“After a bad year, America would err in giving up” by David Ignatius

"… let’s be frank as the New Year begins: This sort of relentless pessimism is destructive and, what’s more important, it’s inaccurate. We in the media pride ourselves on purveying bad news, so it’s easy for our readers to overlook the abiding reality that America is generally at peace and, relative to most of the world, wildly prosperous. In our national funk, we paint the present in darker colors than warranted and the past in brighter hues. One way to position the country more accurately is to look back at the time of triumph in World War II, when our modern myths were created, and unpack what really happened. That’s possible thanks to an extraordinary work of history completed this year by my colleague Rick Atkinson. His “Liberation Trilogy” revises many of the things you thought you knew about the war in Europe – and teaches the greatest lesson of all for the present, which is the need for patience and perseverance against obstacles."  Daily Star


Well, well.  David Ignatius does not seem to grasp the difference between optimism and damned fool delusion.  Paul Bremer was on BBC News America tonight, still filled with self importance and unwilling to take responsibility for the disastrous mess that he made in Iraq.  He blames it on Iraqi politicians.  That is a bit like blaming a lion for his behavior as he chews your leg off. 

Ignatius calls on us all to remember the spirit of "the greatest generation."  What?  Japan attacked the US in Hawaii and the Phillipines.  Germany and Italy then declared war on the United States in support of their alliances with Japan. How is that time anything like the gauntlet of self imposed misadventure that the US has endured since 2001? 

 Ignatius does not see that our malaise is the result of ten years of hubris and false optimism, hubris that that was based on all that "city on the hill" nonsense about how exceptional we are.

I fought a lot in obedience to my oath and I deeply resent this kind of crap.  Where would he have us set out next to inflict our ideas in obedience to our optimism?  Perhaps the duration of the next war can be calculated in "Ignatius units" rather than "Freedman units."  pl  


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24 Responses to “After a bad year, America would err in giving up” by David Ignatius

  1. steve g says:

    Could it be said he is another
    “Chicken hawk”? His father,Paul, was
    Sec of the Navy 67 to 69. In Dec.69
    a new guy came to our unit in RVN.
    He had been in Okinawa and said he
    was refused orders to RVN even though
    he volunteered. Turns our his father
    was Paul Ig roomate at Harvard and had
    made the call to keep him stateside.
    Number one son went to school until
    73. Probably a high draft number.
    Another gungo ho warmonger?

  2. Alba Etie says:

    I met and became friends with an former Iraqi Army officer when we drove taxis together in Austin many years ago . He could not believe that the USG would completely disband the Iraqi Army . The last we heard from him – he and his family were going back to Basra. Wish him well .

  3. IMO PL David is part of the coverup “Happy Face” of the MSM! You hit the nail on the head with this post!

  4. Will says:

    “so it’s easy for our readers to overlook the abiding reality that America is generally at peace (?)”
    tell that to the troops and their families. or for that matter, the border patrol.

  5. oofda says:

    Was Bremer wearing his combat boots? Ignatius was one of those who fed the hubris of the last ten years. No wonder that he can’t see that our malaise is the result of a decade of hubris and false optimism- not to mention terrible decisions. Am getting tired of him being accorded the place that the American public seems to give him.

  6. hans says:

    The stupid never stops with guys like Bremer and Ignatius and their ilk, so righteous in their incompetence, wrong about everything for more than a decade. Yet the media powers that be, hornswoggled perpetually, allow these cretins perpetual megaphones with which they continue to poison the public discourse. The monkeys are our ringmasters; one wonders how it’ll all turn out.

  7. ISL says:

    here is my take:
    Ignatius is the double down again gambler in the casino who has not been cut off (yet!), and is commenting how nice life is with all the free drinks coming. In this I think he reflects the worst of DC bubble thinking.
    I think there is a general (convenient) feeling for those in his position that evolution is gradual not punctuated, which lulls a false complacency. The US would not be the first empire that radically over-extended, and then suddenly and amazingly rapidly collapsed because the engine of strength at home had been neglected too long.
    To be more specific, if the US lost its global reserve status, then we no longer could fund the adventurism Ignatius desires so much (for others). The US has for over a decade the worst currents account balance of payment of any major nation in the last 100 years (close to Italy pre-Mussolini) and while the US adventured in Iraq and Afghanistan, over the last decade China transformed from a small fraction of the US to near economic parity.
    My prediction is should the US invade a new non-vital US interest – e.g., Syria or elsewhere our tail wagging dog desires), in another five years China will double our economy, and given our current account deficit, the yuan or an Asian basket will become the intnl currency.
    Then, absent our special currency status, either taxes on the wealthy (ha ha ha) will skyrocket (the rest of the country has zero savings to impound), interest rates will skyrocket for a few years as we imitate Argentina, or we will default (and experience a collapse I wish not to happen, will). Can anyone imagine a reasoned reduction in supporting crony capitalism, I mean spending?
    For background, the Fed still is pumping at a rate of a trillion a year into a wall street bail out. So what is the American way to be? Gifts to the masters of the universe, or rebuild our decaying bridges and roads? Both the current democratic and previous republican administrations have answered that.
    On the other hand, I agree that perseverence is needed, just against his ilk.

