In mainstream Washington, hardly anyone has taken a step outside the box of conventional, inside-the-Beltway thinking about Iraq, which is why it's possible to imagine March 19, 2009 with some confidence. For them, the Washington consensus, such as it is, is the only acceptable one and the disagreements within it, the only ones worth having. And here are its eight fundamentals:Dead on.
*A belief that effective U.S. power must invariably be based on the threat of, or use of, dominant force, and so must centrally involve the U.S. military.
*A belief that all answers of any value are to be found in Washington among the serried ranks of officials, advisors, former officials, pundits, think-tank operators, and other inside-the-Beltway movers and shakers, who have been tested over the years and found never to have a surprise in them. Most of them are notable mainly for having been wrong so often. This is called "experience."
*A belief that the critics of Washington policy outside Washington and its consensus are, at best, gadflies, never worth seriously consulting on anything.
*A belief that the American people, though endlessly praised in political campaigns, are know-nothings who couldn't think their way out of a proverbial paper bag when it comes to the supposedly arcane science of foreign policy, and so would certainly not be worth consulting on "national security" matters or issues involving the sacred "national interest," which is, in any case, the property of Washington. Like Iraqis and Afghans, the American people need good (or even not so good) shepherds in the national capital to answer that middle-of-the-night ringing phone and rescue them from impending harm. (The very foolishness of Americans can be measured by opinion polls which indicated that a majority of them had decided by 2005 that all American troops should be brought home from Iraq at a reasonable speed and that the U.S. should not have permanent military bases in that country.)
*A belief that no other countries (or individuals elsewhere) have anything significant or original to offer when it comes to solving problems like the situation in Iraq (unless, of course, they agree with us). They are to be ignored, insists the Bush administration, or, say leading Democrats, "talked to" and essentially corralled into signing onto, and carrying out, the solutions we consider reasonable.
*A belief that local peoples are incapable of solving their own problems without the intercession of, or the guiding hand (or Hellfire missile) of, Washington, which means, of course, of the U.S. military.
*A belief that the United States -- whatever the problem -- must be an essential part of the solution, not part of the problem itself.
*And finally, a belief (though no one would ever say this) that the lives of those children of George Bush's wars of choice, already of an age to be given their first lessons in global "realism," don't truly matter, not when the Great Game of geopolitics and energy is at stake.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Tom Engelhardt on the "Washington Consensus" on the Iraq War: