Thus, being a "realist" in today's Official Washington requires hiding one's true feelings, much as was once the case if you were a gay man and you had little choice but to keep your sexual orientation in the closet by behaving publicly like a heterosexual and surrounding yourself with straight friends.
In many ways, that's what President Barack Obama has done. Though arguably a "closet realist," Obama staffed his original administration with foreign policy officials acceptable to the neocons and the liberal interventionists, such as Robert Gates at Defense, Hillary Clinton at State, Gen. David Petraeus as a top commander in the field.
Even in his second term, the foreign-policy hawks have remained dominant, with people like neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland enflaming the crisis in Ukraine and UN Ambassador Samantha Power, an R2Per, pushing U.S. military intervention in Syria.
A Slow-Motion Catastrophe
I have personally watched today's foreign-policy pattern evolve during my 37 years in Washington -- and it began innocently enough. After the Vietnam War and the disclosures about bloody CIA coups around the globe, President Jimmy Carter called for human rights to be put at the center of U.S. foreign policy. His successor, Ronald Reagan, then hijacked the human rights rhetoric while adapting it to his anti-communist cause.
Because Reagan's usurpation of human rights language involved support for brutal right-wing forces, such as the Guatemalan military and the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, the process required an Orwellian change in what words meant. "Pro-democracy" had to become synonymous with the rights and profits of business owners, not its traditional meaning of making government work for the common people.
But this perversion of language was not as much meant to fool the average Guatemalan or Nicaraguan, who was more likely to grasp the reality behind the word games since he or she saw the cruel facts up close; it was mostly to control the American people who, in the lexicon of Reagan's propagandists, needed to have their perceptions managed. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Victory of Perception Management."]
The goal of the young neocons inside the Reagan administration -- the likes of Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan (now Victoria Nuland's husband) -- was to line up the American public behind Reagan's aggressive foreign policy, or as the phrase of that time went, to "kick the Vietnam Syndrome," meaning to end the popular post-Vietnam resistance to more foreign wars.
President George H.W. Bush pronounced this mission accomplished in 1991 after the end of the well-sold Persian Gulf War, declaring "we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all."
By then, the propaganda process had fallen into a predictable pattern. You pick out a target country; you demonize its leadership; you develop some "themes" that are sure to push American hot buttons, maybe fictional stories about "throwing babies out of incubators" or the terrifying prospect of "a mushroom cloud"; and it's always smart to highlight a leader's personal corruption, maybe his "designer glasses" or "a sauna in his palace."
The point is not that the targeted leader may not be an unsavory character. Frankly, most political leaders are. Many Western leaders and their Third World allies -- both historically and currently -- have much more blood on their hands than some of the designated "monsters" that the U.S. government has detected around the world. The key is the image-making.
What makes the process work is the application and amplification of double standards through the propaganda organs available to the U.S. government. The compliant mainstream American media can be counted on to look harshly at the behavior of some U.S. "enemy" in Venezuela, Iran, Russia or eastern Ukraine, but to take a much more kindly view of a U.S.-favored leader from Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Georgia or western Ukraine.
While it's easy -- and safe career-wise -- for a mainstream journalist to accuse a Chavez, an Ahmadinejad, a Putin or a Yanukovych of pretty much anything, the levels of proof get ratcheted up when it's a Uribe, a Saudi King Abdullah, a Saakashvili or a Yatsenyuk -- not to mention a Netanyahu.
The True Dark Side
But here is the dark truth about this "humanitarian" interventionism: it is spinning the world into an endless cycle of violence. Rather than improving the prospects for human rights and democracy, it is destroying those goals. While the interventionist strategies have made huge fortunes for well-connected government contractors and well-placed speculators who profit off chaos, the neocons and their "human rights" buddies are creating a hell on earth for billions of others, spreading death and destitution.
Take, for example, the beginnings of the Afghan War in the 1980s -- after the Soviet Union invaded to protect a communist-led regime that had sought to pull Afghanistan out of the middle ages, including granting equal rights to women. The United States responded by encouraging Islamic fundamentalism and arming the barbaric mujahedeen.
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