers are also increasing as U.S. policy creates blowback in a number of countries through its poorly thought-out interventions. It is not unthinkable that the devil’s brew of more weapons and more enemies could eventually lead to Condoleezza Rice’s fantasy vision of a mushroom cloud over Washington.

President Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been characterized by stops and starts, perhaps not surprising coming from an intelligent man who nevertheless lacked any real understanding of what goes on in the world outside of academia and the Chicago wards. He has been forced to rely on reliably Democratic cronies and frequently self-styled experts to guide him, an understandable if not particularly successful approach that creates little in the way of healthy internal debate. A recent New York Times op-ed [1] by Michael A. McFaul, until recently Obama’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation, very clearly illustrates the problem.

It is undeniable that McFaul knows a lot [2] about Russia. He is a former professor of political science at Stanford and a fellow at the Hoover Institute. He was a Rhodes Scholar and holds degrees from both Stanford and Oxford in Russian and Slavic studies. He speaks the language and has lived there. After serving on the National Security Council as Special Adviser to the President, he was named Ambassador to the Russian Federation, serving in that post from January 2012 until February of this year.

Appointment to Moscow generally goes to a career diplomat given the complexities of the relationship and the possibility that the wrong choice could have serious consequences. Obama opted to go [3] with someone he was comfortable with instead of State Department professional John Beyrle, who was generally regarded at Foggy Bottom as the best choice for the post, having already served as both Deputy Chief of Mission, the number two position in the embassy, and as acting ambassador. McFaul, unlike Beyrle, is an unrepentant democracy activist. He even wrote a book called Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can. When he was appointed ambassador he noted [4] that “the United States can speak out on democracy and Georgia while still seeking cooperation with Moscow in other areas,” setting the stage for confrontation with the Russian government.

McFaul believes that the Cold War never ended satisfactorily because Russia did not become an institutional clone of the United States, a thesis elaborated in his book Russia’s Unfinished Revolution. In his writing McFaul is particularly hard on Vladimir Putin, whom he describes as a reactionary figure seeking to recreate the Soviet Empire, ignoring the fact that the Russian president is very popular [5] among his countrymen if not among some American academics. McFaul describes [3] other scholars who see the Russian leader more favorably than he as “Putin apologists,” while indicting Putin’s government as “Russia’s new autocratic regime.” McFaul’s writings make clear that he believes that U.S.-style democracy, capitalism, and press freedom are universal rights, and that the United States should impose those standards on Russia as a condition of it joining what McFaul refers to as the “international order.”

From the start of his tenure in Moscow, McFaul was sending the Russian government a message. During his first week he met with [6] opposition politicians and groups, even before presenting his credentials at the Foreign Ministry. He was ambassador in October 2012 when the Russian government began to clamp down on foreign government agencies and nongovernment organizations that were active in “democracy promotion” in Russia, noting that many of the groups were little more than pressure groups directed against the freely elected regime in power. In his op-ed McFaul protests against Russian attempts “To continue to spook Russians about American encirclement and internal meddling…” when that is what precisely has been taking place since 1991.

McFaul is a kindred spirit with Obama’s other favorite foreign policy advisers, Susan Rice and Samantha Power. All of them believe that the United States has some civilizing mission to bestow on the rest of the world, and it is all tied up with convincing countries to become democratic. In reality it is little more than a lazy formulation asserting a unique right for America to remake the world in an image of itself, while blatantly ignoring international law and the world opinion.

McFaul’s op-ed is illuminating in that it rests on a number of assumptions derived from the democracy promotion imperative that are at a minimum questionable. He accepts that the United States has license to involve itself in the internal politics of other countries even when their governments object. He also assumes that spreading democracy by whatever means necessary must be a major priority for any American government.

McFaul does not even argue that democracies are less inclined to go to war, which has sometimes been falsely asserted, but instead appears to believe that democracy is a good thing intrinsically. His assumption is, of course, very much dependent on what he means by democracy. Since he is promoting the American brand, it is quite easy to note how U.S.’s democracy is essentially dysfunctional on many major issues like providing accessible health care and balancing the budget. It is also riven by corruption of various kinds from top to bottom. It is hardly a model for the rest of the world and McFaul even admits that its current incarnation does not “inspire,” but he nevertheless argues that it must be imposed on the willing and unwilling alike.

