Three pieces appearing in today’s Washington Post and New York Times reveal the fundamental problem in changing America’s failed foreign policy. The voters who gave Barack Obama his margin of victory want an end to the continuous warfare that has characterized the post 9/11 world but have been sold down the river. The politicians and the their media claque want something that is quite different and that is very close to the status quo. They are making sure that they get what they want by preempting any serious discussion of America’s role in the world. Obama has obliged by not appointing anyone to a senior position who was opposed to the Iraq war or who was a serious critic regarding its execution. This is being seen as moving towards the center in a Washington Post editorial entitled “Team of Centrists,” in which it praises the new forgeign policy team as “proven pragmatists and team players” who will support “diplomacy and nation building” with Gates, Clinton, and Jones all skeptical regarding any timetable for departing Iraq. It seems everyone will support a continued presence in Iraq until the Iraqis compel us to leave and an expanded role in Afghanistan and a lot of other places where the natives are too ignorant to see what is their own best interest, with the blessing of the Post.
David Brooks adds his two bits in the Times in “Continuity We Can Believe In,” which starts by asserting that “The 2008 election results did not fundamentally change American foreign policy.” He calls for building on foreign policy principles set out during George Bush’s second term, i.e. “using integrated federal agencies to help locals improve the quality and responsiveness of governments in trouble spots around the world.” As always, Brooks does not describe exactly how that is to take place in countries mired in corruption and without any tradition of government accountability. Does it take place at gunpoint? And he builds his argument on a premise that is questionable. If the election did not change US foreign policy that is not necessarily the fault of the voters but rather of the perfidious politicians whom they voted for. Brooks chooses to interpret the election as a ratification of nation building policies, but it ain’t so – it was not on the ballot and if it had been it would have been defeated. But Brooks and his friends know better and nation building we will have, like it or not.
Brooks is concerned about government accountability in a basket of third world countries but not so much in the United States. The third article I noted today was a bit of revisionist history in the Post that warmed my heart “Reflecting on His Tenure, Bush Shows New Candor.” In an interview with Charles Gibson, Bush reportedly said, inter alia, that he “wished the intelligence had been different on Iraq.” I may not be the only one to wonder what that means and who cannot see the “candor.” It is little more than blaming the intelligence community for the failure in Iraq, not the neocons in the White House and Pentagon who manipulated a fundamentally ignorant president to go to war against a country that posed no threat.