All Brent Out of Shape

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Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Adviser to Presidents Ford and Bush Sr., is coming out against Bush Jr. with guns blazing in a New Yorker piece due to hit newsstands this week—and the blogosphere is already atwitter. Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation has excerpts.

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  1. Whatever else might be said about his comments, I nearly spit out the soy milk in my mouth when I read Scowcrot’s claim about there being fifty years of peace in the Middle East. What alternate universe is Scowcroft living in? Aside from the wars between various Arab states and Israel, you also have the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the Lebanese Civil War, all the wars Yemen has been involved in (and rug other nations into), and all manner of civil wars, terrorist activities, etc. How did this guy get to be National Security Advisor again?

  2. This description of the administration is what bothers me most: No room for dissent, loyalty is valued above competence, mistakes are never admitted, worst case scenarios are never considered, and people are evaluated not on the quality of their advice but on whether they agree.

    It reminds me of what Eminem said:

    “Look at his eyes, it’s all lies
    The stars and stripes have been swiped,
    Washed out and wiped,
    And replaced with his own face.”

  3. They also argued about Iraq. “She says we’re going to democratize Iraq, and I said, ‘Condi, you’re not going to democratize Iraq,’ and she said, ‘You know, you’re just stuck in the old days,’ and she comes back to this thing that we’ve tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth,” he said. Then a barely perceptible note of satisfaction entered his voice, and he said, “But we’ve had fifty years of peace.”

    I wonder about the context of this conversation. Perhaps Scowcroft’s comment occured within a wider context? …Indeed, perhaps he related it to Clemons in a wider context?

    Fifty years from 2003 goes back to 1953, when we backed a coup against the elected leader of Iran. That seems to run contrary to what Condi and the Bush Administration would have us do. When Scowcroft replies, it’s seems a reaction to Condi’s suggestion that he’s stuck in Cold War thinking.

    …If Scowcroft means that the United States hasn’t had to single handedly go head to head with anyone in the Middle East since adopting that strategy in 1953, then I can make sense of his statement. …especially if they were discussing this in the greater context of the Cold War.

    Please note, I’m not suggesting that what we did was right or wrong in 1953 and elsewhere. …but I think I know what Scowcroft meant.

  4. Then a barely perceptible note of satisfaction entered his voice, and he said, “But we’ve had fifty years of peace.”

    The Suez crisis, the “Six Days War”, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Destruction of Beirut, the invasion of Lebananon, the blowing up of the Marine Barracks in 1982, the ongoing Palestinian “Intifada”, etc.
    What the Hell was he thinking of ?

    If that’s peace, give me war.

  5. The Suez crisis, the “Six Days War”, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Destruction of Beirut, the invasion of Lebananon, the blowing up of the Marine Barracks in 1982, the ongoing Palestinian “Intifada”, etc.

    When I responded to this–partially–in my comment above, but I should have added…

    It very well may be that when Scowcroft uses the word “we” here, he doesn’t mean the good people of Israel or the good people of Egypt or the good people of Beirut and Lebanon. …When Scowcroft uses the word “we”, maybe he just means Americans.

  6. What alternate universe is Scowcroft living in?

    He could be meaning that we, the United States of America, didn’t have to do any fighting over there.

  7. What alternate universe is Scowcroft living in?

    He could be meaning that we, the United States of America, didn’t have to do any fighting over there.

  8. The Suez crisis, the “Six Days War”, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Destruction of Beirut, the invasion of Lebananon, the blowing up of the Marine Barracks in 1982, the ongoing Palestinian “Intifada”, etc.

    When I responded to this–partially–in my comment above, but I should have added…

    It very well may be that when Scowcroft uses the word “we” here, he doesn’t mean the good people of Israel or the good people of Egypt or the good people of Beirut and Lebanon. …When Scowcroft uses the word “we”, maybe he just means Americans.

  9. I am more interested in Scrowcroft’s praise of Bush Sr’s policy towards Iraq, which he seems to unilaterally praise for its wisdom. That’s rather odd, because it resulted in leaving a hideously corrupt and murderous tyrant in power, the deaths of thousands of Shia in their uprising, ruinious sanctions which levied untold misery and death upon the ordinary citizens, a oil-for-food program which enriched Saddam, corrupted the UN, and did little for the citizens of Iraq, and a completely intractable and unverifible mess of an WMD-inspection program.

  10. Oops, I see that Tom Crick already made that point. And sorry about the double post.

  11. The New Yorker pays by the word.

  12. Chad-From the point of view of a “realist,” Gulf War I was an incredible success. We managed to preserve our access to oil with a minimum of loss to American life and without completely unseating the regional balance of power. Not saying that I agree with that position, but the fact that I don’t doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily incorrect when he praises it, just that he sees different factors as important to success.

  13. most magazines do. reason is the exception, paying its writers a meager sum of pure gold pressed into coins with $$ signs on them 😉

  14. Chad,

    Those that suffered most from those cruel fates were not–I repeat–not Americans. Now that we’re there, Americans are suffering.

    …I suspect, furthermore, that it isn’t crystal clear to Scowcroft that what we got in Iraq was worth the sacrifice. I have to confess that isn’t really clear to me either.

    Shem,

    There was somethin’ funky goin’ on with the server when we posted. …The more the merrier! ; )

  15. spur-And filled with chocolate, no doubt.;)

  16. it was an ayn rand reference, so I guess a jewish reference is appropriate as well

  17. I like to think so. She’d hate it, so I love it.

  18. Does Scowcroft suffer from Crohn’s Disease, or the heartbreak of psoriasis? His body language indicating one or more of the above has hurt his credibility. But, if one can get past it to what he is saying, then that is a good thing, as Martha would say.

    Most of us here should accept that truth does not always come only from the mouths of the Jimmy Stewarts, Ronald Reagans, and Jay Lenos.

    Scowcroft is the opposite number to those of my ilk who think peace and love will conquer all in the end. He sees a place for hostility.
    What we are have here is a dialectic getting down to the short strokes.

    Dubya is toast! Long live Jeb!
    Oh frabjous joy. Calloo, calay.
    Or something like that… from Jabberwocky.

  19. This has been the problem all along. Bush is doing some crazy stuff, but his critics generally seem as crazy as he is. Just crazy in different ways.

    But to what extent has it ever been different, at any other time? Events occur, people do what they do, and sometime after the fact, the historians get to try and make sense out of it.

    Then, we can argue about which historians are crazier than others. 🙂

    I’m soooo sure that Kerry would have been perfectly sane….

    What’s really insane is that we got a choice between Kerry and Bush. But we’ve reached the point where, if anything right gets done it’s got to be entirely accidental.

  20. The neoconservatives — the Republicans who argued most fervently for the second Gulf war — believe in the export of democracy, by violence if that is required, Scowcroft said.

    Scrowcroft gives the neocons too much credit. If the “export of democracy” was their real goal, they would not be fighting the creation of a viable Palestinian state and supporting the Israeli government’s occupation. Of course, it’s what they consider to be good for the Israeli government that is the neocons first and main concern.

    If the neocons really believed in the export of democracy, they would not support the action of the Bush administration in Uzbekistan where our government is using our tax dollars to support the savage, soviet style dictatorship of Islam Karimov, the former head of the Uzbek Communist party. BTW, with this disgrace, our government is once again planting the seeds of another terror attack against us. As the carnage that Karimov’s regime inflicts on its own people mounts, so surely does the resentment that Uzbekis harbor toward Americans.

    Also, don’t expect the neocons to be agitating very much for democracy in Jordan or Egypt since both those regimes are the recipient of an ongoing US tax dollar pay off on behalf of the Israeli government for their making peace.

  21. Scowcroft, James Baker, and others associated with the elder George Bush believe that Israel’s settlement policies arouse Arab anger, and that American foreign policy should reflect the fact that there are far more Arabs than Israelis in the world.

    No. the reasons why our government shouldn’t be financing the Israeli occupation is that American foreign policy should adhere to the wisdom of nonintervention and also have a high regard for what is fair.

    He’s (Sharon) getting out of Gaza because he can’t sustain eight thousand settlers with half his Army protecting them. Then, when he’s out, he will have an Israel that he can control and a Palestinian state atomized enough that it can?t be a problem.”

    For sure, but so much of the mainstream press call the move a “great sacrifice for peace”!

  22. I suspect their idealism, like anyone’s, had to adapt to the real world–regardless of whether their ultimate aim was to support Israel’s occupation.

    It’s scary to see policy makers so confident in their pet theories and so unopposed. …even more frightening still, their ideas seem to have infected public opinion. Some people now call themselves conservatives, but they can’t seem to differentiate between what’s good for a foreign country and what’s good for the United States.

    …and if you want to formulate policy on the latter, some of ’em ‘ll apparently call you a crazy old kook.

    I’m gonna start payin’ more attention to G. Marius. Like the Zero Boys said, “Civilization’s Dyin’.”

  23. It reminds me of what Eminem said:

    Can’t we start an internet rule like that Hitler one, that the thread is over when somebody quotes Eminem?

  24. Oh, sure. Next make a rule that any discussions of cosmology cannot mention Einstein.

    Douglas Fletcher, when you’re ready to have a serious discussion of Eminem’s impact on contemporary political philosophy, you have my e-mail.

  25. Don’t forget to point out that he should really read half a dozen obscure texts on Eminem before he comments.

  26. Oh, yeah. Thanks.

    I suggest you read Whatever You Say I Am : The Life and Times of Eminem and listen to The Eminem Show and Encore before y’all embarasses yourself further, yo.

  27. Listening to the Marshall Mathers LP and watching a 6 hour VH1 special on Eminem should be mandatory.

  28. fifty years of peace???

    Even if he meant peace for America that make no sense. We’ve been sucked into Mid-East conflicts several times over the past fifty years.

