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Bolton and the Half-Baked Neo-Con Thinking

John Bolton, the most hawkish of hawks in the Bush-Cheney years (and one-time UN rep) has an op-ed in the New York Times. It is an example of the John Bolton that progressives have come to dispair over. It epitomizes the half-baked thinking of the neo-cons. 

In classic “half-bakedness” the writer gets the first half right and then goes down the rabbit hole (David Brooks is the absolute best at this). The thing to pay attention to in these policy recommendations is the reasons for the second-half flame-out.

In this essay Bolton gets the first half right: only a Sunni state can function effectively once ISIS is gone (as if that were a given). He identifies the key problem facing everyone: the current cock-up in the Middle East is at the deepest level a battle between the Sunnis and the Shia. ISIS is Sunni; Syria, Iran and Iraq are Shite. The only coherent outcome is a Sunni state. 

But then he does the classic neo-con “thing.” He assumes that the ultimate arrangement can be brought about by Western intervention when the alternate move is to support and nurture the non-violent Sunnis who are as horrified at the actions of ISIS as the rest of the world. But not Bolton. He still clings to that horrific strategy that got us in this fucking mess in the first place. We need to take charge of the situation — just like we did when we invaded Iraq and that worked out well, didn’t it.

Bolton’s a classically “half-smart” guy. And the smart he’s missing is the social psychological smart, the kind that understands ethnic identity, that realizes that imposing “solutions” on people just pisses them off. He is totally lacking in empathy and never asks himself, “how would we feel if some big, alien power forced their vision of life on us?”

I’ve long felt that foreign policy can’t be made by people without serious psychological chops. Reading this crap and seeing how persuasive it could be to the untrained is deeply worrisome.


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