I haven’t blogged directly on politics much over here, but this article by Andrew Bacevich in The American Conservative caught my eye. Bacevich takes on both the neoconservative proponents of the “surge” as well as the establishmentarian “wise men” of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group:
Almost without fail, media references to the Baker-Hamilton commission emphasize its bipartisan composition as if that alone were enough to win a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Yet to imagine that bipartisanship signifies wisdom or reflects a concern for the common good is to misunderstand the reality of present-day politics. The true purpose of bipartisanship is to protect the interests of the Washington Party, the conglomeration of politicians, hustlers, and bureaucrats who benefit from the concentration of wealth and power in the federal city. A “bipartisan” solution to any problem is one that produces marginal change while preserving or restoring the underlying status quo.
The status quo, shared by both groups, who pretty much dominate foreign policy discussions in the US is the assumption that America must continue to manage events in the Middle East:
When it comes to U.S. policy in the Middle East, neither the cavalier urgings of Frederick Kagan nor the confident reassurances of James Baker will provide the basis for defining a “way forward.” Despite superficial differences, their prescriptions point in the same direction: they will simply exacerbate our predicament. Further militarizing U.S. policy, always the first choice of neoconservatives, will only compound our dilemma; yet so too will deference to self-appointed Wise Men, who created that dilemma in the first place.
Neoconservatives like Kagan believe that the United States is called upon to remake the Middle East, bringing the light of freedom to a dark quarter of the world. Pseudo-realists like Baker believe that the United States can manipulate events in the Middle East, persuading others to do our bidding. Both views, rooted in the conviction that Providence has endowed America with a unique capacity to manage history, are pernicious.
And, as paleocon uber-blogger Daniel Larison points out, even Chuck Hagel, who’s been heralded by pundits left and right as a potential GOP “peace candidate” doesn’t repudiate interventionism as such. He’s more of an old-fashioned realist/internationalist (which, admittedly, would be preferable to what we’ve currently got). Plus, while I don’t share the paleocon antipathy to immigration, I agree that Hagel’s position there could hurt him with grass roots GOP voters, even ones disaffected with the Bush administration. He also isn’t much of a red-meat culture warrior, despite his fairly orthodox conservatism, and that would no doubt hurt him with the Religious Right types.
It remains to be seen what kinds of positions the (seemingly inumerable) Democratic candidates will take on the war issue. Michael Westmoreland-White of the Anabaptist blog Levellers notes a spectrum of proposals ranging from “capping” the number of troops in Iraq to withdrawal at various rates. But no one except the real fringe candidates (Kucinich on the left, Paul on the right) is talking about any kind of large-scale paradigm shift in US foreign policy. Most of the Democratic criticisms at this point simply hark back to the good ol’ days of multilateral hegemony and UN-approved bombings.
UPDATE: Ross Douthat at The American Scene makes a similar point, quoting David Brooks to the effect that the DC policy elite remains firmly entrenched in an interventionist outlook (he also cites this crazed Max Boot column to the same effect). However, Douthat also suggests that younger pundits and policy wonk-types (the elite of tomorrow) may be less sympathetic to bipartisan interventionism:
The Iraq War has, I think, made questioning the neoconservative/neoliberal consensus far more common among young, wet-behind-the-ears wannabe pundits than anyone would have expected four years ago. Maybe this is a temporary thing, maybe it’s just the narrow circles I move in. But when I look around the world of D.C. journalism, and the wider blogosphere, at the under-30 writers I respect, there seems to be a lot more sympathy for either libertarianism or paleoconservatism (or both together) among young conservatives, and McGovernish sentiments among young liberals, than there is for foreign-policy centrism of the kind that everyone from Boot to Ignatius subscribes to.
You’d like to think so. But then maybe our up-and-coming elites will “mautre” in office and “grow in stature” ultimately adopting the worldview of the elders. I mean, that’s what the New Left essentially did when it finally acheived instutional power isn’t it? The 60s radicals of yesteryear became, well … the Clintons.