let a thousand pundits pout - Max Boot

The pack of pundits, LI has noted, has generally been pouting about the war they so ardently helped blow into life three years ago. When the American populace goes off the reservation, as they did in 1998 when they refused to knock the president off for his office quickie, the pundits do this. Centrists of mammon, shills of the war culture, the pundits generally consider that they have backdoor privileges on the American psyche, which shuns extremes and loves reforms and finds its true voice in the arthritic angers of the various wattled turkeys that end up on news talk shows, endlessly retreading cliches. This is what the American people love. Strong on defense. Oh how they love defense. And reform, too. Oh how they love reforms. Plus they love spreading democracy. Gots to spread that democracy. The last time the American populace failed their pundit spokesman, in 1998, the turkeys spead their wings. They got angry. It was the death of outrage and the slouching towards Gomorrah.

Is it time for that again? The neo-cons, after covering reams of paper with bullshit paens to the City on the Hill, are radically revising their view of American history downward, or so at least seems to be the distinct undercurrent. It broke cover in Max Boot’s column in the LA Times this Sunday, which is full of pop gun anger usually to be directed against, say, the French:
“MANY AMERICANS have been wondering why so many Iraqis are willing to fight for militias and terrorist groups but not for the American-backed government. Look at it from their perspective. Would you stake your life on a regime whose existence depends on Washington's continuing support? Given our long, shameful record of leaving allies in the lurch, that has never seemed to be a smart bet.”

“Long, shameful record”??? Whatever happened to the benign empire? How quickly we’ve fallen from the cynosure of history to the dunce. But, besides the usual grumblings of a discredited faction, the interesting thing about Boot’s column is how thoroughly it ventilates what one could call the state of the art in American thinking. That is, non-thinking.

Here’s the theme. Since the war against the Barbary pirates, the U.S. has promiscuously picked up and discarded allies. Shocking, eh?

“We have been betraying friends since our first overseas conflict, against the Barbary pirates who captured ships off the African coast and enslaved their crews. To defeat the pasha of Tripoli, the U.S. made common cause with his brother, Hamet Karamanli. In 1804, American envoy William Eaton led a motley force of mercenaries and Marines across North Africa to install Karamanli on the throne. The offensive was called off prematurely when President Jefferson's envoy reached a deal with the pasha to free his American captives in return for $60,000. Karamanli was evacuated to the U.S., but his family members were left as hostages. Eaton raged: "Our too credulous ally is sacrificed to a policy, at the recollection of which, honor recoils, and humanity bleeds." “

Now, let’s grant for a second the premise here. Actually, it is eminently grant-able – since the U.S. is simply operating as all nations have operated since the beginning of the nation state. What is interesting, here, is that this history should certainly have applied three years ago as well as now. In other words, when Boot was advocating swarming into Iraq back in 2003, he should have know that “we have been betraying friends since our first overseas conflict…” So, this should have effected his thinking re said attack. You go to war with the history that you have, not the history you pull out of your ass – as per Donald Rumsfeld. Meaning…

Meaning that any conflict labors under a time constraint. The constraint runs something like this: American wars have certain broadly agreed upon goals – and then some of them have less broadly agreed on goals. The agreed upon goal in the war against the Barbary pirates was to free the American captives – not to overturn piracy. The war in Iraq was about overthrowing Saddam Hussein – not about making good Chamber of Commerce Republicans out of the sheiks of Ramadi.

Say, however, you want to piggyback your war on the war that the Americans are fighting – which is the essence and body of the neo-con deal. That means you have to fight the war right – in other words, no drift, no aimless strategizing, no fiasco. Given this goal, the neo-cons should have been the most radical critics of the pursuit of the occupation from April, 2003, onward. In fact, they became a chorus line of approval for every dumb and dumber move made by the administration in Iraq. A chorus line of zombies.

And now they are suddenly aware that the time is running out???

Which gets us back to the state of the art of American thinking, circa this year of our lord, 2006. The characteristic that strikes the unbiased observer is an astonishing inability to put puzzle pieces together to form a coherent image. Rather, like monkeys at a jigsaw puzzle, our pundits continually put together a botch and call it a picture. Small people, misused forums, lightless imaginations, failures on the ever upward track – that is what American thinking, at the moment, consists of.


Amie said…
LI, so over "thanksgiving" i've been reading your posts, and hearing news to which i dare say it is hard to give thanks.
what to say re the line by Max Boot - btw, what a name eh, i wish i could use it as a pseudonym - that states with supposedly a straight face: 'We have been betraying friends since our first overseas conflict...'
if this is news to Max Boot or his readers, i doubt it is to the barbaric daseins in the middle east - and elsewhere. for these daseins it is not news, it is dasein. did they create the barbarism themselves?
roger said…
Amie, there's a Boot in Evelyn Waugh. Is it in Decline and Fall or Scoop? Maybe in both - D & F is still my fave Evelyn Waugh book.

