Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Aggressors on Parade: the foreign policy establishment and renewed War in Iraq, part 2

For Part 1, see here and for Torturers on Parade, here.


Andrew Sullivan and David Corn have been, amusingly, ripping the frothing aggressors on parade in the media, Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick and Liz Cheney, Tony Blair and Robert Kagan. See "Kristol Meth" below. These are all major American and British war criminals (save Liz Cheney who was at the time peripheral). At a modern Nuremberg or Tokyo War Crimes Trial, would have a tough time, under American and international law (though the latter no longer envisions capital punishment), not being shot.


They also repeat, with a kind of fixation, lies and stupidities, unchallenged in the corporate media. "Noble" lying to the American people, not particularly central to Leo Strauss, is, however, a standard feature of neo-con political ops, loyal to Strauss and Wohlstetter, like Wolfowitz and Kristol.


Sullivan, who once believed in the neocons and ripped out the throats of establishment doubters of the initial Iraq aggression, saw he was wrong, and has been a fine commentator on the dangers of endless American wars ever since. People who see their errors and change are often clear headed voices for the future; those who doubledown exude a kind of spiritual misery, a ghoulish quality which makes them - it is part of Andrew's reaction - pretty repulsive. (One central point of nonviolence: if Andrew Sullivan could change, so might others, though their continuing harms must first be stopped).


Even Obama meets with Robert Kagan to discuss "their differences" and appointed Victoria Nuland, Kagan's wife and partner, as assistant secretary of state. See Robert W. Tucker, the leading conservative American realist's startling debate with bombs-first Kagan in 2004 in Foreign Affairs ; in "The Sources of American Legitimacy," Tucker, sometimes a willing aggressor himself as in the 1973 "energy crisis" (he recommended seizing the Saudi oil fields...), remarks on the damage Bush-Cheney policy has done to America's standing in the world for generations here.


In the truckling New York Times' piece on Kagan below, he is named primarily an historian, not a war criminal (he and Bill Kristol and Gary Schmitt - Kristol and Schmitt are followers of Leo Strauss - were the three principals of the Project for a New American Century's petition, signed by all the principals but Dick Cheney who was otherwise occupied as head of Halliburton - to urge war on Iraq on President Clinton in 1996, and on September 20, 2001 to recommend to W. attacking Iraq...


Kagan now purports himself a "humanitarian interventionist," the preferred name of the baying for war Democratic "neo-neo cons" who for the most part favored the initial Iraq invasion (Samantha Power didn't). In today's New York Times below, Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Obama official and now chief executive of the New America Foundation, plumps for war in Iraq and Syria.


Curiously, Obama has surrounded himself with a coterie of women aggressors, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Hilary Clinton (who, once again, opposes military action so far in this case). That is an interesting psychological facet of his policy making - Power connected with Barack over humanitarian intervention (see her The Problem from Hell in which she omits US arming and building up of Saddam Hussein). One would think he could find one cautious foreign policy advisor among four women (or four men), but not in this foreign policy establishment. This is a circle of more or less learned (from an ideological point of view, to serve imperial power or the war complex) neo-neo cons and they, even more than Democratic politicians generally, are unlike the American people who opposed the Iraq war before the fact and have, fortunately, for now at least, had it with aggression.


This bipartisan establishment reveals the chameleon-like character of American militarism. One gets attention in the press, "Face Time on television," reports Leslie Gelb, former head of the Council on Foreign Relations, wondering in retrospect why he had advocated the foolish and losing war [he could not say: aggression} in Iraq by bellowing for war. Moral affectation - the neo cons have it too - disguises from these people how troubled, bent, they are (Samantha Power comes out the best of them, but she has shifted repeatedly, for instance on the Palestinians, to gain her role as UN ambassador).


The foreign policy clique in administrations of both parties hangs out together, and as Syria revealed, is almost uniformly pro-war (Obama is generally more restrained about wars, but not there), stopped only by protest from below in England and among Ron Paul conservatives as well as liberals and radicals. In that case, the opposition ran 9 to 1 among ordinary people in Democratic Maryland (Elijah Cummings's district) and Republican Oklahoma (Tom Cole's district).


