August 20, 2007

Foreign Policy's Ex-Experts

Hatched by Dafydd

I hesitate to take on this task, mostly because I distrust my own objectivity: I can't be absolutely sure that I'm not rationalizing away data just because I don't like it.

But I'm reasonably sure I have a good case, so I'll go ahead and let you be the judge.

Foreign Policy magazine has rather gleefully published an article in which 100+ "foreign-policy experts" speak out against what the magazine calls "the so-called surge;" they ask about lots of things, but this is the question that will get the airplay in the elite media, considering the imminency of Gen. David Petraeus's report:

In the third Terrorism Index, more than 100 of America’s most respected foreign-policy experts see a world that is growing more dangerous, a national security strategy in disrepair, and a war in Iraq that is alarmingly off course.

In this report, Foreign Policy -- a bastion of the liberal and Realist schools of foreign-policy thought -- teamed up with the "progressive" Center for American Progress (Clintonista John Podesta's baby) to pick 108 "foreign-policy experts." In order not to make the report a complete travesty, they made a stab at balance:

The Terrorism Index is survey of more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy experts -- including two former secretaries of state [Madeleine Albright and Lawrence Eagleburger], a national security advisor, intelligence officers, and senior military leaders -- and represents the first comprehensive attempt to determine the U.S. foreign-policy establishment’s assessment of how the United States is fighting the war on terror.

The index is based on the results of a survey designed by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy. Participants in the survey were selected by Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress for their expertise in terrorism and U.S. national security. No one currently working in an official U.S. government capacity was invited to participate. [Note that this means no one actually involved in fighting the Iraq war during the counterinsurgency strategy of Gen. Petraeus was surveyed, no matter how much of an "expert" he or she may be.]

The nonscientific survey was administered online from May 23-June 26, 2007. Respondents were asked to self-identify their ideological bias from choices across a spectrum: very conservative, conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, somewhat liberal, liberal, and very liberal. Twenty-five people identified themselves as some level of conservative, 39 identified as moderate, and 44 identified as some level of liberal. To ensure balance, the survey was weighted according to ideology to make the number of weighted liberal respondents equal to the number of conservative respondents. Moderate and conservative respondents remained unweighted.

The results were not just eye-opening, but suspiciously so; as Reuters reports, even 64% of the self-identified "conservatives" in the non-scientific study said that the "troop increase" had either had no effect at all (36%) or had made things worse (28%).

This is completely at odds with what most conservatives I've read are saying, and my suspicion grew about who these "conservatives" really were; the collaboration with John Podesta didn't help. After some poking around, I located Foreign Policy's list of experts... and as I investigated those I didn't already know, a pattern emerged.

You can see it yourself by the two secretaries of state they picked to survey: Madeleine Albright is, of course, a liberal Democratic partisan hack, Secretary of State under Bill Clinton; she will obviously be among the 90% of moderates or liberals among the experts who say the counterinsurgency strategy is failing. No surprise there.

But consider George H.B. Bush's Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger: From everything I can glean, Eagleburger is a dyed in the wood "Realist," in the mold of Henry Kissinger and James Baker, both of whom Eagleburger served under. More than likely, when asked, Eagleburger would describe himself as at least "somewhat conservative," possibly even just "conservative." Yet even more likely, he opposed the Iraq war from the very beginning, as did nearly all the Realists: Kissinger-Baker Realists prefer subtle, diplomatic machinations of dictators like Hussein, rather than confronting evil head-on. Remember, the Realists, to a man, scorned and mocked Ronald Reagan's approach to the Soviet Union; they even objected to identifying it as an "evil empire."

There are far too many "experts" on the Foreign Policy list for me to run through them all; but I went through the first dozen; in that group, I found two obvious Realists: Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Philip Bobbitt, who, in an article in Time Magazine, rejected America fighting "unilateral" wars and called for us to "accept the responsibility of organizing coalitions to fight a chronic, low-intensity war such as the one we are fighting against al-Qaeda." Yep, I'd say Realist.

I found another who may very well have identified himself as "somewhat conservative," but who would almost certainly reject the war: Rand Beers, longtime National Security Council member (under Reagan, Bush-41, Clinton, and Bush-43). Beers resigned from the NSC in protest of the Iraq war... want to bet what his conclusion was about the efficacy of "the so-called surge?"

