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Angst in the Church of America the Redeemer

Apart from being a police officer, firefighter, or soldier engaged in one of this nation’s endless wars, writing a column for a major American newspaper has got to be one of the toughest and most unforgiving jobs there is. The pay may be decent (at least if your gig is with one of the major papers in New York or Washington), but the pressures to perform on cue are undoubtedly relentless.

Anyone who has ever tried cramming a coherent and ostensibly insightful argument into a mere 750 words knows what I’m talking about. Writing op-eds does not perhaps qualify as high art. Yet, like tying flies or knitting sweaters, it requires no small amount of skill. Performing the trick week in and week out without too obviously recycling the same ideas over and over again—or at least while disguising repetitions and concealing inconsistencies—requires notable gifts.

David Brooks of the New York Times is a gifted columnist. Among contemporary journalists, he is our Walter Lippmann [1], the closest thing we have to an establishment-approved public intellectual. As was the case with Lippmann, Brooks works hard to suppress the temptation to rant. He shuns raw partisanship. In his frequent radio and television appearances, he speaks in measured tones. Dry humor and ironic references abound. And like Lippmann, when circumstances change, he makes at least a show of adjusting his views accordingly.

For all that, Brooks remains an ideologue. In his columns, and even more so in his weekly appearances on NPR and PBS, he plays the role of the thoughtful, non-screaming conservative, his very presence affirming the ideological balance that, until November 8th of last year, was a prized hallmark of “respectable” journalism. Just as that balance always involved considerable posturing, so, too, with the ostensible conservatism of David Brooks: it’s an act.


Praying at the Altar of American Greatness

In terms of confessional fealty, his true allegiance is not to conservatism as such, but to the Church of America the Redeemer. This is a virtual congregation, albeit one possessing many of the attributes of a more traditional religion. The Church has its own Holy Scripture, authenticated on July 4, 1776, at a gathering of 56 prophets. And it has its own saints, prominent among them the Good Thomas Jefferson, chief author of the sacred text (not the Bad Thomas Jefferson who owned and impregnated slaves); Abraham Lincoln, who freed said slaves and thereby suffered martyrdom (on Good Friday no less); and, of course, the duly canonized figures most credited with saving the world itself from evil: Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, their status akin to that of saints Peter and Paul in Christianity. The Church of America the Redeemer even has its own Jerusalem, located on the banks of the Potomac, and its own hierarchy, its members situated nearby in High Temples of varying architectural distinction.

This ecumenical enterprise does not prize theological rigor. When it comes to shalts and shalt nots, it tends to be flexible, if not altogether squishy. It demands of the faithful just one thing: a fervent belief in America’s mission to remake the world in its own image. Although in times of crisis Brooks has occasionally gone a bit wobbly, he remains at heart a true believer.

In a March 1997 piece for The Weekly Standard, his then-employer, he summarized his credo. Entitled “A Return to National Greatness [2],” the essay opened with a glowing tribute to the Library of Congress and, in particular, to the building completed precisely a century earlier to house its many books and artifacts. According to Brooks, the structure itself embodied the aspirations defining America’s enduring purpose. He called particular attention to the dome above the main reading room decorated with a dozen “monumental figures” representing the advance of civilization and culminating in a figure representing America itself. Contemplating the imagery, Brooks rhapsodized:

The theory of history depicted in this mural gave America impressive historical roots, a spiritual connection to the centuries. And it assigned a specific historic role to America as the latest successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. In the procession of civilization, certain nations rise up to make extraordinary contributions… At the dawn of the 20th century, America was to take its turn at global supremacy. It was America’s task to take the grandeur of past civilizations, modernize it, and democratize it. This common destiny would unify diverse Americans and give them a great national purpose.

This February, 20 years later, in a column [3] with an identical title, but this time appearing in the pages of his present employer, the New York Times, Brooks revisited this theme. Again, he began with a paean to the Library of Congress and its spectacular dome with its series of “monumental figures” that placed America “at the vanguard of the great human march of progress.” For Brooks, those 12 allegorical figures convey a profound truth.

