So we tried that thing called regime change in Iraq, and failed miserably. We tried it in Libya, and now there are now active slave markets in the place. But we satisfied the objective of “removing a dictator”. By the exact same reasoning, a doctor would inject a patient with “moderate” cancer cells “to improve his cholesterol numbers”, and claim victory after the patient is dead, particularly if the post-mortem shows remarkable cholesterol readings. But we know that doctors don’t do that, or, don’t do it in such a crude format, and that there is a clear reason for it. Doctors usually have some skin in the game.
And when a blow up happens, they invoke uncertainty, something called a Black Swan, after some book by a (very) stubborn fellow, not realizing that one should not mess with a system if the results are fraught with uncertainty, or, more generally, avoid engaging in an action if you have no idea of the outcomes. Imagine people with similar mental handicaps, who don’t understand asymmetry, piloting planes. Incompetent pilots, those who cannot learn from experience, or don’t mind taking risks they don’t understand, may kill many, but they will themselves end up at the bottom of, say, the Atlantic, and cease to represent a threat to others and mankind.
So we end up populating what we call the intelligentsia with people who are delusional, literally mentally deranged, simply because they never have to pay for the consequences of their actions, repeating modernist slogans stripped of all depth. In general, when you hear someone invoking abstract modernistic notions, you can assume that they got some education (but not enough, or in the wrong discipline) and too little accountability.
From Nassim Taleb’s recent post: On Interventionistas and their Mental Defects
I spent the last 50 minutes listening to an interview of neocon Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz, a truly unfortunate experience which felt like a tomahawk missile attack against my cerebrum. Regrettably, we still live in a world where you have to listen to the musings of such war criminals, as they continue to have considerable influence in certain circles of American power, and quite possibly within the Trump administration itself.
There were four main takeaways from the man’s monstrous, deluded ramblings. First, he hates being called a neocon, so make sure you continue to do so — publicly and with as much vigor as possible. Second, he’s learned absolutely zero lessons from the spectacular, historic failures that resulted from his neocon policies. This makes perfect sense, because as Taleb so eloquently noted on his piece referenced at the top, mentally deranged people in leadership positions who blow up the world suffer no consequences for their actions. Indeed, they are often rewarded handsomely for their failures (a similar thing happens in corporate America, see Wall Street). When failure is rewarded, you get a lot more of it, which pretty much summarizes the U.S. experience in the 21st century. Third, he didn’t vote for Hillary or Trump in the 2016 election. He considered voting for Hillary, but what gave him pause was the fact she wasn’t hawkish enough on Russia.
Given the above, you’d think such a man would have little to no influence within the Trump administration. Unfortunately, this is not the case, which brings us to the final takeaway. Not only has Wolfowitz become more optimistic about Trump (we all know how much bombing and destruction turns him on), but he may have his neocon tentacles deep within the Trump camp via his relationship with both General McMaster and General Mattis.
Here are a few highlights from the interview via Politico (click the link to hear the whole thing):
Iraq might descend into “chaotic violence” - or worse. The broader Middle East could “go to hell” all over again.
If the United States doesn’t step up under President Donald Trump, Paul Wolfowitz warns in a new interview for The Global POLITICO, our weekly podcast on world affairs in the Trump era, it would represent an “opportunity” blown, a missed chance that would result in “lost American influence” and a win for “hostile actors.”
Oh so things are going swimmingly in the Middle East. Who knew.
Yet Wolfowitz has not entirely given up on the idea that the United States is essential to stability in a region that has seen very little of it. Without American involvement, for instance, he fears Iraq could splinter apart entirely. “The alternative is to let a very important, critical part of the world go to hell literally and lose American influence,” he says. “We may not like to talk about oil, but this is the engine of the world economy and if it’s dominated by the wrong people, the consequences here in the United States are very serious.”
The guy has some nerve, but at least he doesn’t pretend U.S. interventions are driven by “human rights” concerns.
To liberals and other critics, Wolfowitz would be the last person they want Trump to listen to. Long a lightning rod because of the havoc unleashed by the Iraq invasion, Wolfowitz has never apologized for advocating the war, although he has said—and repeated in our conversation—that it was not carried out as he would have wanted it to be. In recent days he‘s jumped right back into the public debate, nudging President Trump from the pages of the Wall Street Journal to follow up his bombing strike in neighboring Syria with more aggressive action—and, he tells me, privately emailing with Trump Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security advisor H.R. McMaster, both longtime contacts since his Bush days, in hopes they will pursue a U.S. strategy of stepped-up engagement in the Middle East.
There’s that relationship I alluded to earlier, but there’s more. Specifically, Mattis was Wolfowitz’s senior military assistant when he first came to the Pentagon in 2001.
Like many other hawkish Republicans—“do me a favor,” he says, and don’t call him a “neocon,” which he believes is a charged word wielded by critics—Wolfowitz adamantly opposed candidate Trump in 2016, put off by his “America First” rhetoric, his rejection of the Iraq war as a disastrous mistake and his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and other autocratic leaders.
Indeed, Wolfowitz tells me that he did not vote for Trump because he feared he would be “Obama on steroids” given Trump’s campaign-trail reluctance to project American power and leadership in the Middle East and elsewhere—and that he decided not to vote for Hillary Clinton either because he was not sure she would pursue tougher policies and thought she had joined Obama in misjudging Putin with their failed Russia “reset” policy.
When I ask about Trump, Wolfowitz waxes surprisingly optimistic about his chances in a region that has humbled many an American president before him. “Look, he’s said a lot of things. He’s changed a lot of things,” he says. “I don’t think anyone would deny that he’s opportunistic, and I don’t think anyone would deny that he would like to be ‘the greatest president in modern times’ or ‘huge’ or you pick your adjective. And I think to achieve a Dayton-like peace settlement in Syria would not only be something that would be widely acclaimed, it would be hugely in the interest of the United States.”
It’s a reminder of what a head-spinning few weeks it’s been for anyone paying attention to American foreign policy, with Wolfowitz and others who openly proclaimed Trump unfit for the presidency now contemplating the opportunity his presidency presents to advance their policy agenda, and even those who were Trump’s harshest critics within the Republican Party only a few weeks ago now praising him.
“I am like the happiest dude in America right now,” Senator Lindsey Graham said the other day, citing Trump’s Syria strike as well as his tough rhetoric against Iran and nuclear-armed North Korea; this winter, Graham and his close ally Senator John McCain were issuing near-daily warnings about Trump’s foreign policy. Now, he says, “we have got a president and a national security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years.”
Now 73, good-humored and gray, Wolfowitz has returned to the conservative American Enterprise Institute as a scholar since his time in Bush’s Pentagon and a short, rocky tenure as president of the World Bank. When we meet in a studio at AEI’s grandly renovated new headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue, he picks up on the phrase making the rounds in Washington that Trump’s critics take him literally but not seriously, whereas his supporters take him seriously but not literally.
Comforting to see that a notorious war criminal is not only “good humored,” but also a “scholar” at an American think tank after destroying Iraq and creating ISIS.
But hey, that’s how the American Empire rolls.