David Brooks Mangles History to Mask Neocon Failures

12/11/2007 03:58 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nobody spins neocon failures as artfully as David Brooks. Who else could write a column titled "The Postwar Election" and be taken seriously? Stripped down to its essentials, his basic argument is that since the surge is such a success, voters are turning their attention away from the war in Iraq. Consequently the 2008 election will be decided on other issues. It's his backhanded way of insinuating - without saying - that the occupation in Iraq is a success, and that a Democratic landslide will not be a referendum on the war.

"The main point is this: money and organization matter less right now than getting in tune with the zeitgeist shift. In 1945, Prime Minister Winston Churchill had formidable advantages over Clement Attlee. But when a public turns from a war mentality to a peace mentality, it turns with a vengeance -- even though in this case no armistice has been declared."

In referencing the 1945 election that turned Winston Churchill out of office, Brooks doesn't rewrite history so much as he twists or perverts it. As any high school student can tell you, by the time of the 1945 election, World War II in Europe was over. It did not end in an armistice, but in Germany's unconditional surrender. No one doubted the legitimacy of the war. Britain was unified in its resolve to win, and there was a sense of shared sacrifice across the nation.

If anything is a sure bet for 2008, it's that the Iraq occupation will not be over, but the majority of the country will continue to believe that the invasion was not worth it. Strains on government funding will remind us how the Iraq war squandered treasure as well as lives. And who came up with the fantasy that an armistice is anywhere on the horizon?

Bogus historical references are Brooks' specialty. A month ago, he insinuated that Condi Rice was on the brink of a diplomatic coup analogous to the formation of NATO. Our allies share a common view that "an Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance is on the march," writes Brooks. So Rice is constructing an "anti-Iran counter-alliance." That's right. Behind the scenes, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinians and the U.S. are working together to thwart Iranian hegemony. Brooks points out that Rice is "an admirer of former Secretary of State Dean Acheson and is now present at the creation of a containment policy across the Middle East." (Acheson's memoir was titled, Present at the Creation. "Containment" was the policy first articulated by George Kennan.)

The fatal flaw is obvious if you think about it for 10 seconds. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the rest of the Middle East have gone out of their way to undercut Western sanctions and America's military belligerence. (See Money Talks. It says "We Like Iran!" The details may be dated, but the trend has only accelerated.) And the notion that Israel and the UAE are on the same page when it comes to dealing with Iran is a bit of a stretch.

Brooks' coup de grace was published exactly one year ago. The Second Thirty Years' War is coming, writes David Brooks, who blames Iraq's disintegration on "Arab society" instead of U.S. mismanagement. "Efforts to exhort Iraqi and other leaders to behave 'responsibly' -- as defined by Western nationalist categories -- were doomed to failure," Brooks argues, because Arabs are driven by those all-too-familiar attributes: dual loyalties, international conspiracy and media control.

With the deftest slight-of-hand, Brooks repackages his bigotry in the vernacular of the social sciences:

"Subnational groups -- like Hezbollah and the Mahdi Army -- and supranational groups -- like loosely connected terror networks, the new Sunni and Shiite Leagues and the satellite television networks -- went from strength to strength while central national governments toppled and fell."


"The core weakness of Middle Eastern nations was that over centuries Arab society had developed intricate social organizations based on family, tribe and faith. Loyalty to these superseded national bonds. Notions of federalism and impersonal administration -- the underpinnings of the nation-state -- had trouble flourishing in these sands."


Ergo, "Americans engaged in a moronic debate about whether Iraq was in civil war, which illustrated that American vocabularies were trapped in the nation- state paradigm, and how unprepared Americans were to understand the non-nation-state world."

It's classic Brooks. Invoke poli sci clichés like "intricate social organizations" or "federalism and impersonal administration" to deflect away from the obvious - that U.S. occupiers allowed chaos and disorder to fester in Iraq, and thereby enabled insurgents and criminals to fill the vacuum. As for our own difficulty in discerning who is friend and who is foe, "Americans engaged in a moronic debate about whether Iraq was in civil war." Did you ever notice how pseudointellectuals tend to be patronizing?


David Brooks