09 June 2016

And Tonite's Theme of the Incompetent Foreign Policy Elites Continues………

And in this case, I find myself agreeing with a writer at The National Interest, which I find particularly disturbing, since the magazine was founded by the godfather of the Neocon movement, Irv Kristol.

In this case, Christopher Preble is suggesting that we toss the entire foreign policy establishment out on its ear:
The public is pretty cranky these days: Americans are unhappy with the presumptive nominees of the Democratic and Republican Parties. The dislike for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is at record-breaking levels relative to other major party standard bearers over the last thirty-six years. Americans are also gloomy about the state of the economy (Republicans more so than Democrats), and anxious about foreign entanglements, especially in the Middle East.

These sentiments are nothing new. American officials and those who run for office are generally unpopular. And an individual’s economic outlook is notoriously volatile, contingent on a few relevant factors that are subject to change.

Foreign policy views are more consistent in the sense that few Americans are committed interventionists, but, as I noted last week, the elites who populate the American foreign policy community tend to see public will as essentially irrelevant, because it is malleable in the hands of a skillful leader. The trouble arises when public sentiment shapes leaders’ perceptions of what is possible at a given time, but not enough to change their positions. The end result is often a dramatic gap between the ends that policymakers seek and the means available to achieve them.


Ambitious leaders can shape public opinion through threat inflation and fearmongering. Interventionist elites know that skeptics will have a very difficult time ending a war once it is started. The hawks puts the nation’s prestige on the line. When things turn sour, the public wants to double down, unwilling to see the country to suffer an ignominious defeat. Americans are especially loathe to admit that the heroic sacrifices made on their behalf by U.S. troops might ultimately have been in vain.

There’s something unseemly about a U.S. foreign policy community that consistently defies the wishes of the American people, repeatedly making mistakes, and expecting things to magically turn around. But it is worse, to attempt grandiose foreign policies geared to shaping major regions in the face of clear public sentiment for a more modest approach. That leads to strategies that are almost sure to fail, given the limited resources available.

Ian Bremmer had it right in his book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World. After a thorough review of three distinct approaches, Bremmer opts for what he calls “Independent America”. This includes leading the world by example, and focusing on domestic priorities in order to establish a strong and vibrant society here at home in order to engage with the rest of the world through voluntary and peaceful means. This is different, however, from attempting to dictate how others should live their lives. If U.S. leaders adhere to such an approach, he explains, they “will make fewer costly mistakes,” and, crucially, they can count on “strong and lasting public backing.”
When we look at our interventionist foreign policy, intelligence, and military establishments, the interventionists have had a record of uninterrupted failure and misery since before I was born, and I am one seriously old fart.

We need to completely break the foreign policy elites before they break us.


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