GO NOT ABROAD IN SEARCH OF MONSTERS

I am a huge fan of Stephen Kinzer’s work, whether one of his many articles in The Boston Globe or any of his books, The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Their Secret World War and All the Shah’s Men, in particular.

One of his most recent articles talked about a collaboration between two unlikely men, George Soros and Charles Koch, each of whom have committed a million dollars to the newly formed Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. In the most recent edition of The Nation, these two men were mentioned again in an article by David Klion entitled Go Not Abroad in Search of Monsters about this new Washington, D.C. think tank advocating restraint overseas.

According to Mr. Klion, “John Quincy Adams never got much respect. There are no monuments to the sixth president on the National Mall and his face adorns no paper currency. But before Adams became president, he was an accomplished diplomat, representing the US government in multiple European capitals. On July 4, 1821, while serving as Secretary of State, he gave a speech in which he declared that although the United States would always be sympathetic to national liberation struggles, ‘She goes no abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.’”

The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft declares as its mission “to move foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace.

Why is this such an urgent task? John Quincy’s Adams’ warning about interventionist foreign policy has repeatedly been ignored.

This is particularly evident in our intervention in Syria. As far back as 2005, John Bolton, at the time serving George W. Bush, had designated Syria as one of a handful of rogue states that, like Iraq, could expect to eventually become a US target. In 2008, through WikiLeaks documents, Bashar Assad had been made aware of a US-NATO plan to trigger social chaos to discredit his government and destabilize Syria as a nation-state but was powerless to do anything about it.

If Bashar Assad could have asked why his country had been designated a rogue state what would we have told him? That the CIA had been attempting regime change in Syria for the last seventy years? That at first it was an experiment to see if it could exert democratizing influence over a new Arab country. And when that did not succeed, it was Syria’s refusal to allow a Saudi oil pipeline through its country, then came the fear that Syria would become a Soviet satellite state until finally it was Shiite Iran, enemy of the majority Sunni states, exerting too much influence over Syria and, by extension Hezbollah in Lebanon, each intervention seemingly justifying further interventions.

President Bush dismissed the idea of engaging Syria and Iran in dialogue, claiming that such overtures would reward the enemy. According to former Secretary of State James Baker, “Negotiations are not a reward, nor are they a gift. They are rather a process in which two adversaries (or enemies) engage as a means to end the conflict between them.”

President Obama read the diplomatic cables from as far back as 2005 suggesting a collaboration between Saudi Arabia and Egypt to promote sectarian conflict in Syria between Sunni and Shiite as a means of destabilizing the Syrian government, and this at the height of sectarian strife in Iraq which the US military had tried unsuccessfully to control. Despite this moral dilemma, the president authorized the CIA to move forward with its plan to destabilize Syria.

It is called hubris. It is an American disease we all share. Haven’t we all heard President Obama refer to us as an exceptional nation? We aren’t, of course, but we think we are.

Powerful figures in both the Democrat and Republican parties are responsible for our hubris and our perpetual wars and few of them have shown any inclination to change course. This is why we need the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft more than ever.

In my two works of fiction The Syrian and Damascus Street i discuss the Syria crisis in great depth. These books are available for sale here:

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