  8. jon says:

    More fatuous logical positivism. Assuming that all of our obstacles are simply a lack of will to succeed is unhelpful in the extreme. I had no idea that the glass is really half full.
    Bush squandered the moment after 9-11, where the US had the greatest worldwide outpouring of support, affection and allegiance since WWII, including much of the Muslim world. Then he squandered trillions of two unnecessary wars and gratuitous tax cuts, when we needed investment in industries and intellect. Now we’re reaping the whirlwind from those poor decisions and governing malfeasance. This limits and conditions our current and future options. It does not mean that we have no options and no future.
    The US can repair its position in the Middle East and elsewhere, but it will require substantial effort and time. The more that local populations see what we do as detrimental to their own interests and desires, the harder this will be. Go figure.
    Anyhow, let’s focus on the upside: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlBiLNN1NhQ

  9. You, and also we, are ruled by the examination-passing classes — David Ignatius being a case in point.
    Commonly, their background and education means that they start out with a very limited experience of their own societies, let alone of others. Meanwhile, their education does not nurture the imagination which makes it possible, to some extent, to understand things of which one has no experience.
    Still less does their background and education equip them with the humility which makes it possible, in areas where one lacks relevant experience and knowledge, to search out the people who possess it.

  10. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    “the examination-passing classes” Yes, curse them. pl

  11. Babak Makkinejad says:

    And we will be seeing more of them as other states in a multipolar world start to play more prominent roles – their foreign experts being similar “examination-passing” donkeys.
    They would be equally insufferable.

  12. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk and Babak
    Yes. Yes. The drive for certification among such people is depressing. I participate in dispensing welfare for academics and am very familiar with the type as well as the pomposity that goes with it. pl

  13. Patrick D says:

    Well put.
    I was struggling with the words to express this idea last week. Yours nail it.

  14. oofda says:

    Amen- have seen too many people who might have knowledge and even a bit of experience in one area who assume that they can be experts in other areas. They “know everything” and cannot be told anything. But of course, they passed all their exams with high scores.
    And as smart as they might be, they cannot comprehend foreign societies and cultures- which leads to wrong assumptions and decisions.

  15. jerseycityjoan says:

    Here’s an example of realism:
    I see that Harry Reid is calling for making federal unemployment benefits easier to get by lowering the minimum unemployment rate a state must have to qualify for the various tiers of federal unemployment.
    [According to the New York State Dept of Labor, it looks like those minimum rates at the present time are 6% for Tier 2, 7% for Tier 3 and 9% for Tier 4.]
    Now I actually agree with this idea, given current low job creation and the difficulty people are having finding a job. I assume he thinks things aren’t going to get any better on the job front and that people should not suffer unnecessarily. I would agree with both those assumptions.
    But look: Why aren’t things getting any better? What have the Democrats done?
    The only major thing they are pursuing on the jobs front is increase future legal immigration. Their immigration bill “reforms” legal immigration by increasing green cards and temporary work visas from about 1.7 million to over 3 million per year, at the same time they are seeking to legalize the illegal immigrants we already have. And of course, those newly legalized illegal immigrants have tens of millions of immediately family members that we can expect will end up here too.
    So Reid wants us to give people additional months of unemployment wihle doing all he can to make finding a job much harder for American citizens.
    That is how screwed up things are. And I say that as a Democrat myself.
    How can there be any realistic optimism when the future for so many Americans looks worse than the present?

