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Shock and Awe Politics

Regarding The Letter In The ‘New York Times’ From 50 Republican ‘Endless War’ Policy Advocates

 08/15/2016 06:38 pm ET | Updated 18 hours ago
2016-08-15-1471300320-9408235-trumpforeignpolicy.jpg Donald Trump speaks in Ashwood, Virginia, August 2, 2016. Source: REUTERS/Eric Thayer
Some 50 Republican “foreign policy experts,” self-proclaimed insiders whose insights led the United States into a disastrous and still burning war in Iraq, have recently published a “we believe” letter in the New York Times reviling Donald Trump and deriding him as unsuited to take up the reins of U.S. foreign policy. But who are these experts and what gives them standing to speak so imperiously about the direction of future U.S foreign policy?
With a few exceptions such as former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and my esteemed friend Ambassador John Negroponte, the 50 are largely national security and foreign policy functionaries of the G. W. Bush Administration era now entrenched in academia or elsewhere. They have one thing in common: They are previous practitioners of and current apologists for now discredited foreign policy initiatives the Bush Administration advanced in the Middle East. Obama adopted those Bush initiatives in large measure. But Donald Trump has forcefully questioned and repudiated many of them. Notably, many big names —Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Condoleeza Rice - of the Republican foreign policy establishment are not signers of The Times letter.
In the military these initiatives were collected together under the catchy phrase “Shock and Awe”; in foreign policy, the model program was styled “Operation Iraqi Freedom” — relabeled by Obama in 2010 as “Operation New Dawn.” But in both the military and foreign policy realms these were misguided efforts based on a false assumption. Together they did unprecedented damage to U.S. interests, contributing in large measure many have concluded to the emergence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and setting the stage for today’s virulent brand of worldwide radical Islamic terrorism. 
The policies were based on a logical blunder by policymakers late in the 20th century. The theorists concluded that the break-up of the Soviet Union was affording the United States, as the only still existing super-power, a unique opportunity to reshape the world. We could easily impose, for instance, our national will, by overwhelming conventional force if necessary, to transform Middle Eastern despotic states into American-style democracies. But they were wrong. As we came to learn, quick victories over standing armies (“Shock and Awe” or “rapid military dominance”) is not necessarily a road leading to democracy but, rather, can lead to chaos, including unintended consequences such as Muslim civil war, prolonged street fighting, and terrorist warfare. So the vision of creating Middle Eastern democratic states in our image proved unrealistic, a pipe dream overwhelmed by traditional tribal divisions and bloody Shiite, Sunni and other sectarian passions. 
The 50 experts are making an argument to authority. Even if an argument to authority weren’t a classic fallacy, why should any of us (left, right, center) grant this group—whose members steered a policy course that has proved dreadfully costly in lives lost and treasure squandered—any authority to comment or advise us. 
Although I find Donald Trump’s blunt call for reassessment of our priorities long overdue, I can appreciate that there are those who find him off-putting—even when he’s saying things they know are true. The signatories to this hit piece tied themselves in knots explaining that they didn’t propose to talk about policy positions—only fitness and temperament. They protest too much. And they are playing to those who are unsettled by Donald Trump’s outspokenness and departures from the script (and the orthodoxies) the pundits tell us he is supposed to follow. 
By taking their stand, ostensibly on the narrow high ground of temperament, the signatories plant their flag for a candidate whose hot temper (albeit one well-masked in public) and vindictiveness are well-documented. They plant their flag, too, for a candidate who has been disturbingly careless with classified information. And they condone a candidate who is part of a global scale pay-to-play scheme. Entities and individuals whose interests diverge from our nation’s have paid handsomely for access to the Clintons. Surely that should raise some questions about fitness. 
Having led their party and the nation into disastrous foreign policy adventures, the wise experts who presume to teach us about Donald Trump’s mental states, laid the groundwork for their party’s defeats in 2008 and 2012. Now, on grounds of “temperament” they are working to ensure its defeat again. 
Donald Trump won the Republican nomination by arguing (repeatedly) for avoiding overly ambitious military and foreign policy adventures and using American interest as a guiding principle. Notwithstanding his campaign style and (unacknowledged) playful sarcasm in public discourse, his repeatedly stated foreign policy positions represent well-tested ideas and principles. He won an argument in the Republican party and the Brahmins lost. But they deserved to lose. And they don’t deserve to be granted any authority in debates and disputes about what will be prudent for our nation going forward. 
The claims about temperament and suitability (which reflect, among other things, a shameless application of double standards) are cover for policy differences and self-interest. And they are not serious. 
Ambassador Faith Whittlesey served as White House Director of the Office of Public Liaison from 1983 to 1985 and twice, from 1981 to 1983 and again from 1985 to 1988, as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland. She also was active in President Reagan’s unsuccessful 1976 campaign and was Co-chairman of President Reagan’s Pennsylvania campaign in 1980.