Though Obama steers a course different from the Kagans, the Democratic neo-neo cons, with his permission, nip at his heels and Kagan hails Hilary (Hilary is doing better on opposing boots on the ground in Iraq, but a Clinton presidency will be probably quite dangerous for the world and America...). To be part of the foreign policy establishment, bridled to only a limited extent by Obama, is thus to bray for war, viz. Wolfowitz, Kristol, McCain, Lindsey Graham, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and during the run up to Iraq, Clinton, the New York Times, and even Sullivan...

(Sullivan is much more his own person, not simply part of the establishment, than the others).


Some of the quality of evidence and thinking - now widely recognized as lies as bad or worse than "Remember the Maine!" or "Remember the Alamo!" or "Saddam kills infants in hospitals in Kuwait" (the first Gulf War) - this is an old American imperial tradition - is revealed by David Corn and Sullivan below.


Obama's error on Syria, spurred by neo-neo cons Samantha Power and Susan Rice, opened the door for this. Obama himself shades in the direction of "humanitarian intervention" (Kagan is really trying to cozy up...). But the American people do not want war and stopping Qaddafi's slaughter in Benghazi of people like "rats" is barely a one off. Continuing "intervention" in Libya has just been part of more killing with no clear moderating direction or even, narrowly for the American elite, US imperial control of oil.


The corporate media solemnly plays up the murderous neo-con fools as "experts." They could not win in a debate with the near establishment - Corn or Sullivan - let alone with the vast number of academics who have opposed these wars (interestingly, think tank academics are still militarists, but academia is less a part of this, in the run up to the second Gulf War and now, than at any time in the past, except at the height of Vietnam). The neo-cons also could not win a policy debate with Ron Paul and his followers. Hence, there is no chance that the corporate media or parties will sponsor such debates...


While Obama has commendably not gotten the US into a war with Iran, and will now perhaps unite with it against ISIS (gnash your teeth, Kristol, Kagan, Wolfowitz, Netanyahu, Adelson and Romney; Iran is the chief diversion, used by the Israeli government to divert attention from its Occupying boot on the neck of Palestinians) and continue the deescalation/negotiation over its nuclear program as well. This is, so far, the most common good seeking, disaster-preventing aspect of Obama's foreign policy.


All the braying for war is undergirded by the trillion dollar war complex. Then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke belligerently of the US as the "indispensable nation"; it has made itself, bipartisanly, an agent of harm and repression through 1280 military bases around the world (the military has divided the world into 6 military zones...), through training and arming every repressive military (Mubarak and Al-Sisi, take a bow..) and spending, in real terms, over a trillion dollars a year funding weapons (Wall Street and Boeing must have their contracts) and nurturing Xe Corporation and the profitable "privatization" of the army, even though W. left mold growing in Walter Reed Hospital for the blown apart veterans flown back from Iraq and Obama has left the VA in such disarray - many vets with serious illness are delayed for months for appointments or never even scheduled.


It took the Sanders-McCain bill, shamefacedly passing the Senate; of the House, we will see - to begin to remedy some of this.


Where does the official $708 billion or so, and the rest of the war money go?

Check out the super secret JSOC - Joint Special Operations Command, the President's private army (the hallmark of a tyranny...), traced in Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars or the symbiotic eating from within of the American military by mercenary corporations - even Obama sent 7 mercenaries secretly for every 3 soldiers (30,000 publicly, 70,000 secretly) in the surge in Afghanistan.


It is this ship of war and militarism which Obama, alone in the establishment, names and tries to bend. But the confabs of Obama and Kagan, Kagan's pathetic confidence in Hilary, and the aggressors, the dead war criminals on parade in the fantastic disguise of "humanitarian interventionists" about shooting up Iraq again underline how difficult this is.


"Kristol Meth
JUN 16 2014 @ 8:19PM

What do you do with near-clinical fanatics who, in their own minds, never make mistakes and whose worldview remains intact even after it has been empirically dismantled in front of their eyes? In real life, you try and get them to get professional help.

In the case of those who only recently sent thousands of American servicemembers to their deaths in a utopian scheme to foment a democracy in a sectarian dictatorship, we have to merely endure their gall in even appearing in front of the cameras. But the extent of their pathology is deeper than one might expect. And so there is actually a seminar this fall, sponsored by the Hertog Foundation, which explores the origins of the terrible decision-making that led us into the worst foreign policy mistake since Vietnam. And the fair and balanced teaching team?

