OUR MYOPIC FOREIGN POLICY ELITE
"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance."
- Senator John F. Kerry
Senator John Kerry did not actually inspire this post but I thank him for his timely epitomizing of it.
Of course if Mr. Kerry meant that such a goal is to be achieved through the destruction of al Qaida and the regimes and networks that support Islamist terror, then he has articulated a noble goal - one in fact I can fully support. The problem is it’s highly unlikely that is what he meant. In all probability, Senator Kerry was voicing the derision of our foreign policy elite, who are mostly unanimous against the policies pursued by President Bush, for the mundane and reasonable concerns of the common herd on matters of the war currently being directed at them by Islamist fanatics. Terrorism and dead Americans from flyover country are, you see, to our transatlantic seminar set, merely the cost of doing business as a superpower. Nothing to get excited about really. This war business of Mr. Bush is an old-fashioned inconvenience and an ideological incantation conjured by Likudnik neocons to distract the blue collar simpletons who shop at Wal-Mart and watch NASCAR from really important issues like prescription drug programs and reviving Kyoto.
Our bipartisan, transnational, foreign policy elite leveled much criticism at Mr. Bush on his handling of the WOT and Iraq. Some of the criticism was justified and indeed mirrored that expressed by field intelligence officers, retired generals and even conservative activists. On the other hand, I think it would be both fair and timely to take a look at how our would-be " wise men " have spent their time before 9/11. It's less than impressive. In fact it's a whole lot less substantive or relevant than the strategy the Bush administration has put forward.
I dug out some old issues of the elite's flagship publication, Foreign Affairs
to see what they were talking about prior to September 11. The key articles for that journal which went to press prior to al Qaida's grand attack are a good snapshot of what our elite considered to be truly important:
THE WORLD BANK MISSION CREEP
- Jessica Einhorn
GETTING DEBT RELIEF RIGHT
- M. A. Thomas
PROVIDING UNIVERSAL EDUCATION
- Gene Sperling
THE FUTURE AMERICAN PACIFIER
- John Mearshimer
Islamism, much less terrorism as a strategic threat did not exactly top the agenda of our best and our brightest, even after a decade where the WTC, our embassises, Khobar Towers and the USS Cole were blown up by Islamist zealots en route to greeting Allah. Of the lot, Professor Mearshimer receives due credit for thinking in strategic policy terms instead of trivialities, social policy or fine-tuning existing institutions. That's the sort of article FA should be publishing, except Professor Mearshimer, who went on to become a fierce critic of the Bush Doctrine of Preemption, was originally confident of a Bush-led American retreat from world affairs and a menacing rise of China. Not exactly on target.
Over at The National Interest
, the more conservative, realpolitik, journal that serves as the foreign policy elite's minority report, we see in the summer 2001 issue that their primary focus was not potential strategic problems but the vexing difficulties of American primacy:
AMERICA AT THE APEX - Henry Kissinger
THE BALKANS: HOW TO GET OUT - Richard Betts
WILSON'S BELATED TRIUMPH - Michael Mandelbaum
WHO'S AFRAID OF MR. BIG ? - Josef Joffre
DIFFERENT DRUMMER, SAME DRUM - Andrew Bacevich
Dr. Kissinger ironically bemoaned " That generation has not yet raised leaders capable of evoking a commitment to a consistent and long-range foreign policy"
. Of course we did and have since 9/11 - the Bush policy is simply one the elites do not like because Preemption tackles a problem they do not wish to face - as Senator Kerry illustrated with his confession of annoyance to the NYT . Mr. Joffre did have a nice analysis of anti-American " strategic balancing" by our European " friends" and - again the irony is rich-
" Saudi freelance bombardier bin Laden "
. I must credit The National Interest for swinging into action with their special issue on the War on Terror in the aftermath of September 11, it is in my view, still a must read issue ( which includes an article by L. Paul Bremer who eventually became the CPA chief) but looking at the above advice I must say that our elite seem to be angry at Bush in part to cover the stinging memory of their own blindness. Living in a glass house of detachment from reality they rain a storm of stones at Mr. Bush from the CIA, the State Department, the Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie and hope no one will notice.
Their record speaks of intellectual self-absorbtion andat least a decade of tasks deferred. Tasks that Senator Kerry wishes to defer further by pretending we are not at war by not reacting - as we did not react throughout two preceding decades - to Islamist terror. Living in a post-Kantian wonderland of unreality is no longer possible but it is now quite apparent that Mr. Kerry will need another 9/11 or two before he draws the same conclusions, if indeed he ever will.
If anyone wonders why, after a million lost opportunities in postwar Iraq, I still can support President Bush and his beleaguered band of neocons, this is it.