Thoughts from a Wise Diplomat

by | Oct 29, 2016

You can call me cynical if you wish — it is a cynicism born of our long, shared experience with the state — but I’m always surprised to find a public official with an abundance of wisdom.

Here is one:  Charles Freeman, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.  In the introduction to an interview of Freeman in The Nation, we learn that he is the man Andrew Bacevich believes should be Secretary of State.  In fact the title of the piece is Meet the Man Who Should Be the Next Secretary of State.”

The entire piece is worth reading, but let me share a couple of snippets:


Our bombing campaign unwittingly validates the Islamist narrative of Western antipathy to assertive Islam and indifference to Muslim suffering and death. As we have seen, it invites reprisal by bombing our homeland and the homelands of others conducting it. So it feeds terrorism and recruits young men and women to the ranks of those seeking revenge against the United States. Military action, including bombing, may succeed in denying territory to Islamists. But, the issue for the security of the United States is not the Islamists’ control of territory but attacks on the countries they see as victimizing them by their followers abroad, including our own….


Part of my pessimism derives from the excessive militarization of US foreign policy. Other elements of it derive from my sense that the political elite in this country has come up with a formula to enrich itself at the expense of everyone else.

We have a system which worked very well for a couple of centuries that has been subverted and gone off the rails. This is post–constitutional America. The separation of powers does not work; it is abused by both the legislature and the executive, and I would say the judiciary as well. Accountability is at a minimum in any one of these spheres. Our politics is more venal than ever.


I think the permanent government, the bureaucracy, by and large, on many of the issues that have arisen, has been on the right side rather than the wrong side. There was no enthusiasm among the US military for the invasion of Iraq. Quite the contrary. There was great skepticism in the intelligence community about the justification for that. In fact, the vice president and the deputy secretary of defense, Mr. Wolfowitz, set up an elaborate structure of alternative, politicized intelligence fabrication to justify it. So whatever the problem is, it’s not, so far as I can see, professional civil servants, whether they’re professional military, professional foreign service, professional intelligence officers, and so on.


Mrs. Clinton proposes to pursue a somewhat more militaristic version of the policies that have brought us where we are in the world. She would issue an even larger blank check to Israel, step up the effort to overthrow the Assad government, treat Russia as a military problem rather than a factor in the European balance to be managed, and try to keep China down in East Asia and internationally. …

But there is no evidence that she regards diplomacy as anything other than a supplement to the threat or use of force against foreign nations that do not subscribe to the American agenda. …

The thing about Clinton is that she does have a very extensive record on foreign policy which includes a long list of misjudgments that encourages very little confidence in her ability to judge correctly what is and is not feasible, or to ask the key question in foreign policy, which is always, “And then what?”

Freeman makes trenchant observations about Erdogan and Turkey in the discussion as well.

This is the first part of a fine interview by Patrick Lawrence.  I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Charles Goyette

Charles Goyette

Charles Goyette is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Dollar Meltdown and Red and Blue and Broke All Over: Restoring America's Free Economy. He is finishing work on a new book about the media’s complicity in the war lies of the American Empire.

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