Monday, March 23, 2009

A Newly Centrist Plea From A Wingnut Canadian MP

The New York Times Book Review section today brought us the following in a critique of the latest from Leslie Gelb…

Few Americans know the inner world of American foreign policy — its feuds, follies and fashions — as well as Leslie H. Gelb. He served Lyndon B. Johnson in the Pentagon and Jimmy Carter in the State Department. He was a foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Power Rules” builds on that lifetime of experience with power and is a witty and acerbic primer for moderate pragmatists.

His chief targets are ideological dogmatism and imperialist hubris. America should be unafraid to exercise power, but it must be mindful that power’s reach usually exceeds its grasp. According to Mr. Gelb liberal Democrats should stop apologizing when they use American power, and conservative Republicans should stop believing that no problem can resist the application of American force. Both need to understand that power is wasted when it’s used unwisely. The chief missing ingredient in United States foreign policy, he argues, is common sense.
There’s not a lot to argue with here, I’ll admit. That is, until you consider that the reviewer of Gelb’s book is Michael Ignatieff.

As Wikipedia tells us here…

…Ignatieff was a prominent supporter of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.[16] Ignatieff says that the United States established "an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known." The burden of that empire, he says, obliged the United States to expend itself unseating Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the interests of international security and human rights. Ignatieff initially accepted the position of the George W. Bush administration: that containment through sanctions and threats would not prevent Hussein from selling weapons of mass destruction to international terrorists. Ignatieff believed that those weapons were still being developed in Iraq.[17] Moreover, according to Ignatieff, "what Saddam Hussein had done to the Kurds and the Shia" in Iraq was sufficient justification for the invasion.[18][19]

In a 2007 New York Times Magazine article, (Ignatieff) wrote: "The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president, but it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion." Ignatieff partly interpreted what he now saw as his particular errors of judgment, by presenting them as typical of academics and intellectuals in general, whom he characterised as "generalizing and interpreting particular facts as instances of some big idea". In politics, by contrast, "Specifics matter more than generalities".[20]
I’ll never forget reading that article; it was thoroughly nauseating, unctuous in what passed for contrition while somehow triumphal in its recognition of all that was stupidly obviously to any life form with an IQ higher than that of a termite (and by the way, it yielded what might be the single funniest blog post I’ve ever read by David Rees here – yes, there are some writings by Ignatieff during that period that are more grounded in the real world, but he utterly signed on for Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Iraq Adventure along with virtually everyone else in our corporate media when push came to the proverbial shove).

Basically, Ignatieff extolling a “common sense…anti-utopian, evidence-based, pragmatic, moderate foreign policy focusing on achievable goals,” given his past statements, makes about as much sense as me writing a blog post in praise of the virtuous, patriotic leadership of Dick Cheney (and somehow, with lines in the Gelb review of “Surging the United States military into the south of Afghanistan will help chiefly as a political demonstration of commitment,” I really don’t think Ignatieff has learned his lesson).

And in the event of such a “surge,” how long a duration would Ignatieff have in mind? “Six more months,” maybe?

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