Being an ideologue like McFaul, Rice, Power, and, presumably, Obama makes one choose not to see or recognize certain realities. McFaul writes that “We did not seek this confrontation [with Russia over Ukraine].” He then elaborates, “A revisionist autocratic leader instigated this new confrontation. We did not.” Really? Then the actions undertaken by successive U.S. presidents to deliberately advance NATO into Eastern Europe in spite of pledges not to do so did not occur? Or the $5 billion worth of “investing” or meddling [7] by Ms. Nuland and company in Ukraine, most recently to remove an elected government and replace it with something more to Washington’s taste did not take place? Or the introduction of new missile systems into Eastern Europe was not a provocation? Or the encouragement of the rape of the Russian economy by American and European “entrepreneurs” aided by domestic oligarchs after the fall of the Soviet Union in a rush to create a capitalist economy is a fantasy? I could go on, but it think the point is made that Russia had and has very good reasons to fear an aggressive and frequently out of control United States.

McFaul writes about “Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008…,” undoubtedly a bit of a stretch [8] unless one has been spending too much time with John McCain, and he decries Moscow’s propaganda deriding “American imperialism, immoral practices and alleged plans to overthrow the Putin government.” Surely the suggestion of overthrow is too strong as Washington has no such capability, but the United States has made clear its intention to reform Russia by maneuvering [9] “around the Kremlin.” Most governments would demur at being subverted by paid minions of a foreign state, and is attributing imperialism and immorality to Washington really inaccurate?

McFaul indicts Putin because he wishes “…confrontation with the West, no longer feels constrained by international laws and norms, and is unafraid to wield Russian power to revise the international order.” But surely if one plays with the context a bit, those charges are much better applied to Washington than to Moscow. After calling for considerable international pressure on Russia to punish it, McFaul concludes that democracy will triumph in Russia because “democracies have consolidated at a remarkable pace, while autocracies continue to fall.”

If that is true, and there is inevitability to the transition, it is likely something we all can welcome. And if it will happen anyway, it is certainly not worth restarting the Cold War to hasten the process.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "Obama’s Circle of Bad Advice"

#1 Comment By Per Word On April 10, 2014 @ 1:04 am

“no longer feels constrained by international laws and norms,”

McFaul has got to be joking. Over the past decade or so the United States has become the leading force for radical changes rejected as immoral and frightening by the rest of the world, whether it be the mainstreaming of disgusting violence, obscenity, and pornography in entertainment, the destruction of the ancient institution of marriage, dismantling of our own religion, invasion and drone assassination as a normal instrument of diplomacy, or the indiscriminate mass surveillance of the better part of wired humanity.

Can he really imagine that no one noticed this?

How much longer do we have to wait for adults to return to government service, to restore professionalism and intellectual standards in our diplomatic corps?

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 10, 2014 @ 2:22 am

I have to admit I find McFaul’s assumptions bizarre. If “spreading democracy” amounts to governments in other nations being subservient to the democratically-elected (depending just what democracy means) United States government, in what way is the United States government democratically accountable to them, since they don’t even have the little and largely illusory accountability that we Americans have?

Am I missing something? I admit I am nonplussed by self-reference to the CIA in its “torture manuals” as KUBARK. It sounds… insane. What is with this acronym KUBARK, who coined it and why?

Sometimes the sense one has of Washington, is a kind of dissonance with reason, so far out of whack, as if suddenly UFO abductions were revealed to be nothing unusual and a matter of fact.

#3 Comment By ALEX On April 10, 2014 @ 7:59 am

Bravo PHILIP GIRALDI! In the CIA there are intelligent and honest officers!

#4 Comment By PrimatуWiыe On April 10, 2014 @ 8:19 am

Thank you for this article. I think this appinion will never be published in NYT or WP. Russian readers are happy to read such compos analysis.

#5 Comment By Michael On April 10, 2014 @ 8:30 am

Take the point about Ukraine. It is a foolish overextension of the NATO/democratization strategy. But diplomacy wasn’t going to solve Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

#6 Comment By Michael N Moore On April 10, 2014 @ 9:24 am

George Kennan on NATO expansion in 1998 quoted by Thomas Friedman in NY Times of 4-9-2014:

“I think it is the beginning of a new Cold War,” Kennan said to me of NATO expansion. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the founding fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a lighthearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.”

“What bothers me is how superficial and ill informed the whole Senate debate was,” added Kennan. “I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don’t people understand? Our differences in the Cold War were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime. And Russia’s democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we’ve just signed up to defend from Russia. It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course, there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”

#7 Comment By Cliff On April 10, 2014 @ 9:24 am

I didn’t know anything about McFaul before I read this piece, but his appointment as ambassador to Russia sounds like the appointment of William Bradford Reynolds to the Office of Civil Rights. Appointing someone so hostile sent, I’m sure, a hostile and confrontational message, and doubtless contributed to the Russian understanding of American attitudes.

