David Brooks likes to pretend he's not a Republican, but he sure sounds a whole lot like the war hawks on the right with his complaints about President Obama's foreign policy.
September 6, 2014

File this one under the David Brooks has obviously learned absolutely nothing since his cheerleading for the invasion of Iraq days. From this Friday's The PBS Newshour, Brooks is terribly upset that President Obama has had a "glacial-sized gap" between his rhetoric on Putin and his invasion of Ukraine, and the fact that he's not pouring more arms into that conflict fast enough to suit him.

He's also not happy that the President hasn't already plunged us headlong into the middle of Syria's civil war, so we can supposedly eradicate ISIS (and bomb them into oblivion with no civilian causalities of course), consequences be damned about what that involvement might mean if we go it alone.

Why David Brooks should be considered an expert on anything, much less foreign policy given his track record is beyond me, but The PBS Newshour just keeps having him back week after week, year after year, to offer his analysis on the news of the week as he did again this Friday:

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we said a full week of news, David, and, as Jeff was just reporting, and this NATO summit has ended — do you sense that now the West has a strategy for dealing with Putin, with the Russians?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: No.


DAVID BROOKS: You know, there’s just this glacial gap between — or I guess I should say a glacial-sized gap between the president’s rhetoric on Putin, which is very good, that he does threaten basically the civilized order, the idea that you don’t invade neighboring states, and the actual policies put in place, and that we have some sanctions.

There weren’t ratcheted-up sanctions. The sanctions don’t seem to be particularly effective. The crucial debate, as we just heard with McFaul, Burns, and Mearsheimer, is over whether we actually give the Ukrainians lethal weaponry to defend themselves.

And, to me, a military assault demands some sort of military response. And arming the Ukrainians seems like the — the place that Obama is going to get to eventually, but it seems to be taking a long time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I see progress.

I mean, certainly, a week ago, we were talking about whether there was any strategy at all. And I think this was a test of NATO. And if NATO hadn’t responded, and collectively, on both counts, I think it would have just been a — dismissed, and rightly so, as a paper tiger.

I think the question of, as Mike McFaul put it, peace is better than war, but a peace agreement today or a truce, an armistice, essentially does lock in the Russian aggression and rewards it. And three weeks ago — I mean, there’s no question militarily that Putin said off the record, on the record, but I guess offhand, that he could be in Kiev in two weeks, he could take it. And I don’t think anybody really doubts that, quite honestly.


I would just say, I think the paper tiger issue is still very much alive. The NATO countries, the 28 of them, have all promised to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, so they actually a military, some military capability. Out of the countries, four are doing it. And two of those are Greece and Estonia, not particularly huge countries. The U.S. and the U.K. are really the only substantial armies left in NATO.

And so there’s…




DAVID BROOKS: OK, fair enough.

MARK SHIELDS: ... the biggest.

DAVID BROOKS: And so there’s just the question of materiel.

The second is will. Putin has brazenness coming out the ears. So far, we have — it reminds me so much of all this conversation of the way it felt in Europe around the Yugoslav war, where there were firm declarations, we will not let this happen, we will not let the Serbs do this, we will not this happen to Bosnia, but nothing was done.

And it feels like that again a little.

MARK SHIELDS: I just think, looking at it, Putin has great advantages, in the sense that he doesn’t have to clear his actions with anybody. He is a one-man coalition.

But that’s the drawback. I mean, he is isolating himself.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Whereas the West has to get everybody together.

MARK SHIELDS: They have to get everybody together.

But I think the long-term strategy for Putin is ultimately self-defeating. Any idea — now, the problem that the West has is that this week, we saw even more deteriorating economic news in the West, even including Germany. So then you start talking about tougher sanctions with winter coming on and these faltering economies.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And are they going to be willing to go — carry through...

MARK SHIELDS: Go through with it. And all politics is local in the final analysis, and are leaders going to say to their people, we’re going to impose these sanctions? You’re going to pay for them. It’s going to make your life more difficult. It could hurt our own economies, but we have to do it. And I think that’s really one of the great problems.

DAVID BROOKS: If I could just build off that point, the marriage right now between domestic policy and foreign policy seems to me unusual in our lifetimes, that we have always faced threats, the Soviet Union, and this or that, but we did it as kind of a relative self — democratic functionality and self-confidence.

Domestically, we’re seeing political dysfunction of an unprecedented level and lack of trust, lack of self-confidence. And so you have got this marriage of threats, which have always sort of been around. The president is right about that, but much more dysfunction on the domestic front. And that makes the threats bigger and more potent and makes our ability to counter them much weaker.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the Islamic State coming out of NATO, do you see any more resolve on the part of NATO there?


But I think that Nick Burns’ point that the Arab companies have to buy in big, but the fact that Turkey is in is encouraging. I think seriousness of the president — I think the president, whatever else one says about him, he is not impulsive. And, no, but, I mean, that’s — it’s a time of thoughtfulness. There isn’t a ready, fire, aim — fire, ready, aim approach to him.

He is — and he’s — the test will be not the process, which we’re seeing very openly, but what the product is, where we do come to. But I think he has set the parameters. It’s going to be long. It’s going to be difficult, but he has set an objective. There’s no question. It’s not with a lot of swagger and bravado, but he’s put it very clear. We’re going to destroy them.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. He is not impulsive. The Grand Canyon was formed faster than our policy in Syria.

But you’re right. It’s sort of hard to grade it because it’s so much in formation. And I agree he set the right goal. He said, this is a cancer; therefore, you have to totally eradicate it. John Kerry has said no matter where it exists, it has to be addressed.

And yet our policy right now is, we will address it in Iraq with some bombing and other things. We will not address it in Syria. And so that has got to change. The policy doesn’t match the goal and the rhetoric. And so it’s hard to grade it because it’s this evolved — very, very slowly evolving set of policies, but I think the president here and in Ukraine is going to get carried along.

Brooks may talk a good game, but when it comes down to it, what he's offering is nothing more than a softer, kinder, less abrasive version of the same rhetoric we've been hearing from hotheads John McCain and his BFF Lindsey Graham – or as Driftglass likes to call it “The Liquid BoBo Koolant” for the Republican party and their failed policies.

The Koolant system that keeps it all from blowing apart at the seams and melting itself back into the masturbatory fever dreams of every wannabe Jefferson Davis circulate a viscous Koolaid-based composite goo made up of 43% David Brooks, 27% Tom Friedman, 23% Tim Russert, 12% Joe Klein and 10% David Broder.


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