The absurdity of trusting foreign-policy makers
27th April 2011 · 0 Comments
By James Bovard
The Future of Freedom Foundation
The United States is attacking Libya on the basis of vague hopes that peace will triumph after the Allied bombing ceases. There are plenty of reasons to doubt whether a few hundred cruise missiles will beget harmony in the Libyan desert. But one of the biggest mistakes would be to assume that U.S. government policymakers understand what they are doing.
The American media have already uncorked “surprises,” such as the facts that the Libyan opposition is more of a ragtag mob than an army and that Qaddafi’s opponents include some organizations officially labeled as terrorists by the U.S. government. One gets the impression that the Obama administration’s masterminds did not notice those details prior to charging into this civil war.
The latest follies are part of a long bipartisan tradition. In the decades since John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, foreign-policy makers have become Washington’s leading con men. Even though Whiz Kids and Dream Teams have dragged America into one debacle after another, the media and politicians still defer to the latest batch of “Best and Brightest” professors and appointees.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq was based on little more than a few phrases backed up by almost boundless ignorance. Paul Bremer, the chief of Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority, admitted in his memoirs “that he didn’t know anything about Iraq when stepping down from Kissinger Associates to become America’s proconsul,” Georgetown University professor Derek Leebaert observed in his new book, Magic and Mayhem. Adam Garfinkle, who worked as a speechwriter for both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, said in 2007, “No one in a senior position in this administration seems to have the vaguest notion of modern Middle Eastern history.”
The Pentagon’s recent record is not much better. The U.S. military floundered in Iraq and Afghanistan because, as Leebaert notes, “the army not only forgot everything it had been bloodily taught about counterinsurgency in Vietnam, but in Vietnam, it had forgotten everything it had learned about counterinsurgency in Korea as well.”
Cluelessness is a constant in U.S. foreign-policy making. In 1967, the Pentagon ordered top experts to analyze where the Vietnam War had gone wrong. The resulting study consisted of 47 volumes of material exposing the intellectual and political follies that had, at that point, already left tens of thousands of Americans dead.
Foreign policy has been a long series of blunders, in part because the American media tolerate deceits by high-ranking government officials.
Governments routinely bury information that undermines their power grabs and war is the biggest power grab of them all. We cannot expect the Obama administration to be more prudent on Libya than the Bush administration was on Iraq, or the Clinton administration was on Kosovo, or the Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon administrations were on Vietnam. Americans cannot afford to assume that this war is smarter than it seems.
This story originally published in the April 18, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.