May 5th, 2014

The Times struggles to keep on propagandizing in the face of the harsh realities of Obama’s foreign policy

The NY Times has a dilemma. It cannot help but notice that the expected and predicted fruits of Obama’s foreign policy (or of his mere presence in the White House) seem to be rotting on the ground. Even more importantly, the Times figures that its readers are noticing too. The situation is just too fetid to successfully deny any more, and if the newspaper continues to do so, those of its regular readers who retain some integrity might consider the paper to be the completely owned propaganda organ that it is, and take offense.

So, what to do? The answer is to write editorials like this one from yesterday, a delicate balancing act that acknowledges just enough reality to sound credible to those readers but not enough to really risk any of their strongly-held beliefs that Obama is pretty decent and has America’s best interests at heart. It’s a bit tricky to successfully pull off, but the Times proves it’s up to the task in an effort that is a tour de force of the genre.

For every acknowledgement of the mess the Obama administration has caused, there’s a subsequent apologia absolving him fully or at least considerably softening the blow. And the editors don’t forget to make sure they say that, however bad it is, Bush was worse. So the editorial is a series of steps forward and steps back, written so smoothly that most readers are probably unaware of how the sashaying is done.

From the first paragraph–first, the bad news:

…President Obama is being pummeled at home and abroad for his international leadership. The world sometimes seems as if it is flying apart, with Mr. Obama unable to fix it.

Seems that way rather than is that way, so even that accusation is tempered at the start. Then the semi-exoneration:

Through a combination of a few significant missteps, circumstances beyond his control, unreasonable expectations and his maddeningly bland demeanor, Mr. Obama has opened himself to criticism that he is not articulating a strong, overarching blueprint for the exercise of American power and has not been able to bend authoritarian leaders to his will.

Let’s pause for a moment to admire the editors’ handiwork. You think they don’t know how to write? Well, think again. I offer that last sentence as one of the finest examples of exquisitely nunanced shilly-shallying I’ve ever read. The supposed dose of reality comes with the recognition that Obama has committed “significant missteps,” although that’s tempered by the unsupported notion that they are “few” in number. Well, everybody makes mistakes, don’t they? The rest of the problem for Obama is, according to the Times, a combination of just plain bad luck (unnamed “circumstances beyond his control”); the fault of others noticing his own wonderfulness (“unreasonable expectations”—presumably expectations for Obama and not by Obama); his calm character, heretofore considered a good thing, but which the Times admits can be “maddening.” All of this has “opened” Obama “to criticism that he is not articulating a strong, overarching blueprint for the exercise of American power and has not been able to bend authoritarian leaders to his will.” The Times is being especially tricky in that last phrase, because the editors are not really saying that Obama is in fact failing to articulate this blueprint or to bend those leaders, just that he has acted in a way that invites criticism.

That’s paragraph one. Paragraph two goes like this:

It is paradoxical that, in key respects, Mr. Obama is precisely the kind of foreign policy president most Americans and their allies overseas wanted. He rejected the shoot-first tendencies of George W. Bush, who pretended to have all the answers, bungled two wars and asserted an in-your-face American exceptionalism that included bullying allies. We know where that got us.

Shorter version: Obama is exactly what we all yearned for after that horrible Bush. And wasn’t Bush awful?

The next paragraph is devoted to the idea that Obama’s critics have been too harsh on him and have ignored his very real accomplishments. That those accomplishments are listed as “salvaging” the economy (someone in the comments section wrote that perhaps the eds meant “savaging” instead) and producing “the first possibility of a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons” gives you an indication of the quality of the Times’ claims.

The next paragraph, number four, tries to describe what Obama’s critics think is wrong with him: maybe, they say “he lacks a passion for foreign policy,” “has no inspiring ideological prism, or “is too resigned” to obstacles to American power. But these are tepid critiques that don’t even begin to deal with what many of us on the right have said from the early days of Obama’s first term: that he does have an ideological prism, and that it is leftism and geared to harming our allies and helping our enemies, and that he’s not merely “resigned” to a loss of American power but is instead actively engineering that loss.

