I wanted to get the lowdown, so I went over to the Council on Foreign Depredations. The horse’s mouth was as smart as I expected. But to my pleasant surprise, he was eminently sane, which seemed more important.
When Tom Brokaw asked him “how well the country is being served” by the current political debate about jihadism and the Middle East, he replied: “I think middle-school kids would be embarrassed by the level of dialogue going on in the national campaign …” That got a well-deserved laugh. He meant the Republican primary campaign.
“I think these guys — men and women — don’t know what they’re talking about,” he added. “‘They’ll make the sand glow’ … ‘Carpet bombing’ … ‘Bombing the shit out of them.’ … One of them, I think the leading candidate, said [that]. This is not a particularly sophisticated level of analysis.”
The thing that I find disappointing — and I realize politicians have to put spin on things and so on — but they do a disservice in not being honest with the American people. … Now the worrying thing is they actually believe what they’re saying. And if that’s the case, we really are in trouble. So we’re in the situation where the optimistic interpretation is they’re just being cynical and opportunistic.
He also said, “By the same token, I think the president has all along underestimated ISIS, has underestimated the degree of fear that they have been able to provoke among a lot of Americans.” I don’t think he was trying to balance his comments, though it might have seemed so. I think he thoroughly believes that.
You might find it worth tuning in — not necessarily for the argument, which gets pretty technical at times, but for the tenor of the chat. At one point, speaking of Putin, he said that unlike Bush, who claimed he looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul, “I looked into his eyes and saw a stone-cold killer.” Which is what he said he told Bush. Naturally “that could just be a CIA / KGB thing,” he remarked. The horse’s mouth is not without a sense of humor.