Sunday, May 8, 2011

Michael Scheuer: A man who speaks considerable sense about U.S. foreign policy

I just stumbled on to a talk on C-SPAN by one Michael Scheuer about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and found myself agreeing with a very high percentage of his statements. He has come to many of the same conclusions that I have come to about the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and (now) Libya, namely that they rest on hopelessly naive assumptions about government and have been terrible ideas from the get-go in terms of cold-blooded cost-benefit analysis.

The C-SPAN talk obviously had been taped before the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, and I checked Scheuer's website to see what his take on this was. I found myself agreeing right down the line with him. He felt it was good that bin Laden was gone, that it was good that he was not captured, that the "triumphalism of the pathetic young children and addled adults who were this week in the streets to celebrate bin Laden’s death" was unseemly, and that the conflicting stories being put out by the administration and Congress on what actually happened would give many people reasons to doubt what really happened. He noted that it was ironic than it took the al Qaeda confirmation of bin Laden's death to shut up most of the skeptics.

Scheuer has been accused of anti-semitism, a charge which he denies, because he argues that the U.S. should not make defense of Israel such a high national priority. I do not know enough about him to give an opinion on this matter.

At the end of the question period Scheuer commented that all of the presidents of both parties since Ronald Reagan have not been worth "a pitcher of warm spit." This is an allusion to a comment by Franklin D. Roosevelt's first vice president, who said something similar (but apparently used a strong term than "spit") about the office of the vice presidency!

While I think that Reagan was one of our best presidents, it seems to me that much of U.S. foreign policy under Reagan was grounded in similar assumptions to today's lamentable policies. But it is true that Reagan did not get us involved in all these unnecessary and counterproductive wars that I am afraid that all of his successors--Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama--- have done. I include Bush I because increasingly I am thinking that even the original Persian Gulf War under his leadership was a bad mistake. (At least, though, it was executed extremely well, with the crushing force advocated by the "Powell Doctrine," avoiding overreaching by marching on to Baghdad, and getting our "friends" to pay for a lot of it.)

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