The Realist Who Got It Wrong (Charles Krauthammer, October 30, 2005, Washington Post)
In the Oct. 31 New Yorker [Brent Scowcroft] came out strongly against the war and the neocon sorcerers who magically foisted it upon what must have been a hypnotized president and vice president.
Of course, Scowcroft’s opposition to toppling Saddam Hussein is neither surprising nor new. Indeed, we are now seeing its third iteration. He had two cracks at Hussein in 1991 and urged his President Bush to pass them both up — first, after Hussein’s defeat in the Persian Gulf War, when the road to Baghdad was open, and then, days later, during a massive U.S.-encouraged uprising of Kurds and Shiites, when America stood by and allowed Hussein to massacre his opponents by the tens of thousands. One of the reasons for Iraqi wariness during the U.S. liberation 12 years later was the memory of our past betrayal and suspicions about our current intentions in light of that betrayal.
This cold bloodedness is a trademark of this nation’s most doctrinaire foreign policy “realist.” Realism is the billiard ball theory of foreign policy: The only thing that counts is how countries interact, not what’s happening inside. You care not a whit about who is running a country. Whether it is Mother Teresa or the Assad family gangsters in Syria, you care only about their external actions, not how they treat their own people.
Realists prize stability above all, and there is nothing more stable than a ruthlessly efficient dictatorship. Which is why Scowcroft is the man who six months after Tiananmen Square toasted those who ordered the massacre; who, as the world celebrates the Beirut Spring that evicted the Syrian occupation from Lebanon, sees not liberation but possible instability; who can barely conceal a preference for Syria’s stabilizing iron rule.
Even today Scowcroft says, “I didn’t think that calling the Soviet Union the ‘evil empire’ got anybody anywhere.” Tell that to Natan Sharansky and other Soviet dissidents for whom that declaration of moral — beyond geopolitical — purpose was electrifying and helped galvanize the movements that ultimately brought down the Soviet empire.
The preference for stability at the expense of our fellow men is antithetical to the American ethos.