Does Foreign Policy Community Love War?

glenn greenwald cartoonGlenn Greenwald revisits an old debate, arguing that “Our war-loving Foreign Policy Community hasn’t gone anywhere.”

Building off of Marc Lynch‘s blog post yesterday pointing out that General McCrystal’s strategic review calling for more troops in Afghanistan was written by “a dozen smart (mostly) think-tankers,” Greenwald writes,”What would a group of people like that ever recommend other than continued and escalated war?  It’s what they do.  You wind them up and they spout theories to justify war.  That’s the function of America’s Foreign Policy Community.”  He elides the fact that Lynch’s point is not that this represented some grand think tank consensus but rather than the deck was stacked when McChystal chose people predisposed to a COIN-centric approach.

In my New Atlanticist essay, “Foreign Policy Community War-Mongers?” I explore the theme further, arguing that the real problem with the foreign policy Establishment is not its inherent hawkishness but the reluctance of most of its members to weigh in:

The nature of expertise is such that it’s easy to fall into this trap.  First, because our peers are all reading the same things, we do tend to come to a ready agreement on the basic facts, usually leading to a realization that the problem is much more difficult than it’s portrayed by the op-ed columnists and TV talking heads.  But this leads to a sense that “everybody knows this” and therefore a reluctance to be banal.   Second, because things are indeed more complicated than understood by the pundits, there’s a reluctance to weigh in before the facts are known.   But the nature of the debate is such that it has already moved on to another topic by the time all the evidence is in.  So, the handful of experts willing to jump right in without fear are going to dominate the discussion.   Typically, these are the ones employed by ideological think tanks who exist to advance a set agenda.

Much more at the link.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Furhead says:

    What’s mildly interesting to me is that GG’s article is a more specific example of a more general case which he eventually concludes with today (it starts out talking about Glenn Beck but is really about inside-the-beltway thinking). In short, the Washington elites often come up with policies that the rest of us disagree with, whether we’re on the left or right of the spectrum.

  2. “Our war-loving Foreign Policy Community hasn’t gone anywhere.”

    Yes, of course. They love war. There are no principles or lives at stake where some kind of military force might not be the worst available option.

    What a butthead.