America is the grateful inheritor of other people’s gifts. It has a spiritual connection to all people in all places, but also an exceptional role. America culminates history. It advances a way of life and a democratic model that will provide people everywhere with dignity. The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind.

In 1997, in the midst of the Clinton presidency, Brooks had written that “America’s mission was to advance civilization itself.” In 2017, as Donald Trump gained entry into the Oval Office, he embellished and expanded that mission, describing a nation “assigned by providence to spread democracy and prosperity; to welcome the stranger; to be brother and sister to the whole human race.”

Back in 1997, “a moment of world supremacy unlike any other,” Brooks had worried that his countrymen might not seize the opportunity that was presenting itself. On the cusp of the twenty-first century, he worried that Americans had “discarded their pursuit of national greatness in just about every particular.” The times called for a leader like Theodore Roosevelt, who wielded that classic “big stick” and undertook monster projects like the Panama Canal. Yet Americans were stuck instead with Bill Clinton, a small-bore triangulator. “We no longer look at history as a succession of golden ages,” Brooks lamented. “And, save in the speeches of politicians who usually have no clue what they are talking about,” America was no longer fulfilling its “special role as the vanguard of civilization.”

By early 2017, with Donald Trump in the White House and Steve Bannon whispering in his ear, matters had become worse still. Americans had seemingly abandoned their calling outright. “The Trump and Bannon anschluss has exposed the hollowness of our patriotism,” wrote Brooks, inserting the now-obligatory reference to Nazi Germany. The November 2016 presidential election had “exposed how attenuated our vision of national greatness has become and how easy it was for Trump and Bannon to replace a youthful vision of American greatness with a reactionary, alien one.” That vision now threatens to leave America as “just another nation, hunkered down in a fearful world.”

What exactly happened between 1997 and 2017, you might ask? What occurred during that “moment of world supremacy” to reduce the United States from a nation summoned to redeem humankind to one hunkered down in fear?

Trust Brooks to have at hand a brow-furrowing explanation. The fault, he explains, lies with an “educational system that doesn’t teach civilizational history or real American history but instead a shapeless multiculturalism,” as well as with “an intellectual culture that can’t imagine providence.” Brooks blames “people on the left who are uncomfortable with patriotism and people on the right who are uncomfortable with the federal government that is necessary to lead our project.”

An America that no longer believes in itself—that’s the problem. In effect, Brooks revises Norma Desmond’s famous complaint [4] about the movies, now repurposed to diagnose an ailing nation: it’s the politics that got small.

Nowhere does he consider the possibility that his formula for “national greatness” just might be so much hooey. Between 1997 and 2017, after all, egged on by people like David Brooks, Americans took a stab at “greatness,” with the execrable Donald Trump now numbering among the eventual results.

Invading Greatness

Say what you will about the shortcomings of the American educational system and the country’s intellectual culture, they had far less to do with creating Trump than did popular revulsion prompted by specific policies that Brooks, among others, enthusiastically promoted. Not that he is inclined to tally up the consequences. Only as a sort of postscript to his litany of contemporary American ailments does he refer even in passing to what he calls the “humiliations of Iraq.”

A great phrase, that. Yet much like, say, the “tragedy of Vietnam” or the “crisis of Watergate,” it conceals more than it reveals. Here, in short, is a succinct historical reference that cries out for further explanation. It bursts at the seams with implications demanding to be unpacked, weighed, and scrutinized. Brooks shrugs off Iraq as a minor embarrassment, the equivalent of having shown up at a dinner party wearing the wrong clothes.

Under the circumstances, it’s easy to forget that, back in 2003, he and other members of the Church of America the Redeemer devoutly supported [5] the invasion of Iraq. They welcomed war. They urged it. They did so not because Saddam Hussein was uniquely evil—although he was evil enough—but because they saw in such a war the means for the United States to accomplish its salvific mission. Toppling Saddam and transforming Iraq would provide the mechanism for affirming and renewing America’s “national greatness.”

