Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Rewriting history, consensus edition

By Douglas MacArthur
National Security Correspondent

We always like to hear what our old Ec. 10 section mates are up to, so we read with some interest Eliot Cohen's '77 op-ed column in today's New York Times, in which he accuses one Donald Trump of threatening the “two-generation-old American foreign policy consensus” that has brought this country to the happy situation it finds itself in today, immersed in no fewer than seven foreign wars.

This puts the tangerine-faced clown on the opposite side of the consensus represented by Eliot, and other stalwarts of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy like George W. Bush and U.S. National Security Adviser Bibi Netanyahu.  Now we hold no brief for said clown, whose foreign policy of cozying up to dictators who flatter him and shunning democratic allies who wound him is best thought of as the strategy of a middle-school girl trying to decide whom she should sit with at lunch.

Eliot Cohen '77, shown here explaining how close we are to
victory in Iraq.
But we wondered a little about Eliot's precious “consensus” to which he attaches such importance.  Keep in mind that Eliot represents the virulent strain of neocon warmongering that led to disaster in Iraq, not to mention certain misadventures two generations ago in a place called Vietnam.  We remember only a little about those days, but it didn't feel to us much like consensus.

Speaking of consensus, here's what Eliot had to say in 2003, after it became clear to the meanest intelligence that Bush, advised by Eliot's gang of armchair warriors, had launched an unnecessary war of choice and thereby blundered into the quagmire in Iraq that has bedeviled us ever since:
To some of Mr. Bush's admirers, like Eliot A. Cohen, a military expert at Johns Hopkins University, tonight's speech was ''an overdue explaining of the case -- he has a sophisticated argument to make about changing Iraq and making it a decent place and a role model for the Mideast, but he doesn't make it often enough,'' or in enough detail. ''I'm struck by the fact that the view of elites, Democrats and Republicans, is that this has to be made to work, and the argument is over how.''  (The New York Times, Sept. 8, 2003).
By the way, here's how the Iraqi consensus was regarded in the same article:
To his critics -- including most of the Democratic presidential aspirants, who believe that Mr. Bush's initial go-it-alone instincts have become his biggest political vulnerability -- the president is wrongly blending the war against terrorism with the effort to build a stable Iraq.
''I think it bears little to no resemblance to the war on terrorism,'' said James Steinberg, who served as President Clinton's deputy national security adviser and is now a scholar at the Brookings Institution. ''There was a theory in this White House that if you were just tough, and knocked Saddam and those like him off, people would not mess with you anymore,'' he said tonight. ''They would no longer regard you as weak.
''Now there is a risk that our muscularity, if not used in a smart way, could make us more vulnerable, not less.'' 
Ya think?

But flash forward to 2016, and the brutal controversy over Iraq has vanished down a memory hole at Johns Hopkins University.  It's been replaced by trade agreements that give to drug and tobacco companies dispute-resolution rights denied to union members and ordinary citizens and promotion of “American values,” such as overthrowing foreign leaders just to show we can without regard to the dangerous power vacuum that invariably ensued and outsourcing U.S.-Iran relations to the Likud Party.
The tangerine-faced clown's foreign policy may be ridiculous, but it doesn't scare us half as much as the recrudescence of neocon drum-beating, the results of which can be seen in Veteran's Administration hospitals and outpatient clinics across the land.

As for Eliot's efforts to bury the disastrous consequences of the foreign policies he fought so hard for from his bunker on Massachusetts Avenue NW, to paraphrase Jon Stewart, doesn't he know that there's an Internet?

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