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.