There are a number of others I can pick out who would almost certainly call themselves "conservatives" -- but who have pretty much opposed the Iraq war from the beginning: I'll bet Richard Clark calls himself "somewhat conservative," as would Larry C. Johnson. More than likely, so did Michael Scheuer, longtime CIA analyst and chief, who claimed that he "did the research" on connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda and found "nothing."

Here is the problem: Foreign Policy magazine and the Clintonist Center for American Progress get to define who is a "foreign-policy expert." They are going to pick people they consider to be serious thinkers... and it's incredibly tempting to dismiss one's political opponents as "not serious."

I believe the editors did their level best to come up with a list of bona-fide experts on foreign policy; but they necessarily skewed towards those, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, who hewed to the Realist line (Podesta would have recruited heavily among Clintonist liberals like Albright). If they did that effectively among the "conservative" and "moderate" groups, and allowed CAP to pick the "liberals," then it's no wonder that 83% of the entire group thinks "the so-called surge" has failed to make things better.

Here is another absurd result from the survey: "Conservatives," by whopping margins, believe that withdrawal from Iraq would:

  • Create instability beyond Iraq;
  • Lead to Iran "filling the power vacuum;"
  • Lead to Iraq splitting into "warring provinces;"
  • Result in "a bloody civil war [that] would rage out of control;"
  • Mean that "Al Qaeda would strengthen globally;

Nevertheless, Foreign Policy magazine would have us believe that a majority of "conservatives" (54%) believes we should withdraw from Iraq over the next 18 months and "redeploy" to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf... and more "conservatives" (25%) than "liberals" (23%) or "moderates" (18%) support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

This, again, tells me that the "conservatives" selected by the editors of Foreign Policy do not actually represent what I would call post-9/11 conservatives, but rather "September 10th" conservatives -- those for whom the attacks changed very little (if anything at all) about how they view the world. This, coupled with the exclusion of anyone currently fighting (generals or civilians) in the war -- creating an artificial cut-off date for military experts -- has led to a skewed and unrealistic batch of experts, particularly those who self-identify as conservatives: The bias is towards September 10th thinking, such as the Realism school or the Colin Powell "overwhelming force" doctrine.

I think there is good evidence to this effect in this very survey; and for that reason, I put little stock in it. The Foreign Policy editorial board wasn't looking for experts... it were hunting for former experts, ex-experts, the experts of the old, pre-attack paradigm. They went looking for "conservatives" who agreed with them that the war was futile, unnecessary, and already lost, and that we should pull out and concentrate on international coalitions... and by gum, they found a double-handful.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 20, 2007, at the time of 6:03 PM

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The following hissed in response by: RBMN

On the theory that big time politics (and by extension elite foreign policy) is Hollywood for ugly people, I think Michael Medved makes a good parallel point to yours:

From: "War Films, Hollywood and Popular Culture"
By Michael Medved, May 19, 2006

I would submit to you that what has changed is neither the American military nor the ordinary American's perception of the military. What has changed is Hollywood itself. During WWII, there was a spectacular war effort in Hollywood and a great enthusiasm among the Hollywood elite -- even the biggest stars -- for serving their country. Jimmy Stewart, the number-two rated male movie star at the time, enlisted in 1942, flew 51 bombing missions with the Army Air Corps and ended up a brigadier general. Henry Fonda rejected the proposal that he simply promote and sell war bonds, insisted on serving in combat and was wounded in the Pacific. And such behavior was considered normal. This was America, after all, and Hollywood was part of America. [...] Part of what changed -- and it was a change that was already under way before Vietnam -- was Hollywood's transformation from a mass appeal industry to an elite institution. Many of the major stars today have an Ivy League background. And a large number of them are second or third generation stars -- people who have been born into the movie business and have lived in it their whole lives. So the industry is no longer connected with the public in the way that it used to be. Certainly very few of Tinseltown's luminaries have had any experience in, or contact with, the military. All of this is reflected in the new mission that Hollywood has adopted: not to entertain, but to challenge and discomfort the public. And of course it is not simply antipathy to the military that permeates Hollywood today. There is a broader anti-Americanism -- an alienation from everything American -- that runs very, very deep there. [...] A book published in 1999, The Black Book of Communism, computed the number of corpses that communism had accumulated since the Russian Revolution in 1917. The total adds up, in the 20th century alone, to more than 100 million. The U.S. fought a life-and-death struggle against world communism between the end of WWII and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. We won that war, thank God. And Hollywood's continuing insistence on portraying the Vietnam War -- which, along with the Korean War, was an integral part of that life-and-death struggle -- as having taught us that all war is pointless is a way of ignoring the fact, not only that Hollywood did not engage in that struggle against world communism, but that most people in the entertainment elite were on the wrong side of it. I say this with respect and with caution. I am not suggesting that most people in Hollywood were active communists. But I am suggesting that the anti-anti-communism that became so typical of Hollywood during the Cold War has led to its ongoing denial that the Cold War meant anything. Can anyone think of a movie that has celebrated America's victory in the Cold War? Probably most of us will think of Miracle. Apparently Hollywood can face the fact that we beat the Soviet Union in a hockey game, but not the fact that we overcame the Soviet Union politically -- through attention to moral principles and through the maintenance of military superiority -- because the entertainment elite is terribly invested in the idea that no war ever meant anything.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2007 8:23 PM

The following hissed in response by: BarbaraS


You have named all the players in recent years who have bashed the Bush administration incessantly especially in the Plame matter. And with all the members of the Clinton administration listed (who certainly have an axe to grind) the survey is definitely skewed. Isn't it amazing how these people name their organizations with such high faluting sounding names which boiled down mean nothing.

With Bill Clinton bashing and undercutting W at all times, I wonder if Bush Sr. is still calling him "son". That whole scenario is sickening.

The above hissed in response by: BarbaraS [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2007 8:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

It seems to me that these are the people who dropped the ball to begin with. If they are such expertshow did we get to this place?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2007 9:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

"Nonscientific survey" Isan't that code words for "entirely pointless?" or "partisan hack job meant to look somehow fair"?

This reminds me of the overwhelming consensus on global warming. Next up, anyone who thinks the surge might be working gets to be called "deniers". I can't wait.

I find it interesting that Democrats always value consensus over facts. They live in this weird twilight world where the truth is simply what the most people believe. Hard to argue with that.

For the record, yeah, the surge is working. But the surge only provides the physical and mental space for Iraqis to fix the underlying problems. Victory is (and always was) entirely dependent on the Iraqis. Unfortunately political courage is in much shorter supply than physical courage, both here and abroad. The smart move would be to give it another year, at least. But smart moves are based on facts, not consensus.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2007 8:56 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/21/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2007 10:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: soccerdad

Sure Albright is there as are Anthony Lake and Susan Rice, who was a state department official in charge of Africa during the Clinton administration who ignored the festering terror problem. But there's also Jim Woolsey the CIA director that Clinton reportedly had no time to meet with.

Jay Garner was the first head of the CPA before he was sacked (I think for being a neo-con) and replaced by Paul Bremer, another of the experts.

Dov Zakheim and Laurence Eagleburger are both staunch Republicans. The former served in the current administration for a bit. Lawrence Wilkerson was once a member of the administration too. He served under Colin Powell but has been a very vocal critic of the administration.

Ilan Berman, Robert Kagan and Daniel Pipes are all serious people.

Fawaz Gerges, Shibley Telhami, James Zogby and John Esposito are all apologists for Arab extremism.

And of course Stephen Walt has been against the war. Rand Beers, I believe, became John Kerry's maian foreign policy advsisor. Andrew Bacevich used to be somewhat conservative and turned against the war and became even more bitter after his son was killed in the war. Paul Pillar's been examined at PowerLine.

In short, this is a mixed crowd. You're probably right that Scheuer and Johnson would consider themselves conservatives, but given this context the term is really irrelevant.

This is a mixed crowd, but I'm not sure it's as skewed as you think.

The above hissed in response by: soccerdad [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2007 2:37 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I believe it is skewed; but I'm not saying it's skewed to the "left." (Actually, it was; but they weighted it so that "liberals" = "conservatives.")

