Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, October 05, 2007

  The company presidential candidates keep

Perhaps, like me, you're less than convinced that any of the leading presidential candidates can be trusted entirely to adopt mature policies, however essential. Perhaps you're wondering whether they will definitively and forever sweep into the landfill of history all the many outrages against decency that President Bush has mounded up around the White House, like a fortress of so much manure.

Perhaps you're concerned that once again so-called liberals will try to compete with so-called conservatives in bellicosity, chest-thumping, strong-on-defensism, mine-shaft-gapism, and so forth—thus insuring some kind of continuity in the insane policies of the Bush administration. Perhaps, for example, you fear that each and every one of them would ultimately refuse to withdraw from Iraq (notwithstanding everything), out of an excess of caution regarding what the "serious people" in Washington might think of their hawkish credentials.

You should be worried, because by now virtually every one of them has publicly taken an obstreperous or incautious stance on some foreign policy issue...threatening Iran, for example. It already looks like a race to the bottom, and I fear that there'll be a lot of table-pounding before the primaries are over. This list of hawkish foreign policy advisors assembled by the main presidential candidates may give you even more grounds for concern.

In particular, I'm astounded (though not in the least surprised) to learn that Hillary Clinton relies upon the advice of that notorious Brookings-Institution fool, Michael O'Hanlon.

This is the person who recently returned from a hurried visit to Iraq, hosted by the US military, and declared in an op-ed that (a) he was a longtime critic of the Iraq War, and (b) "we are finally getting somewhere" in Iraq. Neither was true, as many people pointed out.

Last year, sensing that O'Hanlon was going to be promoted hard by the administration's apologists as a 'sensible' (i.e. hawkish) "liberal", I wrote a profile of O'Hanlon's recent career as a self-promoting goofball. His war-mongering has since become legendary, but it's worth emphasizing that O'Hanlon is a laughingstock for a whole range of reasons.

Here I'll quote part of that profile, where I talk about the desperation of think-tank "experts" to retain their seats in front of the microphones:

You can see that that is exactly what O'Hanlon prizes from the boast in his Brookings bio:
O’Hanlon has appeared on the major television networks more than 150 times since September 11, 2001 and has contributed to CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and FOX some 300 times over that same period.

Who in the hell counts up their television appearances? And who subdivides the tally between major and minor networks? It's pathetic, but all too characteristic. These people are desperate self-promoters living in fear that their pretensions to omniscience will be exploded and the microphones snatched away. O'Hanlon, for example, claims to be an expert in eleven areas of national and international policy (including expertise in several Asian countries). Yet he speaks only a single foreign language (French) and his undergraduate degree was in physics.

This know-it-all has been wrong about virtually everything important in Iraq (one of his proclaimed areas of expertise), such as when he congratulated Bush for denying that a civil war had broken out this spring [of 2006]. That was, by his own admission, the day after 30 headless bodies were discovered en masse in Iraq. And a full year after we began seeing headlines regarding the systematic kidnapping and torture committed by Iraqi Interior Ministry forces, he writes drivel like this:

If the country begins to descend toward civil war, the temptation of many [Iraqi security forces] will be to take sides in the sectarian strife rather than stop it.

Puffed up experts such as this are frauds who can only retain their grip upon respectability by avoiding scrutiny of their record.

That's sufficient to demonstrate, I believe, that O'Hanlon's advice even in his areas of "expertise" is about as worthless as any advice could possibly be. Even more troubling, he's a confirmed and unrepentant hawk on Iraq. In other words, he believes in principle in a policy of bashing certain countries, at least certain Middle Eastern countries, as long as the bashing is done efficiently and with some tidiness.

And this is the clown whom Hillary Clinton counts as a trusted advisor? To my mind, that says a great deal about her sense...not just about her preferred foreign policies, but also about her basic sensibilities.

All of the lists of advisors for Democratic candidates are troubling—for whom the lists include and whom they don't include—even if none of the others have stooped as low as to turn to Michael O'Hanlon. And the Republican candidates' advisors are even more extreme (Norman Podhoretz, for heaven's sake).

So it looks like our choices next year may boil down to (a) 8 more years of hell, or (b) 8 more years of heck.

crossposted from

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