Anyone daring to disagree with that proposition they denounced as craven or cowardly. Writing at the time, Brooks disparaged [6] those opposing the war as mere “marchers.” They were effete, pretentious, ineffective, and absurd. “These people are always in the streets with their banners and puppets. They march against the IMF and World Bank one day, and against whatever war happens to be going on the next… They just march against.”

Perhaps space constraints did not permit Brooks in his recent column to spell out the “humiliations” that resulted and that even today continue to accumulate. Here in any event is a brief inventory of what that euphemism conceals: thousands [7] of Americans needlessly killed; tens of thousands grievously wounded [8] in body or spirit; trillions [9] of dollars wasted [10]; millions of Iraqis dead, [11] injured, or displaced [12]; this nation’s moral standing compromised by its resort to torture, kidnapping [13], assassination, and other perversions; a region thrown into chaos and threatened by radical terrorist entities like the Islamic State that U.S. military actions helped foster. And now, if only as an oblique second-order bonus, we have Donald Trump’s elevation to the presidency to boot.

In refusing to reckon with the results of the war he once so ardently endorsed, Brooks is hardly alone. Members of the Church of America the Redeemer, Democrats and Republicans alike, are demonstrably incapable of rendering an honest accounting of what their missionary efforts have yielded.

Brooks belongs, or once did, to the Church’s neoconservative branch. But liberals such as Bill Clinton, along with his secretary of state Madeleine Albright, were congregants in good standing, as were Barack Obama [14] and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton [15]. So, too, are putative conservatives like Senators John McCain [16], Ted Cruz [17], and Marco Rubio [18], all of them subscribing to the belief in the singularity and indispensability of the United States as the chief engine of history, now and forever.

Back in April 2003, confident that the fall of Baghdad had ended the Iraq War, Brooks predicted that “no day will come when the enemies of this endeavor turn around and say, ‘We were wrong. Bush was right.’” Rather than admitting error, he continued, the war’s opponents “will just extend their forebodings into a more distant future.”

Yet it is the war’s proponents who, in the intervening years, have choked on admitting that they were wrong. Or when making such an admission, as did both John Kerry and Hillary Clinton while running for president, they write it off as an aberration, a momentary lapse in judgment of no particular significance, like having guessed wrong on a TV quiz show.

Rather than requiring acts of contrition, the Church of America the Redeemer has long promulgated a doctrine of self-forgiveness, freely available to all adherents all the time. “You think our country’s so innocent?” the nation’s 45th president recently barked [19] at a TV host who had the temerity to ask how he could have kind words for the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Observers professed shock that a sitting president would openly question American innocence.

In fact, Trump’s response and the kerfuffle [20] that ensued both missed the point. No serious person believes that the United States is “innocent.” Worshipers in the Church of America the Redeemer do firmly believe, however, that America’s transgressions, unlike those of other countries, don’t count against it. Once committed, such sins are simply to be set aside and then expunged, a process that allows American politicians and pundits to condemn a “killer” like Putin with a perfectly clear conscience while demanding that Donald Trump do the same.

What the Russian president has done in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria qualifies as criminal. What American presidents have done in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya qualifies as incidental and, above all, beside the point.

Rather than confronting the havoc and bloodshed to which the United States has contributed, those who worship in the Church of America the Redeemer keep their eyes fixed on the far horizon and the work still to be done in aligning the world with American expectations. At least they would, were it not for the arrival at center stage of a manifestly false prophet who, in promising to “make America great again,” inverts all that “national greatness” is meant to signify.

For Brooks and his fellow believers, the call to “greatness” emanates from faraway precincts—in the Middle East, East Asia, and Eastern Europe. For Trump, the key to “greatness” lies in keeping faraway places and the people who live there as faraway as possible. Brooks et al. see a world that needs saving and believe that it’s America’s calling to do just that. In Trump’s view, saving others is not a peculiarly American responsibility. Events beyond our borders matter only to the extent that they affect America’s well-being. Trump worships in the Church of America First, or at least pretends to do so in order to impress his followers.

