May 31, 2014

In the oh-so-polite Villager world, one cannot be so crass as to be perceived as a warmonger. Therefore, David Brooks uses terms like "overreach" and "under-reach" and "lean in" and "lean out" as euphemisms for the idea of bombing the crap out of everyone we don't believe in and apologizing later.

As you might imagine, this means Brooks didn't appreciate President Obama's West Point speech on Wednesday. I'm fairly certain this line above all others offended him: "Because having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods lessens the need for us to put our own troops in harm’s way. It is a smart investment. It’s the right way to lead."

To David Brooks, those words mean "President Obama clearly doesn’t want to lean forward in the way his predecessors did." Yes, because Iraq and Afghanistan worked out so very well. You know, if we hadn't "leaned forward" so far in those countries we wouldn't have such a huge national debt, as many problems at the VA, and certainly not as many dead kids as we have today.

But for Brooks, it's all about leadership skills, right? And he seems to be saying here that President Obama just can't bring himself to lead when it comes to bombing the crap out of some renegade country. But here's what he had to say in 2003 about George W. Bush's leadership skills. On March 10, 2003, he wrote this for The Weekly Standard:

The American commentariat is gravely concerned. Over the past week, George W. Bush has shown a disturbing tendency not to waffle when it comes to Iraq. There has been an appalling clarity and coherence to his position. There has been a reckless tendency not to be murky, hesitant, or evasive. Naturally, questions are being raised about President Bush's leadership skills.

Two weeks later, he wrote this:

Over the past 12 years the United States has sought to disarm or depose Saddam--more forcefully since September 11 than before. Throughout that time, France and Russia have sought to undermine sanctions and fend off the ousting of Saddam. They opposed Clinton's efforts to bomb Saddam, just as they oppose Bush's push for regime change. Through the fog and verbiage, that is the essential confrontation. Events will show who was right, George W. Bush or Jacques Chirac.

And so events have proven Chirac right, not George W. Bush. Or David Brooks, for that matter.

Try as he might, Mark Shields couldn't quite make himself come out and hammer Brooks for his misbegotten Iraq cheerleading. Instead he alluded to agreement on editorial pages as being rare, but memorable for their agreement on Iraq. The point was lost on Brooks and viewers alike.

Brooks' comments were no different than what Cheney and the Fox talkers say over and over. He substituted "under-reach" for the word "weak," but he was saying the same thing. It seems to me he really believes we ought to drop a few bombs around the planet every 17 months or so as an assertion of our power and right to do such things, as if it's perfectly normal and expected.

Thanks, but no thanks. I'll take the more nuanced, diplomatic and thoughtful President Obama approach. The United States is not the master of the entire universe, nor should we be. Let David Brooks greet dead kids in coffins a few times before he starts cheerleading for military aggression again. Otherwise he can just be content to be the Village fool.


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