I agree, btw, that “democracy is a good thing intrinsically” but before we try to spread it abroad we ought to consider the bit in the Gospels about beams in one’s own eye. Even if the beam in Russia’s eye (which we helped put there, in Yeltsin times) is larger than that in our own, we ought to clear our own vision, so we can see to help others.

#8 Comment By Aaron Paolozzi On April 10, 2014 @ 9:46 am

Every time, every single time I read an article by Mr.Giraldi its like he makes my arguments for me. Most of my family are reactionary neo-cons responding to whatever nationalistic rally cry draws them out. But no one is thinking long term, no one is trying to understand the other side,these articles make me happy to know that some people out there are playing the long game.

Short-sighted policy decisions based on politics may give you a slight 5% approval rating dip and a headache if you don’t take it into account, but the long term damage done to the nation as a whole far outweighs the benefits of polling your decisions. Political ambassadors have never been a good idea, their loyalty is to party ideology and perhaps an individual as well but not to the American People.

#9 Comment By Andrew On April 10, 2014 @ 11:43 am

Bravo!

#10 Comment By KHW On April 10, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

McFaul was such an awful ambassador and I think he knows it and is incredibly bitter due to his own personal failures. Within 2 weeks of his entry in Moscow, he was meeting with “opposition activist groups”. As this article states, he was an activist, not a diplomat. A diplomat does not criticize his host country at every turn; his function is not to promote a cause or an agenda, but to serve as an emissary to make peace, understand the host country’s positions, relay that to our government in order to best find common ground. It is not to serve as a pompous blowhard who is so wrapped in academic theory and his own sense of “justice”, that it clouds him from doing his job. From the first moment he arrived he stirred trouble. No wonder the Russian government wanted nothing to do with him, and why our relationship with Russia deteriorated during his tenure. It sent a clear message to the Russians, that we were not interested in cooperation, but transformation and to dictate behavior, on our terms. That is it. If Obama did not choose a record number of ambassadors from people who contributed to his campaign, he chose the other lot out of Wilsonian globalists who lecture other countries on how to behave. Reprehensible

#11 Comment By Andrew On April 10, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

@KHW

McFaul was such an awful ambassador

McFaul is case in point: the large collection of data (information), which often passes as knowledge and is expressed in numerous degrees, does not constitute real knowledge. All this academic mambo jumbo is absolutely worthless unless it is applied to practical matters and delivers satisfactory results (outcomes). Add here ideological constrains, in McFaul’s case “promotion of democracy”, and the outcome becomes really sad. Practice is criteria of the theory–the fact which was universally accepted by the wide range of intellectuals, from Clausewitz to Marxists. Well, Matthew 7:15-20 pretty much sums it up. Being informed and having knowledge IS NOT the same and especially on such subject as Russia.

While general history of Russia PRIOR to 1917 is somewhat balanced in its range of interpretations in the US academia, Russian Soviet history is, with some rare exceptions, an unmitigated disaster.

P.S. McFaul is the “author” of the “Reset” button embarrassment, which casts serious doubts about his command (and knowledge) of Russian language.

#12 Comment By Philip Giraldi On April 10, 2014 @ 1:42 pm

Fran – Back in the good old days CIA message traffic was loaded with code names to somewhat conceal what was being discussed if the message were to fall in the wrong hands. KUBARK was how the Agency described itself in messages. When Admiral Stansfield Turner was appointed director by Jimmy Carter his complete lack of any qualifications for the job resulted in a number of lampoons appearing on CIA bulletin boards and elsewhere. One was a parody on Sir Joseph Porter’s patter song in Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, where Porter explains how he became “ruler of the Queen’s navy.” One line in the CIA version has Admiral Turner asking “and what kind of a ship is a KUBARK?” The G & S original slammed the appointment of stationer and bookseller W. H. Smith as First Sea Lord.

Speaking of intelligence jokes, I watched the BBC biopic on Ian Fleming last week – very entertaining and well done. Fleming arrived for his job as aide to the head of Naval Intelligence and told the secretary that he had done a lot of reading to prepare for the job. She asked what in particular and he replied John Buchan and Rudyard Kipling. My kind of guy.