In the next paragraph, the fifth, the Times comes closest to articulating a real criticism of Obama—and perhaps its own actual views as well—which is that the president has been “unfocused, weak, and passive.” The editors refuse to consider—and probably would never say if they did realize—the possibility that his passivity on the world stage is conscious, purposeful, and strategic.

Why do I keep harping on the Times, when we all know this is the way they roll? I still think it’s edifying to learn how they do it. Also, I don’t know about you, but my liberal friends and family still respect the Times and are hugely informed by it. The Times is also tremendously influential in setting the tone and the approach for other periodicals as well as pundits on the left. We may mock it, but its propaganda still shapes our world—not the world of reality, but the world of public opinion, which then influences reality.

32 Responses to “The Times struggles to keep on propagandizing in the face of the harsh realities of Obama’s foreign policy”

  1. Sam L. Says:

    “The situation is just too fetid to successfully deny any more, and if the newspaper continues to do so, those of its regular readers who retain some integrity might consider the paper to be the completely owned propaganda organ that it is, and take offense.”

    Think you that there are some? If so, they be few in numbers, surrounded by those who MUST believe, and brook no tolerance for opposing thought, nor tolerance for those whose faith wavers. So those remain quiet, and endeavor to pass unnoticed, for the retribution of the faithful is mighty, and horrible, and terrible.

    (This was FUN to write,)

  2. Lizzy Says:

    That is an amazing editorial for all of the details it manages to gloss over and/or spin, such as this:

    “While it is an example of the realpolitik that some of his critics say Mr. Obama lacks, Egypt is Exhibit A in the case against his claim to be supporting democracy in the Middle East. The Obama administration finds itself defending and continuing to finance a repressive military government in Cairo that comes nowhere near to fulfilling the promise of the Arab Spring and that recently ordered more than 1,000 political prisoners put to death.”

    Gee, you’d think Obama’s ongoing support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi over the current government would have been worth mentioning in there, but instead they criticize the non-MB leaders – and for killing Muslim Brotherhood prisoners (many who likely participated in the violent mayhem, including murder of Coptic Christians and burning down churches).
    It’s like these NYT editorial writers live in an alternate universe.

  3. expat Says:

    Interestingly, the German pacifists, Russophiles, and friends of Schröder in the Social Democrats are quoting Obama’s characterization of Russia as a regional power as something that contributed to Putin’s actions in Ukraine. Of course, they use this an example of America’s arrogance, not so much Obama’s. And, of course, they don’t realize that Obamawas only speaking to Americans, whom he wanted to impress with his toughness. These Germans are the same idiots that welcomed Obama when he gave his campaign speech at the Victory Column. I wonder what the Nobel Comittee is thinking now about the peacemaker.

  4. Ira Says:

    Excellent analysis, Neo-Neocon. Thanks.

  5. Eric Says:

    Indeed. Defining the problem frames the solution.

    It’s not enough to criticize Obama. It is necessary to rehabilitate Bush’s legacy and, above all, correct the popular narrative of the Iraq enforcement and peace-building mission.

    The Democrats have pegged the issue as no matter how bad Obama’s foreign affairs are, their straw man of Bush is worse – always worse, no matter what.

    If their man can’t be right, it’s sufficient to be comparatively less wrong, because electoral politics is a binary choice. It’s not preferred, but practically just as effective (and maybe politically more efficient) for the body politic to be against the other than for you.

    Necessary: Rehabilitate Bush’s legacy, above all the Iraq mission, in the zeitgeist and the rest can be built from that contextual frame. And likely would be built in the collective consciousness because the social achievement of rehabilitating Bush’s legacy and correcting the popular narrative of the Iraq enforcement and peace-building mission in the zeitgeist implies the Right has learned how to do effective activism.

    As always, the activist game is the only social-political game there is.

  6. Eric Says:

    The necessary 3-element framework to propagate in the zeitgeist is: 1 (and most important), Bush was right; 2, the Democrats bamboozled you; and 3, Obama is wrong.

