Dean Barnett

Oh dear. They’re back. Or more accurately, they never left. Like a pile of metaphorical dog poo that America’s collective shoe stepped in a few decades ago, our body politic just can’t manage to completely scrape off the wise old men who fancy themselves “realists.”

The “realist” school of foreign policy once again strutted across the stage of world opinion on Thursday with the publication of a Brent Scowcroft op-ed in the New York Times. In reading the piece, one could only marvel at the irony that the self-styled “realists” in fact inhabit a bizarre fantasy world.

The Scowcroft piece has three identifiable purposes. One is to rescue the reputation of the universally scorned Iraq Study Group. A second is the less onerous task of lighting the way to peace not only in Iraq but in the entire Mid-East. The third is of course to indulge the habitual “Realist” obsession with the state of Israel and its arrogant insistence on existing.

THE TITLE OF THE ARTICLE gives you a perfect sense of the mush-minded pabulum that has traditionally passed for “realism” among Scowroft and his ilk. Scowcroft calls his piece, “Getting the Middle East Back on Our Side.”

What a glorious conceit that title implies: When the putative grown-ups like Scowcroft were running things, the Middle East collectively adored us. It was only when youthful rabble-rousers like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz seized the helm of the ship of state that things went awry.

The title brilliantly illuminates the perennially skewed Scowcroftian view of the world. Empirically speaking, the Middle East as a whole has not been “on our side” the past 30 years. Saddam wasn’t on our side. Iran hasn’t been on our side. The Assads haven’t been on our side. When Arafat wasn’t busy stealing from his own people and amassing a personal fortune, he was arranging the death of a U.S. ambassador and facilitating countless other acts of terror.

And yet Scowcroft feels that there were halcyon days of yore when the Middle East was “on our side.” How did he come to this conclusion? The only conceivable explanation is that during his time in power, a handful of Middle Eastern despots went through the bother of observing diplomatic niceties with American luminaries like Brent Scowcroft.

Dean Barnett

Dean Barnett blogs almost daily at He has also been a frequent contributor to the Weekly Standard's online edition, The Daily Standard. He can be reached for comment at

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