That Donald Trump inhabits a universe of his own devising, constructed of carefully arranged alt-facts, is no doubt the case. Yet, in truth, much the same can be said of David Brooks and others sharing his view of a country providentially charged to serve as the “successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome.” In fact, this conception of America’s purpose expresses not the intent of providence, which is inherently ambiguous, but their own arrogance and conceit. Out of that conceit comes much mischief. And in the wake of mischief come charlatans like Donald Trump.

Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular [21], is the author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History [22], now out in paperback.

Copyright 2017 Andrew J. Bacevich

37 Comments (Open | Close)

37 Comments To "Angst in the Church of America the Redeemer"

#1 Comment By Colin Chattan On February 23, 2017 @ 10:44 am

This is one of the most perceptive essays I’ve read in a long time. Simply brilliant, Dr. Bacevich, simply brilliant!

#2 Comment By Mel Profit On February 23, 2017 @ 10:49 am

Every time I see David Brooks referenced in The American Conservative, I cringe. Not only is Brooks everything Mr. Bacevich says he is–he is also that most unseemly of things: a respectable, house-broken “conservative”. Indeed, Mr. Brooks has been Washington’s favorite conservative since George Will began his tailspin–and he has perfected the cocktail of reasonableness, inoffensiveness and puppyish good nature that keeps getting him invited to all the best parties. That no one takes a word he says seriously, or can even remember anything he has ever said, is precisely the point: His job is to be genial, moderate, unobjectionably decent, and pointless. At this he is the best of his generation–and an utter bore and fraud.

#3 Comment By Articuno On February 23, 2017 @ 10:54 am

Brooks is simply a whig-history believer. I only don’t understand – how do such people want the US to unite the world in brotherhood when you have major obstacles like China, Iran, India, Russia, perhaps Brazil? It will always be a world of puzzles – american one + chinese and so forth. Whig history is just another form of historicism, this is why Iraq was attacked so easily, because History demanded that Iraq changes itself

#4 Comment By Sceptic On February 23, 2017 @ 11:28 am

Bacevich is one of our very few strategic thinkers. What Bacevich has disclosed here is something far more significant than merely the faults of Brooks’ or of neoconservatism generally (and to be fair, where Brooks goes beyond neoconservatism/nationalism, he can be thoughtful).

What he has disclosed in fact is that America’s primary — I emphasize again, primary — strategic threat is not N. Korea, or radical Islam, or Russia, but its own revolutionary, messianic, expansionist ideology. That is the source of our woes, our growing insecurities and looming financial bankruptcy (to say nothing of the sufferings of millions of our victims).

America’s strategic problem is its own mental imprisonment: its self-worship, its inability to view itself — its destructive acts as well as its pet handful of ideas torn from the complex fabric of a truly vibrant culture — with any critical distance or objectivity.

Joined to that, and as a logical consequence of it — the United States’ persistent inability to view with any objectivity its endless, often manufactured enemies.

#5 Comment By Cornel Lencar On February 23, 2017 @ 11:46 am

Kudos Mr. Bacevich for an exceptional piece!

Somehow the current situation in the U.S. reminds me of the end of a TV miniseries, “Merlin”, where Sam Neil plays the role of Merlin. At the end, Merlin speaks to his archenemy, Morgana, that she will loose her grip on the people because they will just stop believing in her and her powers. And as he speaks, the group of countrymen surrounding Merlin turn their back one after another at Morgana and after the last one turns her back, Morgana simply vanishes…

The flip side of The Church of America the Redeemer, as with any other respectable church is that it needs the “hell”, the fear, to better control its flock. The terrorists that want to kill us for our liberties… You should have included this in your article.

