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Today's Top News
Our War-Loving Foreign Policy Community Hasn't Gone Anywhere
Advocates of escalation in Afghanistan chose Bob Woodward to "reprise his role as warmonger hagiagropher" by publishing Gen. Stanley McChrystal's "confidential" memo to the President arguing for increased troops. As Digby notes, the vague case for continuing to occupy that country is virtually identical to every instance where America's war-loving Foreign Policy Community advocates the need for new and continued wars. It's nothing more than America's standard, generic "war-is-necessary" rationale. That is not at all surprising, given that, as Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch notes:
The "strategic review" brought together a dozen smart (mostly) think-tankers with little expertise in Afghanistan but a general track record of supporting calls for more troops and a new counter-insurgency strategy. They set up shop in Afghanistan for a month working in close coordination with Gen. McChrystal, and emerged with a well-written, closely argued warning that the situation is dire and a call for more troops and a new counter-insurgency strategy. Shocking.
The link he provides is to this list of think tank "experts" who worked on McChrystal's review, including the standard group of America's war-justifying theorists: the Kagans, a Brookings representative, Anthony Cordesman, someone from Rand, etc. etc. What would a group of people like that ever recommend other than continued and escalated war? It's what they do. You wind them up and they spout theories to justify war. That's the function of America's Foreign Policy Community. As one of their leading members -- Leslie Gelb, President of the Council on Foreign Relations -- recently wrote in re-examining the causes of his enthusiastic support for the attack on Iraq:
The Foreign Policy Community -- a term which excludes those in primarily academic positions -- is not some apolitical pool of dispassionate experts examining objective evidence and engaging in academic debates. Rather, it is a highly ideological and politicized establishment, and its dominant bipartisan ideology is defined by extreme hawkishness, the casual use of military force as a foreign policy tool, the belief that war is justified not only in self-defense but for any "good result," and most of all, the view that the U.S. is inherently good and therefore ought to rule the world through superior military force.
That "experts" from the "Foreign Policy Community" endorse more war is about as surprising -- and as relevant -- as former CIA Directors banding together to decide that they oppose the prosecution of CIA agents. The only event that would be news is if a group of people drawn from that "community" ever did anything other than endorse more war [and in the few instances where one hears war hesitation from them, it's always on strategic grounds ("we may not be able to achieve our mission") and never on legal, moral or humanitarian grounds ("it's really not morally or legally justified to slaughter enormous numbers of innocent human beings under these circumstances or bomb, invade and occupy a country that isn't attacking us or even able to").
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We're not even out of Iraq yet -- not really close -- and there is already an intense competition underway to determine where we should wage war next. Escalation in Afghanistan is just one option on the menu. Iran, of course, is the other (although Venezuela has replaced Syria as a nice dark horse contestant). In October, 2008, The Washington Post published an Op-Ed from former Sen. Chuck Robb (D-Va.) and Dan Coats (R-In.) urging the next President "to begin building up military assets in the region from day one" towards "launching a devastating strike on Iran's nuclear and military infrastructure." That October, 2008 Op-Ed was based on a new report they co-authored for the so-called (and aptly named) "Bipartisan Policy Center," which I analyzed here.
Today, they have a new Post Op-Ed breathlessly warning that "we have little time left to expend on Iranian stalling tactics" because "Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon by 2010" and therefore, if there is no quick diplomatic resolution, "in early 2010, the White House should elevate consideration of the military option." Today's Op-Ed is based an updated report they issued which shrieks in its title that "Time is Running Out" (a phrase melodramatically super-imposed on the cover over an Iranian flag and an almost-expired hourglass). The report itself repeatedly demands that the U.S. threaten Iran with severe military action, beginning with a naval blockade (the Report's advocacy for that action begins by noting, with a dismissive yawn: "Although technically an act of war . . . ." - "technically an act of war": whatever).
The arguments for attacking Iran are so similar to the ones used for Iraq that it's striking how little effort they make to pretend it's different (Iran will get nukes, give them to Terrorists, we'll lose a city, etc.) The Bipartisan Policy Center Report never takes note of the irony that it "justifies" a threat of attack against Iran by pointing to that country's violations of U.N. Resolutions, even as Article 2 of the U.N. Charter explicitly provides that "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state" -- a prohibition they demand the U.S. violate over and over. As always, we're exempt from everything. Just imagine what our elite class would say if Iran's leading newspapers routinely published articles from leaders of its two largest political parties explicitly advocating a detailed plan to attack, invade, blockade and bomb the U.S.
Also today in The Post, Fred Hiatt's Deputy Editor, Jackson Diehl, argues that Israel's so-called "success" in its attack on Gaza and the lack of bad outcomes from that attack may/should create the view that "even a partial and short-term reversal of the Iranian nuclear program may look to Israelis like a reasonable benefit." When examining the costs and benefits, Diehl does not weigh or even mention the more than 700 civilians killed in Gaza (252 of them children, according to an Israeli human rights group), nor the fact that, according a U.N. Report, Israeli (and Hamas) engaged in war crimes so serious that they may constitute "crimes against humanity" warranting a war crimes tribunal. When I interviewed one of the "expert consultants" on the Robb/Coats Attack-Iran report, Kenneth Katzman, he explicitly acknowledged that, when formulating its recommendations for attacking Iran, the "Bipartisan Center" never considered the number of Iranian civilians we would slaughter (you remember Iranian civilians: the ones whom Bomb-Iran cheerleaders recently pretended to care so much about). "Number of civilian deaths" never enters the war-justifying equation because the people doing the weighing aren't the ones who will will be killed.
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It's hard to overstate how aberrational -- one might say "rogue" -- the U.S. is when it comes to war. No other country sits around debating, as a routine and permanent feature of its political discussions, whether we should bomb this country or that one next, or for how many more years we should occupy our conquered targets. And none use war as a casual tool for advancing foreign policy interests, at least nowhere close to the way we do (the demand that Iran not possess nuclear weapons is clearly part of an overall, stated strategy of ensuring that other countries remain incapable of deterring us from attacking them whenever we want to). Committing to a withdrawal from Iraq appears to be acceptable, but only as long as have our escalations and new wars lined up to replace it (and that's to say nothing of the virtually invisible wars we're fighting). For the U.S., war is the opposite of a "last resort": it's the more or less permanent state of affairs, and few people who matter want it to be any different.
Indeed, the factions that exert the most dominant influence on our foreign policy have only one principle: ongoing wars are good (the public and private military industry embraces that because wars are what bestow purpose, power and profits, and the Foreign Policy Community does so because -- as Gelb says -- it bestows "political and professional credibility"). In his 1790 Political Observation, James Madison warned: "Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded. . . . No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." Can anyone doubt that "continual warfare" is exactly what the U.S. does and, by all appearances, will continue to do for the foreseeable future (at least until we not only run out of money to pay for these wars -- as we already have -- but also the ability to finance these wars with more debt)? Doesn't turning ourselves into a permanent war-fighting state have some rather serious repercussions that ought to be weighed when deciding if that's something we want to keep doing?
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On an unrelated note: Tomorrow at roughly 10:30 a.m., I'll be on NPR's On Point with the ACORN-obsessed John Fund of The Wall St. Journal to talk about the ACORN "scandal." I have many things to say to/about John Fund (some based on this post); along those lines, note this amazing report that 25 of the GOP Senators who just voted to cut off funding to ACORN opposed, in 2006, legislation to curb abuse and fraud by federal contractors, including the ones eating up billions up billions of dollars in taxpayer funds in Iraq. Local listings and live audio feed for On Point are here.