    The key is all three elements are necessary to lay the foundation. So far, the GOP and Right have failed – really, have stopped trying – to set the 1st and most important element, that Bush was right. That Bush was right is the weight-bearing element. Without the 1st element, the 2 follow-on elements lack the necessary foundation to be effective in the zeitgeist.

    Try this frame setting, excerpted from my blog:

    When President Bush passed the presidential baton to President Obama, America was winning the War on Terror.

    To wit, again, President Obama on post-Saddam Iraq:

    Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

    In other words, the rising pluralistic, liberalizing post-Saddam Iraq that Obama inherited from Bush was – by Obama’s own description – set to have “a key role” in a reforming Middle East.

    To wit, David Schanzer, Director of the Triangle Center of Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, on the progress made by the counter-terrorism campaign:

    The counterterrorism strategy against al Qaeda that has been executed since 9/11 has been extremely effective. We eliminated the safe haven that al Qaeda enjoyed in Afghanistan and captured or killed hundreds of senior leaders and thousands of rank and file militants. It is also important that governments in countries like Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who were on the sidelines prior to 9/11, joined the fight because they felt threatened by al Qaeda as well. We have also tightened our visa issuance process and border security (at a great cost to our international image and economy) so that it is much harder to enter the United States, especially from certain countries. . . . we have crippled the organization that attacked us on 9/11 to the benefit of the United States and the world.

    In other words, Obama inherited a succeeding counter-terrorism campaign from Bush that had greatly reduced the physical terror threat of 9/11.

    Operation Iraqi Freedom was a disaster for the terrorists, both in the physical decimation and, more consequentially, choice by Iraq’s Sunni Muslims to side with the Americans against the terrorists. The War on Terror, especially the Iraq mission, had worked to devastate the terrorists on the ground and in the war of ideas.

    The next step of winning the War on Terror was building peace in the Middle East based on new norms. How? American partnership with the rising pluralistic, liberalizing post-Saddam Iraq as the cornerstone building block and the Bush Freedom Agenda.

    While the Arab Spring happened during the Obama administration, the Bush Freedom Agenda had positioned America to boost liberal reform in the Arab Spring. However, in that singular window to make a historic difference, where America held – as President Clinton had envisioned in his announcement of Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 – a “remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past”, Obama astonishingly, instead, rejected the Bush Freedom Agenda and opted to ‘lead from behind’ with tragically predictable and evitable consequences.

    Bush set up Obama for victory in the War on Terror. Obama simply needed to stay the course from Bush to win the war and build the peace, like President Eisenhower stayed the course from Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. Instead, Obama claimed the liberal foreign policy goals of Bush but rejected Bush’s rational, progressing means to achieve them, thus causing Obama’s irrational foreign policy and regressing foreign affairs.

    America was winning the War on Terror when President Bush left office. Since then, the terrorists have resurged in the gaps opened by stumbling, diminished American leadership under President Obama.

    Misinformation and mischaracterization have distorted the popular perception of the context, stakes, and achievements of Operation Iraqi Freedom with compounding harmful effects. They have obscured the strict enforcement mission with Saddam’s Iraq that President Bush carried forward from President Clinton and the ground-breaking peace operations by the US military in post-Saddam Iraq, thus undermining the enforcement of international norms and obstructing the further development and application of peace operations.

    The distorted public perception of the Iraq mission has led to poor policy decisions by the Obama administration in the Arab Spring, most notably regarding Libya and Syria. Where President Bush positioned America after 9/11 to lead vigorously from the front as the liberal internationalist “leader of the free world”, President Obama has reduced America to ‘leading from behind’ with predictable consequences. Bush gave Obama a hard-earned winning hand in Iraq, yet the Obama administration bungled the SOFA negotiation at a critical turning point. The premature exit from Iraq has cast doubt on the future of Iraq’s development and caused the loss of a difference-making regional strategic partnership.

  7. Eric Says:

    Me: “That Bush was right is the weight-bearing element.”

    Fix: That Bush was right is the weight-bearing and orienting element.

  8. kaba Says:

    I would suggest that your liberal family and friends are hugely misinformed by it as an alternative.

  9. Mike Says:

    Times: “It is paradoxical that….” Right.

    It is paradoxical that he stinks.