Also, mentioning Jerusalem, a place of madness and fervor, and pain, and strife, that has brought nothing civilizational to the world, as in par with Rome, Athens, Baghdad, Florence, and other cultural centres in Iran, China, India, Japan, is an overstretch…

#6 Comment By Ted On February 23, 2017 @ 11:56 am

Putin is not a “killer”, Putin is a killer. His invasions of his neighbors speak for themselves. His record of killing opposition journalists and politicians is nigh unquestionable. More questionable, and yet still incredibly likely, he committed a series of false flag terror attacks against his own people to cement his power and launch a war in Crimea.

I find myself constantly turned off by this kind of apologia from Foreign Policy “realists”. It always seems like, in your desperation to dispel the notion of America the exceptional, you tend to gloss over actual atrocities committed in other nations. I imagine this is motivated by a wariness of warmongers, but it reeks of intellectual dishonesty.

Further, if you want to truly take down America’s war machine, I’m with you. The foreign engagements and interventionism of the past decades have only yielded mixed results under the most charitable assessment. But let’s separate military interventionism from belief in the superiority of democracy. The global trend has been towards democracy for a century now, I find it very difficult to divorce that welcome development from the advent of American power.

#7 Comment By Ted On February 23, 2017 @ 11:57 am

in the previous comment I said Putin used false flag terror attacks to launch a war in Crimea. I mean Chechnya, and was referring to the Moscow apartment bombings.

#8 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 23, 2017 @ 12:10 pm

“That Donald Trump inhabits a universe of his own devising, constructed of carefully arranged alt-facts, is no doubt the case. Yet, in truth, much the same can be said of David Brooks and others sharing his view of a country providentially charged to serve as the ‘successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome.'”

Trump’s more right than wrong, and the peculiar prevaricating of Brooks and company is far more grandiosely delusional. At this late date personally and in common with ordinary Americans, the enemy of our enemy is our ally.

#9 Comment By Murali On February 23, 2017 @ 12:16 pm

“In fact, this conception of America’s purpose expresses not the intent of providence, which is inherently ambiguous, but their own arrogance and conceit. Out of that conceit comes much mischief. And in the wake of mischief come charlatans like Donald Trump.” These last sentences sums up the problem of the War mongering Neo-Cons of Republican Party and their imitators in Democratic Party.” Honestly it brings to mind the Jehovah witnesses who call on me to save my soul, in spite of the fact I keep reminding them that I am a Hindu and I believe in Karma and do my best to be good to others. But they don’t give up just like the Neo-Cons.

#10 Comment By Phil Giraldi On February 23, 2017 @ 1:08 pm

David Brooks is a Canadian whose son served by choice in the Israeli Defense Forces rather than the U.S. military. He passed on playing an active role in the wars that his father so passionately supports. Brooks himself is a wealthy man who lives in a bubble in Washington and nothing he recommends will impact upon him personally in any way. That is what being a neocon is all about. Why should anyone listen to what he has to say?

#11 Comment By Cynthia McLean On February 23, 2017 @ 2:09 pm

Brilliant! It’s about time someone seriously took down David Brooks & Co’s faux innocence narrative of US history. The only point I would add is that this story predates Brooks by a good century and a half. By identifying its national “interests” with those of the Divine, the US gives itself an eternal and perpetual get-out-jail-free-card. It seems not to matter that millions are slaughtered and entire cultures destroyed, as all was all done with the “best of intentions.”

#12 Comment By Howard On February 23, 2017 @ 2:12 pm

It’s a poor kind of child who loves his parents only so long as they are more attractive, richer, and more powerful than other parents, and it is a poor kind of “patriot” who loves his country only so long as it is more admired, richer, and more powerful than other countries.

#13 Comment By David Walkabout On February 23, 2017 @ 3:37 pm

Preach it, Brother Andrew!

#14 Comment By No Nation Nell On February 23, 2017 @ 4:18 pm

I don’t know if it was your intention but your piece made it far more evident that Brooks is a charlatan you’ve constructed as Trump.

