Yes, Virginia, Obama Foreign Policy Is Ignorant and Stupid Rather Than a Conspiracy
BLOOM (screaming): “Have you lost your mind? What are you talking about? Kill the actors. You can't kill the actors -- they're not animals, they're human beings!”
BIALYSTOCK: “They are? Have you ever eaten with one?”
-- The Producers
The most common question — or remark — that I get from readers is to say that I’m wrong to talk about how Western policymakers (and especially the Obama administration) are ignorant, ideologically deluded, and unable to learn from experience. They claim that these problems arise from a deliberate malevolent effort to destroy America.
It tells something about how bad a lot of the administration's policies are that such a conclusion is possible. Nevertheless, it's not correct.
With academia, mass media, most of the publishing industry, and Hollywood on their side, how would these policymakers know any better? Their professors told them they were brilliant; the books they read all tell them they're right. Nobody corrects or criticizes them except those who they can rationalize are opponents -- and evil people, too! -- and thus these are partisan carpings to be disregarded.
If the critics can be described as conservatives, their views are discounted. If you are proven to be correct, that seems to have no effect on the powerful institutions and elite opinions.
In fact, the very fact of being a critic is used to disqualify criticism. When I wrote a detailed critique of Obama's policies in a prestigious policy journal, the prestigious authors responded that what I said should be discounted -- and my specific arguments need not be persuasively countered -- because...I was critical of Obama's policies!
I cannot imagine any other time in modern Western intellectual history when this kind of thing has happened.
So the usual corrective institutions aren’t functioning. If no one tells the emperor and his courtiers that they are under-dressed, such people are going to keep peeling off clothes confident of the fact that nobody (or at least anyone who counts) will tell them that they are naked. With so much insulation, they don't feel the chill.
Those certain that Obama and his government — and I only speak of foreign policy here — must be acting deliberately out of malice generally have one thing in common: they have never actually dealt with high-level politicians and decisionmakers.
Believe me, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity, a smug arrogance that closes one off to learning from advice or experience, and ideological blinders are not so unique in those circles. I've seen this pattern over and over again, both as a historian and from direct observation.
And those readers who have had such first-hand experience are no doubt nodding their heads at this point and thinking of their funniest anecdotes that demonstrate this point.
What's unique is the almost totality with which various enablers keep up this pretense, making the situation far more extreme than usual. Presidents like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush no doubt believed in their positions. But having to confront daily a firestorm of ridicule and criticism forced them to question themselves constantly, to make adjustments, and even to change policies that clearly were either not working or were too unpopular.
That's the way the system is supposed to function.
What is different now are the following points: