Charles Krauthammer, Call Your Shrink

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer thinks former general and national security adviser to four presidents Brent Scowcroft is "cold-blooded," an appeaser, an ally of Saddam Hussein, indifferent to those suffering under dictatorships, and indecent to boot. Why? Because Scowcroft has doubts about the U.S. government’s ability to transform Islamic countries into U.S.-style democracies, and because, like many other Americans, Scowcroft thinks the Iraq war has made our fight against terrorism more difficult.

What drove Krauthammer, a trained psychiatrist, to his verbal fit of rage? Apparently it was an article that appeared in The New Yorker in which Scowcroft criticized the neoconservative worldview and suggested America should take a more realistic approach to its foreign policy formulations.

"What the realist fears is the consequences of idealism," Scowcroft said. "The reason I part with the neocons is that I don’t think in any reasonable time frame the objective of democratizing the Middle East can be successful. If you can do it, fine, but I don’t you think you can, and in the process of trying to do it you can make the Middle East a lot worse."

Scowcroft believes democracy may eventually grow in the Middle East, but it must bloom on its own and not be shoved down peoples’ throats.

"You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way. Not how the neocons do it," he said. "How do the neocons bring democracy to Iraq? You invade, you threaten and pressure, you evangelize."

This was all too much for Krauthammer, who is already highly defensive about America’s growing quagmire in Iraq.

As one of the neocon media architects of the Iraq war, who used his prominent Post column to disseminate pro-war propaganda (not unlike the New York TimesJudy Miller), he should be defensive. In April of 2002, for example, he wrote:

"Time is running short. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. He is working on nuclear weapons. And he has every incentive to pass them on to terrorists who will use them against us. … We must not be diverted from our supreme national objective: defeating and destroying those who did Sept. 11 and those planning the next Sept. 11."

Today he is lying about Brent Scowcroft.

"For realists such as Scowcroft, regime change is the ultimate taboo. Too risky, too dangerous, too unpredictable," writes Krauthammer in a column entitled “Enter the Cold-Blooded Realist.” Realists "care not a whit about who is running a foreign country" or "how they treat their own people. Realists prize stability above all, and there is nothing more stable than a ruthlessly efficient dictatorship."

But it is the ruthlessly efficient dictatorships in Israel’s neighborhood that seem to primarily concern Krauthammer who, along with William Safire and A.M. Rosenthal of the New York Times, is a recipient of the Guardian of Zion Award from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University for "support of the Jewish State in print over the years." Skeptics could be forgiven for wondering whether Krauthammer is truly committed to removing all dictators, or if he is simply committed to removing those dictators he perceives as threats to Israel.

While Krauthammer proudly brandishes his Israeli patriotism (a quick glance at archives of his writing will reveal a firm commitment to both glorifying Israel and agitating against its critics), he has little tolerance for American patriots like General Scowcroft, whose primary concern is for the lives of American soldiers – soldiers Krauthammer would use as robots in pursuit of his grandiose Middle Eastern vision. To Krauthammer, those who hesitate to risk the lives of Americans in order to invade and occupy faraway Islamic countries deemed a "threat" by hyperactivist ideologues are themselves a threat to "decency" and civilization.

"Of course, Scowcroft’s opposition to toppling Saddam is neither surprising nor new. Indeed, we are now seeing its third iteration. He had two cracks at Saddam in 1991 and urged his President Bush to pass them both up. … It is not surprising that Scowcroft, who helped give indecency a 12-year life extension, should disdain decency’s return," writes Krauthammer.

Hence, by suggesting it was not in America’s best interests to remove Saddam without a viable plan as to what would fill the vacuum other than a lot of dead Americans and Iraqis, Scowcroft is not only an appeaser, but an aggressor. He was, after all, an active ally of Saddam Hussein for 12 full years. Or so Krauthammer wants his readers to believe.

But if Scowcroft is an ally of Saddam for hesitating to sacrifice American lives to accomplish his removal, then Scowcroft’s best friend, the first President Bush (a man Hussein allegedly tried to have assassinated) must be Saddam’s ally as well.

Noting that during the 1991 Gulf War he could have disregarded the UN mandate and pursued Saddam into Iraq, Bush once said, “We could have rode into Baghdad in 48 hours, and then all hell would have been broken loose. And we would have been standing alone making a martyr out of a defeated brute and tyrant…."

Now that’s a realist argument if ever there was one. So for Krauthammer and the neocons, that means Bush I, the president who expelled Saddam from Kuwait, must also be an appeaser. And all his talk of not wanting to risk American lives and make dictators look good by illegally invading and occupying a sovereign country? That was just an elaborate ruse designed to hide his cowardice, cynicism, and… indecency.

And therein lies the insanity, paranoia, and irrationality that mark neoconservative thought. Those who oppose them are not only wrong, but evil. If you disagree with neocon-formulated government policies, you must have wicked ulterior motives. If you put the lives of American soldiers before some abstract vision of a socially engineered Middle East, you are selfish. And no one is beyond reproach. Even those who have patriotically served their country like Scowcroft become sinister subversives if they break with the neocon party line.

Given the neocons’ roots in the Left, it’s no surprise that this kind of extreme reaction is suggestive of how the communist ideologues in the Soviet Union targeted dissidents, including former heroes of the Revolution. They were publicly identified as traitors to the Party and summarily ushered off to the Gulag – or straight into the grave.

In the mind of a socialist, a big government program (formulated by the right people) is the solution to every problem, and to challenge the moral right of the statist elite to deny the self-determination of a sovereign people, even to the extent of murdering them for their own good, is to challenge a major tenet of their faith. This is why the Democrats are having such a hard time coming to terms with the fact that the intervention itself, not just its execution, is the problem in Iraq, and why those on the socialist Right (like Krauthammer) are so defensive about the collapse of their program and its exposure as yet another government boondoggle. They would rather attack and demonize their critics than admit their planning was flawed – because that would mean their entire theory of government is wrong.

And these are the people we are supposed to believe want to "liberate" the Middle East? These are the people we are supposed to trust as responsible stewards of a growing domestic security state? These are the people our soldiers are supposed to blindly follow into war?

At 80 years old and with his connections, Brent Scowcroft probably doesn’t have to worry about being sent to Guantanamo for speaking out against the Party. But if the neocons are allowed to run amok in Washington much longer, future generations of dissidents might not be so lucky.

Author: Steve Breyman

Steve Breyman will teach "War in Afghanistan" at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fall semester. Breyman is a veteran of the U.S. Army.