How to Create a National Insecurity State.

Summary:  An essential part of leaning as citizens is learning on whom to rely. We don’t do this well, an important part of the FAILure to learn which has imperiled the Republic. Today Tom Engelhard — editor of the invaluable website TomDispatch — shows how since 9/11 a coterie of always-wrong experts have helped build the national security state.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Department of Fear

How to Create a National Insecurity State

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 8 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

In our era in Washington, whole careers have been built on grotesque mistakes.  In fact, when it comes to our various conflicts, God save you if you’re right; no one will ever want to hear from you again.  If you’re wrong, however… well, take the invasion of Iraq.  Given the Islamic State, that creature of the American occupation, can anyone seriously believe that the invasion that blew a hole in the heart of the Middle East doesn’t qualify as one of the genuine disasters of our time, if not of any time? In the mad occupation that followed, Saddam Hussein’s well-trained army and officer corps were ushered into the chaos of post-invasion unemployment and, of course, insurgency.  Meanwhile, at a cost of $25 billion, a whole new military was trained that, years later, summarily collapsed when faced with insurgents led by some of those formerly out-of-work officers.

But the crew who pushed it all on Washington has never stopped yakking (or being listened to).  They’ve been called back at every anniversary of the invasion to offer their wisdom in the New York Times and elsewhere, while those who counseled against such an invasion have been nowhere in sight.  Some of the planners of the invasion and occupation are now advisers to Jeb Bush as he heads into the 2016 election campaign, while the policy wonks who went off to war with the generals (taking regular VIP tours of America’s battle zones) couldn’t be better thought of in Washington today.

Keep calm and trust the experts/

Take Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. When it comes to American war, you can count on one thing: he’s a ray of sunshine on any gloomy day. It hardly matters what year you’re talking about — 2003, 2007, 2009, 2013, Iraq or Afghanistan — and “our odds of success” are invariably “rather good” (if the U.S. military just pursues the path O’Hanlon advocates).  Things always seem to be trending in the right direction; there’s invariably “progress,” always carefully qualified; Washington’s troops remain forever steadfast; chances are good that… you fill it in: the invasion will be successful, the occupation a smash, the surge a triumph of an unconventional sort, the latest Afghan election a positive step forward in a tough world. And here’s the amazing thing: year after year, op-ed after op-ed, he never seems to end up on the right side of anything, which seems to work like a charm in Washington.

In recent years, he’s made himself into an op-ed tag team with his former Princeton classmate David Petraeus.  He began plugging General Petraeus as a “superb commander” back when and, despite the former CIA director’s recent misdemeanor plea deal for “providing his highly classified journals to a mistress,” he’s still touting him as a “national hero.”  (“To my mind, what he did in Iraq was probably the greatest complex accomplishment by any American general since Washington in the Revolutionary War.”)

American Experts
We’d be better off listening to him.

Since 2013, on op-ed pages nationwide, he and Petraeus have been promoting the idea that these aren’t the years of America’s decline, but of its rise to greater glory as the leader of a new North American Century (a line that Republicans are passionately running with for campaign 2016).  If this came from anyone else, perhaps it would be a debatable position, but not with the O’Hanlon guarantee attached to it. Let’s just say it: if he thinks America is ascending, there’s only one possibility: it’s going down.

So many words and what are the odds that none of them would work out? Still, you might think that O’Hanlon is small potatoes in our large world. If so, think again.  As TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author most recently of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, makes clear, O’Hanlon is part of a roiling mass of “policy intellectuals” who have given this country a distinctly hard time.

See Bacevich’s article posted here tomorrow.

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Not listening to those who got it right

Tom describes a long-standing problem in America. It distorted coverage of the Vietnam War from the start of the rapid escalation in 1964 until our failure was unmistakable in 1968. Rather than learning from that experience, we doing far worse in this cycle — in the second decade of these failed wars, the same roster of usually wrong experts dominate the news. This was obvious even after a few years, as seen in these articles from 2005 and 2008.

‘Failing Up’ in the Iraq War“, Robert Parry , 19 March 2005 — Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s, and is the author of Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq (2005) and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ (1999) — Excerpt:

Indeed, possibly the most troubling commentary on today’s U.S. political/media system is that screwing up on the Iraq War has become almost a rite of passage to better jobs and higher honors. It’s as if the elite circles of Washington have come to operate by the rules of George W. Bush’s business career: as long as you stick with the in-crowd, you fail up.

The ongoing exclusion of war opponents from the Iraq debate“, Glenn Greenwald, 25 March 2008 — Excerpt:

… the range of acceptable establishment views on the war and foreign policy generally spans the suffocatingly narrow gamut from faux “war critics” like Gelb, Packer and O’Hanlon to war lovers Richard Perle and Fred Kagan. In the establishment press, even today — after five years of the Iraq occupation — anyone outside of that narrow range is Unserious and more or less invisible, even though that’s where most of the American public is.

About the author

Tom Engelhardt, has been an editor for 30+ years. Today he is a consulting editor at Metropolitan Books. He co-founder of the American Empire Project, and in November 2001 created the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join him on Facebook. Also see his books, useful guides to the New America being built on the ruins of the America-that-once-was.

For More Information

The one-side coverage of our wars by the major media does not just happen. It’s the result of skillfully conducted “press relations” (aka information operations, since the start of WWII formally considered a vital part of military operations). This has been extensively documented on the FM website (and elsewhere). See the Information & Disinformation reference page for links. This is another in our series of posts about experts.

Especially see these posts about the words never used least they change AmericaWhat is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers? and After 13 years of failed wars, do we know our warmongers?

Also see these posts showing how we’re manipulated:

  1. Successful info ops, but who are the targets?
  2. Psywar, a core skill of the US Military (used most often on us), 26 November 2008
  3. Concrete evidence of government info ops against us, but it’s OK because we are sheep.
  4. Another example of war advocates working their rice bowls.
  5. Think-tanks bribe journalists to promote our wars.
  6. Every day brings new advocacy for war. That’s our America.

One thought on “How to Create a National Insecurity State.

  1. Tom’s terrific n Bacevich speaks correctly. Great in person

    This stupidity is ALL willful. Cronkite and Sy Hersh caught them red handed in the VN yrs.
    They don’t care. It’s all power and money. Always will be. Americans can’t figure it out even off the gave one spit about anything but themselves….”me”

    But thx.
    Breton

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