Friday, December 17, 2010

Bipartisan militarism, Peter Bergen edition

Liberal hawk Peter Bergen reviews Bob Woodward's latest court history, Obama's War (2010), in The Generals' Victory New Republic 12/16/2010. Short version (my words):

The United States is confronted with a massive menace of tens of thousands of highly skilled terrorists and assassins, all dedicated every minute of their lives to making war on America. The generals in charge of this mighty, unrelenting army are Bin Laden of the indestructible Al Qa'ida and Mullah Omar of the Taliban. In order to keep America safe from this always-urgent threat, we must make war in Afghanistan for as long as the United States exists. Also in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and all kinds of other places. But there's hope. If we fight in Afghanistan for another five or ten years, maybe the fanatical Taliban army will decide they don't mind having infidel troops there shooting up the place and busting down doors at nigh to arrest someone whose enemies ratted them out as a Terrorist. Maybe somehow some way a pure, honest, super-competent Afghan government will appear in Kabul. And we can keep bases there forever to use for forays into Uzbekistan or Kirghistan or whatever other Stan our glorious generals think we need to attack to stop the worldwide fanatical Islamist army.
I'm not sure what the "liberal" part of Bergen's "liberal hawk" identity is, although he directs the National Security Studies Program of the Obama-friendly New America Foundation. But the "hawk" part of his identity is very obvious.

Except for minor exaggeration for effect, the "short version" above is pretty much what he says in this article. A huge part of the problem is illustrated by a quote Bergen uses from Woodward's book, from CIA Director Leon Panetta, "no Democratic president can go against military advice, especially if he asked for it."

How in the world did we get to such a place? The Constitution both the President and our glorious generals are pledged to defend establishes a civilian government, not one in which the civilians follow orders from generals. It's obscene. In a healthy democracy, Panetta would be fired immediately for saying such a thing, implying as it does a willing acceptance of military control of the President.

But Panetta isn't the only Democratic promoting this obscenity. John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is playing a prominent role in the fight for ratifying the New START Treaty, which I very much support. However, he is how he was shown presenting the case in a clip on the PBS Newshour of 12/15/2010 (Lame Duck Senate Will Consider START Treaty)

Why, if the entire military establishment of our country and national intelligence establishment of our country, and the Strategic Command of our country, are asking us to ratify this treaty, why do some senators know better than they do, and suggest that we shouldn't?
This would be the John Kerry that began his career in politics as a leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). One of the Party's highest-profile liberals.

Yet what he does in that statement is demand that other Senators explain why they would hesitate for a moment to follow the recommendations of "military establishment of our country and national intelligence establishment of our country, and the Strategic Command of our country." Why, he asks, "do some senators know better than they do, and suggest that we shouldn't" and just do what they are told? Democracy is genuinely in serious trouble when even our leading liberals are talking this way.

The Constitution gave the Senate authority to approve or reject treaties. Not the "military establishment". Not the "national security establishment". Not the Strategic Command. The only thing one can say in mediation of the Democrats' shame in talking this way is that the Republicans idolize the military far more, and almost without exception. The most visible exception is Ron Paul, a raving rightwinger coming from a hyper-nationalist, Old Right isolationist perspective.


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