Ever since the beginning of civilization, mankind has wondered: Does David Brooks actually believe everything he says? Or is he just making shit up as he goes along?
His latest column does absolutely nothing to answer that question. The whole thing purports to be a refutation of the claim that a McCain presidency would be four more years of the Bush foreign policy doctrine (which is really more of a synopsis to a really terrible sci-fi paperback than a doctrine), but the pieces of evidence he brings up make no sense. For example, how are we supposed to read this?
The first was delivered by McCain on Sept. 28, 1983. The Reagan administration was seeking Congressional authorization to support the deployment of U.S. Marines in Lebanon. McCain, a freshman legislator, decided to oppose his president and party.
McCain argued that Lebanese society, as it existed then, could not be stabilized and unified by American troops. He made a series of concrete observations about the facts on the ground. Lebanon was in a state of de facto partition. The Lebanese Army would not soon be strong enough to drive out the Syrians. The American presence would not intimidate the Syrians into negotiating.
“I do not foresee obtainable objectives in Lebanon.” He concluded. “I believe the longer we stay, the more difficult it will be to leave, and I am prepared to accept the consequences of our withdrawal.”
Okay. But that was 25 years ago. People change their views, and McCain obviously did – his support for the Iraq War is completely inconsistent with the thinking here. The best you can say about this quote is that it proves that McCain used to occasionally have a point about something.
Does Brooks have any more recent evidence? Sort of.
The second speech was delivered on Nov. 5, 2003. This was not a grand strategy speech. It was a critique of the execution of existing U.S. policy.
First, McCain wondered about the Pentagon’s publicity campaign in Iraq: “When, in the course of days, we increase by thousands our estimate of the numbers of Iraqis trained, it sounds like somebody is cooking the books.”
He then pointed out that the U.S. had not committed sufficient troops. He called for a counterinsurgency strategy in which U.S. forces would actually hold secure territory. “Simply put,” he said, “there does not appear to be a strategy behind our current force levels in Iraq, other than to preserve the illusion that we have sufficient forces in place to meet our objectives.”
He excoriated the arrogance of Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority: “The C.P.A. seems to think that all wisdom is made in America, and that the Iraqi people were defeated, not liberated.”
Notice that passage has absolutely nothing to do with a larger foreign policy philosophy. The guy who said all that stuff still seems to have religion about trivial things like the one percent doctrine of preemptive warfare. But he offers some criticism of the tactics involved in bringing his favorite catastrophic ideas to fruition! Which, when you think about it, is exactly the same thing.
Oh, and by the way? Highlighting McCain’s opposition to part of Reagan’s foreign policy at the beginning of the column and then saying that he wants to follow in the grand tradition of Reagan’s foreign policy near the end just kind of serves to underscore that the speech at the very beginning is irrelevant because McCain’s changed his views since then. And saying that McCain wants to follow Teddy Roosevelt’s example also is even worse. Roosevelt’s largely admired for his independent streak and anti-oligarchical domestic policies, but you know what his foreign policy consisted of? A streak of whackshit imperialism very similar to the species of imperialism that’s gotten us so deep in the shit these days.
David Brooks has truly mastered the art of sounding knowledgeable by rattling off historical allusions and things that sound like evidence but are either irrelevant or actually totally contradict the point he’s trying to make. It’s a useful skill.
…And on that note, I’m off to Philly.