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Dec. 23 2009 - 2:00 pm | 2,080 views | 11 recommendations | 99 comments

Onward Christian Warriors!

But after Vietnam, most liberals moved on. It became unfashionable to talk about evil. Some liberals came to believe in the inherent goodness of man and the limitless possibilities of negotiation. Some blamed conflicts on weapons systems and pursued arms control. Some based their foreign-policy thinking on being against whatever George W. Bush was for. If Bush was an idealistic nation-builder, they became Nixonian realists.

via Op-Ed Columnist – Obama’s Christian Realism – NYTimes.com.

I’m always afraid to write about David Brooks, because I worry that my attitude toward this guy is colored by certain strong feelings I have about his appearance — he just looks like a professional groveler/ass-kisser, and every time I see him in public I have to fight off visions of him home at night in his Versace jammies, feverishly jacking off with one hand while caressing in the other an official invitation to, say, a White House event, or a Harvard Club luncheon.

Brooks is the kind of character who has thrived everywhere he’s lived throughout human history; it’s incredibly easy to imagine the nebbishy, hairy-kneed Gaius Domitus Brooksius strolling through Rome and swelling with pride over his new appointment to the post of Senior Licker of the Caligulan butt crack.

A week ago or so a friend pointed out Brooks’s recent toadyist masterpiece, Obama’s Christian Realism, but I didn’t read it until today, not wanting to get upset over the weekend. It’s a pretty awesome piece of apologia, one whose seeming purpose is to hang a cloak of nobility on Obama’s escalation of the Afghan war. The Cliff’s Notes version of the Brooks argument would go something like this:

1. A hundred years ago, then-Princeton University president John Hibben used to admonish his graduates: there is good and evil inside all of us.

2. Evil is foreign despotism, the regimes of Stalin and Hitler being good examples. Goodness is Americans committing troops to replace those governments with democracy.

3. After Vietnam, that kind of armed goodness became “unfashionable,” as lily-livered domestic peaceniks regrettably lost sight of just how good we are and how evil the evil out there is.

4. Barack Obama is dispensing with the secularist discomfort with military commitment by committing more troops to Afghanistan, thereby restoring our faith in America’s essentially Christian mission to spread goodness through force.

Lest anyone think that I’m over-interpreting Brooks’s words, here’s the money passage in his argument:

[Obama's] speeches at West Point and Oslo this year are pitch-perfect explications of the liberal internationalist approach. Other Democrats talk tough in a secular way, but Obama’s speeches were thoroughly theological. He talked about the “core struggle of human nature” between love and evil.

My first thought upon reading this was, “Wasn’t it just yesterday that Brooks was putting the same theological tongue up George Bush’s ass?” In fact it wasn’t yesterday but two years ago, but the basic answer is yes: Brooks gushingly painted Bush with the same “Christian warrior” brush in his interview with the lame-duck president back in July of 2007:

Rather, [Bush's] self-confidence survives because it flows from two sources. The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: “It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.”

Sometimes it’s hard not to marvel at the amazingly flexible nature of American propaganda. George Bush openly sold the invasion of Iraq as an absolutist exercise in Christian goodness versus non-Christian evil — remember his famous dictum that “God is not neutral” in our fight for justice and freedom — and for his trouble was roundly bashed as a fundamentalist lunatic among the very people Brooks is pitching this column to, educated east coast liberals.

Now Obama is quietly tiptoeing up to the same sorts of policy decisions, and in rushes David Brooks, as willing an official mouthpiece as this country has ever had, and pitches exactly the same ethical argument as justification for Obama’s moves.

The difference here is entirely about style and marketing: instead of referencing the Bible-thumping fire-and-brimstone/snake-handling Christianity that so appealed to Bush’s base, Brooks enlists Princeton, Scoop Jackson, Peter Beinart and Reinhold Niebuhr as cultural markers in his hyping of Obama’s brand of liberal Christian missionary zeal. In a bit of supreme dishonesty he even throws in a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr., who was never anything but a confirmed pacifist, as a piece of Obama’s interventionist puzzle.

The schtick here is all about painting the opponents of military intervention as cynics who lack moral confidence, perhaps because they lack the backbone of Christian belief. Take this passage:

[Obama] said he was not against war per se, just this one, and he was booed by the crowd. In 2007, he spoke about the way Niebuhr formed his thinking: “I take away the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction.”

What’s most disgusting about Brooks is that he has it backwards. “Cynicism” is invading a country for the sorts of reasons that have guided the United States in most of their interventionist actions since World War II. There is a American kid in Afghanistan who is going to die tomorrow because Rahm Emanuel doesn’t want his boss to have to answer toughness questions from somebody like Brian Williams in a 2012 electoral debate. And I’m the cynic here?

Brooks is a perfect example of the kind of spineless Beltway geek we always see beating the war drum at times like these. It’s because nebbishly little dorks like Brooks and Paul Wolfowitz and David Frum got their books dumped in high school that we end up dropping daisy cutters on Afghan sheep herds and shipping working class American kids halfway around the world to get their nuts blown off. That sounds like a simplistic explanation, but anyone who doesn’t have a keen ear for the pencil-pusher’s eternal quest for macho cred is going to have a hard time understanding Washington politics. Brooks’s columns have always been the easiest way to take the pulse of that particular dynamic, and it sure seems now that bureaucratic momentum for intervention and more intervention is re-inflating the chests of these Beltway generals.