It will be led by Paul D. Wolfowitz, who served during the Persian Gulf War as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and as Deputy Secretary of Defense during the first years of the Iraq War, and by Lewis Libby, who served during the first war as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and during the Iraq War as Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser [both Straussians] to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Next spring: how the Iraq War spread human rights … by Donald Rumsfeld.

Most people are aware that relatively few of the architects of a war have fully acknowledged the extent of their error – let alone express remorse or even shame at the more than a hundred thousands civilian deaths their adventure incurred for a phony reason. No, all this time, they have been giving each other awards, lecturing congressmen and Senators, writing pieces in the Weekly Standard and the New Republic, being fellated by David Gregory, and sucking at the teet of the neocon welfare state, as if they had nothing to answer for, and nothing to explain.

Which, I suppose makes the following paragraph in Bill Kristol’s latest case for war less shocking than it should be:

Now is not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to withdraw from it in 2011. The crisis is urgent, and it would be useful to focus on a path ahead rather than indulge in recriminations. All paths are now fraught with difficulties, including the path we recommend. But the alternatives of permitting a victory for al Qaeda and/or strengthening Iran would be disastrous.

But it is shocking; it is, in fact, an outrage, a shameless, disgusting abdication of all responsibility for the past combined with a sickening argument to do exactly the same fricking thing all over again. And yes, I’m not imagining. This is what these true know-nothing/learn-nothing fanatics want the US to do:

"It would mean not merely conducting U.S. air strikes, but also accompanying those strikes with special operators, and perhaps regular U.S. military units, on the ground. This is the only chance we have to persuade Iraq’s Sunni Arabs that they have an alternative to joining up with al Qaeda or being at the mercy of government-backed and Iranian-backed death squads, and that we have not thrown in with the Iranians. It is also the only way to regain influence with the Iraqi government and to stabilize the Iraqi Security Forces on terms that would allow us to demand the demobilization of Shi’a militias and to move to limit Iranian influence and to create bargaining chips with Iran to insist on the withdrawal of their forces if and when the situation stabilizes."

What’s staggering is the maximalism of their goals and the lies they are insinuating into the discourse now, just as they did before.

Last time, you could ascribe it to fathomless ignorance. This time, they have no excuse. ISIS is not al Qaeda; it’s far worse in ways that even al Qaeda has noted undermine its cause rather than strengthen it. It may be strategically way over its head already. And the idea that the US has to fight both ISIS and Iran simultaneously is so unhinged and so self-evidently impossible to contain or control that only these feckless fools would even begin to suggest it. Having empowered Iran by dismantling Iraq, Kristol actually wants the US now to enter a live war against ISIS and the Quds forces. You begin to see how every military catastrophe can be used to justify the next catastrophe. It’s a perfect circle for the neocons’ goal of the unending war.

I don’t know what to say about it really. It shocks in its solipsism; stuns in its surrealism; chills in its callousness and recklessness. So perhaps the only response is to republish what this charlatan was saying in 2003 in a tone utterly unchanged from his tone today, with a certainty which was just as faked then as it is now. Read carefully and remember he has recanted not a word of it:

"February 2003 (from his book, “The War Over Iraq“): According to one estimate, initially as many as 75,000 troops may be required to police the war’s aftermath, at a cost of $16 billion a year. As other countries’ forces arrive, and as Iraq rebuilds its economy and political system, that force could probably be drawn down to several thousand soldiers after a year or two.

February 24, 2003: “Having defeated and then occupied Iraq, democratizing the country should not be too tall an order for the world’s sole superpower.”

March 5, 2003: “We’ll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction.”

April 1 2003: “On this issue of the Shia in Iraq, I think there’s been a certain amount of, frankly, Terry, a kind of pop sociology in America that, you know, somehow the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq’s always been very secular.”

Yes, “always been very secular”. Always. Would you buy a used pamphlet from this man – let alone another full scale war in Iraq?"


