Here’s an excerpt by Andrew J. Bacevich from one of the most devastating and satisfying smackdowns I’ve ever read. The victim, left dead and bleeding from multiple wounds, is David Brooks of The New York Times.
On April 28, 2003, beating President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech by three days, Brooks declared that “the war in Iraq is over.” The political and cultural implications of victory promised to be profound. A collaboration between policy makers in Washington and troops on the battlefield had removed any last doubts as to American global dominion. Brooks sang the praises of “a ruling establishment that can conduct wars with incredible competence and skill.” The United States, he enthused, was an “incredibly effective colossus that can drop bombs onto pinpoints, [and] destroy enemies that aren’t even aware they are under attack…”
Implicitly acknowledging the distance separating young Americans who chose to serve in uniform from the young Americans choosing otherwise, Brooks made clear which group deserved his admiration. “Can anybody think of another time in history when a comparable group of young people was asked to be at once so brave, fierce and relentless, while also being so sympathetic, creative and forbearing?” Brooks couldn’t, so he bestowed on the troops the secular equivalent of collective canonization. “They are John Wayne,” he rhapsodized, “but also Jane Addams.” Soldiers were paragons of virtue, their courage and altruism standing in stark contrast to the shallow, self-absorbed liberal culture that Brooks despised. “If anybody is wondering: Where are the young idealists? Where are the people willing to devote themselves to causes larger than themselves? They are in uniform in Iraq.” The gap between the military and society, in other words, was a good thing. It provided America with a great war-winning army and Americans with desperately needed exemplars of virtue.
Soon after Brooks published this paean to the American soldier, word of depraved and despicable acts at Abu Ghraib prison began to surface. Apparently, John Wayne and Jane Addams did not exhaust the range of possible role models to whom at least some American soldiers looked for inspiration.