    It’s actual not paradoxical. The word is predictable.

    It is also “paradoxical” that the Times stinks. And paradoxical that everyone and anyone who believes the Times and considers it newsworthy also stinks.

    The world is full of paradoxes. Whatta bunch chumps.

  10. Oldflyer Says:

    My sympathies Neo. I am sure that to be truly sophisticated, and you certainly are, you are obligated to read the NYT. Perhaps even to analyze its content.

    On the other hand, if you are just one of the simple folk you are obligated to do neither.

    I confess, that I only read a portion of your analysis. It is not because I would ever take your thoughts lightly; it is just that their rants are so typical, and frankly, I just don’t give a damn what the NYT writes. I am not sure that we even speak the same language.

    You do good work by highlighting their inconsistencies for those who may take them seriously.

  11. Matt_SE Says:

    Proving my point from one day earlier, the Times publishes a piece trying to rehabilitate Obama’s failed foreign policy.
    The Times knows its readers, and knows what makes them most uncomfortable about Obama. For anyone else, Obama’s foreign policy blunders are just the tip of the iceberg.

    On another topic: I disagree with Eric’s proposed approach to Bush. Not that the approach may not work, but that it might.
    Iraq was an unnecessary foreign adventure; at best, dubious gains for such assumption of risk. Not that I’m an isolationist, but we really need to choose our wars more carefully.

    If neocon adventurism again becomes respectable, we may have a hard time cleaning up Obama’s mess.

  12. Eric Says:

    Lizzy: “It’s like these NYT editorial writers live in an alternate universe.”

    No, just an alternate agenda. Their chief priority is maintaining the frame that no matter what goes badly with Obama and the Dems in charge, the (straw-man) Bush and GOP alternative is always worse. The NY Times piece is much less about foreign affairs than about domestic partisan politics.

    The core value of the post-9/11 Democrats is that Bush is bad/wrong. If they lose that position with the body politic, their grip on the zeitgeist loses its original source of legitimacy.

    Rehabilitating Bush’s legacy in an Obama v Bush comparison is dangerous to the Democrats. Right now, they recognize Obama is vulnerable and the potential threat is there for the public to revisit Bush’s legacy and reassess the Obama v Bush comparison. So they’re reinforcing the narrative they need to maintain control of the zeitgeist.

    Given that the guiding tenet of Obama’s foreign policy is the premise that Bush was wrong, showing that Bush was right, then contrasted directly with Obama, will flip the script to show that Obama and the Democrats are wrong – harmfully so. If the narrative becomes that Bush was right, then it can be established, therefore, the Democrats lied to the American public for self-serving reasons and Obama is wrong. With that flip of the script, the GOP and Right can gain control of the zeitgeist.

    If the GOP and Right were smart activists, they would seize the moment to strike now by aggressively rehabilitating Bush’s legacy, correcting the popular narrative, and establishing the narrative that the Democrats lied about Bush for self-serving reasons, and the Democrats’ lies and repudiation of Bush is why America’s foreign policy has gone off track.

    But this requires for the GOP and Right to be smart activists. They seem intent on doing the opposite, instead: ceding the Democrats’ false narrative of straw-man Bush despite that correcting the popular narrative is the necessary baseline move to flip the script.

  13. Eric Says:


    I guess you weren’t in the peanut gallery for my exchange with Zachriel about the Iraq mission at the end of March.

    The 1991-2003 Iraq enforcement and 2003-2011 peace-building in Iraq were as intertwined with longstanding, priority American interests as there were in our foreign policy, with a direct policy lineage extending to the Carter administration and background roots extending further back than that.

    After 9/11, Bush acted correctly and faithfully to the Iraq policy he inherited from Clinton to resolve the Saddam problem.

    One, understand that the intel didn’t determine Iraq’s guilt on WMD. The presentation of intel only colored the argument. OIF was triggered by Iraq failing the compliance test administered by UNMOVIC. Iraq’s guilt was established and presumed at the outset as the basis of the Gulf War ceasefire and subsequent resolutions. The burden of proof was entirely on Iraq. Over the course, Saddam’s defiant, belligerent resistance to the disarmament process, including intel-gathering efforts, validated the presumption of guilt and burden of proof on Iraq. That means in the total absence of intel on Iraq’s weapons, the controlling presumption was Iraq was guilty. The only way to switch off the credible threat of regime change was for Iraq to pass its compliance test, which it did not pass at any point.