  16. Walrus says:

    Ignatius is channelling Bertran de Born whom Dante placed in the Eigth circle of hell, carrying his severed head as a lantern (Canto XXVIII). Would that Ignatius endure a similar fate
    “…We shall see battle axes and swords, a-battering colored haumes and a-hacking through shields at entering melee; and many vassals smiting together, whence there run free the horses of the dead and wrecked. And when each man of prowess shall be come into the fray he thinks no more of (merely) breaking heads and arms, for a dead man is worth more than one taken alive.
    I tell you that I find no such savor in eating butter and sleeping, as when I hear cried “On them!” and from both sides hear horses neighing through their head-guards, and hear shouted “To aid! To aid!” and see the dead with lance truncheons, the pennants still on them, piercing their sides.
    Barons! put in pawn castles, and towns, and cities before anyone makes war on us.
    Papiol, be glad to go speedily to “Yea and Nay”, and tell him there’s too much peace about.

  17. jerseycityjoan says:

    Mr. Ignatius should know more than most that the leadership class across the board — in every area of American life except for the military, oddly enough — is no longer pulling for America and Americans outside their own group. They are pulling for themselves and for the causes they espouse, which are often not good for the rest of America.
    The narrative he relates about WWII does not apply. What his colleague history describes is a series of bumbling efforts to reach the right goal. He says his colleague Atkinson’s histories show WWII “was a chain of often disastrous mistakes redeemed by the fact that America and its allies just kept going, literally climbing over the bodies of the dead.” Right now in America, the big goals of the leadership class do not match what the people want and need.
    Recent American history is more a tale of the fallen bodies of our fellow Ameicans, stricken by unemployment, low wages and the indifference of the people who are supposed to lead them, being stepped over by the global elite, including our own elite.
    If he thinks he can silence my fears and bitterness with such tales, he is sadly mistaken.
    I took what he said to apply to our general pessimism, not just about military affairs. If he really did mean that we should be more gung-ho in the face of recent disasters and our shrinking resources, then he’s wrong about that much more than I thought.
    There does appear to be a certain group who wants to keep up the momentum of constant major foreign operations. I am not sure what words of comfort I can offer you on that score. What is true is that as the years go on, I do believe it will become apparent to even the unbelievers that we just can’t afford the kinds of things they want us to do.

  18. Ishmael Zecharia says:

    Colonel Lang, David Habakkuk,
    “the examination-passing classes” do not really pass examinations: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/12/03/harvard-professor-raises-concerns-about-grade-inflation/McZHfRZ2RxpoP5Xvwged1N/story.html . They just pretend to.
    Babak Makkinejad: Donkeys(Equus africanus asinus) are perfectly useful creatures which actually earn their living. Please do not insult them.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  19. Will says:

    Dave Ig is the spokesperson for the CIA and some military brass. He has a channel to them. Useful to know what they’re up to through him.

  20. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    FWIW, I found this post such a breath of fresh air that I came back a day or two later to re-read it.
    I’m inclined to the view, however, that Mr. Ignatius has spent too little time in humble places. No one who has really been out in the world for the past ten or 15 years would fall victim to the kind of hubris and false optimism that Ignatius exhibits. (Which may be why Pope Francis appears to have significantly more credibility than Mr. Ignatius, but I digress…)

  21. Ryan says:

    “the greatest generation.”
    Over the years this expression has come to irritate me, mainly because too many of those who use it are up to no good and probably couldn’t care less about the WWII generation. I refer to the neocons and their fellow travelers the neoliberals or “hard Wilsonians”.
    For me the real “greatest generation” were those who fought in the Revolutionary War. The America then was a far cry from the most industrialized nation in the world of 1941.

  22. jerseycityjoan says:

    I wonder if Ignatius ever wonders if we could what’s necessary today to rewin WWII? Do any of our leaders ever watch Band of Brothers and think about how many things have changed for the worse since that time, even though many others have changed for the better?
    I sure do.
    And when I think about this, I mostly think about the effort at home: the industrial production of war supplies for ourselves and our allies, the preparation of troops, etc.
    Those are the easiest aspects of this question to think about.
    How would we handle the sadness of millions of deaths? How would government make the necessary decisions? The deeper and subtler aspects of this question are too hard for me to think about for very long, much less answer.
    The real pessimism comes when you ask yourself, how would Americans in 2050 or 2100 handle a great national emergency? What resources will they have, what leaders will be there to take on a fight against a major threat of any kind and return the nation to safety?

  23. sam burke says:

    and to say nothing about the loss of real human lives on both sides, ours and theirs, of this neoconservative pipe dream that has been imposed on our Nation.

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