David Frum gets starchy about the dangers of rising Scowcroftism in foreign policy circles. My sense is that those of us who have a problem with the neoconservative agenda have a lot of work to do to roll back the influence of David Frum and his fellow travelers — but if we are causing them pain, all the better.
One note to David: “incipient” and “imminent” have very different meanings, and you ought to use the one Scowcroft used if you hope to have a credible battle with his views.
imminent (P) Pronunciation Key (m-nnt)
About to occur; impending: in imminent danger.
[Middle English iminent, from Old French imminent, from Latin imminns, imminent- present participle of imminre, to overhang : in-, in; see in-2 + -minre, to jut, threaten; see men-2 in Indo-European Roots.]
incipient (P) Pronunciation Key (n-sp-nt)
Beginning to exist or appear: detecting incipient tumors; an incipient personnel problem.
adj : only partly in existence; imperfectly formed; “incipient civil disorder”; “an incipient tumor”; “a vague inchoate idea” [syn: inchoate]
. . .Scowcroft has been spanked for his restiveness. He has been dropped as chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Yet as the Sun points out, if Scowcroft has been demoted, Scowcroftism has not been. There are signs that the habits of mind that Scowcroft brought to foreign policy continue to exert influence over many senior policy makers. Just this morning, for example, the New York Times has a front page story that reads as if dictated by Scowcroft — which, come to think of it, it probably was.
The theme of the piece is that civil war is imminent in Iraq, that the elections are making things worse, and that there’s nothing to do but scuttle. The result of such a policy would be chaos — but chaos in Iraq, the sources for the story seem to think, is well worth it if they can get in return a political defeat for President Bush.
I hosted the meeting with Scowcroft — and nothing he said could be interpreted as implying that an Iraqi Civil War was imminent. Here is what David Sanger and Eric Schmitt wrote in the New York Times piece referred to by David Frum (David Sanger was an attendee of the New America Foundation lunch meeting with Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski):
Already, the president found himself in a rare public argument last week with one of his father’s closest friends and advisers, Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser. The election “won’t be a promising transformation, and it has great potential for deepening the conflict,” Mr. Scowcroft declared Thursday, adding, “We may be seeing incipient civil war at this time.”
Thus, whereas I see General Scowcroft’s cautionary comments for what they actually are — cautionary. David Frum either accidentally, or purposely, sensationalizes Scowcroft’s meaning and mischaracterizes Sanger’s and Schmitt’s reporting.
Which is it David? Accident? Or was this conscious mischaracterization?
The reason I ask is that the Washington Times made exactly the same mistake yesterday — and acknowledged the error immediately. In an article titled “Iraq Violence Foreseen Continuing After Election,” Audrey Hudson wrote:
Mr. Powell made his final rounds of the Sunday talk shows and was asked repeatedly to respond to a prediction last week of “imminent civil war” by Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to two previous Republican presidents – Gerald Ford and George Bush.
When contacted, the staff at the Washington Times immediately tracked down the desk editor who had changed ‘incipient‘ to ‘imminent.’ The paper reported to me that they would print a correction right away, which they now have.
Will you print a correction, David?
— Steve Clemons