Marquel, TPVs New York Times Special Idiots and Neocons Section correspondent was stubbornly refusing to wipe something flabby which belonged to his boss, when he read Events in Iraq Open Door for Interventionist Revival, Historian Says Robert Kagan has called for the president to resist a popular pull toward making the United States a nation without larger responsibilities.
Marquel knows this guy Kagan, his father, his brother, and his wife. Together they could start a war in a seminary or even a convent. Together they are called “the first family of neoconservativism.” The father started it all under Reagan, whose disastrous effects on American history are still being discovered and felt worldwide. But Reagan had Alzheimer’s throughout his presidency so the Kagans might be a more fruitful target.
Kagan (Robert) just wrote an article called, “Superpowers Don’t Get To Retire.” Marquel wondered who said. Besides Kagan. It was stated as if it were a natural law and that America has no free will. But neocons do this a lot, because they adore starting wars and nothing starts a war like certainty. Marquel was also struck by the aphoristic nature of the title. In Marquel’s experience that’s always a sign of idiocy although the Times celebrated Kagan’s intellect and noted, to Marquel’s chagrin, that he is a frequent visitor and adviser to the Obama White House. No wonder we’re in deep shit, thought Marquel.
And if things go the way some starry-eyed liberals wish, things will only get worse. I’m talking about the Hillary posse. This Kagan guy served as Hillary’s right hand, no pun intended, man on foreign policy as a member of her foreign policy inner circle. Who was her spokesperson when Hillary was Secretary of State? Kagan’s wife! That wife was earlier Dick Cheney’s right hand person! It goes on and on until it strains either your credibility or your faith in America and the Democratic Party. The wife, incidentally, recently said that the EU “should fuck itself.” They’re a pretty articulate, tactful, genteel, and decorous family. Well-bred (the father recently said that Obama was capable of “extraordinary ignorance,” not that he was wrong but it’s like the pot calling the kettle black).
So Marquel made a date with Robert Kagan for a tete-a-tete. We met in a Starbucks. He had a caramel macchiato. I had a doppio, with a drop of foam.
I decided to be direct, since the Times said he was basically a teddy bear in conversation. “How come you are such a warmonger?”
“I’m not a warmonger, but every one knows a barking dog never bites. You know actions speak louder than words. It’s better to be safe than sorry. In the end, chickens come home to roost. I firmly believe you shouldn’t change horses in midstream. We should never have left Iraq.”
“Even if we never should have been there in the first place?” I asked.
“He who hesitates is lost, so if at first you don’t succeed, try try again, don’t just bail. Because it’s not over till it’s over, “he said. He went on, “And we should have decided long ago to fish or cut bait. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Only the rats desert the sinking ship. And Rome wasn’t built in a day. It wasn’t as bad as we thought when we withdrew totally. But every cloud has a silver lining, because the hotter the battle, the sweeter the victory, and there’s no defense like a good offense. Do you understand?”
“I’m really not too sure. What was your last article called?” I asked.
“Oh, superpowers don’t get to retire.” he said proudly. And, of course, he went on. “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It’s always been true that uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, but when you’re wearing it, you should act like it. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, as they say. We’re a superpower, we must act like one. Remember, winners never quit and quitters never win. You understand that don’t you?”
“Was all that in your article?” I asked.
“No, just the first part,” he said.
“I’ve noticed,” I said, “that your family basically got its start in the Reagan administration, went on to serve the Bushes, and continued to foment warmongering with Obama in the Middle East in Iraq and the environs. You’re just unwashed neocons.”
“Sssshhhh” he said. “We don’t use that term any more. We are enlightened progressives. If we’re going to serve Hillary and finally get this country into the fight again, we have to avoid words like neocon that just polarize people. We want everyone to think that everyone wants a war. Words don’t really matter because, as they say, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. So enlightened progressives, not…that other word.”
“If you wish,” I said. “I’ve noticed you speak in cliches. Have you always done that?”
“Short phrases tend to be more convincing to ordinary people. Brevity is the soul of wit,” he said. “So I use cliches, and because I believe you shouldn’t shoot the messenger, I don’t think people will blame me for what I say. I think I’ve used cliches since I stopped reading. That was about thirty five years ago.”
“Stopped reading?” I asked.
“Yes. I found everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it, so I decided on a life of action, not passive reading.”
“But you end up living a life of other people’s sayings. Nothing original can creep in. Don’t you feel like…your own puppet?”
“Hmmm,” he said. “I never thought about it in that way. That’s a nice turn of phrase. I think I’ll use it.”
“Well, enough of that,” I said. “don’t you see that the Middle East is living in the Fifteenth Century and that no matter what we do, we have nothing to offer in the way of a solution? If we come to the aid of the Shiites right now, we’ll have to come to the aid of the Sunnis next month, and the Kurds the month after. I certainly don’t like to be an isolationist, but don’t you understand that some things are both beyond our control and not susceptible to solutions imposed by force?”
“But a job worth doing is worth doing well and a rising tide lifts all boats. We were there, we should have stayed, and eventually everyone would have been better off. You know all things come to he who waits and we weren’t willing to wait. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, so we shouldn’t have lost faith because April showers bring May flowers. You’ll see that all’s well that ends well.”
“But why, then, are we always allied with dictators that sooner or later lose control and then it leads to civil war? Isn’t your military solution doomed because this is a cultural, not a military struggle?”
“No,” he said, “ you’re very naive. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. And further…”
“There,” I said, “there you go with your cliches again. How do you know that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t? You admit in your stupid cliché that you don’t know him. If you don’t know him, how can you say he’s better or worse than anybody? Maybe the one you don’t know is better because he’s different than you and believes in peace. That’s a stupid untested theory supported only by wittiness, not wisdom.”
“I have to remind you that you’re known by the company you keep. Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and now Obama have given me their ears.”
“But why? You, your brother, your wife, and your father all foment war, yet none of you have ever been in one. And your wife, I believe was Cheney’s right hand person who, as a draft-dodger, also had never been in a war but made up the most brainless cliché in world history, you fight a war with the army you have, not with the army you want.”
“I told him that!” said Kagan.
“Figures,” I said.
“Well don’t be so hangdog about it,” he said. “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. Nothing breeds success like success. Cast your bread upon the water…”
“Stop! Stop!” I shouted. It was clear no communication was going on here. The Times may think these people are smart, but they were idiots to me, especially this one. If you speak in cliches, you must think in cliches, and if you think in cliches, you have no room for self-examination, self-criticism, or thought itself. And this is what has been leading our country for three decades, and appears destined to do the same for the next four to eight at least? Do we have no thinkers? All I could think of was an apple a day. Not because I was sick, but because I’m not a person of cliches and that’s the only cliché that comes to mind when you’re not used to using them. Why don’t people see through these charlatans?
I have a theory. It’s just a theory. But people don’t see through all the ersatz wisdom because a Kagan likes to use cliches, and lazy people like to follow them. If Obama or Clinton is a bit lazy, and I’m being kind, it’s much easier to adopt a witty phrase than indulge in the sweaty task of disciplined critical thinking. These people were all made for each other. They just weren’t made for us, and we haven’t caught on yet. A word to the wise, as I say. Hey, that’s my second cliché.