The Widening Chasm Among Conservatives



The machinery of state decision-making is rarely exposed to public scrutiny. The cover of representative government is a scrupulously maintained fiction concealing the nuts-and-bolts of real statecraft. Normally, politicians and their accomplices in the media can keep the illusion of representative government intact; avoiding the embarrassing implication that the current order is really upheld by the decision-making of elites. It’s only when a major rift appears between the members of the ruling class that we have the opportunity to marvel at the moving parts of the imperial apparatus.

The deteriorating situation in Iraq has precipitated this very scenario. The rift we allude to, has, in fact, developed into a yawning chasm; pitting one faction of conservative elder statesmen against their antecedents in the Bush administration. This battle of the giants can be expected to grow exponentially as the principle characters clash over the future of the Iraq occupation.

On the one hand, we have perhaps the most widely respected (conservative) policy experts alive today, advising the administration to withdraw from Iraq. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft and James Baker have joined the ranks of anti-war Leftists in calling for an immediate withdrawal of all American troops. They have noted the failed attempts by the Bush administration to establish even minimal security or to achieve the overall objectives of the invasion. With Iraq tilting precipitously towards civil war, and with America’s prestige irreparably damaged, their protestations should be regarded as an appeal for a return to political sanity.

Clearly these staunch supporters of American supremacy would never accept such a humbling defeat if there was even the remotest possibility of success. This gives us some idea of the extent to which the media has been concealing the crucial details of the disaster in Iraq from the public. Even those who are most likely to benefit the most from regional domination are jumping-off the sinking ship-of-state.

The significance of this rebellion among conservative members of the ruling establishment can,t be overstated. The war in Iraq didn,t evolve from a viable threat to national security, but from consensus among elites that America’s future depended on projecting power into the Middle East. This is apparent in everything from the manipulation of interest rates to accommodate aggression, to the fabricated threats promoted by the corporate media, to the signatures of the 60 oil giants (reported by Secretary of Treasury, Paul O, Neil) on Cheney’s Energy papers. (which divided up Iraqi oil fields months before the invasion)

Democracy: for elites, that is.

One of the illusions of American-style democracy is the notion that policy is driven by the will of the people. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the entire corporate system of delivering information (“the media”) is predicated on the idea of selectively creating a message that is compatible with the aims of elites. The interests of the public are never seriously entered into the policy-making equation, except in terms of how their approval can be obtained through the normal channels of calculated misinformation.

Policy is shaped by elites, for elites. It only changes when particular policies lose favor among the men who are ensconced at the foot of power. That’s what makes the Baker-Scowcroft-Brzezinski insurgency worth noting; they point to the growing number of policy-wonks, corporate big-wigs and political powerbrokers who no longer support the Iraq occupation. Their position of influence and respect among their colleagues would seem to make them the last best hope for anti-occupation Americans.

James Baker who was instrumental in waging the legal battle that put G W Bush in the White House, has said that continued American presence in Iraq threatens to “undermine domestic support” and perpetuate the belief in the region that Iraq is part of Washington’s “imperial design”.

Baker, a devoted Bush loyalist, has no problem with the morality of the occupation, only with its efficacy. For him to suggest withdrawal is a clear indication that the mission is unsalvageable.

Brent Scowcroft implicitly supports Baker’s analysis. Scowcroft, who is former National Security Advisor, served in both the H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford administrations and has solid record of commitment to conservative issues. Ideologically he is cut from the same cloth as Bush, although the extremism of the neocons has created a significant divide between old guard Republicans like Scowcroft and the new establishment.

At a recent meeting of the New America Foundation, Scowcroft gave a bitter critique of the Iraq conflict warning that the “war of choice” was jeopardizing long-held alliances and endangering America’s stature in the world.

He said that the upcoming elections “won,t be a promising transformation, and has the potential for deepening the conflict; we may be seeing incipient civil war at this time.”

Scowcroft emphasized his deep misgivings about war by suggesting that we should consider “whether we get out now” before more damage is done to American credibility and prestige.

(Scowcroft also provided a withering summary of the Afghanistan debacle, the likes of which have only previously appeared on Left-wing web sites. He said, “We did not go into Afghanistan because it was Afghanistan, we went in because it was the headquarters for Al Qaeda and the Taliban was supporting Al Qaeda. And we have pretty well cleaned out the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. Now Afghanistan stands as it was when the Soviet Union left”A FAILED STATE. And, one election a democracy does not make.

We,ve been really lucky about Karzai, he turned out to be pretty good, and rather lucky for us — but he is still more the MAYOR OF KABUL than he is the president of Afghanistan. The warlords are not only alive and well, they are thriving and running much of that country.

They probably have at their disposal more resources than they ever had before because Afghanistan is TURNING INTO A NARCO-STATE. We have precious little experience in dealing with failed states and putting them together we have to prevent it from receding back to the condition it was in 94 when we gave up on it before and have it become a haven for terrorism.”

