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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Scowcroft and his best friend's son

I finally got around to reading the October 2005 piece on Brent Scowcroft in The New Yorker. Writer Jeffrey Goldberg clearly got former GHW Bush National Security Advisor Scowcroft to talk fairly openly about his very strong disagreements with the current Bush administration.

Scowcroft is a realist and thus makes arguments about Iraq that are like those made by academics Stephen Walt and John Mearshimer. Mearsheimer's last book was about the tragedy of international politics, and Scowcroft shares the same basic pessimism:
“I believe in the fallibility of human nature,” Scowcroft told me. “We continually step on our best aspirations. We’re humans. Given a chance to screw up, we will.”
Like academic realists, Scowcroft doesn't think much of Wilsonianism:
Scowcroft does not believe that the promotion of American-style democracy abroad is a sufficiently good reason to use force. “I thought we ought to make it our duty to help make the world friendlier for the growth of liberal regimes,” he said. “You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way. Not how the neocons do it.”
Scowcroft says simply, "Iraq feeds terrorism."

People in the White House, like former protégé Condi Rice, feel betrayed by Scowcroft. It works both ways:
"She says we’re going to democratize Iraq, and I said, ‘Condi, you’re not going to democratize Iraq.’"


“What the realist fears is the consequences of idealism,” he said. “The reason I part with the neocons is that I don’t think in any reasonable time frame the objective of democratizing the Middle East can be successful. If you can do it, fine, but I don’t you think you can, and in the process of trying to do it you can make the Middle East a lot worse.” He added, “I’m a realist in the sense that I’m a cynic about human nature.”
Some insiders think the former General speaks for the elder Bush.

Indeed, other Bush I officials, like James Baker, are also prominent outsiders now. I guess that frees them to criticize:
“We always made sure the President was hearing all the possibilities,” John Sununu, who served as chief of staff to George H. W. Bush, said. “That’s one of the differences between the first Bush Administration and this Bush Administration.”
The article is filled with criticism of various players in the current administration.

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