Eliot Cohen regrets that the we discuss matters best left to our betters

A precious and revealing comment reported by Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent, 23 September 2009  (assuming that Ackerman reports this correctly):

At a conference on leadership in counterinsurgency at the National Press Club sponsored by Marine Corps University, Eliot Cohen, the respected Johns Hopkins scholar who advised Condoleezza Rice at the tail end of the Bush administration, slowly and steadily built up a critique of the Obama administration on Afghanistan. Obama’s apparent reconsideration of counterinsurgency strategy for the war hangs over the conference, and Cohen brought it to the fore.

… Obliquely referencing the leaked McChrystal review as the “events of this week,” Cohen said bringing disputes about “strategy” into the public had “real impact” — deleterious impact — for events “on the ground,” since friends, enemies and undecideds “all watch CNN.” And now, Cohen intimated but did not say directly, they’d question Obama’s “commitment” to Afghanistan.

How awful, allowing the peasants to even discuss matters of war and peace!  The horror! What is America coming to?

Let’s show these bastards that we are citizens, not serfs.  Speak up!  Whatever your opinion of the war, make it known.  Write your congresscritters.  Wtite letters to the Editor, and post comments to the blogs you read.

More important, get active politically.  Contribute time and (to the extent you can) cash to the campaigns of politicians whose policies you support.  America is what we make of it.  If we are couch potatoes, then folks like Eliot Cohen are right. 

Let’s prove them wrong.


Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling). 

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To read other articles about these things, see the following:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Some posts about the war in Afghanistan:

  1. “War without end”, a great article by George Wilson, 27 June 2009
  2. The trinity of modern warfare at work in Afghanistan, 13 July 2009
  3. You can end our war in Afghanistan, 20 August 2009
  4. How many troops would it take to win in Afghanistan?, 15 September 2009

Some posts about solutions, ways to reform America:

  1. Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
  2. Obama might be the shaman that America needs, 17 July 2008
  3. Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008
  4. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008  
  5. Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008
  6. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
  7. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008
  8. What happens next? Advice for the new President, part one., 17 October 2008
  9. What to do? Advice for the new President, part two., 18 October 2008
  10. How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
  11. The first step on the road to America’s reform, 29 May 2009

9 thoughts on “Eliot Cohen regrets that the we discuss matters best left to our betters”

  1. “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism.,”
    — George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language“, 1946

  2. Clearly, the only thing the great unwashed are worthy of is to die for the causes their betters profess. The sad truth is that nothing you can say in a letter will penetrate the august halls of our government. It will be ignored, or be miss-used, or it will turn the eye of suspicion toward you.

    The only solution I can see (eschewing violence, which I reject) is a concerted campaign on a national basis to turn every incumbent out of office. My preference for step two would be for the new congress to pass a law declaring lobbying to be a treasonable offense because it undermines the rights of Americans and corrupts our government.
    Fabius Maximus replies: You are too pessimistic. History shows that our representatives will respond to changes in public opinion — esp mobilized public opinion, expressed in letters to them and media.

    However, I agree that change through elections is a more powerful — albeit slower — solution.

  3. if the rulers of my country were to make it only possible to pay to ride a taxi ,tube , bus or train , by card ( not cash ) it would be impossible to protest in any way , legally but anonymously . They could then have a database of Citizen Bs who had written , blogged , posted , emailed , debated , telephoned , texted , twitted , sat-in , harangued , organised or marched in protest against bombing Iran , Somalia, Yemen , Nigeria , wherever . Citizen B would then be unable to work in public service , work with children , in agriculture , salons or pharmacy , or be entitled to benefits , or be able to get credit , or be able to tax the car or buy fuel without a security interview .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Don’t let your nightmares control your actions. In the real world the USA is nothing like what your describe.

  4. There was a time when “hard-nosed” strategists would bemoan the inherent weakness of democracies in confronting the Soviet threat. While we debated, they decided. We were irresolute, while they were consistent.

    Whittaker Chambers wrote, “I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side.” He was wrong, of course.
    FM replies: As for “there was a time”, have you read many of Ralph Peters’ columns? Or bloggers like Herschel Smith (The Captain’s Journal)?

    Note: Chambers made that statement before the House Un-American Activities Committee on 3 August 1948.

  5. Nightmares control my actions ? I neednt think through how to remain anonymous ,travelling to join egg throwing protesters in London , next year , when my rulers support US decision to liberate Iran ? Phew , thats a releif .

  6. Oh my, FM! Oh my. There are too many differences between me and Mr. Peters to count. Tisk tisk. Much more precision needed. Attention to detail sir. Detail is the stuff of life.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not understand your comment. I did not say that you and Peters were similar. I said that you both discussed one similar theme. You could be radically different in every way and this still be true.

  7. About a year and a half ago I attended an event offered by the “Chicago Council on Global Affairs“. At this event, some people considered experts on Iran were holding forth about bilateral US/Iran relations, Iran’s nuclear program, Persian culture etc., while the audience sipped overpriced drinks. After the event was over, I had an opportunity to talk with one of these experts, a high-profile member of the “American Foreign Policy Council“.

    At the time I was very concerned that the USA would start a war with Iran. I asked him why there was so much sabre-rattling against Iran when the Nov. 2007 NIE had said, “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program” and “We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007“? “That’s not true”, said Mr. Expert. “But, I just read the NIE and that’s what it said!” I protested. “No, it did not. I was there at the writing of the NIE. It does not say that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program” he replied. I was suspicious, but he seemed so certain that I let it drop.

    I then asked, “OK, do you think there is a danger that the US will attack Iran?” Mr. Expert smiled slightly at my concern. He then gave a long and convoluted explanation, where he basically said, “No, there is no danger that the US will attack Iran. The danger, instead, is from the rouge state Iran, which knows no boundaries, supplying terrorists like Hamas and Hezbollah, attacking our troops in Iraq, and uncontrollably rising in power. Iran is a real danger to our ally Israel, and to protect our ally, we will probably have to go to war with Iran soon. And it will be their own fault.”

    We talked a bit more as I attempted to unwind this logic, but I could see he wanted to leave. I controlled my frustration. I thanked him, and shook his hand, and he went down to have dinner with the event organizers.
    Fabius Maximus replies: On my long list of drafts is one about geopoltical experts and their rice bowls. Most academics can say what they like, but increasingly our geopolitical discussions are dominated by people from the military, ex-military conssultants (probably funded by defense contractors), and think-tanks (e.g., Center for a New American Security). Folks at the latter have to work their rice bowl. If their ngo wants a war with Iran, that’s what they’ll talk up — or quit.

    I’ve floated this by several people living in that world. The response has mostly been incoherent sputtering.

  8. FM: “The response has mostly been incoherent sputtering.

    Yeah, they recognize that you’ve just described their careers. Sometimes it may be useful to let yourself enjoy their skillful bullshit even as you try to dismantle it. Helps me anyway, helps keep the anger in check.

  9. FM: “Reich believes in elite-driven government serving the public’s benefit, seeing people like himself as the elite.

    Much of the phenomenon known as “political correctness” results from the anxiety that many people feel that unless the espouse the appropriate “values,” they risk banishment into the great unwashed. As such, this differs only in form from the anxiety that other people feel should they wear out-of-fashion clothing or the like. (Some people suffer from both.)

    What we need is some sort of cultural revival, which delves into this unwashed domain and cares not a fig whether it is thereby stigmatized or not.

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