Why you should never listen to the foreign policy establishment on war

It is a predictable pattern. As the US gears up for war, any war, the foreign policy establishment reacts like soldiers to a bugle call, quickly lining up to support it, irrespective of where they supposedly stand on other political issues, and whether they are self-identified as liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican.

On the occasion of the death of Leslie Gelb, one of the many ‘liberal interventionists’ who cheered on the Iraq war, Philip Weiss reminds us of something that Gelb said when asked later to explain why he initially supported the invasion of Iraq, something that he said that he later regretted.

“My initial support for the war was symptomatic of unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility.”

That pretty much sums it up. ‘Credibility’ is not dependent on being right but on being supportive of wars. All these people in the establishment media know the unwritten rules of the game, that if you oppose, or just even seriously question, any of America’s wars, you are not considered ‘serious’ and will immediately become a pariah and lose your media and professional platforms. As the cliché goes, they know which side of their bread is buttered.

For these people, it is easier to quickly support the war and then when things turn sour, as they almost inevitably do, to express regret and say that ‘everyone’ agreed with them. In this way, blame is spread so thinly that no one gets expelled from the ranks of punditry and they can respond enthusiastically to the next bugle call. This is why we still see Andrew Sullivan, Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, David Frum, and the rest still around pontificating in the media, while people like Phil Donahue who opposed the Iraq war from the beginning were sent into the wilderness and remain there.


  1. says

    Small wonder they’re all protestants. All they have to do to keep their jobs is “pray and be forgiven” -- or in war, admit they backed an immoral policy.

    Those who stand up on priniciple and say “No” lose their careers.

  2. khms says

    Make that the US foreign policy establishment. Just like “can’t attack the president while in a war”, that seems to be a specifically US idea.

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