Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Charles Krauthammer: Collapse of the Intellectual Conservative

I wrote some stuff here about how this was in response to a friend on Facebook referring to Charles Krauthammer as an intellectual, but this post got waaaay longer than I intended, so I cut out the backstory and am going straight into the main part, so you'll just have to imagine the parts you missed.  It was still interesting, but I figured you wouldn't likely finish this if it included the first eight paragraphs.

Charles Krauthammer: Intellectual Hack

But...Charles Krauthammer?  The man's a complete political hack, of the sort you read because you want something intelligent, but lack the depth of knowledge to realize he's completely lying to you.  But I'm sure that's what he gets off to.  He's the sophist who enjoys twisting reality in front of your face, purely for the thrill of deceiving you.  I'm sure he makes good money at it, but I betcha he'd do it for free, too.

(Edited out part with a link to this story; which involved Krauthammer's theory that the Obama campaign knew months before the convention that it'd thunderstorm during Obama's speech and were ok with that, but only decided to move it indoors because he couldn't fill the stadium.)

But I knew that this alone wouldn't be enough.  So I decided to do a search on Krauthammer, and found a piece he just wrote about Obama's middle-east policy.  And I thought it was very informative, with a real nuance for the issues at hand, and it made me think twice about my support for Barack Obama.

Just kidding.  It was a total smear piece from start to finish, and I'm not sure if there was any fact he included that wasn't used to distort the truth.  The whole thing can be summed up as: Obama is a failure in the middle-east because he was weak, naive, and incompetent.  Now...where else can I read that?  That's right, anywhere.

Seriously, that's been part of Romney's stump speech ever since he wrote a book about it.  And any website mentioning the middle-east these days is teeming with conservatives nutjobs saying the exact same thing.

From Political Smear to Intellectual Heft

But Kraut's a pro, so he can't just come out and repeat the same slogan that ObummerFail2012 is posting at RedState.  No, he's got to come up with something better.  Something...intellectual.  So instead, he focuses on a speech Obama made in 2009, in his column titled Collapse of Cairo Doctrine.

And the point of this attack was to highlight how silly Obama was for thinking he could fix the middle-east by admitting that we had made mistakes, saying we'd be leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, and other niceties to show that we're not enemies.  The fool!!  And again, this could come straight from a Romney speech.  It's all about how Obama apologized for America instead of cracking heads, and now the middle-east is blowing up because they don't respect us no more.

Because yeah, things were sooooo peaceful back when Bush was running things, and nobody was attacking our embassies or blowing up the UN Compound in Baghdad, killing seventeen people including the UN Envoy.  Nope, Bush talked strong and Arabs respected him for it.  And then Obama came along to apologize and ruined everything.

The Invention of the Cairo Doctrine

And again, this is all boilerplate rightwing attacks.  Where's the intellectualism?  It's not in his conclusions. It's in his style.  Here's how Kraut opens his attack:

In the week following Sept. 11, something big happened: the collapse of the Cairo Doctrine, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's foreign policy. It was to reset the very course of post-9/11 America, creating, after the (allegedly) brutal depredations of the Bush years, a profound rapprochement with the Islamic world. 
On June 4, 2009, in Cairo, Obama promised "a new beginning" offering Muslims "mutual respect," unsubtly implying previous disrespect. Curious, as over the previous 20 years, America had six times committed its military forces on behalf of oppressed Muslims, three times for reasons of pure humanitarianism (Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo), where no U.S. interests were at stake.

Now, you may be asking: What exactly *is* the Cairo Doctrine.  I mean, lots of people talked about the Bush Doctrine, Palin's ignorance notwithstanding.  It was an ever-evolving rule that justified whatever Bush needed to justify, usually through strength, tough talk, and violence.

But while a search on the "Cairo Doctrine" turns up 130,000 results; they're almost all to this very piece Krauthammer wrote; proclaiming its collapse.  Even trying to exclude Krauthammer and Collapse from the mix, I was still getting heavy results for Krauthammer's attack.  So more likely than not, the Cairo Doctrine is just something just Krauthammer invented.  He picked an important speech Obama gave three years ago, teased a strawman doctrine out of it to attribute to Obama, and then knocked it down.