    It’s too bad, because I thought Brent might just be the guy to expose the bankruptcy of this administration’s foreign policy. I remember before 9/11, watching a documentary on the first Gulf War. Kind of a Gulf War ten years later thing. Brent was talking about how important it was to put the collation together, and keep it together. The importance of keeping other Mid-East countries in the loop. How there was no hidden agenda, that the stated reasons for going to war were the true motivations. And he was grilled about the decision not to invade Baghdad and leave Saddam Hussein in power. On that point he was adamant in his defense, saying that taking out Saddam was never a goal, that it would inevitably result in civil war, and the open-ended, long-term involvement of US troops.

    Not that I thought Gulf War I was a good idea. Still, the whole time Bush Jr. was pushing us into war, I kept thinking about those comments Brent made, and how GW was violating every principal of successful foreign engagement his father followed.

  29. fifty years of peace???

    Peace is a relative term. Maybe he meant relative to the preceeding 950 years in the Middle East.

    Do any of these “wars” of the past 50 years, conducted deep in the shadow of US (and then Israeli) nukes really compare casuality-wise or otherwise to the wars that came before?

    (btw, the preceeding is a sincere question, if somewhat rhetorical. I don’t know the answer. I am asking to find out. If I recall correctly, the Iran-Iraq War had a lot of casualities, so I am not sure (w/out RTFA) why Brent S. would minimize that war. What about the other wars, though? How do they compare, casuality-wise, with contemporaneous wars in Africa or Southeast Asia?

  30. Do any of these “wars” of the past 50 years, conducted deep in the shadow of US (and then Israeli) nukes really compare casuality-wise or otherwise to the wars that came before?

    Of course not. And that includes the current unpleasantness in Iraq. If that is the standard, then we are still at peace.

  31. The key word here is “we.”

    Scowcroft was an American Cold Warrior. People in other countries could die by the millions, if it kept the baddies from our shores.

  32. Listening to the Marshall Mathers LP and watching a 6 hour VH1 special on Eminem should be mandatory.

    Um, yeah, that makes sense. Personally I’d rather listen to 6 hours of police sirens and jet engines — then again I like music that has melodies, you know.

    If you want to take your political enlightenment from some asshole screaming into a microphone, have at it, Steve-O. I got over holding my breath and turning blue when I was a little baby but I suppose you could develop a political philosophy around it, if you had to.

  33. If you want to take your political enlightenment from some asshole screaming into a microphone, have at it, Steve-O.

    I think this is how most Americans get their political enlightenment, every November.

    (Usually not literally screaming, though.)

  34. Heeeyeeeaaaaaarrghhhhh!

  35. police sirens and jet engines

    Well, then, you’ll like the beginning of his rap “White America”.

  36. The key word here is “we.”

    I guess that “we” doesn’t include all of those Marines killed in their barracks in Lebanon in 1982. There is certainly plenty of criticism available against the present administration, but I doubt much of it should come from Scowcroft.

  37. Douglas-

    Why you gotta hate?

  38. Scowcroft was an American Cold Warrior. People in other countries could die by the millions, if it kept the baddies from our shores.

    Not even – this guy just has an enormous hard-on for the idea of “stability”. After the August ’91 coup failed, Scowcroft was actually working overtime trying to prevent the breakup of the Soviet Union. Not to mention that a couple years before, there was an infamous picture taken of him sharing a toast with Chinese Politburo members just days after they authorized the Tiananmen Square massacre.

    I thought Wilkerson’s evisceration of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy decision-making mindset was superb, even if I disagreed with some points here and there. But the less I see of Scowcroft’s predictable prattle, the better.

  39. If the neocons really believed in the export of democracy, they would not support the action of the Bush administration in Uzbekistan where our government is using our tax dollars to support the savage, soviet style dictatorship of Islam Karimov

    Actually, after the US demanded an international investigation of the Andijan massacre, Karimov and his rubber-stamp parliament demanded that the US close down its military base in Uzbekistan. Subsequantly, Karimov also suspended all official anti-terrorism cooperation with the US, and made new overtures to Russia and China.

    I think the Uzbek situation is a good cautionary tale on how the question of withdrawing support for autocratic regimes isn’t always a black-and-white one. The way things stand now, not only has the US lost any military/anti-terrorism support that it had from Uzbekistan, but the Karimov regime still appears capable of crushing internal dissent. And the nations that are now Uzbekistan’s primary backers are unlikely to give a damn should he carry out another massacre.

    Given the nature of Karimov’s crimes, and given that Uzbekistan’s military support wasn’t of huge importance to the US (the base in neighboring Kyrgyztan is actually more valuable), I think a good argument could still be made for taking a hard line towards the regime. But when it comes to unsavory governments that, in one way or another, could do a lot of harm to American interests should we refuse to support them, the argument has to require at least some careful thought about the consequences.

  40. Shem, everybody hates somebody sometime.

  41. Douglas, in the name of equal time, feel free to quote the political musings of Lawrence Welk. 🙂

    Start up the bubble machine!

  42. Oops. Or Dean Martin, since you’ve already started.

  43. Changing my name back.

  44. Correcting something else now.

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