David Brooks: On Defection

One of the most dysfunctional aspects of the current GOP is its rigid PartyThink. Some credit Ronald Reagan for the 11th commandment – thou shalt not speak ill of a GOP candidate or policy. There is a mighty uniform GOP messaging operation on all policy matters . And it is remarkable how uniformly that PartyThink=PartySpeak messaging can be heard like Bower Bird calls in the Woods. Its a point of pride and mocking fun on Jon Stewart’s the Daily Show to catch the various GOP Senators and Congressmen and Fox News talking heads chirping the exact same GOP bird call phrases in the wild.

So imagine being a GOP Intellectual  – a David Frum , Andrew Sullivan, Peggy Noonan,  David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer or George Will. Do these GOP intelligentsia have to mime the same GOP pap? Well yes and no. Since some of these gentlepersons are the source of the mind-numbing GroupThink, they gladly chirp the GroupSpeak call. But other times, they have no quarter for 1984Speak so they remain silent or only embroider tiny specialized points onto the GroupThink – ABC/TV+Washington Post commentator George Will specializes in this tiny datapoint work.

But at Times, these independent intellectuals beg to differ. Andrew Sullivan did so – and he took leave of/was drummed out of the GOP anointed. David Frum also did so and has been purged from the GOP Think Tank American Enterprise Institute. And now, with his colmun piece, the Defection Track in the NYTimes, David Brooks has just broken one of the GOP GroupThink sub-commandments, thou shalt never praise a Democratic President. Brook’s column is even more interesting because many Obama supporters are openly questioning the  wisdom of his Libyan decision given a)its quagmirish possibility of another extended Mideast conflict and b)the other Arab and African uprisings that might have equal or even greater call for US intervention.

This column does two things – first, it reveals some of the deep level thinking on the Obama Administration’s support for the Libyan rebels and the need to avert a Rwanda North slaughter of the Libyan rebels in Benghazi by Colonel Gaddafi’s jets, tanks and mercenary powered troopers. The so called 3Ds- Defeat, Departure, and Defection are revealed as base level aspirations of frankly distasteful but constrainedly pragmatic options. In short it is illuminating and newsworthy. Second, and most importantly it breaks the GOP’s relentless negative timbre regarding anya and all of President Obama’s actions and decisions.  In this analysis , David Brook’s praises the decision taking by Obama, Biden, Clinton and Gates – particularly President Obama:

Everybody has questions and anxieties about our policy in Libya. …President Obama took this decision, I’m told, fully aware that there was no political upside while there were enormous political risks. He took it fully aware that we don’t know much about Libya. He took it fully aware that if he took this action he would be partially on the hook for Libya’s future. But he took it as an American must — motivated by this country’s historical role as a champion of freedom and humanity —.

There are three plausible ways he might go, which inside the administration are sometimes known as the Three Ds. They are, in ascending order of likelihood: Defeat — the ragtag rebel army vanquishes his army on the battlefield; Departure — Qaddafi is persuaded to flee the country and move to a villa somewhere; and Defection — the people around Qaddafi decide there is no future hitching their wagon to his, and, as a result, the regime falls apart or is overthrown.

The result is a strategy you might call Squeeze and See. The multilateral forces ratchet up the pressure and watch to see what happens. The Western nations are reaching out to senior Libyan figures to encourage defection…All of this is meant to send the signal that Qaddafi has no future. Will it be enough to cause enough defections? No one knows. But given all of the uncertainties, this seems like a prudent way to test the strength of the regime and expose its weaknesses…

It is tiresome to harp on this sort of thing, but this is an intervention done in the spirit of Reinhold Niebuhr. It is motivated by a noble sentiment, to combat evil, but it is being done without self-righteousness and with a prudent awareness of the limits and the ironies of history. And it is being done at a moment in history when change in the Arab world really is possible.

Now admittedly this is foreign policy where there is a gentleman’s agreement between the political parties that partisanship leaves off at the US shoreline. But still, David Brooks has broken the GroupThink mold and the the 11th Commandment’s most important sub-commandment by openly praising a Democratic President. Now ye Editor does not want to Rush to judge, but there is likely to be elephantine consequences for such an open defiance of GOP GroupThink/GroupSpeak. Truly, it was a column On Defection.

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