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Old 06-07-2011, 12:47 PM
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Engyo Offline
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Default Lessons Unlearned: Our Pundit Class?

David Brooks often makes sense when discussing US politics. I don't always agree with him, and I most certainly don't agree with him about the Middle East.

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Lessons unlearned: The case of David Brooks

The Bourbons – the dynasty that ruled France for over two hundred years – were once described as a family that “forgot nothing and learned nothing.” Much the same could be said of our pundit class.

Exhibit No 1: a recent piece by New York Times Columnist David Brooks called “The Depravity Factor.” The op-ed begins with the terrible story of Hamaz Ali al-Khateeb, the 13-year-old boy tortured and murdered by Syrian security forces. It then continues with the equally terrible history of human rights at the hands of the Assad family. Brooks proceeds to draw a distinction between “normal” (Egyptian, Saudi Arabian) regimes and depraved (Libyan, Syrian) regimes. He even finds time to insult U.S. officials who negotiated with Damascus; they are victims, he says, of “moral obtuseness.” (Full disclosure: I know, respect and like a number of the diplomats whom Brooks derides for being “morally blind.”) But this all a prologue to his main point:
“That’s why it’s necessary, especially at this moment in history, to focus on the nature of regimes, not only the boundaries between them. To have a peaceful Middle East, it was necessary to get rid of Saddam’s depraved regime in Iraq. It will be necessary to try to get rid of Qaddafi’s depraved regime in Libya. It’s necessary, as everybody but the Obama administration publicly acknowledges, to see Assad toppled. It will be necessary to marginalize Hamas.”
Nowhere in Brooks’s piece is there the slightest evidence that he has been sobered by the terrible human, financial, and diplomatic cost of the Iraq war; by the war’s role in breeding a whole new generation of anti-American terrorists; or by the rise of Iranian influence that it has fostered. Nowhere is there a cautionary sense of the Middle East as a place not just beyond our full control but beyond our full understanding; nowhere is there an appreciation of the moral complexity associated with even just wars; nowhere is there a hint of the nuance necessary to navigate a world in which the United States is not all-knowing and all-powerful. Instead, we have an assertion of absolute knowledge and absolute right of precisely the sort that led us into the Iraq War.

Give me more moral obtuseness any day. It kills a lot less people.

Joe Barnes is the Baker Institute’s Bonner Means Baker Fellow. From 1979 to 1993, he was a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, serving in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Lessons unlearned: The case of David Brooks | Baker Institute Blog | a Chron.com blog
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Namaste, Engyo
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