#13 Comment By James Canning On April 10, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

Great piece. I think the duping of GW Bush, to set up idiotic invasion of Iraq, relied substantially on nonsense about “promoting democracy”.

I very much doubt Obama would allow Iran to build nukes.

#14 Comment By JK On April 10, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

“All of them believe that the United States has some civilizing mission to bestow on the rest of the world, and it is all tied up with convincing countries to become democratic.”

This criticism could be leveled at just about any of the foreign policy advisers from Clinton forward. Why does this line of thinking persist? Is it a prerequisite because these days presidents can only really be sure to make their legacy through foreign policy, and an activist foreign policy is the only one that has potential to create a significant legacy. Frankly, I’m puzzled by this.

#15 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 10, 2014 @ 6:29 pm

“President Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been characterized by stops and starts, perhaps not surprising coming from an intelligent man who nevertheless lacked any real understanding of what goes on in the world outside of academia and the Chicago wards. He has been forced to rely on reliably Democratic cronies and frequently self-styled experts to guide him, an understandable if not particularly successful approach that creates little in the way of healthy internal debate.”

I would like to be a bit more generous here. But I cannot. Given his education, I would have expected him to get his hands in the mix as opposed to relying on experts. Its along those excuses where the blame is placed elsewhere. And I must resign myself to the evidence that there has been too much of that from the term and continuing into the second.

No. I would expect that he would have gotten better. That he would take ownership for his Pres.

He is not a houseboy and while democrats and perhaps most white people prefer a man who identifies himself as black and does there bidding so as not to upset them, I think it plays the ‘poor unschooled negro’ which is to cause for much of the dissention between blacks and whites. Some have cause to need help in this manner, because the scenario would be appropriate.

But absolutely not.

Ambassador’s McFaul’s incompetence not withstanding.

#16 Comment By Hunsdon On April 10, 2014 @ 7:38 pm

Bravo, sir. Bravo.

#17 Comment By Myron Hudson On April 10, 2014 @ 8:10 pm

Thank you very much for this. If only things like this might appear in our local paper instead of the incoherent ramblings of Barone.

“…the $5 billion worth of “investing” or meddling by Ms. Nuland and company in Ukraine, most recently to remove an elected government and replace it with something more to Washington’s taste…”

I just emerged from more weeks of overtime than a person of my age should be doing, and I missed a lot. However I suspected this was happening. Time to track back through this site to find out what was and is really going on. If some have their way, this could turn into another epic blunder like Iraq.

#18 Comment By Herman On April 10, 2014 @ 8:23 pm

thanks for this paper and comments, guys. i was already guessing that this kid in white house with his honour degree for Russia ambassador are the only people. I never trusted 1st class degree graduates. they learned so much that destroy their ability to think. get rid of them both by impeachment.

after N Farrage debate with another kid here in UK Independent newspaper made an opinion poll on best world leader – please do find it: pm uk 0.9%: Angela Merkel 2%, obama -1.5% in short all of them combined are are 8%, the rest – 92% Vladimir Putin. And this is UK opinion poll. Wisdom is a skill to ask for help timely.

#19 Comment By Being On April 11, 2014 @ 11:21 am

from academic environment is not necessary a bad thing, Mr. McFaul should know that for reliable applied academic research sampling has to be random, normal and unbiased. His sampling in Russia was done from non-normal distribution, heavily screwed to the right (sometimes to the left), and it was completely non-representative of the general population. Consequently, this biased sampling technique has lead him to the wrong conclusions regarding situation in Russia, Given information asymmetry decision makers in power have to deal with already and other problems, such as principle agent’s problem , nothing else than a complete failure could be expected. In short, foreign diplomats have to learn to draw their conclusions not only from just one, very small, and very strongly opinionated strata of the Russian society. Even if it seems to be very comforting.

#20 Comment By lancelot lamar On April 11, 2014 @ 7:33 pm

Great piece. The Russian government and people are quite right to see the U.S. as a threat, governed as we are by fools and knaves and promoting a decadent, polluted culture to the world. Per Word is absolutely right. Even though our corrupt press and populace cannot see it, no one in non-western world is fooled by our ridiculous self-righteousness.

#21 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 12, 2014 @ 7:17 am

“One line in the CIA version has Admiral Turner asking ‘and what kind of a ship is a KUBARK?'”

We were speculating here that it referred to the Ark, which was said to be so many cubits. (Kubits?) And KUDOVE having some analogy to the dove that heralded the receding waters. (Cooing or Ku-ing?)