“Narco-state”? “Mayor of Kabul”? “Failed state” run by “warlords”? These are the very same observations made by critics of the Afghanistan war for more than three years. It is extraordinary to see that these SAME VIEWS ARE SHARED BY REPUBLICAN INSIDERS behind closed doors. Although, the media still characterizes Afghanistan as a Bush success, it’s refreshing to know that serious analysts are not similarly in denial. Afghanistan has been a dismal failure; Scowcroft’s comments only reinforce that point.)

Zbigniew Brzezinski has provided an even more scathing appraisal of the Iraq war. Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor for Jimmie Carter, is widely regarded as one of the foremost authorities on international affairs and foreign policy. Apart from being the architect of America’s clandestine war in Afghanistan in the 1980’s (through the funding and arming of Islamic militants) he’s a master of American Realpolitik and a Machiavellian-type strategist. His book “The Grand Chessboard” provides the basic blueprint for American global domination through projection of force into Eurasia and consolidating control over Middle East oil in the Caspian Basin. The current imperial strategy being carried out by the Bush White House is mainly Brzezinski’s invention.

Brzezinski’s criticism was succinct and blistering: “A great deal of what is happening thus far in American Foreign Policy has been influenced by the ongoing conflict in Iraq. that war which was a war of choice is already a serious moral set back to the United States. A moral set-back both in how we start, how it was justified, and because of some of the egregious incidents that have accompanied this proceeding. The moral costs to the United States are high. It’s a political setback.

The United States has never been involved in an intervention in its entire history like it is today. It is also a military set back. “Mission Accomplished” are words that many in this administration want to forget.

While our ultimate objectives are very ambitious we will never achieve democracy and stability without being willing to commit 500,000 troops, spend $200 billion a year, probably have a draft, and have some form of war compensation.

As a society, we are not prepared to do thatThere comes a point in the life of a nation when such sacrifices are not justified . . .and only time will tell if the United States is facing a moment of wisdom, or is resigned to cultural decay.”

Brzezinski’s is not a man given to rhetorical flights of fancy. He’s known for his bare-knuckle, “take-no-prisoners” Kissinger-style approach to foreign policy. His denunciation of the war in Iraq as a “moral setback” or, more significantly, as a sign of “MORAL DECAY” will be construed by many political realists as a sign that we cannot succeed in our stated goals.

Brzezinski’s assessment of war extends far beyond the battlefield to its devastating affect on America’s “international legitimacy”. As a sign of how despised the Bush crusade has been around the world, Brzezinski cites a poll taken earlier in the year that shows a vast number of interviewees were disappointed “that more Americans were not killed” in the invasion. Brzezinski opines, “That is some measure of the depth of the animus to our policies.”

As for Brzezinki’s estimate of what it will take to succeed in Iraq (“500,000 troops, $200 billion a year, and a draft”) it is an astute approximation that is entirely consistent with the conclusions of many in the Defense establishment, including General Shinseki who was removed from duty for making similar calculations.

The broader issue, however, is summarized by the comments of James Dobbins from the conservative Rand Corporation when he admitted, “THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM IS TO REALIZE THAT WE CAN,T WIN” Dobbins remarks are underscored by Iraq’s Intelligence Chief, General Mohammed Shahwani concession that the, “US was facing 40,000 hard-core fighters” and a support group of as “many as 150,000 to 200,000”.

Predictably, the story was buried in the western press, but the implications are clear. The Pentagon has been lying to the American people about the size and strength of the insurgency, (previous estimates were between 5,000 to 20,000 total) and the likelihood of winning the conflict is slim to none.

America’s right-wing elite fully grasp the meaning of these numbers. That’s why retired General Gary Luck was sent to Iraq to provide a comprehensive assessment of the current reality on the ground. Secretary Rumsfeld knows full-well that Luck will return home with a detailed analysis of a deteriorating security situation and a well rehearsed appeal for more ground troops. Whether or not Luck’s report will be the basis for reinstating the draft is uncertain, but it will signal the steady escalation of men and resources devoted to America’s latest quagmire.

The growing chasm between American elites will have no measurable affect on the embattled White House. Already, the administration has announced its intention to keep at least 120,000 troops deployed in Iraq for at least the next three years. This is a clear message to the nay-sayers that their advice has been duly rejected. As Donald Rumsfeld said just recently, “They,ll be no second guessing”. The grand-plan to occupy Iraq will continue and the voices of reason will be silenced.

By marginalizing Baker, Scowcroft and Brzezinski the administration is severing relations with their ideological forebears. The project in Iraq is now cut-off from the reasoned analysis of conservative policy experts and is supported only by the hard-right ideology of political extremists. As the ground is increasingly cut away from more and more of the people who might provide some rational relief to the bloodletting; the project becomes more infused with the incendiary rhetoric of religiosity and nationalism. The crusade in Iraq is now propped up by nothing more than the flimsy stanchions of hubris and delusion; the foundation blocks of catastrophe.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

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