    Two, albeit irrelevant to the compliance test that Iraq failed which triggered OIF, the Duelfer Report confirms Iraq was in violation of weapons obligations and the regime change did prevent Saddam from re-arming with WMD.

    Here’s a small selection of excerpts from just Volume 1 of the Duelfer Report (there’s plenty more in Vol I, Vol 2, and Vol 3):

    Saddam had direct command of the Iraqi intelligence services and the armed forces, including direct authority over plans and operations of both. . . . The IIS also ran a large covert procurement program, undeclared chemical laboratories, and supported denial and deception operations.

    By 2000-2001, Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of sanctions and undermine their international support. Iraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions regime, both in terms of oil exports and the trade embargo, by the end of 1999.

    In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of [Saddam’s] intent to resume WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted.

    Saddam continued with his public posture of retaining the WMD capability.

    [Saddam’s] belief that sanctions would prove ineffective led him to conclude he could avoid WMD disarmament.

    Huwaysh instructed MIC [military-industrial complex] general directors to conceal sensitive material and documents from UN inspectors.

    Setting aside the bottom-line that Iraq failed the compliance test on weapons that was the trigger for OIF and also failed to comply with non-weapons obligations that were also triggers, that small selection of excerpts alone are sufficient (post hoc) weapons-based grounds to justify OIF. Again, they only scratch the surface of the Duelfer Report.

    I’m guessing that, like many people, you didn’t appreciate the limited options we had with the Saddam problem.

    By the close of the Clinton administration, the US-led Iraq enforcement had been reduced to 3 choices:

    A. Kick the can on the toxic and crumbling ‘containment’ status quo, and hope.
    B. Free a noncompliant Saddam, unreconstructed.
    C. Resolution by giving Saddam a final chance to comply under a credible threat of regime change.

    According to the Duelfer Report, option A was a fast-approaching dead end because the ‘containment’ status quo was on the verge of imminent defeat by Saddam.

    Option B or freeing a noncompliant Saddam, unreconstructed, on top of abrogating the defining international law enforcement of the post-Cold War, most likely would have resulted in, as President Clinton had warned in 1998, “a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors; he will make war on his own people. And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them”.

    Alternatively, if the US had backed down when Saddam failed the compliance test, and thereby discredited the threat of regime change, the failure to follow through on the law enforcement would have restricted our choices to the dead ends and greater threat promised by option A and option B.

    In addition to the dangers of a victorious Saddam, the failure of law enforcement in Iraq would have severely undermined, if not altogether killed, the effectiveness of law enforcement over rogue actors and WMD proscription. (Unfortunately, Obama seems intent on throwing away all the effect-based legitimacy that had been restored to UN enforcement under Bush.)

    You also need to weigh the added threat considerations in light of 9/11, as explained by President Clinton in 2004:

    Noting that Bush had to be “reeling” in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Clinton said Bush’s first priority was to keep al Qaeda and other terrorist networks from obtaining “chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material.”

    “That’s why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for,” Clinton said in reference to Iraq and the fact that U.N. weapons inspectors left the country in 1998.

    “So I thought the president had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, ‘Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process.’ You couldn’t responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks,” Clinton said.

    After 9/11, we were compelled to resolve the long-festering Saddam problem expeditiously. The preferred way was for Saddam to rehabilitate by his own volition, which we had wanted him to do from day one. The only way we could be assured responsibly that Saddam was rehabilitated was by Iraq passing its compliance test and meeting all of the obligations mandated by the Gulf War cease fire and subsequent resolutions.

    Saddam refused, failed, and triggered the credible threat of regime change.

    “unnecessary foreign adventure”? Hardly.

  14. Eric Says:

    Add, regarding post-9/11 threat considerations, per Clinton’s statement of support for Bush’s decision on OIF:

    The Duelfer Report does say that there is no ready evidence Iraq possessed a military battlefield application level of WMD at the point of OIF.

