Media Analysis

‘Iraq didn’t work out, but at least it was a belief in progress’ — David Brooks reflects on a BIG mistake

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Charlie Rose asked David Brooks last Friday night about America’s role in the world. The New York Times columnist said he rejected Trump’s slogan, of America First, as too selfish, then brought up the Iraq war.

We’re actually all better together. And we’re better when we cooperate. This is especially true when you’re the top dog nation. And Bob Kagan and many other people have made this point. When you’re the top dog nation, you want multilateral power because it gives you a tool to extend your power. If we go back to where we’re all dog-eat-dog in a Hobbesean wilderness, that’s not good for any of us. And so what Trump embodies and his foreign policy embodies is an inherent suspicion of social connection, whether it’s global or personal. So it’s an assumption, that we’re all competing against each other, that we’re in a world of us and enemy, us and enemy, us and enemy. That’s his view of race in America–

You’re just locked in conflict, and that conflict is the essential order. And of course that’s sometimes true. But that doesn’t mean it’s always true, and the belief in the liberal global order was the belief that we’re not locked in conflict, we can be locked in conversation. Sometimes there will be arguments, and sometimes there will be competition. But essentially it’s a compensation between human beings where the barriers between us were not essential. We’re not defined by our difference, we’re defined by our common humanity.

That’s what the liberal order used to believe in and people like me used to, you know, advocate for [making a bit of a fist] spreading democracy around the world. Sometimes we were naive. And Iraq was Iraq, and it didn’t work out. But at least it was a belief in essential progress– that history is not just an endless war of all against all, but a common march toward a more common future.

I think that’s what’s called a “limited hangout.” Brooks ought to cop to the mistake, call neoconservatism neoconservatism, and tell us why he believed that load of bollocks that a common march to progress could begin with a murderous invasion. He should also explain why no media figure/intellectual has paid the price for that mistake.

Speaking of belief, Brooks is most compelling in that interview in his spiritual comments about the meaningful life and the central commitments of a life of purpose. He verges into the New Age and pastoral here, for instance when he describes the mountains of life and the false summit of ambition and ego in life’s first adult phase, and the looming mountain of dedication to “the big thing.” Or when he describes the four central life commitments, of family, vocation, community and philosophy/faith, commitments to oneself and others that he says he will explore in his next book. These observations were stripped, in the Charlie Rose format, of any reflection about Jewishness/Zionism. But Brooks has said that Israel made him gooey-eyed on his 12th visit there, and of course his son volunteered for the Israeli army, and neoconservatism was a philosophy of regime change that came out of the Jewish community to which he subscribed. He has been committed to a view of history that is as selfish and chauvinistic as Donald Trump’s.

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

And Iraq was Iraq and it didn’t work out. But at least it was a belief in a central progress. ________________ A disturbing quote because David does not see Iraq as a group of people with their own lives but as an experiment like they are lab rats. as long he believed he was doing the right thing who cares about people’s lives destroyed and devastated by an invasion? Iraq was set back a century… Read more »

These people are completely insane.

Phil, I read those three paragraphs quoting Brooks directly very slowly and carefully. Because gobbledegook (or “bollocks” as you called it – so glad to see a fine, very English, insult take off in the US) is so much harder to read than common sense. E.g. “You’re just locked in conflict, and that conflict is the essential order. And of course that’s sometimes true.” Surely, if it’s the essential order, it’s always true. But then… Read more »

Brooks didn’t advocate an invasion of Iraq for the sake of democracy. He advocated the invasion to eliminate the supposed intolerable threat posed by Saddam’s WMDs. From his March 24, 2003 Weekly Standard column: . . .What matters, and what ultimately sprang the U.N. trap, is American resolve. The administration simply wouldn’t let up. It didn’t matter how Hans Blix muddied the waters with his reports on this or that weapons system. Under the U.N.… Read more »

PHIL- “He has been committed to a view of history that is as selfish and chauvinistic as Donald Trump’s.”

Absolutely! Furthermore, his view of history and the struggle for power is camouflaged by liberal, feel good rhetoric. And he earns his living by misrepresenting and selling imperial warmongering and neoliberalism to a mass audience. He is an integral and shameful part of the imperial doctrinal system.