Reference to Gilbert and Sullivan is apt. That the torture manual’s origins could be thus concealed, even somewhat, has a comedic aspect less serious than music hall revue.

This could be termed implausible deniability.

#22 Comment By geokat62 On April 12, 2014 @ 10:52 am

It’s very important to remember the source of the Bush Doctrine. It was a book (The Case for Democracy) by Natan Sharansky who was a refusnik and Interior Minister of Israel. Rather than having a genuine desire to liberate the peoples of the ME, Sharansky devised a scheme that would destabilize Israel’s remaining enemies. These countries were targeted because they were supporting the Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli oppression. The common trait among these countries was that they were led by autocrats – Hussein in Iraq, Assad in Syria, Gaddafi in Libya – or autocratic regimes – the theocracy in Iran. Since these regimes proved difficult to subvert from without, Sharansky’s brilliant idea was to topple them from within. And toppling from within would not require much effort thanks to how most of these countries were artificially constructed on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was based on the principle of “Divide and Rule.” So Shia, Sunni, and Kurd were placed within a common border. Good luck trying to establish a functioning democracy under these circumstances. So next time someone talks about the virtue of “spreading democracy,” remember this is really code words for “spreading instability.”

#23 Comment By Panthera Pardus On April 12, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

I think that the key misunderstanding in the American Foreign Policy is that only weapons matter – indeed if one has to gang bang Serbia only weapons matter but that was only a small and unfortunate country over the route of the planned pipeline – if one has the desire to rule the world well, industry matters more.

The case study is US and the pet dog EU willing to apply “sanctions” to Russia.. there is nothing, from a screw to an space rocket, which is not produced in China – gone are the days where not trading with US meant to lose access to advanced technology.

The world is multipolar, I wonder how much it will take for American leadership to recognize that.

#24 Comment By Gibbon On April 12, 2014 @ 3:45 pm

C. Northcote Parkinson observed some years ago that the only force that maintained the Soviet Union and Mao’s China as allies was the ineptitude of the American State Department. Much the same has occurred over the past 20 years.

American taunting and arrogance has had much to do with the behavior of Putin’s Russia. A convergence of Russia and China interest once again is not inconceivable. American policy is being set by neoconservatives who see little beyond Israeli interests.

#25 Comment By carroll price On April 12, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

When it comes to foreign policy, the pathetic position in which this country finds itself today, is a result of the educated/leadership class, believing the same propaganda tailored toward deceiving an unsophisticated working middle class.

#26 Comment By Martin Onassis On April 12, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

TOtally agree with your assessment, but I don’t think Obama is doing this to spread democracy anymore than Bush meant that in Iraq.

For reasons not entirely clear, the powers that be want to keep nipping at Putin and Russia. They’re probably doing this because they are both stupid and desperate, possibly for economic reasons, possibly for Israel.

However, Russia and China, and also India, who supports Russia in Crimea are ancient cultures not playing this game. The USA is pushing them further together and farther from us, likely because the elites in the USA think we hold an economic sword over the necks of China and India, which we do to some extent, however, it’s our neck as well.

Kissinger and his spawned maniacs that make up the American foreign policy ‘experts’ have been playing sugar=coated bully for a long time, so they’re not up fro adjustment.

Maybe it’s all for show, but it is a dangerous game, and I hope these idiots are not as stupid and/or desperate as they seem to be, because we really still do not need the nukes raining down.

#27 Comment By Duglarri On April 13, 2014 @ 2:41 am

Mr. Giraldi is on to something here. It’s when you start to understand the “who” of the policy, that you understand why the policies are as ignorant and dangerous as they are.

#28 Comment By Richard Parker On April 13, 2014 @ 5:19 am

It’s just possible that Obama is not as smart as many people think.

#29 Comment By Mightypeon On April 13, 2014 @ 7:02 am

Kissinger actually said some pretty decent things concerning Ukraine lately.
Namely, both he and Zbigniev Brezsinski are in favor of a federal neutral Ukraine.
Interestingly, proposing that is something that can get you labeled “Putin apologist”, “RT Freak”, “Pro Russian toady” or “FSB-Agent”.

