You're not so important
Get elected or shut up!
In a recent article I insisted that while I've been critical of the influence of the Israel Lobby on U.S. Mideast policy and have focused on the role of the neocons in driving the Bush Administration's agenda in the Middle East, it's President Bush and the members of his cabinet -- the politicians -- who have been responsible for the war in Iraq:
That President George W. Bush and his top foreign policy aides (Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) have decided to adopt the neocon agenda has to do with their perception of U.S. national interests, not the power of the Israel lobby or, for that matter, American Jews (the majority of whom did not vote for Bush and were against the war in Iraq).
I've also made it clear in a recent post that while I'm not great fan of Rumsfeld, I'm also very uneasy with the idea of current and retired military officers attacking the policies devised and implemented by President Bush and his civilian aides:
I cannot stand Rumsfeld and am opposed to his policies. But this guy is in charge, selected by the president and confirmed by Congress and I really don't care what the men and women in uniform -- or those who retired from service -- think about this war. If they want to change policies, they should run for office.
So I was very interested in what Bruce Kuklick from the Penn U had to say about all about this in a column in the FT, "Academics and generals do not direct how America wages wars." In fact, Kuklick who has written a book on the role of intellectuals in shaping U.S. foreign policy, Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger argues that it's the president who makes foreign policy and decides whether or not to go to war. Intellectuals only give him the moral justification for a decision he would have made anyway based on his political considerations:
Like other people, politicians elaborated a moral narrative in which their choices cohered. Policymakers did what they wanted, though they had to come up with acceptable explanations for it. Defence intellectuals provided that talk. There is little evidence that the authority of intellectuals was benign during the cold war. More important, they often had little authority at all. Men of mind often served to legitimise but not to energise politics. They usually offered up self-justifying chatter to the powerful. Sometimes they displayed a tin ear for politics, and lacked elementary political sense. Defence department academics often substituted what they learnt in the seminar room for what only instinct and experience could teach.
He also implies that intellectuals like Francis Fukuyama tend to overstate their own influence and he also calls on the generals who criticise Rumsfeld to run for office:
None of this means, however, that neo-conservative intellectuals are responsible for the war in Iraq or that the military ought to be making policy. The choice to go to war made by the president and his civilian deputies, such as Mr Rumsfeld, and it is more likely that the civilian strategists around the Bush administration served up verbiage for policies adopted on less cerebral grounds. When Mr Fukuyama recently recanted these sorts of doctrinal views on foreign affairs, he presumed they were crucial in the actual making of war and diplomacy. But cold war history suggests Mr Fukuyama has puffed up his own importance as an intellectual. We need to remember that politicians outrank scholars. We should also recall that in our democracies the military has a constitutional obligation to keep its mouth shut and take orders. If the generals want to make policy, they should get themselves elected to office, as did Eisenhower.More
And check out the Eunomia for several very interesting posts on the Generals vs. Rumsfeld. Also thison Stop the Spirit of Zossen is hillarious (as usual).