George Gedda of the Associated Press has written this interesting article today that refers to the comments made by Brent Scowcroft at last Thursday’s New America Foundation lunch meeting.
A bit of an excerpt:
At age 79, Brent Scowcroft doesn’t have much to lose if he speaks his mind. So despite his close ties to the first President Bush, he’s not averse to keeping his distance from the second.
Scowcroft, a retired lieutenant general who served as national security adviser to the former president, is not nearly as sanguine as the incumbent president on the Jan. 30 National Assembly elections in Iraq.
The elections “won’t be a promising transformation, and it has great potential for deepening the conflict. We may be seeing incipient civil war at this time,” Scowcroft told a recent gathering sponsored by the New America Foundation.
Anxiety among President Bush’s Republican base about the elections and overall U.S. policy toward Iraq seems to be rising. Larry Diamond, who served as a senior adviser for the now-disbanded, U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, sees the same danger as Scowcroft.
If the Iraqi elections are held as scheduled, it would “grease the slide to civil war,” Diamond told The Washington Post. Calling Bush “a very stubborn man,” he said there is “a fine line between Churchillian resolve and self-defeating obstinacy, and I think he’s going over the line on this.”
What I find interesting is that the debate that is buzzing around Washington since Scowcroft’s and Brzezinski’s comments is mostly happening among and between conservatives, while progressives for the most part are voyeurs in this battle, but not contributing much to the substance of discussion.
Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com also captures this trend in a piece today that has had some influence in interesting circles.
I head from a source I cannot name that a digested version of Raimondo’s article with some additional comments from the text of the Scowcroft/Brzezinski presentations made it into a widely read but classified daily report that is read by the commissioners and senior staff in the European Commission and also by top officials in other European governments. They may have gotten the unclassified version via Maureen Dowd or this website — but the point is people around the world are paying attention to this battle that is going on inside the beltway.
I am not intending to say that progressives are irrelevant to this discussion — but I do mean to say that Scowcroft’s public comments have served the symbolic purpose of telling other centrist/realists that they no longer need to apologize for the mistakes and errors of the administration — that it’s ok now to take off the gloves — that it’s ok, and perhaps even a good thing at this point, to oppose the foreign policy direction of President Bush.
Some conservatives, David Frum being one, are trying to paint acolytes of “Scowcroftism” as Democrats and liberals, or at minimum, as disloyal. But the bottom line is that Scowcroft and the others who seem to be lining up and offering similar comments are card-carrying Republican conservatives.
This is an important fault line that needs to be explored further by those hoping to cobble together a more enlightened U.S. foreign policy that brings together some in progressive circles with the increasingly disaffected and sensible realists and centrists in the Republican party.
— Steve Clemons