"Why Is Paul Wolfowitz On Television?
JUN 17 2014 @ 11:13AM

A reminder (from David Corn) of the man’s fathomless ignorance about Iraq (as well as the blood of well over 100,000 on his hands). Here’s the intellectual’s assessment of the possibility of sectarian warfare once Iraq had been invaded:

There’s been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia along with the requirement for large policing forces to separate those militias. And the horrors of Iraq are very different from the horrific ethnic cleansing of Kosovars by Serbs that took place in Kosovo and left scars that continue to require peacekeeping forces today in Kosovo. The slaughter in Iraq—and it’s been substantial—has unfortunately been the slaughter of people of all ethnic and religious groups by the regime. It is equal opportunity terror.

The tape is here. It’s reminiscent of Bill Kristol’s conviction that sectarianism was a fantasy:

We talk here about Shiites and Sunnis as if they’ve never lived together. Most Arab countries have Shiites and Sunnis, and a lot of them live perfectly well together.

I wish I could feel calm contempt for these people. But it is interwoven with rage."


"Mother Jones

FLASHBACK: Remember When Paul Wolfowitz Said Not to Worry About Sectarian Violence in Iraq?
The former Bush administration official is perhaps the worst person to give advice about the current crisis in Iraq—but that hasn't stopped him from speaking out.
—By David Corn | Tue Jun. 17, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

This past weekend, as the crisis in Iraq intensified, Paul Wolfowitz appeared on Meet the Press to share his wisdom on the current predicament there. Wolfowitz was the deputy defense secretary and an architect of the US invasion of Iraq during the Bush-Cheney administration, and he remarked on the show that talk of sectarian violence in Iraq was misguided: "This is more than just those obscure Shia/Sunni conflict[s]." He advised that the United States should "stick with our friends, and those friends are not always perfect." Wolfowitz seemed to be suggesting that the Obama administration should stand strong with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, despite Maliki's authoritarian, corrupt, and inept ways. But moments later Wolfowitz said, "It's a complicated situation in which you don't just come up with, 'We're going to bomb this, we're going to do that.'" And then he said, "Maliki is a big part of the problem. He's not a leader of Iraq. We need to find people there."

It was confusing. After the invasion of Iraq, the Bush crew backed a consolidation of power by the Maliki-led coalition of religious-oriented Shiite parties and decimated the Sunni establishment that had previously controlled the government and the military. And now Wolfowitz was saying that Washington should hang tough with its pal—but that its pal was also the problem. Huh? The big brain behind the Iraq war had nothing of consequence to recommend.

But the real question is, what was he doing on television anyway? Like his neocon comrades—Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Kagan, and others—Wolfowitz does not deserve to be presented as an expert with important ideas about the ongoing mess. He and the rest of this gang should have had their pundit licenses revoked after the Iraq war. They got it all wrong: WMDs, the cost of the war, the consequences of the invasion. And these errors were compounded by the deaths of nearly 4,500 US service men and women—and 180,000 or more civilian Iraqi casualties. (Here's a partial list of Kristol's pre-war errors and misrepresentations.) So why care what they have to say now?

Instead, how about a a flashback? It's February 27, 2003, three weeks before the invasion. As some experts are pointing out that the war could cost a great deal and require the United States to keep hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq following the cessation of hostilities, Wolfowitz is testifying before Congress. He's insisting that the US will not have to maintain large number of troops in Iraq after the war—and he's refusing to provide a cost estimate. There's also another critical concern hovering at the time: whether a US invasion will create disorder that will trigger sectarian violence within Iraq. Wolfowitz, long known in Washington as a "defense intellectual," pooh-poohed the matter and indicated it was silly to fret such an outbreak.

Let's go to the tape:

Listen here.

"There are other differences that suggest that peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests. There's been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia along with the requirement for large policing forces to separate those militias. And the horrors of Iraq are very different from the horrific ethnic cleansing of Kosovars by Serbs that took place in Kosovo and left scars that continue to require peacekeeping forces today in Kosovo. The slaughter in Iraq—and it's been substantial—has unfortunately been the slaughter of people of all ethnic and religious groups by the regime. It is equal opportunity terror."

That is, no reason to fear Shiite-Sunni bloodshed after a US invasion. Yet in the aftermath of the invasion, such violent conflict began right away. And the Shiite-Sunni strife—exacerbated by the Bush-backed Maliki regime—has led to the crisis of the moment, with the ultra-extremists of the Sunni-led Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) having taken control of major Iraqi cities and threatening Baghdad.

