June 14, 2014

I don't know what it's going to take for members of "polite society" and our pundit class to finally decide that David Brooks deserves to be expelled from their ranks, along with every other neocon apologist that's been attempting to rewrite history over the last week as we've watched Iraq descend into chaos, but given the fact that he was invited back on the PBS Newshour after writing one of the most vile columns I've read in a very long time for The New York Times, I'm guessing the answer to my question is he's never going to go.

Our friend Driftglass, who has been relentless in taking our dear Mr. Brooks to task when he deserves to be, which is pretty much every time he opens his mouth or is allowed to pollute the op-ed section of The New York Times for another week, gave Brooks the treatment he deserved for the attempted historical revisionism in his column this week.

David Brooks Promises Peace With Honor in Vietnam:

From the safety of his impregnable Neoconservative fastness high atop the New York Times, tireless Iraq War cheerleader and professional revisionist, David Brooks, has written a column blaming the collapse of Iraq on Barack Obama's unwillingness to shovel even more of the sons and daughters of Americans-who-are-not-David-Brooks into the bottomless well of misery and sectarian horror created by George W. Bush.

... We’ll never know if all this effort and progress could have led to a self-sustaining, stable Iraq. Before the country was close to ready, the Obama administration took off the training wheels by not seriously negotiating the NATO status of forces agreement that would have maintained some smaller American presence.
The administration didn’t begin negotiations on the treaty until a few months before American troops would have to start their withdrawal. The administration increased the demands. As Filkins writes, “The negotiations between Obama and Maliki fell apart, in no small measure because of lack of engagement by the White House.” ...

Since the bloody, serial wrongness of Neoconservatives like Mr. Brooks never caused so much as a stutter in their rise through the ranks of the Very Serious People who get paid enormous sums of money to frame our public debates -- and since our Elite Media has energetically conspired to protect Neoconservatives like Mr. Brooks by shoving the entire corpus of their bloody, serial wrongness down the memory hole and agreeing to never, ever mention it public again -- it was inevitable this day would come.
You know, someone should really write a post about it.

If you're familiar with his work, you'd know he already has. Go read the rest for links to the hundreds of posts he's been writing on Brooks over the years.

What's tragic is that there is no amount of shaming that's ever going to stop interviews like this from taking place as long as Brooks is considered some wise man by our corporate media and PBS instead of being scorned as he deserves.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, our lead story tonight, you heard, David, our expert guests talking about the problem, the huge problems in Iraq. How much of — first of all, we know it’s a crisis. How much of a problem is it for the United States?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it’s a gigantic problem.

The idea — and this has been talked about by experts the last couple of years in particular — that it just becomes one big war, that the borders get erased, that the Sunni-Shiite splits — people are watching this — the Sunni-Shiite splits transcend borders and spread all over the region.

And so people have been watching the Syrian civil war. They have been watching what happening in Iraq on TV. And they’re getting — their sectarian anger is growing. And then you throw in some bad players who could manipulate it one way or the other, and it could slide over.

Then you have regional powers. You got Turkey. You got the Saudis, the Iranians. Everyone’s getting involved. And I just — what I read, what I hear from the people who really are experts, it’s World War I. It’s really a very perilous, extremely perilous situation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, how does one know what the right thing to do for the United States is?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t think anybody knows.

I was fascinated by — to listen to the discussion. But because nobody is sure what to do today or tomorrow, most of the debate has been about what you did wrong yesterday. Did it begin in 2003, when the United States invaded and occupied and dismantled the entire Iraqi military, the entire Iraqi government, the entire Iraqi, really, public sector?

And there’s that. But then the other bookend becomes, well, no, we did give them a chance, we built them up, we trained them, we supplied them, but leaving in 2011, was that the problem?

And I don’t think, Judy — it’s sort of the default position becomes, let’s bring in airpower. And you don’t just bring in airpower. You have got — we saw that in Afghanistan this week, where five Americans were killed in friendly-fire by a B-1.

You have to have the surveillance, the reconnaissance, the information, the analytics on the ground to exactly where — especially with a shifting battlefield.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the president has said no boots on the ground, no troops on the ground, and yet you would need — you’re saying you would need…

MARK SHIELDS: Well, you need either Marines or special forces. You need people there to say this is — these are the coordinates. This is exactly what we do want to — and we don’t — the last thing in the world you want to do is have civilian casualties and deaths and collateral damage.

And so it’s a Hobson’s choice of the worst kind.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, you have the man who ran against Barack Obama, President Obama, in 2008, John McCain, saying the whole national security team needs to be thrown out. The president needs to fire them all and bring a whole different group in.


JUDY WOODRUFF: What does the president do? How do you make a decision like this?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I don’t know about throwing them all out, but McCain’s, I think, record has been reasonably good in the last four or five years.

I think he — when the thing happened in 2011, we withdrew, he pretty much warned that this would happen. He warned very early on that the Syrian civil war would spill over into Iraq, which is exactly what’s happened.

And so I do think whatever decision he made in 2003 to support the original invasion, what he predicted has come true over the last few years, and we’re in a bad situation for it.

I do think we somehow have to get involved. As the panel said, it has to be political. I think they do have to commit to a — the Iraqi constitution is a regional constitution. It’s a federal constitution which devolves a lot of power. That didn’t happen in practice. Maliki centralized everything. And that was obviously a poisonous and terrible decision.

But it was certainly the case that when U.S. forces were there, they, A, could block Maliki from being ultra-sectarian, and Ryan Crocker and people like that, and they could simply put tanks in the way, so when the Shiites wanted to do something oppressive to the Sunnis or vice versa, they could just get in the way.

Now, we’re not going to go back to that world, but the idea that we can do nothing and allow this to spill over, and allow the ISIL to really — a completely rancid organization — to take over large swathes of the Middle East, that seems to me perilous in the extreme.

So, I don’t know the practicalities of what we do with it, and how we sequence it, as Zal Khalilzad was saying, but I do think the president’s posture, which is very forward-leaning for him, I think that’s the right posture.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, are you confident the president has the right people around him to make these decisions?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know, Judy.

I certainly think John Kerry and Chuck Hagel bring to him something that has been missing for most deliberations, and that is people who know combat and know the price that it involves, who aren’t armchair commandos and talk about it.

I mean, John McCain, David can argue about his consistency. In 2003, John McCain had an enormous responsibility. And he was an uncritical cheerleader of that war.

I mean, he could have — he could have — and let’s be very blunt about it. Democrats were cowed. An awful lot of Democrats were terrified at that time of being accused of being soft on terrorism, and they went along. So the Congress really abdicated in 2003. And that law is still on the books. The vote was actually in 2002. The invasion was in 2003. That law is still on the books. The president has that authority still.


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