Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who needs bipartisanship when we've got pervasive groupthink?

Les Gelb has a not-very-interesting article in the newest issue of The National Interest entitled "We Bow to the God Bipartisanship." In it, he derides what he views as the tendency to overrate the value of bipartisan support to presidents' ability to carry out their foreign policy preferences. "[B]ipartisan backing at home has too often been purchased at the price of good policy abroad," Gelb tells us.

This is a curious assertion, especially since Gelb spends much of the next 3,000 words supplying historical evidence for precisely the opposite point of view: presidents have in large part ignored domestic criticism and succeeded in enacting policies that ranged from the grievously wounding to the mildly successful.

The only real support Gelb provides for his thesis statement comes in the form of fact-free assertion about the Obama administration's purportedly craven pursuit of popular policies "where it has little faith its efforts will succeed," as in the case of Iran, North Korea, Middle East peace, and Afghanistan. To which I can only muster a disinterested and disbelieving "meh."

All of this is more than a little galling coming from the man who perhaps more than any other represents the embodiment of the American foreign policy commentariat's uncritical pro-executive consensus -- and this at his own word. On the subject of the Iraq war, here's Gelb's unashamed explanation:
My initial support for the war was symptomatic of unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility.
Incentives, eh? Perhaps all this "bowing to the god bipartisanship" is more of a distasteful personal habit, one that's left our man with a bit of a guilty conscience.

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