    However, keep in mind that included in Iraq’s non-weapons obligations was the mandate to cure Saddam’s guilt on terrorism. In addition to ties with non-state terrorist actors, Saddam possessed his own, notorious unconventional capabilities, eg, the IIS, which were active at the point of OIF.

    While there is absent ready evidence Iraq possessed NBC stockpiles rising to the level of battlefield “mass destruction”, Saddam did possess sufficient NBC capability for terrorist application, which was bumped up as a threat consideration after 9/11.

  15. Steve57 Says:

    “Through a combination of a few significant missteps, circumstances beyond his control, unreasonable expectations and his maddeningly bland demeanor, Mr. Obama has opened himself to criticism that he is not articulating a strong, overarching blueprint for the exercise of American power and has not been able to bend authoritarian leaders to his will.”

    Yes, it’s a mystery, how he’s not able to bend authoritarian leaders to his will.

    “The exchange:

    President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.

    President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

    President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

    President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

    When asked to explain what President Obama meant, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes told ABC News…”

    I don’t think there’s any need to continue with what political hack Ben Rhodes explanation turned out to be. The point being, Obama was talking about compromising US Ballistic Missile defense by providing classified information about our capabilities to Vladimir Putin. And Congress put a stop to it. For a while.

    I know; perhaps if Obama wasn’t so willing to bend to the will of authoritarian rulers, that would be the beginning of an answer to the NYT’s lamentations about the unjust criticisms that poor, poor Barack Obama has been forced to suffer.

    How is the NYT taken seriously?

  16. Matt_SE Says:


    Good luck explaining that to the voters.
    In hindsight, they may realize that Bush wasn’t as bad as the provocative weakness of Obama. But that’s an awfully low bar.
    More likely, it’ll be “a pox on both your houses.”

  17. Harry the "Extremist" Says:

    Neo “The editors refuse to consider—and probably would never say if they did realize—the possibility that his passivity on the world stage is conscious, purposeful, and strategic.”

    I dont know. Conscious? Yeah. Purposeful and strategic? Meh…I dont give that guy that much credit. I know this is the old naive/evil genius debate but I still see Obama as the Inspector Clouseau of leftist political leaders. He is after all, just a community organizer. Nothing more.

  18. NeoConScum Says:

    Dear Pravda aka N.Y.Times: To get near an accurate-brief description of you true midgets I must reach waaaaaaaaaaay back to the barely remembered Nixonian Vice President Spiro T. Agnew: “Nattering Nabobs of Negativism…” Not, I hasten to add, in relation to The Infantile Majesty Obama. Nope, hardly. Your continuing dissing of the strong, leading, patriotic, loved by our warriors, America passionate George W. Bush is pathetic, cowardly and utterly slimey. Characterizing the Massive Victory he handed his scrawny successor in Iraq as any kind of failure is PURE-Flawless Lying. It was left for the loathsome Obama to RETREAT from that Victory and leave the chaos we now see.

    So much more can be said, but Pravda and it’s blathering herd aren’t worth the spit on President Bush’s toothbrush.

  19. Eric Says:

    Matt_SE: “Good luck explaining that to the voters. In hindsight, they may realize that Bush wasn’t as bad as the provocative weakness of Obama. But that’s an awfully low bar.”

    The justification for Bush’s decisions on Iraq is the truth.

    The voters have been sold a lie by the Left with assistance by libertarians, despite that the truth of the Iraq mission is open source.

    I agree that correcting the popular narrative won’t be easy. Truth is intrinsically compelling, but the normalizing of truth in the zeitgeist is a function of the narrative contest, which in turn is a function of activism, not the intrinsic power of truth.

    At this point, left activists are dominating American social politics. Convincing voters is difficult across the spectrum of issues, not limited to Iraq, because of the Right’s inferior activism, not because of the intrinsic value of the Right’s positions.

    However, if ever the Right were to become competitive activists, the open-source truth of the Iraq mission would be a difference-making advantage in the social-political contest because of the Democrats’ all-in investment in the lie. Correcting the popular narrative of the Iraq mission would flip the script on the Democrats.

