Backtalk, November 9, 2005

My Weekend With the Wonks

Leon Hadar’s well-written article on his meetings with the Washington policy wonks, “My Weekend with the Wonks,” is another bad omen of comparison between the Iraq war and Vietnam.

Hadar says the wonks today have no clear answers to Iraq or our overall policy in the Middle East. Back then, the “Wise Men” and the “Best and Brightest” had no answers about Vietnam either. All their magic had gone, these men who created the post-World War II world and U.S. foreign policy for the Cold War and their young apprentices. In Vietnam, as in Iraq, they just hoped to muddle through and maybe things would work out.

And maybe they would have. South Vietnam lasted for two years after the Paris Peace Accords, even though the document virtually foretold its doom by allowing NVA forces to keep their stranglehold on the country’s northern provinces. Ultimately the client state failed when the Americans left, for like a junkie that suddenly goes cold turkey, the end result can be pretty brutal.

Likewise in Iraq, one must wonder what would happen at the pullout of American forces: would the client state fail? Since nobody obviously thinks the minority Sunnis or Ba’athists could ever gain or hold power again (unlike the threat North Vietnam posed the South), one must ask what we are afraid of, even a Shi’ite-dominated Iraq that becomes Iran’s closest ally among the Arab world. It’s their choice right, democracy and all?

And yet no one in those fancy conference rooms Hadar describes can fathom that outcome because, like the Wise Men of the past, they are all wedded to old and obsolete formulas. … To muddle through something suggests people who know that the policy is wrong but cannot admit that to themselves, so they go on thinking as they have always thought.

At least for now. Maybe they’ll wait 30 years and write mea culpa books about it, or star in documentary films.

Like Robert McNamara – like Paul Wolfowitz.

~ Sean Scallon

Leon Hadar replies:

Although I was opposed to U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia, I can understand why the Cold War “paradigm” helped persuade many policymakers to send troops to help South Vietnam against what was perceived to be an aggression by a government ruled by communists and with strong links to Moscow and Beijing. But Saddam Hussein had no ties to al-Qaeda and 9/11 and posed no threat to U.S. interests.

I found the article “My Weekend With the Wonks” a most depressing read. Why? Because in it, the author describes how the supposedly super-educated and well-connected participants STILL are focusing on how “America can democratize the world.” It’s just so clueless and revolting: arrogant putzes from the D.C. beltway wining and dining themselves, babbling on amongst themselves about how America can force-feed it’s so-called “democracy” (read: how filthy-rich corporations and their lobbyists can further their stranglehold on global markets and resources) down the rest of the world’s throats. All this after the glaring failure of our illegal and unilateral invasion – and ongoing bloody occupation – of Iraq.

These so-called “intellectuals” with their Ph.D.s from Yale, Harvard, etc. are just bullsh*tters who are covering their own asses and furthering their own careers (to pay off their college loans, presumably). They are just a variation on the theme of college grad corporate sellouts; loser sellouts is another way to describe them. No balls to ever call it like it is – because those who do are immediately amongst “the disappeared” in American politics. It’s all such a sh*tty, cynical joke: tow the big oil corporate line or be cast off, described as a “communist” or a “radical.”

These intellectuals with their pipe dreams of how we can remake the world in America’s vision are in a “reality bubble” just like Dubya Bush, our pea-brained front man of the neocon wacko crew. … These are very dark times indeed for our country when such scum are allowed to continue to influence our country’s future plans. We can already see the ruin that is coming to our country with these Republican hacks. I fear that our country is going to totally go down the drain with such scum influencing public policy. What a tragedy for the USA.

~ Stephen Hitchcock

Leon Hadar replies:

I share some of your sentiments. I think that public choice theory probably explains why foreign policy intellectuals who, after all, can only make a career in official Washington tend to reflect the dominant conventional wisdom in the U.S. capital.

I‘ve read your article “My Weekend With the Wonks” and agree with most of what’s said there. What I find most disturbing is that even such a knowledgeable group as you describe cannot propose a solution.

I have thought from the very beginning that one way to resolve the situation in Iraq would have been to ask Jordan’s King Abdullah to incorporate Iraq into Jordan. It might still be possible. The Arab army could have/might still be able to provide the protection required for reconstruction, which would go a long way toward getting rid of the violence in Iraq.

~ Dennis Wright

Leon Hadar replies:

That’s an interesting idea. My guess is that if Iraq disintegrates into three mini-states, the Arab-Sunni part could end up maintaining close ties with Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, the two neighboring Arab-Sunni states. Those three states are certainly very concerned over the emergence of an Arab-Shi’ite state in Iraq.

Charles Krauthammer, Call Your Shrink

Re: Chris Moore’s article on Krauthammer, being a psychiatrist, actually being in need of one. I had no idea Krauthammer had that background. Being a low-level mental health professional myself, I might suggest that Dr. Krauthammer go back to basic stuff and see Freud on projection, and Jung on ego inflation. It might help, but when the combo of these two get so far gone, it might not.

~ Lee Elliott

Are We at War?

I was watching Boston Legal this week, and the episode concerned a lawsuit where a woman accused the Army of fraud resulting in the death of her brother. The case put some of the characters at odds because they were criticizing the government “in a time of war.” This made made me wonder: are we actually at war? Was a declaration of war ever passed by the Congress? As far as I know, they just authorized the president to use military force based on his lies about WMD.

Furthermore, the USA was never in any actual jeopardy. We had recently been attacked by terrorists but they never had any connection to Iraq, not even through the fact that they were Muslim, because Iraq was a secular government. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the military action in Iraq is nothing more than the realization of a Bush administration plan to line the pockets of oil companies and defense contractors. I have no problem with people making money, even gobs of money, but when it is at the expense of peoples lives, well, that’s just evil.

~ Art Murray

Eric Garris replies:

I saw that show, too, and it made me mad every time someone said “we are at war” and no one challenged it. The Constitution is very clear: war is declared by Congress. The last time Congress declared war was in 1941.

Previous Backtalk