The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, September 02, 2004  

And the Committee on the President Danger Rises Again

This week’s New York Observer includes an interesting article about retired Lt.-Gen. Brent Scowcroft (“Brent Scowcroft Calls Iraq War ‘Overreaction,’” by Andrew Rice), one in which the former national security advisor and early opponent of the war on Iraq, chooses his words carefully.

For example, here’s Scowcroft talking about the current Bush administration and his relationship with former President George H.W. Bush:

Look, I’m a friend of this administration. I love the father. So do I want to do things which complicate [matters for] them? No. But do I feel that there are some things that it’s important to get out? Yes.

Note Scowcroft’s narrow distribution of his affection: “I love the father.” But what about the son? And what of the nasty wife, Barbara Bush Sr.?

With that in mind, here’s a quote from Scowcroft that is vulnerable to misinterpretation, if such were one’s wont:

Do I know what the father thinks about most things? Yeah, I think so. If I don’t, I’ve been sleeping for 30 years, because we’ve been together a long, long time. We talk about a lot of things, and we talk about a lot of them very quietly. We have a wonderful relationship, and I have to be very careful about the appearance of speaking for him out of turn.

As for the delusions President Doesn’t Go To Church entertains of God-given grandeur and destiny, Scowcroft says:

It’s possible that the transformation came with 9/11, and that the current President, who is a very religious person, thought that there was something unique, if not divine, about a catastrophe like 9/11 happening when he was President. That somehow that was meant to be, and his mission is to deal with the war on terrorism. Now that’s a perfectly rational explanation -- but there were signs of a change even before 9/11.

“Pefectly rational explanation”? I take back what I said about Scowcroft choosing his words carefully.

As for National Security Advisor Condoleezza “Mushroom Cloud” Rice, a Scowcroft protégé, we learn (or at least I did), that their once warm relationship frayed some time ago, though they have since repaired the damage. Rice, the Observer reporter, not the lying White House tool sharing the surname, writes:

Mr. Scowcroft and Ms. Rice had bitter words after Mr. Scowcroft went public with his criticism of the Iraq war. Mr. Scowcroft says that he and Ms. Rice have since made up and now talk regularly, but associates say that Ms. Rice has bitterly disappointed her mentor. In public, Mr. Scowcroft takes care to praise Ms. Rice for her “brilliant mind,” but when asked to assess her job performance, he said he would prefer not to comment. “Each National Security Advisor sees his or her job in slightly different ways,” he said.

Finally, having studied liberal anti-Communism for years, in graduate school and since then, I have to say this comment from Scowcroft rings anti-historical to me:

It’s curious. I think back to my days of graduate school during the Cold War: I was attacked by many of my friends -- probably primarily Democratic -- for being a hard-liner, a hawk, so on and so forth. I think I have maintained a pretty consistent philosophy. Now I’m being attacked from the right for being a wussy liberal.

Scowcroft seems to have forgotten that not only were most leading Democrats hard-line anti-Soviet hawks during the Cold War years, at least until the debacle in Vietnam, certain aspects of the Cold War, including the battle for the hearts and minds of European intellectucals, were the very -- indeed, almost exclusive -- province of men and women who were then liberal Democrats.

Some of these same people, or at least their admirers and their progeny, both genetic and intellectual, in their effort to rewrite history, are now doing so by rote: When in doubt, create a committee.

Thus we have the recent, third incarnation of the Committee on the Present Danger. In its current formation, the CPD is a very small and entirely predictable group of mostly neoconservative Republicans, including honorary co-chairman Sen. Joseph M. Lieberman (?-Conn.).

It will come as no surprise that former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz and his wife, Midge Decter (note not Midge Decter Podhoretz), are both members of CPD III, just as they were of CPD II.

Always happy to pick up a cudgel to whack enemies both real and imagined, Podhoretz takes to the pages of Commentary this month with a patently disturbed and needlessly and unsubstantiatedly alarmist screed, “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win.”

I encourage you to read the essay. Unless you’ve read some of Podhoretz’s polemics over the last, say, 35 years or so, in which case, it’s all-too familiar ground. Podhoretz himself, in “A Note to the Reader” preceding the essay, alerts readers to the rehashing ahead: “I have drawn freely from my own past writings on the subject, and especially from three articles that appeared in these pages two or more years ago. In some instances, I have woven sections of these articles into a new setting; other passages I have adapted and updated.” (A Hint to the Reader: Watch for another repackaging of these four interwoven articles coming soon to a bookstore near you.)

Another enemy. Another “war.” Another committee. Another article. Another little book.

It’s just the same old thing.

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