At that same congressional appearance, Wolfowitz echoed the Bush-Cheney administration mantra of the time that the United States would be embraced by Iraqis after invading their nation.

"These are Arabs, 23 million of the most educated people in the Arab world, who are going to welcome us as liberators. And when the message gets out to the whole Arab world, it's going to be a powerful counter to Osama bin Laden… It will be a great step forward."

Now, 11 years after that message was supposedly sent to Bin Laden, Wolfowitz says, "Al Qaeda is on the march. Not just in Iraq, in Syria, and Libya."

A reminder: there was no Al Qaeda on the march in Iraq and this region before the US invasion of Iraq.

In 2003, Wolfowitz clearly did not know what he was talking about regarding sectarian tensions within Iraq—or much else about Iraq and its people and problems. (In our book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Michael Isikoff and I reported that Wolfowitz at that time embraced an odd and convoluted conspiracy theory that held that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein controlled Al Qaeda and was responsible for all of its terrorism.) Wolfowitz is perfectly unqualified to be giving advice about the present situation—even if he helped cause it."


"Andrew Sullivan
Hathos Alert
JUN 16 2014 @ 11:21AM

A Kagan never disappoints. Several of them are being deployed right now across the neocon triangle to argue for the necessity of another war … to fix the catastrophe their first war created. But this paragraph is so special it deserves a place of its own in the annals of self-awareness:

"Rejoining the fight means immediately sending air support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets; air transportation; Special Operations forces; training teams; and more military equipment back into Iraq. It does not mean re-invading Iraq."

My italics. I’m laughing because the alternative is too painful."


"New York Times
Events in Iraq Open Door for Interventionist Revival, Historian Says
Robert Kagan Strikes a Nerve With Article on Obama Policy

The historian Robert Kagan wants a more muscular approach to foreign policy. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

McLEAN, Va. — In a much-discussed [by whom?] essay, the historian Robert Kagan recently depicted President Obama as presiding over an inward turn by the United States that threatened the global order and broke with more than 70 years of American presidents and precedence. He called for Mr. Obama to resist a popular pull toward making the United States a nation without larger responsibilities, and to reassume the more muscular approach to the world out of vogue in Washington since the war in Iraq drained the country of its appetite for intervention.

The New Republic cover article, “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” struck such a nerve in the White House that many in the foreign policy establishment considered part of Mr. Obama’s speech last month at West Point outlining a narrower vision for American force in world affairs to be a rebuttal, and the president even invited Mr. Kagan to lunch to compare world views. But the rapid advancement of militants from Iraq and Syria on Baghdad, and Mr. Obama’s announcement on Friday that he was weighing the use of force to counter them, makes the debate suddenly less abstract.

To Mr. Kagan, American action to stop the militants is imperative, but a continued military presence in Iraq and action in Syria would have averted the crisis. “It’s striking how two policies driven by the same desire to avoid the use of a military power are now converging to create this burgeoning disaster,” Mr. Kagan said in an interview.

A decade after their fierce advocacy for the war in Iraq largely discredited neoconservatives like Paul D. Wolfowitz and Richard N. Perle, who argued most loudly for democracy exportation through military power, Mr. Kagan is hardly apologetic about the current mess. Instead, he believes that the widespread frustration over Mr. Obama’s disengagement despite the resurgence of organized terrorist groups in the region has created the climate to again make the case for interventionism.

And who better to lead a cast of assorted hawks back into intellectual — and they hope eventually political — influence than the congenial and well-respected scion of one of America’s first families of interventionism?

His father, Donald Kagan, a historian of ancient Greece, is a patriarch of neoconservatism {Kagan is a bad historian of Thucydides who misses the political corruption of Athens that accompanies its expansion; I debated him on KGNU in the run up to the Iraq War and his only argument was that disagreement with him was "unpatriotic"}. His brother, Fred, is a military scholar who helped conceive the American troop increase in Iraq in 2007. His wife and unofficial editor, Victoria Nuland, is an assistant secretary of state and one of the country’s toughest and most experienced diplomats, whose fervor for building democracy in Ukraine recently leaked out in an embarrassing audio clip. And Mr. Kagan, who often works in a book-lined studio of his cedar home here in the Washington suburbs, exudes a Cocoa-Puffs-pouring, stay-at-home-dad charm.

