Am I The Establishment?

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"Am I The Establishment?"

You would kind of think that when a major daily newspaper reviews your book, someone would let you know. But apparently not! Heads in the Sand was reviewed by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan a few days ago in The Los Angeles Times. I just wanted to take minor issue with one thing:

Yglesias occasionally assumes the bloggerish pose of an outsider screaming at the Establishment, but in its substance his preferred foreign policy is as Establishment as could be. What he offers is a livelier version of the sort of “liberal internationalist” platform that might be found in, say, a task-force report put out by a center-left think tank.

To me, though, this is the point. My ideas really are basically the ideas that were at the core of the bipartisan, establishment consensus throughout the Cold War years. And they’re ideas that could and should have been the key ideas of center-left think tanks in the post-9/11 world. But that’s not what actually happened. Instead, a set of ideas that originally existed as a fringe right-wing position wound up being espoused not only by nearly the entire Republican Party but by a huge swathe of the broader establishment. The kind of institutions that you would expect to try to put the country back on an even keel — The New York Times‘s foreign affairs columnist, The Washington Post‘s editorial page, the top foreign policy officials from the second Clinton administration, the Brookings Institution, etc. — instead hopped aboard George W. Bush’s madcap adventure.

Like everyone else, I do enjoy a bit of anti-establishment posturing now and again. But on another level, I’d really like my ideas to be espoused by the establishment. I think they’re good ideas! I’d like them to be implemented! And as Kurtz-Phelan says, I think they’ve traditionally been espoused by the establishment. And America traditionally hasn’t engaged in Iraq-scale blunders. But in the wake of 9/11 we saw a massive, system-wide failure of our elites that the country is only beginning to recover from, and that seems — despite its incredibly disastrous consequences — to have permanently pushed certain key institutions into loony land where the height of “seriousness” is to think politicians should muse aloud about launching an unprovoked attack on Iran.

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