Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Brady Kiesling

by tristero

Heroes are always a rare thing. But one of the greatest of our time surely is John Brady Kiesling, the career diplomat in Greece who dramatically resigned in 2003 rather than continue to support the Bush/Iraq war. Here, Kiesling writes with undisguised bitterness at the financial and career rewards Tenet received for behaving like a scoundrel while, in contrast, Kiesling's job prospects were, in effect, destroyed because he was absolutely, and very publicly, right. Two excerpts from this essay by one of the most remarkable Americans of our time:
Accurate prophecy regarding Iraq does not require brilliance or deep expertise. An open-minded person who watched the interplay of nationalism and religion in the Middle East, anyone who listened sympathetically to ordinary Muslims, could have predicted the response to our amateurish attempts at preemptive democracy. And now that foreign policy pragmatism is socially acceptable again, the spies, diplomats, politicians, journalists and academics are pulling out their private correspondence to remind us that indeed they knew better. They would have given an honest opinion on Iraq back when it mattered, but their Commander in Chief failed to ask them for it.
Note that Kiesling writes "foreign policy pragmatism." Nevertheless, his excellent book, Diplomacy Lessons is subtitled "Realism for an Unloved Superpower." But it is clear that Kiesling is hardly advocating black box diplomacy of the traditional "Realist" sort, but rather diplomacy that knowledgeably grapples with issues in international relations as they come up, not within the dangerous framework of an ideological agenda.

I'll come back to the implications of that in a moment. But I wanted to share this other excerpt from Kiesling's essay with you first:
I live simply these days in central Athens. By bicycle (the silver SUV had palled, even if I could still afford it) it takes half an hour to Korydallos prison. There I study "Revolutionary Organization 17 November," a Greek terrorist group that humiliated the CIA for 27 years. This next book would be more salable if I soft-pedaled U.S. blunders, but then key lessons for America's "war on terrorism" would be lost.
I find this very moving. Rather than deliberately cashing in on the big bucks (and from what I can tell, I may be one of three people in the world who actually bought and read "Diplomacy Lessons"), Kiesling is doing scholarship - primary source scholarship - that will provide a candid, no-holds barred, look at a long, frustrating, struggle with terrorism. Talk about serving your country...

Given both his pragmatic approach to diplomacy and the overall tenor of his writing, Kiesling is the kind of person who, at one point, would probably have been labelled a conservative. Quiet, principled, uninterested in revolutionary change, loyal to his country, aware of America's foibles, but never seriously questioning its core ideas. I used to meet people like him, registered Republicans, people who I strongly disagreed with on many, many issues but whose basic decency and integrity was simply beyond question. That was a very long time ago.

I should make it clear, perhaps, that I don't find much in Kiesling to disagree with. I think his analysis of the Bush/Iraq war was, and is, spot on. I think his understanding of foreign policy commands respect due to his obvious expertise. But he is no DFH by any stretch of the imagination, as blog slang has it. Kiesling is no starry-eyed do-gooder who can't see a problem in the world that America's good intentions can't solve. He's far too cynical for that.

As for being a liberal in the sense I'm a liberal?* I suspect - I could be wrong - if ever I had the honor to spend some time speaking with Kiesling that we would quickly find fundamental disagreements in our worldview. So what? His long years of experience and his integrity mean that I would be a fool not to weigh seriously whatever he has to say. And even if he didn't persuade me to change my mind, I would benefit enormously from hearing his opinions and trying to follow his reasoning. On Kiesling's level, it would be immensely valuable to hear his thoughts regardless of whether or not I agree with him.

And that is the tragedy of the modern political discourse. There is nothing to gain from listening to any of the so-called conservative voices, be they Kristol, or Perle, or Wolfowitz, or Rumsfeld, or Cheney or O'Reilly...well, you can list them as well as I. There is no there there, intellectually or morally. There is only the will to power and the willingness to say anything, do anything, to seize power and wield it beyond oversight or question. There are no real ideas, despite their pretensions otherwise, and there are no fine minds; Wolfowitz's academic credentials merely recalls to mind one of Frank Zappa's funniest lines from Roxy & Elsewhere: "You get nothing with your college degree."

The mainstream media desperately needs more truly liberal voices both in foreign policy and for domestic issues. But this country also needs more John Brady Kieslings, for they, too, are intellectually honest and deserve a hearing.

*Of course, "liberal" is a difficult term to define. In the sense of the Enlightenment meaning, Kiesling is as liberal as any of us - as opposed to Cheney, for example, who is a monarchist to the core of his ugly little being. Here, what I mean is liberal in the sense of socially and economically liberal in the late 20th/early 21st century American understanding of the word. I suspect that I am far more "to the left" than Kiesling is, especially about economic issues, (but I"m not sure, of course, having never spoken with him).