    That said, political identity is an issue. Whether you believe Bush set a “low bar” depends much on whether or not you’re a liberal – a real liberal, not a leftist. Due to the left coopting the liberal label, real liberals have been relabeled neoconservative.

    Leftists and libertarians hold that Bush set a “low bar” because Bush responded to 9/11 as a liberal in the presidential heritage of FDR and Truman, who made greater risky, controversial, and expensive choices that positioned the US as the muscular liberal leader of the free world.

    At the close of the Cold War, Bush the father also positioned the US in a liberal leadership role for the new era.

    Confronting the next historical pivot of 9/11, Bush reset a high bar for muscular American leadership of the free world. But if you’re a leftist or libertarian, you’ll see Bush’s liberal choice as setting a low bar.

    In and of itself, the truth and justification of the Iraq mission are straightforward. In 1998, Clinton already declared, “Iraq has failed its last chance”. Bush inherited the Saddam problem in its terminal stage with a mature enforcement procedure formulated over Clinton’s 8 years grappling with Saddam. 9/11 merely supplied the political will to activate the ultimate enforcement step to resolve the problem.

    In other words, explaining the truth and justification of OIF isn’t speculative. The Iraq enforcement is grounded in well-documented law, policy, precedent, open-source background, 9/11 context, results of the UNMOVIC compliance test, and post hoc findings of the Duelfer Report.

    OIF was one of the best grounded, perhaps the best grounded, mission in modern US military history. Bush was deliberate and faithful to Clinton in the execution of the Iraq enforcement procedure.

    However, Bush made a mistake in the presentation of his public case: Bush deviated from Clinton’s public case by presenting the intelligence in a way that did not represent the actual, limited role of intelligence in the Iraq enforcement procedure.

    Clinton explained the threat of Saddam by Saddam’s failure to sufficiently account, cooperate, and comply, which matched Iraq’s presumption of guilt and burden of proof. Clinton did not cite to intelligence on Iraq’s weapons. By design and necessity, only Saddam’s failure to fulfill his obligations, not the intelligence, could trigger an enforcement response.

    The intelligence did not function as evidence in the Iraq enforcement, yet Bush presented it that way in his public case. However, Bush correctly executed the operative enforcement procedure on Iraq.

    Indeed, in order to set the record straight, right activists will need to explain that Bush’s error of presentation did not negate the actual Iraq enforcement procedure that Bush executed correctly, the nature of the Saddam problem that demanded immediate resolution, and the successful resolution of the Saddam problem.

    The justification of the Iraq enforcement through regime change is clear and easy to explain.

    In comparison, the justification for the peace-building of Iraq after Saddam is more speculative and open to debate.

    The post-war liberal choices for Iraq by Bush were in line with the post-war liberal choices made by Truman in our transition from WW2.

    Truman, in his time, was excoriated for his choices much like Bush was. History eventually vindicated Truman’s liberal choices because Eisenhower stayed the course he inherited from Truman, despite that Ike – similar to Obama – initially campaigned against Truman’s interventions.

    The difference?

    There are two.

    One, Truman’s liberal choices were novel, whereas Bush’s liberal choices upheld the established American liberal foreign policy course, US hegemonic standing and responsibilities, and an established American presidential tradition. In other words, Truman was radical; Bush was conventional.

    Two, Eisenhower stayed the course from Truman so that history eventually vindicated Truman’s bold leadership, but Obama did not stay the course from Bush. So, we can only speculate based on prior results of American liberal hegemonic leadership what could and should have been had Obama not thrown away the potentially pivotal achievements in Iraq we made under Bush.

    I am curious what course you would have chosen in President Bush’s shoes, Matt_SE.

    Since you were against the “unnecessary foreign adventure” of option C, ie, resolving the Saddam problem by a final chance to comply with a credible threat of regime change, then did you prefer option A, the status quo of kicking the can, despite every indication of the imminent collapse of the ad hoc ‘containment’?

