Preach It, Andrew Bacevich!!!!

He observes the absolute uselessness our foreign policy, and juxtaposes the effects of tribalism in the United States, an which might be the best headline in MoJo this year, Ivy League Eggheads Have Led Us Into a String of Disastrous Wars. It’s Time For Something New:.

Policy intellectuals—eggheads presuming to instruct the mere mortals who actually run for office—are a blight on the republic. Like some invasive species, they infest present-day Washington, where their presence strangles common sense and has brought to the verge of extinction the simple ability to perceive reality. A benign appearance—well-dressed types testifying before Congress, pontificating in print and on TV, or even filling key positions in the executive branch—belies a malign impact. They are like Asian carp let loose in the Great Lakes.


Then came World War II, followed in short order by the onset of the Cold War. These events brought to Washington a second wave of deep thinkers, their agenda now focused on “national security.” This eminently elastic concept—more properly, “national insecurity”—encompassed just about anything related to preparing for, fighting, or surviving wars, including economics, technology, weapons design, decision-making, the structure of the armed forces, and other matters said to be of vital importance to the nation’s survival. National insecurity became, and remains today, the policy world’s equivalent of the gift that just keeps on giving.

People who specialized in thinking about national insecurity came to be known as “defense intellectuals.” Pioneers in this endeavor back in the 1950s were as likely to collect their paychecks from think tanks like the prototypical RAND Corporation as from more traditional academic institutions. Their ranks included creepy figures like Herman Kahn, who took pride in “thinking about the unthinkable,” and Albert Wohlstetter, who tutored Washington in the complexities of maintaining “the delicate balance of terror.”


Over the previous century-and-a-half, the United States had gone to war for many reasons, including greed, fear, panic, righteous anger, and legitimate self-defense. On various occasions, each of these, alone or in combination, had prompted Americans to fight. Vietnam marked the first time that the United States went to war, at least in considerable part, in response to a bunch of really dumb ideas floated by ostensibly smart people occupying positions of influence. More surprising still, action intellectuals persisted in waging that war well past the point where it had become self-evident, even to members of Congress, that the cause was a misbegotten one doomed to end in failure.

The modern national insecurity intellectuals subscribe to what Matthew Yglesias derided as, “The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics.”

Basically, like the DC comic book character, the US can do anything, and the only way that it can fail is through a failure of the will.

It is historically and empirically wrong.

It is also batsh%$ insane, and it is the standard wisdom inside the Beltway.
It’s why you frequently hear military leaders repeat the myth that US forces lost no battles in the Vietnam War:  (we lost over 70 battles) The lesson that the military learned was that the press needed to be muzzled so as not to lose popular support.

The fact is that the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong beat us, but the military, in a stunning display of human nature, blames the American public and the press instead.

In his fine new book American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity, Christian Appy, a historian who teaches at the University of Massachusetts, reminds us of just how dumb those ideas were.


These questions are by no means of mere historical interest. They are no less relevant when applied to the handiwork of the twenty-first-century version of policy intellectuals, specializing in national insecurity, whose bullsh%$ underpins policies hardly more coherent than those used to justify and prosecute the Vietnam War.


At least since September 11, 2001, and arguably for at least two decades prior to that date, US policymakers have taken these propositions for granted. They have done so at least in part because few of the policy intellectuals specializing in national insecurity have bothered to question them.

Indeed, those specialists insulate the state from having to address such questions. Think of them as intellectuals devoted to averting genuine intellectual activity. More or less like Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter (or Dr. Strangelove), their function is to perpetuate the ongoing enterprise.


What prompts these observations is Ashton Carter’s return to the Pentagon as President Obama’s fourth secretary of defense. Carter himself is an action intellectual in the Bundy, Rostow, Huntington mold, having made a career of rotating between positions at Harvard and in “the Building.” He, too, is a Yalie and a Rhodes scholar, with a PhD. from Oxford. “Ash”—in Washington, a first-name-only identifier (“Henry,” “Zbig,” “Hillary”) signifies that you have truly arrived—is the author of books and articles galore, including one op-ed co-written with former Secretary of Defense William Perry back in 2006 calling for preventive war against North Korea. Military action “undoubtedly carries risk,” he bravely acknowledged at the time. “But the risk of continuing inaction in the face of North Korea’s race to threaten this country would be greater”—just the sort of logic periodically trotted out by the likes of Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter.


Let me propose an experiment. Put them on furlough. Not permanently—just until the last of the winter snow finally melts in New England. Send them back to Yale for reeducation. Let’s see if we are able to make do without them even for a month or two.

In the meantime, invite Iraq and Afghanistan War vets to consider how best to deal with ISIS. Turn the op-ed pages of major newspapers over to high school social studies teachers. Book English majors from the Big Ten on the Sunday talk shows. Who knows what tidbits of wisdom might turn up?

We are a tribal society, and the tribe of the Ivy League has run our country for a very long time, the last 4 Presidents were Ivy Leaguers, and they have proven themselves to be incapable of recognizing reality.

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