Anyway, I almost can’t wait to see where this goes. Is the world ready for “Barack Obama, Christian Warrior?”


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    • collapse expand

      The two parties are false adversaries for each other. They are nearly, but not quite, identical. People don’t vote on issues, foreign policy or other reasonable criteria. They vote on sodomy.

      Bear with me.

      The only thing that gets voters agitated in the current environment is anal sex between men. One party would like to treat this activity with harsh punishment. The other party would prefer not to. That’s really where the difference lies.

      Cons especially know this is true. Bill Kristol himself pointed out that people don’t vote on issues. They vote on “culture”.

      Well, the Culture War is effectively a stalemate in the US. Condom use, abortion, prayer in schools, divorce, etc. But some think it’s time to end the sodomy stigma.

      Many of us voted for Obama simply because we couldn’t stand to have a Republican in charge for another four years.

      *Note that Obama finally ended the HIV travel ban. McCain NEVER would have done that. (Sodomy).

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  1. collapse expand

    So our government now openly acts upon “Christian” dogma and the vague concept of “good versus evil” employed loosely to justify a multitude of “evil” (really bad even horrifying) acts on our part – our government (and that means each of us as passive citizens) now makes decisions of catastrophic proportions based admittedly upon supernatural beliefs. Exposing this seems more important than debunking D.B. (although that must be supremely satisfying) and at its heart is our complete loss of the value and understanding of separation of church and state and why that concept and precept is so essential to maintain a democracy.

  2. collapse expand

    RE:”Onward Christian Warriors!”
    MY COMMENT: I am so “over” Obama! I have never cared for Brooks.

  3. collapse expand

    Matt….follow you now on my blog..these guys are scum and mainstream won’t touch them..and you know why. Too bad but then that is why the truth must come now from the blogashere….keep telling the truth or sell out and get fat,drunk, and doped to death on oxycontin. I have followed your Wall Street pieces and you are obviously connected so keep speaking out. This country is toast.

  4. collapse expand

    Still so lazy and boring:

    “There is a American kid in Afghanistan who is going to die tomorrow because Rahm Emanuel doesn’t want his boss to have to answer toughness questions from somebody like Brian Williams in a 2012 electoral debate.”

    Is that the best you can do?

  5. collapse expand

    When Broder wrote his April 26, 2009 column entitled “Stop Scapegoating,” urging Obama not to prosecute Bushites for their torture policies, I updated a Mark Slackmeyer moment:


    (“tour de force of beltway sickness” tm Greenwald)

  6. collapse expand

    It’s because nebbishly little dorks like Brooks and Paul Wolfowitz and David Frum got their books dumped in high school that we end up dropping daisy cutters on Afghan sheep herds and shipping working class American kids halfway around the world to get their nuts blown off.

    Karl Rove should be in that crowd too. These were the guys that walked down the hall with a big pile of keys on their belts, brown-nosed all the teachers (“Brilliant Idea, Just brilliant”), ratted on kids working night jobs for sleeping and generally dressed… well strangely. Lots of plaid in my generation. Then when school was over they would walk out in the real world and get a back alley beating. Pants pulled down to their ankles. Swishies in the toilet.

    You could sometimes see even the teachers and the principles getting annoyed with them.

    Now they make dumb policy seem like the absolute correct response to anything deemed negative to get those invitations they never got in high school.

    All of which which assures us bad things will be made exponentially worse which means recessions turning into depressions and the bad policy their older brothers praised turning into never-ending wars . I can see them “feverishly jacking off” at the thought of revenge too because that’s what those invitations mean.

    The end result is all of us who struggle, see the bad karma coming back to us from our childhood years, while they make fortunes doing the same thing they did in high school. Making dumb mistakes look like exceptional brilliance.

    Maybe we should have a rule not to beat up on these kids anymore. I know, with all the bad shit going on that the last thing we want to do to the kids of parents who lost their jobs, is deprive them of their small pleasures, but we have to think of the next generation.

    Talk about passing on debts to our grand children. Heh

  7. collapse expand

    (quoting Brooks) “You, and others of your era, would have been aware that there is evil in the world, and if you weren’t aware, the presence of Hitler and Stalin would have confirmed it. You would have known it is necessary to fight that evil.”

    Re the Stalin reference: “you” (whoever this “you” is) would have known to fight that evil Stalin, that is until someone mentioned to “you” the nettlesome little fact that Brooks seems to have forgotten – - Stalin was an American ally against Germany.

    Two minutes hate. Oceania is now at war with Eastasia.

  8. collapse expand

    Evil must always be talked off, don’t allow evil to triumph… twitter word on i follow: writtenviews on twitter

  9. collapse expand

    And guess what, Matt? No military service for this chicken-hawk! True, he is/was Canadian, but this chest-thumping, might-is-right-for-Americans interventionist is (as are so many others) perfectly willing to send our youth in harm’s way but couldn’t find time to serve himself. Welcome, Mr. Brooks, to the Dick Cheney (5 deferments in VN) world of war-mongering.

  10. collapse expand

    The Who called it: “New boss, old boss. Old policy, new packaging. O is just a happy mask on the old ugly interventionist face. I’ve quit listening to his speeches. I read them now. there is more truth without the Happy Face.

  11. collapse expand

    Vis a vis the Roman Empire. No one should be required to go to war that does not own property. If we started with the richest, put them on the front lines first as a matter of duty and honor, and worked our way on down to the regular plebs, there would be very few wars I believe.

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