I'm looking solely at those who called themselves conservatives -- and I wish they had told us how each "expert" rating himself; that would be illuminating. I believe most of the "conservatives" are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the new paradigm of Islamist terrorism: They don't really accept Salafists or Twelvers as "enemies" worthy of the name... instead, they're looking for the next Soviet Union, like the Pentagon officials that Thomas P.M. Barnett classifies as "Cold Worriers."

If one is a Cold Worrier, then the Iraq war resembles at best a distraction from the "real danger" (China, North Korea, maybe a resurgent Russian SSR), and at worst a fatal attempt at "nation building" when we should be forming a new "Grand Coalition" to counter the "growing neo-Communist menace."

My friend and occasional contributer to Big Lizards, Brad Linaweaver, admits he more or less falls into this category. For a time after 9/11, Brad saw rampaging Moslems as a real threat; but eventually, he appeared to be overcome with indignation at the barbaric, third-world nature of those who attack us.

In short, he seems to have dismissed the Islamist threat as an imposition and a presumption, not rising to the high civilizational standard of enemy (Nazis, Stalinists) that America expects and deserves. Why are we mucking about with near troglodytes?

I see this as a fatal flaw, a shibboleth that separates those living in a post-9/11 world from September 10th thinkers.

The old paradigm was cutting edge and appropriate in its time; Brad was an enthusiastic Reaganite who absolutely believed that the Evil Empire could be defeated, not just accomodated and contained, by a united America.

Reagan, Buckley, and Brad were right, both in the urgency of fighting the Cold War and in their belief that it could be won. But the latter two are shortsighted today to dismiss the current threat merely because most of its attackers are what the British, back in the days of the empire, would have called "Fuzzy Wuzzies" or "Hottentots." (Reagan never took Islamists seriously, either; but he had enough on his plate.)

With WMDs small enough for individuals to carry and deploy, with transportation cheap enough for even cavemen to get wherever they need to be, and especially with resources like the internet, allowing virtual coordination, communication, and strategic planning across continents, even Hottentots may strike horrific blows against the most powerful and civilized nations on the planet... as we found out.

I wonder how many of the self-described conservatives in this study could answer a simple question: "Why did we invade Iraq, and why do we stay on, trying to make it democratic, even after toppling Saddam Hussein?"

I'll bet that most would give either a rambling non-answer, a snide attack instead of an answer, or would claim we had no reason whatsoever. How can a person hope to be able to tell whether a particular strategy during a war is helping -- when he doesn't even understand the purpose of the war in the first place?

If one understands why we went into Iraq and what we need to do -- by the reasoning of the new paradigm, whether one agrees with it or not -- then one also understands why it wouldn't have worked to go in under the Powell Doctrine, why a small footprint was necessary, why we stay beyond the expulsion of the Baathists, why the Petraeus/Kagen/Keane/Galula strategy is working, what the victory conditions look like, and why the war is winnable.

If one doesn't understand why we went into Iraq in the first place... then everything looks mysterious, inexplicable, and catastrophic. Hey, the next Soviet Union could be just around the corner, and here we are "tied down" in irrelevant Iraq!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2007 3:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: Colin


I read what you wrote about the "hottentots" and "fuzzy wuzzies", and about how these former "lesser includeds" have now become a serious strategic threat, and wondered whether you have read John Robb's book, Brave New War.

The above hissed in response by: Colin [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2007 6:01 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Nope; never even heard of it. But I'll go out on a limb here and guess that you brought it up because you think it's well worth reading... <g>


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2007 7:12 PM

The following hissed in response by: Colin


Sure did. If you liked The Pentagon's New Map, you'll probably like Brave New War. Barnett talks about the promise of his "future worth creating", while Robb talks about the dangers of networked bad guys, and how they all learn from each other in previously unimaginable ways. Someone (it might have been Michael Tanji of Haft of the Spear and The Weekly Standard) said that "if Thomas Barnett is Pooh-Bear, that makes John Robb Eeyore", and I think that's a pretty apt description.

The above hissed in response by: Colin [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2007 7:33 PM

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