#15 Comment By Howard On February 23, 2017 @ 4:41 pm

“In terms of confessional fealty, his true allegiance is not to conservatism as such, but to the Church of America the Redeemer.” As though having “confessional fealty” to “conservatism” (which some people indeed have) were any better. Regarding anyone who falls into that category, all I can do is quote one of the great voices of wisdom for our time: “I pity the fool!”

#16 Comment By jon-e On February 23, 2017 @ 5:48 pm

‘The things Americans do they do not only for themselves, but for all mankind.’ Well aint that grand! Brooks must have been intoxicated by his ideas at this point, sounds like Dennis Prager. It would be easy to laugh at such ideas if they weren’t so destructive. Excellent piece.

#17 Comment By Ken Hoop On February 23, 2017 @ 7:14 pm

Brooks son being in the IDF and Brooks own vehemence to destroy an unthreatening (to the US) enemy of Israel in 2003 is of course of one piece.

Putin conspiracy theories regards killing journalists of “Ted” reference have never been proven. I believe the theory that has key wings of the American governing apparatus allowing (not planning but looking the other way) the 9-11-2001 attacks have more credence but I would never comment in a doctrinaire manner that implied policy should revolve around the theory.

Of course Russia has always needed a strong man
to stay intact and I couldn’t rule out government sympathizers might have taken action on their own, those who were alarmed at Russian liberal journalists fomenting the kind of discord which might suit Victoria Nuland but not Russia staying intact that is.

#18 Comment By Rick Jones On February 23, 2017 @ 8:04 pm

Although I actively seek out level-headed conservative thinkers/writers, I’ve never been a fan of David Brooks (probably for reasons related to those put forth in this article).

If you really want to get down on the man, though, follow Columbia professor Andrew Gellman. Here is a sample of his take on Brooks: [23]

#19 Comment By troopertyree On February 23, 2017 @ 9:51 pm

Phil giraldi.if brooks’views are less valid because his son skipped Iraq are bill kristol’s and Elliot Cohen’s more valid because their sons were u.s.marines in Iraq?

#20 Comment By ctks On February 24, 2017 @ 2:57 am

superb essay.

#21 Comment By Gil On February 24, 2017 @ 6:45 am

Lies, Andrew. Not “alt-facts.” Lies.

#22 Comment By david robbins tien On February 24, 2017 @ 7:49 am

To understand David Brooks’ “thinking” just go back to his initiation by disciples of Leo Strauss during his undergraduate days at the University of Chicago. It is all there, a “political philosophy” that somehow winds up with initiates convinced that they are a tiny elite that needs to lead dumb Americans in defending civilization, viz, the “West”, against barbarism. After my own indoctrination, I was ready to jump in an F-16 and attack, well, just about anybody. See Senator Tom Cotton, Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, etc., for other examples of the phenomenon. Washington is crawling with these guys and gals.

#23 Comment By connecticut farmer On February 24, 2017 @ 9:03 am

Good article. Couldn’t agree more. A few minor quibbles though:

1. Compared to Lippmann, Brooks is an intellectual lightweight. They’re not even close.

2. Though in the context of the article somewhat self-serving, Brooks’ criticism of the educational system is valid.

Otherwise, the author is spot-on.

#24 Comment By TJ Martin On February 24, 2017 @ 10:33 am

To Phil G and in addition to troopertyree’s comment . If Brooks’s views are less valid for his sons actions what of Trump’s in light of the fact that his grandfather illegally immigrated to the US first in order to escape conscription into the Prussian army : and second because after the US deported him Germany threw him out with his returning again illegally changing his name from Drumpf to Trump : not to mention Trump’s father who bought his way out of fighting in WWII and was an avid supporter of Hitlers’ regime : with then Donald’s millionaire slum lord daddy paying to keep the Donald out of Viet Nam ? The fact is no one in Trump’s family has ever served in any military . As for you P.G. methinks thy anti semitism might be rearing its ugly head .