  1. Het volgende is een van de vele reacties op TruthDig, waar dit artikel verscheen (zie

    Brad Benson • 7 days ago

    One would think that a site that calls itself “Truthdig” just might “dig” into the backgrounds of some of the alleged “foreign policy experts” that signed this letter. The list of signatories is a virtual rogue’s gallery of war criminals, torturers and bureaucratic murderers, past and present! The names practically jump off the list.

    Instead, the article begins with a flippant comment about Trump and then just regurgitates the attacks as if the originators have all the credibility of Mother Theresa. So that leaves it to us, the readers, to do a little truth-digging on some of these “experts” and thus provide some balance.

    Beginning with only the second name on the list, we find John B. Bellinger III, who is listed in “World Can’t Wait’s” War Criminals Watch Website…

    …for the following crimes:

    War crime charge(s):

    • Complicity in the commission of a war crime – torture, ill-treatment of detainees.
    • Justified extended detentions in Guantanamo and transfer of prisoners to other countries (rendition).
    • Crime against peace – planning and carrying out a war of aggression.
    • Played key role in convincing British legal authorities of legality of 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    But wait! Moving down the list, we find a few more signatories to this letter whose names also adorn the War Criminals Watch Website. There’s good old Michael Chertoff, now head of the Chertoff Group, which makes tons of money on National Security Issues and War. Here’s Chertoff’s rap sheet.

    War crime charge(s):

    • Complicity in the commission of a war crime – torture, ill-treatment of detainees.
    • Violated legal standards for protections and rights of domestic detainees, including approximately 750 Muslim and Arab men rounded up and held without charges for up to 3 months, in the name of the war on terror.1
    • Co-author of the USA Patriot Act.
    • Helped draft secret 2002 memo describing interrogation methods allowed to CIA interrogators against detainees, including waterboarding.

    There’s the name of the smiling torturer, General Michael V. Hayden. Here’s his rap sheet.

    War crime charge(s):

    • Complicity in the commission of a war crime – torture, ill-treatment of detainees.
    • Condoned torture and extraordinary rendition.
    • Misled Congress.
    • Destroyed evidence (tapes showing interrogations).
    • Oversaw warrantless wiretap program.

    And here’s John Negroponte--a real blast from the past! This guy has been murdering people all the way back to Vietnam and later in Central America under Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, in this case, the War Criminal Watch Site does not do a “Hall of Famer” like Negroponte justice. Here’s their list.

    War crime charge(s):

    • Crime against peace – planning and carrying out a war of aggression.
    • Steered resolution through UN Security Council that Iraq must disarm.
    • Complicity in the commission of a war crime--torture, ill-treatment of detainees.

    Here’s his complete history.

    These are just four of the 50. A review of the records of most of the rest of these people would reveal former members of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC); board members of major defense contractors; Israel-First Fifth Columnists and numerous other armchair warriors who have found a way to make lots of money from death and destruction.

    In fact, speaking of armchair warriors, this isn’t even the first time that some of these same people have signed a letter against Trump. A previous letter was signed by more than a hundred of these creeps and appeared on a site which called itself “War on the Rocks”. How quaint!


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