Actually, the idea that nations operate like a "best friends club" is so naive that Mr. Max Boot should really be retargeted to the Bridge section of the paper or something. But of course, behind any column like Boot's (and I've read other, similar things), you know there is the tugging of an Iraqi exile community that went in there, has made a pile of money, and now wants a haven. It is a subtle sign that things are getting truly bad when the fat rats jump ship.
What's so marvelous about Boot, at least from a morbid cultural pathologist's point of view, is that he really believes. He'll get annoyed right on schedule too.

"I though you were our friends!", cry the fat rats. And we were, and now we're not. It will break Boot's heart every time, until they get importunate towards fatter rats.
roger said…
Ah, those rats. Boot's lamentations are taken up today by Hitchens, who is also echoing the theme of America, that damned betrayer - gettin' all soft on Iran and Syria! http://www.slate.com/
id/2154504. The person who writes the headlines for Hitchens incoherencies in Slate operates as H's ID - thus, the notion of ghastly predictability headlining a column by a guy whose predictions have been almost completely wrong. I find it almost painfully hilarious, the way these people operate when the least hint is released that, perhaps, there is absolutely zip reason for the U.S. to be fighting Syria or Iran - that in fact those two countries are no different than, say, Saudi Arabia or Egypt or any of a dozen U.S. allies. They've dreamt up a vast world war for themselves, like children dreaming about the best Christmas ever - and then the news comes down that they might just get soot in their stockings! So unfair! They've been the best warmongers ever! All year they've been ever so good, suggesting ever so many ways to kill more people, a..and use the air force to bomb things, a.. and insulting the Islamofacistophile simps out there ... a.. and everything! And now daddy's creditors want to take their wars away. Well, it isn't fair!

I'm waiting for Hitchens, Boot, Krauthammer, Hoagland, Applebaum, Brooks, Novak, and Fred Barnes to threaten to hold their breathes till they turn blue if we don't bomb Iran right away, like we promised. America's turning out to be a bad, bad Mommie.
Amie said…
LI, your comment makes me think it is time to extend a helpful hand to Messrs. Hitchens, Boot, Krauthammer, Hoagland, Applebaum, Brooks, Novak, and Fred Barnes in the hour of their hissy fits.
wouldn't it be nice if national TV would convene the above for a roundtable, but one in which they do not offer their wise words for general edification, but instead offer their protest in the face of the surrender-monkey-like non-bombing of Iran by holding their breath -- until they turn blue in face. moreover, i think Vegas should take bets on the participants capacity to hold their breath. the proceeds from the betting to go the American Institute and its project of public good and worldwide harmony and happiness.
(if the major networks don't buy the idea, it might work on pay-per-view. who wouldn't pay to watch these pundits shut up and turn blue?)
roger said…
Amie, you've invented - Pundit Idol! In truth, we are all sick to death of those boring sixty year old white guys - we want them sitting in judgment as new pundits come punditing along. Amateur bloviators from all over the country could compete for a cash prize, plus - a year's position on the op ed pages of the Washington Post!

Hey, I'm feeling a certain electric current about this idea, a certain synergy of evil that surrounds all the best, most cretinizing entertainment ideas. The American Idol forum is a bit tired - so what if we mixed Pundit idol up with Survivor, pitting muscular liberals against neo-cons in bathing suits in tropical sites. It really is a leap ahead in public opinion policy making! I will definitely have to discuss this with Mr. Scruggs, whose been in contact with Peter Beinart since Beinart took up nude modeling + playing the poolboy in various xxx rated, but hi value, movies aimed at the video market.
roger said…
whose = who's in the above. Oops.
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He's not just nude modeling, Roger. I see him at the shopping mall dojo all the time, when I go to redeem my cans and bottles. The other day I saw him lugging an entire barrel of creatine supplement out to his SUV (a Hummer, but you knew that). He's gone beyond muscling up. I think he's getting ready to do a combat tour! Or maybe he's just going to punch out Jonathan Chait, for stealing his copy of that Bohemian Rhapsody album back in their college days. Either way, I don't think he's a man to be trifled with anymore.
roger said…
Mr. Scruggs, I do blame us a bit - and Scruggs +Limitedinc +GulfandWestern Co. - for the lack of publicity given to Peter's Nude Modeling career. I went to google, put in Peter Beinart Nude Model, and came up with nada. I know he'd be crushed to know his new career, plus his role as poolboy in several sophisticated videos aimed at the adult market (need we even mention Muscular Liberal: Missiles Deep, I, II and III?) is not getting the publicity that LI, at least, believes he so richly deserves.