The conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks supported Hillary Clinton in the late presidential campaign, but on Friday on National Public Radio, he offered political props to the populist ideology of the Trump administration-in-waiting–
This is a populist nationalist candidate, and he’s picked by and large populist nationalist people.
before expressing deep enmity to populism:
Populists love rich people. They just hate professionals. So they hate journalists, they hate teachers, they hate lawyers, but they tend to like rich people.
Then he urged Trump to appoint Mitt Romney Secretary of State.
[H]e’s a professional, he’s calm, he’s competent and he does believe in expansive foreign policy… There, I think the populist America-first foreign policy of Donald Trump does run against a potential rival. Of course, I hope he picks that rival because I think Romney’s foreign policy is sensible.
While Brooks was affecting his usual Reasonable Man persona, it is clear that he is very angry about the expert-hating, non-interventionist streak that has helped revolutionize the Republican Party in the last year. Which raises the question of how much responsibility Brooks and his fellow Republican neoconservatives bear for the Trump revolution, through their support for the disastrous Iraq war, which hasn’t gone over that well among populists.
Looking for a mea culpa from the columnist, I found this May 2015, Brooks column titled “Learning from Mistakes, ” in which he never said outright that he had been wrong about his fervent support for that war. The column adopted an attitude of the mystical nature of history, in which causes and effects can’t really be sorted out. I.e., don’t blame me.
Many of us thought that, by taking down Saddam Hussein, we could end another evil empire, and gradually open up human development in Iraq and the Arab world.
Has that happened?… I say yes and no, but mostly no.
The outcome, so far, in Iraq should remind us that we don’t really know much about how other cultures will evolve. We can exert only clumsy and indirect influence on how other nations govern themselves. When you take away basic order, people respond with sectarian savagery.
Of course those of us who demonstrated against the war said just those things (and have never gotten our disaster dividend in social capital). But Brooks managed to conclude that he was still right.
I wind up in a place with… significantly more interventionist instincts than where President Obama is inclined to be today.
Brooks has gotten angry at Obama– blaming the president for the massacre in San Bernardino a year ago because he hadn’t taken on the Russians in Syria:
“Obama’s Syrian agonizing, his constant what-ifs and recurrent ‘what then?’ have also led to the slaughter in Paris and San Bernardino.”
He supported Hillary Clinton because of her interventionism.
early intervention against cancer is safer than late-term surgery.
Brooks’s non-apology Iraq was slammed on the left because he exonerated the ideologues on the right of cooking the books to get us into the war.
There’s a fable going around now that the intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was all cooked by political pressure, that there was a big political conspiracy to lie us into war.
That was a coverup on Brooks’s part. Simon Maloy of Salon called it a “sickening Iraq apologia.” Judd Legum at ThinkProgress scored Brooks for trying “to rewrite the history of the Iraq war,” and failing to admit that he’d made any errors.
The [Senate Intelligence] report…, signed by Republicans and Democrats, concluded that “the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”
That conclusion is supported by other evidence. Paul Pillar, the CIA official who oversaw Middle East intelligence, wrote that “intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made.” Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, the administration set up an operation to “reinterpret information” provided to them by intelligence. That group, led by Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, promoted “false links between Iraq and al Qaeda.”
If Brooks were called on to explain why he thinks an expansive foreign policy is “sensible” what do you think he would say? I think you and I suspect that in his case it’s all about an America that dominates the Middle East to protect Israel. But he wouldn’t say that directly. If he tried to justify his position, I think he’d give a nod to the “duty to protect” and to intervene to prevent genocide here and there, but I think he’d put the main emphasis on the more strategic-sounding “pax Americana” theory. The idea that the world flourishes when a dominant power maintains the global peace, e.g. the days of the Roman Empire. Sure it’s a little messy, and the dominant power needs to maintain an army and occasionally put down a revolt here or there or fight to keep the barbarians out, but the benefits of the peace are enormous. The post WWII period and particularly the post USSR period are examples of the fruits of Pax Americana.