#30 Comment By Dieter Heymann On April 13, 2014 @ 8:17 am

“Spreading democracy across the world” is the current American analog of the former Marxist/Soviet “spreading communism across the world”. Before 1918 it was the analog of Britannia ruling the waves. All are/were driven by historical superiority complexes and mindsets.
As an aside: It is know that Chancellor Bismarck remarked publicly that the British government was consistently trying to export “democracy” to Germany. He was not pleased. Obviously this political export has a long history.
Teddy Roosevelt was our first clear-cut neo-imperialist.
JFK started out as a neo-imperialist (his acceptance speech!) but the Cuban missile crisis shocked him into a rethinking and resist his advisers who demanded that he attack the Soviet ships in the Caribbean. And yes, JFK had directly experienced a devastating war.
In the spring of 1980, based on his published interviews with the Chicago Tribune and speeches at AIPAC, I wrote that candidate Obama is a neo-imperialist for which I was richly ridiculed by his supporters.
Rethinking demands the painful recognition that “the other side” has its own history, needs, and fears. I wonder whether our president is capable of doing anything other than drawing red lines, demanding “regime change”, sending weapons and other support to insurgents, and handing out or maintaining economic punishments.
Of course our President is not the only neo-imperialist in Washington. His cabinet and Congress teem with this species of mankind. And so does our entire nation.
P.S. My definition of a neo-imperialist is a politician who has the mindset of the classical imperialist but who does not aim at the type of colonization of, say, India or much of Africa of the 19th century. It is the “bomb, bomb, bomb Tehran” variant. Yes, evolution does occur!

#31 Comment By T. Sledge On April 13, 2014 @ 10:14 am

I think a lot of our simplistic way of looking at the world stems from our (only) two party political system. Many countries, with parliamentary systems, have to frequently create a ruling majority by forging coalitions, and politicians in those countries know that there are as many different nuances on the “right” or on the “left” as there are colors of the rainbow.
We have this childish notion that of A is bad then B must be good. The rest of the world knows that frequently both A and B are bastards, but A is a rational bastard who can be dealt with, and B is a monomaniacal loony.
We ought to grow up and realize that the world is much more complex than our simplistic world view leads us to see it. Yes Putin is a power hungry little bastard, but many of the people who sparked this crisis wouldn’t fit into any sane person’s definition of “freedom loving”.

#32 Comment By Alan On April 13, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

Thank you for writing this article; it is like a breath of fresh air, attempting to vent that stale, putrid environment that represented by the McFauls and other American exceptionalists. As someone born in Europe but, having spent the vast majority of my life as an American citizen, I still can not confidently determine if these McFauls are simply blatantly ignorant of the world or decisively evil. The end product of their policies testify to great evil as in pursuit of their goals they have ruined nation after nation, killed untold numbers, while attempting to force their systems of (im)morality on others.

#33 Comment By LK On April 13, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

The old saying is true, turning a blind eye to the fact that the enemy is on your left side is ripe for a fools folly. In other words know your enemy. And by the way diplomacy is the acknowledgment of defeat and failure. Because the next step is paying tribute to the enemy and calling it Foreign AID. Remember PEOPLE it is YOUR HARD EARNED TAX DOLLARS AT WORK.

#34 Comment By Helen Marshall On April 13, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

Thank you Philip Giraldi and the AC – the Human Rights bureau at State has turned out to be nothing but a front for regime change. Sad. Only those FSOs who accept the neo-con storyline appear to do well (cf. Ms. Nuland). Not sure what the final chapter will be, but it doesn’t look good.

#35 Comment By The Vike On April 17, 2014 @ 8:23 am

“…the likely failure to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program…”

Why is such a failure likely? Is there another country trying to sabotage such a compromise? Surely not!

#36 Comment By James Marshall On April 17, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

So bombing schools and hospitals and power plants in Yugoslavia, March 24 – June 10 of 1999, was just fine? This is about a lot more than just bad advice. One can’t hide behind claims of incompetence forever. This is a pattern of behavior for the US and it’s unlikely to be random that consistently. One can never get heads in a coin toss that many times in a row.

#37 Comment By Phillies On October 4, 2015 @ 3:01 am

The USA burnt all its goodwill will Russia over USA obvious regime change plans for Syria and Ukraine. From here on Putin won’t listen to Obama or Kerry much. As for Obama offering advice that Russia will stuck in quagmire – that was for domestic US consumption, more wishful Obama thought bubbles out loud. After all who would take military advice from Obama???

#38 Comment By Tom On October 4, 2015 @ 3:06 am

Holy cow – the USA administration is busy criticising Russia for air strikes on terrorists in Syria (all terrorists, enough with the lame McCain good and bad terrorist distinctions please)and meanwhile the USA has managed to bomb a Medicine Without Frontiers hospital in Afganistan at exactly the same time! Can you believe the stupidity and hypocrisy?