Fair is fair and what applies to one applies to all .

In as far as the criticisms leveled agains Mr Brooks by Mr Bacevich ;

1) Though some of his criticisms are fair most apply to Mr Brooks before his recent conversion and are not relevant to Mr Brooks present position 2) Mr Bacevich’s military background [ as well as his Catholic upbringing ] in regards to his ability to think critically and discerningly all but discredits him . Suffice it to say the military ( and the Catholic Church ) does not ‘ teach ‘ one to think critically and discerningly .. it indoctrinates one to follow orders 3) In regards to number two might I recommend a book to both Mr Bacevich as well as anyone else pursuing critical thinking ; ” Propaganda ; by Jacques Ellul assuming that is you can handle the truth . Jacques Ellul . One of the few critical thinkers the RC has managed to produce 4) In regards to the ‘ so called ‘ president an original quote of mine I’ve been shoving down the throat of the Trumpoids and Conservatives within my circles holding out hope for a better America under Trump’s impending reign of terror posing as an administration ;

” One does nor remedy decadence and immorality which are merely symptoms of evil with the very personification of evil itself ”

BTW ; Raised Catholic [ Roman and Byzantine ] who went on a 20 year ” Pilgrim’s Regress ” then becoming Reformed attaining multiple Seminary degrees as a theologian / philosopher / apologist having been mentored by the likes of Van Til , Schaefer , teaching working with EMNR pursuing my vocation ( arts ) etc . Independent politically and a hardened critical thinker by necessity as well as by choice more than willing to take on the ‘ indoctrinated ‘ likes of a Mr Bacevich in a debate of any kind

#25 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 24, 2017 @ 12:28 pm

“The global trend has been towards democracy for a century now”

The trend is to Deep State co-option of democracy, its overthrow or unaccountable management, a confluence with democracy-killing Globalism that seeks to make of all governments multinational corporate subordinates. Which corporatism involves democracy, not at all.

#26 Comment By Micha Elyi On February 24, 2017 @ 2:47 pm

We now know that America’s resistance to Ho Chi Minh’s Communists in Vietnam was the right thing to do, however much one might consider that mission ineptly carried out. The same is true of America’s resistance to and vanquishing of Baathist Iraq.

#27 Comment By Rossbach On February 24, 2017 @ 3:02 pm

I’d prefer to learn about American greatness from Mel Brooks. It couldn’t possibly be any more absurd than the babbling of this neocon, and I could at least get a laugh out of it.

#28 Comment By Articuno On February 24, 2017 @ 3:17 pm

What’s wrong with dodging draft to both Vietnam or in the Imperial German Army? The government doesn’t own your life, you should engage in war as a mean of last resort, or collect an army of volunteers if you want to do otherwise. Why should a young man die somewhere in Africa or Eastern Europe when those territories don’t pose direct threat to him

#29 Comment By HeavyB On February 24, 2017 @ 8:55 pm

Great essay, of course.

But I must admit that I am sort of congenial to the “American Greatness” argument where it touches on Space exploration and settlement.

At the very least, it is useful in calling upon Americans to the defense of this planet against the kind of stellat debris, comets, meteors that nearly killed off all life here at least once.

Brooks and the ReformCons have actually broached these issues, and I don’t see why their frankly imperialistic energies cannot be constructively funneled into this direction. Instead of endless wars, we can better ensure the reach of American values into the future by shaping the terms and setting the pace for the looming and inevitable
frontier above us.

Let’s make Mars American, dudes! LOL

#30 Comment By dave On February 25, 2017 @ 6:01 am

troopertyree, I think it’s sincerity, not validity, you’re looking for. Sincerity is important for an op-ed writer. Validity is a whole other question, quite divorced from our sincerity.

Anyway, Brooks and Kagan and that group have puzzled me for some time. At a very basic level, war equals death and destruction. Civilization equals creation and construction. Being great at war at the expense of civilization makes you the Mongols. I don’t know how you miss that.

