Who are these guys?
At the suggestion of a friend, Hub Blog has started reading Kevin Phillips' "American Dynasty."
I was given the book after I recently experiened a Butch Cassidy-Sundance Kid
moment, i.e. when Butch realizes the outlaw duo are being relentlessly tracked by Pinkerton-like goons and Butch asks, 'Who are these guys?' Lately, I've been asking the same question about those in the Bush administration who have so mangled things in Iraq: Who are these guys? Thus Phillips' book, thrust into my hands by someone who heard me ask the question one too many times. ... Though I still have a few more chapters to read in "American Dynasty," I think I can render my verdict: Lukewarm thumbs up. Lukewarm because Phillips just pounds his Bush dynasty point into the ground, repeatedly comparing Bush I and II to the English Stuart and French Bourbon restorations. You know he's overdoing it when Phillips has to add lines like these: "The following is a very simplified portrait of the basic parallels" or "Needless to say, the motivations and convulsions of a twentieth-century republic cannot precisely, or even very closely, match those of kingdoms in earlier centuries" -- and then he proceeds to make the comparisons. ...
BUT the book excels when it describes the political and cultural mindset of those running the administration. Phillips' belief, and I agree with it, is that the Bush crowd (George W., Cheney, Rumsfeld, now even Gates) mostly come from the old and largely privileged class within the military-industrial complex (which includes energy and security intelligence types) that sees the world differently than, say, John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan (both of whom were born to or obtained privilege but not via the MI-complex). I'll leave it to Christopher Lydon, who blogged about the same issue
in 2004, to explain, using his own Nelson Rockefeller comparison:
In real life we got to know Ronald Reagan as rather a gentle and available Main St. cowboy, a populist for the well-to-do, a phlegmatic character with quasi-isolationist "fortress America" instincts. He was open and clear about his anti-Communist foreign policy. Yes, he was a sneaky bully in Central America, but he was extremely cautious in action otherwise.
It's the Rockefeller instincts I never stop worrying about. Drawing on the power of oil and Wall Street with the personal entitlement that comes of almost infinite inherited wealth, the Rockefeller instincts are compounded with secrecy, overfamiliarity with nuclear weapons and the CIA, and a possessive outlook on the whole world.
It's the Rockefeller instincts, I argue, that led the bungling Bush administration into Iraq and fed the fantasy of an easy police action in a far outpost of empire. It's the old Rockefeller instincts that are still trying to euphemize and legitimize aggressive blunders that Ronald Reagan would never have committed.
In their world, the Bush people think they've grasped how the real world really worked -- and acted upon it based on their own mental outlook. They commanded; they didn't listen. They were aggressive; they belittled caution. They were the true realists; they held others in contempt. For the life of me, I can't see this administration swallowing its pride and charting a different course in Iraq. I see no bold overture like Nixon going to China, Reagan meeting with Gorbo, JFK reaching out to Krushchev after gently shoving aside the table-banging advice from U.S. hardliners during the Cuban Missile Crisis etc. Maybe I'm wrong. President Bush is reportedly now seeking advice far and wide on how to proceed in Iraq. By God, I think I read somewhere he actually might go to Foggy Bottom to get opinions. Foggy Bottom!
Now there's an overture. Not bold. But it's a start. ...