“A very nice family,” said William Kristol, a family friend and the founder of the conservative Weekly Standard, whose father, Irving, is another of neoconservatism’s father figures and one of Robert’s first bosses.

Mr. Kristol said he, too, sensed “more willingness to rethink” neoconservatism, which he called “vindicated to some degree” by the fruits of Mr. Obama’s detached approach to Syria and Eastern Europe. Mr. Kagan, he said, gives historical heft to arguments “that are very consistent with the arguments I made, and he made, 20 years ago, 10 years ago.”

Mr. Kagan, 55, prefers the term “liberal interventionist” to the neoconservative label, but believes the latter no longer has the stigma it did in the early days of the Obama presidency. “The sort of desire to say ‘Neocon! Neocon! Neocon!’ has moved out a little bit to the fringe,” he said.

Both Mr. Kagan and his brother are taking considerable pains to describe their advocacy as broadly bipartisan. “The urgent priority is to unite internationalists on both sides of the spectrum,” said Fred Kagan, while his brother, Robert, mentioned his briefing of a bipartisan congressional delegation at Davos and his good relations with top White House officials, including the national security adviser, Susan E. Rice (!). (Their father apparently did not get the memo, calling Mr. Obama’s speech “pathetic” and saying of the president, “We should not underestimate the possibility of extraordinary ignorance.”)

But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.

“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

Whatever it is called, it is a dominant strain in the Kagan clan. As a boy, Robert accompanied his father to the faculty club on the Cornell campus, where high-level conversation made an impression. (So did the philosopher Allan Bloom, the author of the conservative manifesto “The Closing of the American Mind,” who accidentally put out a cigar in his hand at a poker game.)

Fred Kagan, more cerebral than Robert, went on to become a West Point professor, and his paper for the American Enterprise Institute, “Choosing Victory, a Plan for Success in Iraq,” served as the intellectual basis for the 2007 troop increase, the so-called surge. Later, he went on to spend months with his wife, Kimberly, now president of the Institute for the Study of War, in Afghanistan, poring over Taliban correspondence at the invitation of Gen. David H. Petraeus.

Robert Kagan, armed with graduate degrees in public policy and history, cut his teeth working in the Reagan administration. It was during that time that he attended a party thrown by Ms. Nuland, a disarmingly charming and talented young Foreign Service officer. The two had friends and a hometown in common, as she, too, had a famous Yale professor for a father, Sherwin Nuland, the author of “How We Die.”

They had some bad dates and then a good one at a Cuban restaurant where, Ms. Nuland said, they fell in love “talking about democracy and the role of America in the world.” The couple married in 1987. Ms. Nuland climbed the diplomatic ladder, serving as chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott — now her husband’s boss at the Brookings Institution — and in the Bush administration, as a key foreign-policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and ambassador to NATO. When asked about her husband, Ms. Nuland recites a “he’s him and I’m me” mantra. Mr. Kagan offers that “with any marriage where do you leave off and they begin?”

“It’s hard,” he said. “We’ve been living through this world together for almost 30 years, and I don’t think there is a huge gap between us.” Mr. Kagan challenges his wife’s answers to how-was-your-day questions with shouts of “You are giving me talking points! What are you really trying to do?” Ms. Nuland carves up his drafts, writing, “We don’t care” across pages and “barf” across paragraphs.

But they do have boundaries. In his work, Mr. Kagan is not permitted to use any official information he overhears or picks up around the house, and must steer clear of specific regions his wife is working on and avoid ad hominem attacks and a snarky tone.

But Mr. Kagan’s views have not influenced his wife’s career one way or another, the couple said. “It’s a touchy question,” Mr. Kagan said. “Because when she does something, like on Ukraine, the left — and right — go, ‘Oh that’s just those neocons.’ ”

Even before Mr. Kagan’s essay, some critics saw evidence of overly activist tendencies in his wife’s provocative decision in December to hand out cookies to Ukrainian protesters; ditto for a subsequently leaked private conversation in which she weighed in on the makeup of the new Ukrainian government and offered a profane directive to the European Union. “Now, another member of the Kagan family, albeit an in-law, has been orchestrating the escalation of tensions in Ukraine with an eye toward one more ‘regime change,’ ” Robert Parry, a liberal investigative reporter, wrote in February on his blog,

Ms. Nuland declined to comment on her husband’s critique of her current boss’s foreign policy. “But suffice to say,” she said, “that nothing goes out of the house that I don’t think is worthy of his talents. Let’s put it that way.”