    Or did you want option B, freeing a noncompliant Saddam, unreconstructed, despite every indication Saddam was ready to resume his irrational vision quest, but now with the added confidence from defeating the US-led Iraq enforcement with the support of Western leftists and libertarians?

    Or were you in agreement with Illinois State Senator Obama’s contention, presaging his disastrous presidential foreign policy, that we could just ignore the Saddam problem because Saddam would just fade away on his own?

  20. Ymarsakar Says:

    The voters will believe whatever they are told to believe, by those that hold the Hammer of Propaganda. It’s that powerful and people are that weak.

  21. Harry Says:

    Great parsing, Neo. Completely cracked me up.

  22. SnikFromSNL Says:

    Last Negro leader. Blacks who are *still* black never moved out of Africa, genetically.

  23. Gregg Smith Says:

    Check your privilege.


  24. Blacque Jacques Shellacque Says:

    …a delicate balancing act that acknowledges just enough reality to sound credible to those readers but not enough to really risk any of their strongly-held beliefs that Obama is pretty decent and has America’s best interests at heart.

    It’s probably for the LIVs’ consumption.

  25. ErisGuy Says:

    The world sometimes seems as if it is flying apart, with Mr. Obama unable to fix it.

    Who leads a life sheltered that he thinks the world is stable, peaceful and calm? Anyone check the last century: war, depression, mass murder, war….

    Gales of riotous laughter. Not only can Obama not fix it and to think that he can fix it is a juvenile delusion, but no residents of the presidency can fix it. Nor should they. The shouldn’t even try. It’s the presidents’ job to seek the USA’s advantage, not fix the world.

    What personal qualities editorialists reveal when they write from the heart.

  26. MarkJ Says:

    What’s the difference between Baghdad Bob and the New York Times editorial board?

    Even Baghdad Bob knew when to STFU and go into hiding.

  27. JohnnyL Says:

    Nice analysis but you presume that the Time’s editorial writers deliberately set out to gloss over Obama’s foreign policy failings. I believe the editorial accurately reflects the world view of most progressives i.e. intentions and appearances count more than actions and results. Obama’s policies failings are that they “open him up” to criticisms not that they are actually failures. This is all just a backhanded slap at the obtuseness of the the un-enlightened at not being able to see the big picture.

  28. thirdtwin Says:

    “the first possibility of a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons”

    What nuclear weapons? I thought the deal was they didn’t get nuclear weapons. Now it sounds like he’s close to a deal on how many nukes they can have. How about:

    “The first possibility of ending Iran’s nuclear weapons program”

    But then, that never really was a possibility with him, was it?

  29. Wry Mouth Says:

    and they didn’t even mention the major of accomplishment of “getting no more than 4 persons killed while campaigning arduously against the well-monied Mitt Romney, backed by the Koch Brothers.”

  30. Ray Van Dune Says:

    The “tell” on this editorial is that no examples are provided that the reader could recognize and use to compare his perceptions against those of the Times.

  31. calbadger Says:

    From Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love:

    Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded–here and there, now and then–are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

    Perhaps more apropos for the domestic situation, but I think it works internationally as well.

  32. jacqueline kalaitzidakis Says:

    The countries that Obama can not get under his thumb are the same ones that no president could get under his thumb, or any leader in the free world. Obama is being very diplomatic with these countries and with his “soft thumb” has saved us from getting into yet more wars and has thwarted many intentions of these extremely troublesome countries by showing that this can be done if the rest of the world co-operates and can resolve their differences in a friendly atmosphere . He has enabled co-operation with us and other countries among themselves when the arrogance and belligerence of the Bush era had brought respect for America and co-operation among countries to an all time low. He convinced them that America has not turned into a bully itself, now that it is the world’s only superpower, and that it has not turned arrogantly away from the needs of the rest of the world.. Those who think America should use more force than diplomacy fail to see that in spite of our strength we can not do it alone and that neither our country nor any other can bear the burden, both human and financial of multi wars. We could have been fighting one with Iran and China , Korea, and Pakistan and several Arab countries at once. Can anybody really have wanted that? Then this would have escalated into World War lll. Do we want to subject the world to this just because some very powerful people will profit from it?

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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