10/30/09

How to Lose Wars and Miss What is Going On

Short version as to how to do this: Listen to David Brooks. But then, David Brooks never was much one for logic and real understanding.

Here is Brooks on the "more important trait" for a President to have, according to his "research:"  "tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion."

So long as one also has the judgment to know which circumstances to apply this toward; otherwise, in matters of foreign policy and war in the 21st century, it is a train wreck. (Yet here the Washington Post's fairly hawkish David Ignatius, also today, takes an unusually "untenacious, non fixated, flinching, convictionless" approach to perpetuating the Afghanistan war: supporting McChrystal's call for troop inscreases, but willing to considerably alter course a year from now based on conditions if this turns out to have been the wrong call.)

What Brooks is trying to say, to spin it for him, is "exhibit clarity, vision and the strength to employ the right judgment." But what he actually writes is an extremely foolish litmus test. It is how wars are lost. It is how problems are exacerbated.It is how lives are ruined forever and fundamental underlying problems, military and otherwise, become further entrenched.

This appears to be yet another classic armchair warrior view. One that automatically believes that "clarity, vision and the strength to employ the right judgment," mean inflexibility, intransigence, shallowness of thought, and stubborness in the face of evolving circumstances and changing facts.  And that here, the right answer on Afghanistan, in black and white, is "whatever Brooks" (or the foreign policy "experts" he looks up to), think that it is -- and that anybody who does not unyieldingly fixate on this exact same view regardless of circumstances, is not exercising better judgment, but lacks the necessary prerequisite to be able to make decisions in this regard in the first place.(Leaving one to wonder exactly what decisions need to be made, if one is instead supposed to simply "fixate.')

It might be the right call to be "resolute" and stick with Afghanistan until the square of this country is somehow forced into a round hole (but if so, probably not under the current game plan), and it may not be. But Brook's inherent thesis that because there is a "military action," that this thus becomes the right course by implicit definition, is maddeningly shortsighted, and dangerously naive and sophomoric.

Glenn Greenwald today makes an excellent point as well about how Brooks "does what journalists are supposed to do" and cites a bunch of "expert sources," not a single one of which are named -- for no real good reason; although Greenwald supplies a pretty darn good one:
In a shocking coincidence, the views of these unnamed, handpicked, anonymous "experts" all happen to coincide perfectly with Brooks's own warrior views and, more generally, with clich├ęd neoconservative pablum.
Yep, that is pretty much what, to use Brooks words, what, "journalists are supposed to do," right?