Inside the Obama White House, Mr. Kagan is viewed, said one former top official, as a “gentleman,” whose perspective is sought out because of his excellent grasp of history. But there is also a feeling that he dangerously glosses over the devastating effect of the war in Iraq, and that American force, when unsuccessful, undermines rather than advances American security and the global order.

At an intimate fund-raiser for Democratic Senate candidates in May at the Upper East Side home of the financier Blair Effron, Mr. Obama became animated when answering a question about his foreign policy. He said calls from hawks like Senator John McCain for American intervention in Syria and other global hot spots weres grossly irresponsible, according to one attendee. The president added that the entire notion that America undergirded global order through a broad use of force was a dangerous fallacy.

Mr. Kagan is equally resolute. The possible fall of Baghdad, he said, demands a response from Mr. Obama, who he fears has made up his mind to retrench the United States into a more “normal” and less internationally engaged posture. “I would be delighted to be cosmically wrong {he has no idea...],” he said.


"The New York Times
The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Don’t Fight in Iraq and Ignore Syria

Credit Pablo Delcán

WASHINGTON — FOR the last two years, many people in the foreign policy community, myself included, have argued repeatedly for the use of force in Syria — to no avail. We have been pilloried as warmongers and targeted, by none other than President Obama, as people who do not understand that force is not the solution to every question. A wiser course, he argued at West Point, is to use force only in defense of America’s vital interests.

Suddenly, however, in the space of a week, the administration has begun considering the use of force in Iraq, including drones, against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which has been occupying city after city and moving ever closer to Baghdad.

The sudden turn of events leaves people like me scratching our heads. Why is the threat of ISIS in Iraq a sufficiently vital interest, but not the rise of ISIS in Syria — and a hideous civil war that has dismembered Syria itself and destabilized Lebanon, Jordan and now Iraq?

I suspect White House officials would advance three reasons.

First, they would say, the fighters in Iraq include members of Al Qaeda. But that ignores recent history. Experts have predicted for over a year that unless we acted in Syria, ISIS would establish an Islamic state in eastern Syria and western Iraq, exactly what we are watching. So why not take them on directly in Syria, where their demise would strengthen the moderate opposition?

Because, the White House might say, of the second reason, the Iraqi government is asking for help. That makes the use of force legitimate under international law, whereas in Syria the same government that started the killing, deliberately fanned the flames of civil war, and will not allow humanitarian aid to starving and mortally ill civilians, objects to the use of force against it.

But here the law sets the interests of the Iraqi government against those of its people. It allows us to help a government that has repeatedly violated power-sharing agreements in ways that have driven Sunni support for ISIS. And from a strategic point of view, it is a government that is deeply in Iran’s pocket — to the extent, as Fareed Zakaria reported in his Washington Post column last week, that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki would not agree to a residual American force because the Iranians forbade it.

The third reason the White House would give is that America fought a decade-long war in Iraq, at a terrible cost. We overturned a stable, strong but brutal government, although far less brutal than President Bashar al-Assad’s has proved to be, and left a weak and unstable government. We cannot allow our soldiers to have fought in vain, the argument goes, so we should now prop up the government we left in place.

This is where the White House is most blind. It sees the world on two planes: the humanitarian world of individual suffering, where no matter how heart-rending the pictures and how horrific the crimes, American vital interests are not engaged because it is just people; and the strategic world of government interests, where what matters is the chess game of one leader against another, and stopping both state and nonstate actors who are able to harm the United States.

In fact, the two planes are inextricably linked. When a government begins to massacre its own citizens, with chemical weapons, barrel bombs and starvation, as Syria’s continues to do, it must be stopped. If it is not stopped, violence, displacement and fanaticism will flourish.