But that’s not the thing. The thing is, there are global studies programs all over the place these days. Working on the tri-state commission or whatever would be kind of a let down. I mean, as an example, who’d want to work for or donate to the Clinton Arkansas Initiative? Mouth-breathers, that’s who. Brooks is doing what he can to protect the lofty alternative.

#31 Comment By doug wise On February 25, 2017 @ 9:25 am

“all projective and aggressive myths appealed to the notion of a chosen people, at least when they passed from the dream stage to the practical stage.” Leszek Kolakowski, The Presence of Myth

#32 Comment By MEexpert On February 25, 2017 @ 10:45 am

One of the best articles I have read in a long time.

TJ Martin, this article was about David Brooks. Phil Giraldi’s comments were about him only. To bring Kristol and Cohen into discussion would have been inappropriate.

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 26, 2017 @ 10:33 am

“The same is true of America’s resistance to and vanquishing of Baathist Iraq.”

Uhhhh and hmmm and no.

First Vietnam was in response to a communist state invading a state that had chosen democracy as it course. As troublesome as that democracy might have been. There were clear violations of international law by the North Vietnamese. And whatever its problems and internal issues millions of South Vietnamese threw themselves into the fight and died to defend their country.

At the time of the Iraq invasion Pres Hussein was neither a threat to the US or his neighbors. Nor had the country participated in terrorist activities. Thy were battened down and by and large subdued. Weapons inspections were fulfilling their intended goals despite disruptions.

Their is n justification for what we did – none. What is true ten is true now, the Baathist system of government was stable and in the long view progressive. The effort was ethically bankrupt, and strategically unwise.

The consequences of which reverberate to te negative 16 years later engulfing more and more states and people in its tragic result.


Te tragedy of Vietnam is failing to ensure a hard won success by supporting S. Vietnam in maintaining the border. And f course our continued and needless self flagellating sackcloth and ashes of psychological trauma.

#34 Comment By Philly guy On February 26, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

I thought Obama voted against the Iraqi invasion in 2003.

#35 Comment By Howard On February 26, 2017 @ 5:04 pm

“We now know that America’s resistance to Ho Chi Minh’s Communists in Vietnam was the right thing to do….” OK, I’ll bite: Since you say we now know this, what new information has come to light that would convince someone who doubted in 1975? The Domino Theory was wrong: South Korea and Japan never became Communist. The Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact both collapsed; Mao died, and his successors have adopted a kind of Chinese perestroika that, though far from perfect, is hardly any worse than what we see in our NATO “ally”, Turkey. Vietnam is following suit — again, very far from perfect, but fully comparable to our “Gulf allies” such as the Saudis. Of course it could be argued that we have an ethical obligation to honor our promises and to prevent the kind of human rights abuses that took place with the fall of Saigon, but those arguments do not require the perspective of history. If anything, we now know that the fall of South Vietnam was much more localized in time and space than the pro-war side would have believed during the Vietnam War.

#36 Comment By service records On February 27, 2017 @ 4:19 am

“are bill kristol’s and Elliot Cohen’s more valid because their sons were u.s.marines in Iraq?”


I took Phil’s point to be that Brooks’ son served in the army of a foreign power, he did it while America itself was at war, and he did it with his father’s approval. Lt. Andrew J. Bacevich was killed serving America in a war that his father opposed.

(Kristol’s son served mostly at Camp Pendleton. He was overseas for about eight months in Afghanistan, not Iraq, then again for another few months in theater reserve. Honorable service by all appearances. There’s no need to taint that by inventing a tour of service in Iraq.)

#37 Comment By Bruce On February 28, 2017 @ 1:16 pm

TAC, the only publication I can think of, where you can read the comments from readers and consistently find yourself learning something. (and this from someone who would characterize himself as liberal.) So refreshing to find a haven for intelligent discourse in this era of rancor and noise. Stimulating, thoughtful and yes, opinion-changing. An oasis, indeed.