Obama Doctrine: I'm Not Bush

And this wasn't the basis for Obama's middle-east policies, as Krauthammer claims.  This was a speech Obama gave to introduce himself to the middle-east, as a way of showing that we're not enemies and that what happened in the past will stay in the past. And the reason it may have sounded naive and respectful, is because that's the sort of speech it was meant to be.  Just read it yourself.

No real policy plans or a guiding principle to lead by.  It was just to say that Bush sucked and he wasn't Bush, so let's move on; though he never actually referenced Bush at all.  And if this "doctrine" failed, that'd just mean that they didn't buy it and we'd be back to where we were before he made the speech.  Which means, duh, back to where Bush left us.  And that's why Krauthammer has to rewrite history, to act as if things were all hunky dory before Obama came along, and they weren't attacking our embassies or killing our people.

So the doctrine that supposedly collapsed was one Krauthammer invented himself, yet the nutjobs on the right lapped it up completely, because Kraut sounded so damn smart when he said it.  Yet it was really just an intellectual package for the same "Obama's apologizing to our enemies" claptrap conservatives have been saying for years.

All About the Doctrines

But of course, Krauthammer can't just sit there and defend Bush's policies, as he knows everyone considers Bush to be a failure.  So instead, he rewrites Obama's speech to mean that he was apologizing for all of America's "supposed" wrongdoing, claiming that we can't have a "new beginning" unless we're rejecting everything that came previously.

And he points out how unfair it is for Obama to reject the policies we had before, citing three times we used troops for humanitarian issues.  I mean, hey, how can Obama say we're always the bad guys if we've done good things before.  But except, duh!  Those three missions were all from Clinton, and Republicans denounced them and insisted we shouldn't get involved in humanitarian missions.

In fact, here's a piece from the Krautmeister himself, where he denounced The Consequences Of Clinton's `Little Kosovo War' back in 1999. And ironically, here he is in 1999 denouncing The Clinton Doctrine.  And in both cases, we seem him denouncing the three humanitarian missions that he cites as proof that America ain't so mean after all.

And the funniest part is reading the conclusion of that second piece, where he writes:
The essence of foreign policy is deciding which son of a bitch to support and which to oppose--in 1941, Hitler or Stalin; in 1972, Brezhnev or Mao; in 1979, Somoza or Ortega. One has to choose. A blanket anti-son of a bitch policy, like a blanket anti-ethnic cleansing policy, is soothing, satisfying and empty. It is not a policy at all but righteous self-delusion.
Am I nuts, or would that have made a decent attack on the Bush Doctrine that Krauthammer supported?  I mean, just substitute "anti-ethnic cleansing" with "anti-terror" and you've just described the Bush Doctrine...or at least one of the Bush Doctrines, as again, it kept changing depending upon what Bush was trying to justify at the time.  And while that's the antithesis of what a doctrine is supposed to be, it really does fit Bush pretty well.

Speaking of Doctrines...

Here's what Krauthammer wrote about The Bush Doctrine in 2001, which at the time referred to us refusing to have arms treaties with Russia:
America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will.
Yeah.  I'm sure that turned out well.  And apparently, implacable demonstrations of will don't involve humanitarian missions, or else he wouldn't have denounced The Clinton Doctrine two years earlier.

And here he is ten years later, defending a different Bush Doctrine, where he argues that the pro-democracy movements in the middle-east show that they still don't hate Americans because of what Bush did; which means Bush's policies weren't so bad after all.  I mean, hey, if they're still willing to protest against the people oppressing them instead of us, Bush couldn't have messed up too much, right?  Right?

And what we have here is an argument that Bush invading Iraq in 2003 helped a revolution in 2011.  While Obama's speech in 2009 is to blame for the violence in 2012, but had no role in the good protests that happened in between.  And the proof that Obama didn't need to make that speech is from a war that Krauthammer denounced in 1999.  Right.

Seriously, I'm supposed to imagine this guy's an intellectual?  Maybe if you take each column in isolation and don't think about things too much, I could see how that makes sense.  But seeing as how each of these columns fit exactly with what the Republican Party was saying at the time, which involved supporting the Republican policy while denouncing the Democratic President; yet contain no other intellectual consistency...that's pretty much the definition of a partisan hack; no matter how you dress it up

Krauthammer may have made things sound smarter than the average wingnut, it was still just the same Republican tripe the rest of the party was serving.

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