Deciding that the Syrian government, as bad as it is, was still better than the alternative of ISIS profoundly missed the point. As long as we allow the Syrian government to continue perpetrating the worst campaign of crimes against humanity since Rwanda, support for ISIS will continue. As long as we choose Prime Minister Maliki over the interests of his citizens, all his citizens, his government can never be safe.

President Obama should be asking the same question in Iraq and Syria. What course of action will be best, in the short and the long term, for the Iraqi and Syrian people? What course of action will be most likely to stop the violence and misery they experience on a daily basis? What course of action will give them the best chance of peace, prosperity and a decent government?

The answer to those questions may well involve the use of force on a limited but immediate basis, in both countries. Enough force to remind all parties that we can, from the air, see and retaliate against not only Al Qaeda members, whom our drones track for months, but also any individuals guilty of mass atrocities and crimes against humanity. Enough force to compel governments and rebels alike to the negotiating table. And enough force to create a breathing space in which decent leaders can begin to consolidate power.

On the legal side, we should act in both countries because we face a threat to global peace and security, precisely the situation the United Nations Security Council was established to address. If nations like Russia and China block action for their own narrow interests, we should act multilaterally, as we did in Kosovo, and then seek the Council’s approval after the fact. The United Nations Charter was created for peace among the people of the world, not as an instrument of state power.

This is not merely a humanitarian calculation. It is a strategic calculation. One that, if the president had been prepared to make it two years ago, could have stopped the carnage spreading today in Syria and in Iraq.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, the president and chief executive of the New America Foundation, was director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011."


"Andrew Sullivan
Wolfowitz’s Noble Lies
JUN 18 2014 @ 11:32AM

I tend not to hold the somewhat conspiratorial view that followers of Leo Strauss, the guru of the neocon intelligentsia, actively believe in deceiving the American people in the pursuit of statecraft. Strauss argued that many critical texts in Western civilization were written with an esoteric teaching for the intelligent few, while presenting a less radical and palatable public doctrine for the masses. Hence the Straussian penchant for a noble lie – one that is good for the people to believe but which the elite knows is bullshit. Perhaps the classic example of this is the Straussian support for public religion, while the bulk of them are atheists. For them, religious faith is entirely instrumental – a way to lie your way to social order and cohesion.

In the case of the Iraq war, several untruths were told. Among them: there is no sectarianism in Iraq; it will cost next to nothing; it will be over in months; there are WMDs everywhere; Saddam and al Qaeda are joined at the hip. It’s hard to tell which of these untruths were sincerely believed by men like Wolfowitz and Kristol, longtime Straussians both, and which were a function of them not knowing anything about the country that was to be their text-book case of “creating reality”. But when a disgraced architect of that war goes on television to argue that the public needs to be told now that ISIS is al Qaeda, even though he knows that they are separate organizations with separate ambitions, I tend to withdraw whatever benefit of the doubt I give these men with the blood of hundreds of thousands on their hands.

Here’s the money quote from Wolfowitz:

We should say al Qaeda. ISIS sounds like some obscure thing; it’s even more obscure when you say Shia and Sunni … It means nothing to Americans whereas al Qaeda means everything to Americans … My point is that these are the same people, they are affiliated with the same people, who attacked the United States on 9/11 and still have an intention of attacking the United States and attacking Europe …

This is a rare moment in which a Straussian actually comes out and says: yes, we’re deliberately lying by conflating all sorts of different things in the Middle East – the Sunni-Shia divide; the hostility between ISIS and al Qaeda – in order to concoct a simple and terrifying message to the American people that will enable us to get into another war in order to advance our goals in the Middle East. Yes, we know this is a lie – just as our insinuation that Saddam and al Qaeda were in cahoots before 2003 was also a lie. But it’s a noble one, and that’s all that counts. That Wolfowitz was revealed as grotesquely incompetent in getting his war to achieve anything for the United States or Iraq but catastrophe is not something this smug propagandist has to worry about. We should not go into recriminations about the past, see. All of that is wiped from the ledger, and anything that went awry was someone else’s responsibility.

It’s not just that these people refuse to be held accountable for their incompetence, war crimes and catastrophic foreign policy. It is that they are still prepared to go on television and brazenly lie to the American people and to use fear to whip up another war in the Middle East. They are trying to do this again. It’s not just that they are shameless; they are actively dangerous in their ability to manipulate and lie this country into another disastrous war."

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