31 May 2016

The anti-interventionist consensus

By default, Hillary Clinton is the neocon candidate for President. Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and purveyor of "Heroic Conservatism," is disgusted with the foreign policies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Gerson believes that President Obama's Syria policy has resulted in "a security debacle and a humanitarian catastrophe," yet both Sanders and Trump argue that the U.S. under Obama is "overcommitted" in Syria. Gerson himself has a very clear four-point program for Syria, premised on his belief that "any rapprochement with Assad would be both immoral and pointless." To sum it up, Gerson still wants the U.S. to pick a winner in Syria and back it with as-yet unquantified American resources. The argument, made by both Trump and Sanders, that the U.S. has already done too much in Syria, is "callous" and "foolish" in Gerson's eyes. For all his criticism of Obama's, Gerson's philosophical position is essentially the same as Obama's. Both believe that the Assad regime is the necessary and sufficient cause of the Syrian civil war, on the assumption that dictatorships are inherently unstable because they automatically provoke resistance. Since Clinton was still Secretary of State when the Syrian trouble started, we can presume that she agrees with this philosophy. Gerson is disappointed with Obama because the President appears chastened, and not cowardly as Gerson assumes, by the real-world consequences of the Syrian conflict, from the rise of the self-styled Islamic State to Russia's assertion of its strategic interest in Syria. Gerson assumes that Obama has only himself to blame for those consequences because he did not throw all resources available behind the "nonradical" opposition to Assad, his further assumption being that there ever was a viable nonradical opposition, or that a nonradical opposition could be made viable with sufficient American support. Beyond the Syrian specifics, Gerson tries to guilt-trip the American people by insisting on our national duty to do something about a "humanitarian catastrophe" of political origins. The idea that it is the specific duty, if not the exclusive privilege, of the U.S. to do something about such catastrophes is challenged by candidates and voters Gerson dismisses as "populists" of left and right, populism for him meaning a selfish, amoral concern for "our own" at humanity's expense. For all I know, Sanders may believe in a humanitarian duty in such cases, but not in the U.S. unilaterally claiming that duty for itself, while Trump may well not give a damn about anyone in Syria but might be able to make a principled argument justifying his stance -- or at least an argument as "principled" as any neocons like Gerson make for American world leadership. In any event, the opposition of the Trump and Sanders movements to neocon foreign policy would appear to add up to an American consensus, and you would think people dedicated to "democratization" everywhere would recognize that. But you get the feeling sometimes, like this time, that "democracy" for neocons means something different from what it means to anyone else.


Anonymous said...

Gerson should be handed a rifle and told, with all due respect, to put his life on the line before he demands other Americans be ordered to put their lives on the line.

Anonymous said...

Wikiepedia informs us that "Michael John Gerson (born May 15, 1964) is an op-ed columnist for The Washington Post, a Policy Fellow with the ONE Campaign, a visiting fellow with the Center for Public Justice, and a former senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as President George W. Bush's chief speechwriter from 2001 until June 2006, as a senior policy advisor from 2000 through June 2006, and was a member of the White House Iraq Group. Gerson is considered to be a leading figure of the evangelical intelligentsia movement.

So not only is he a neo-con-artist, but he's part of the right-wing extremist christians who believe the US has been appointed by his infantile sky despot to be the shield for the "chosen people". Apparently his infantile sky despot lacks the power, the will or the courage to do his own dirty work.

Mr. Gerson should be given no respect, but rather held in the highest possible contempt.