Michael Gerson’s Sept. 7 Friday Opinion column, “A superpower run by a simpleton,” revolved around two fundamental claims. “We are a superpower run by a simpleton. From a foreign policy perspective, this is far worse than being run by a skilled liar.” Which is worse: Foreign policy in the hands of a skilled liar or foreign policy in the hands of a simpleton?
In my lifetime, the two greatest foreign policy disasters of the United States were the Vietnam War and the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Neither involved core U.S. national security interests or morality. Both involved staggering death and suffering. Both were grounded in lies and deceptions.
On Vietnam, to whom should we point? John F. Kennedy? Robert McNamara? McGeorge Bundy? Henry Kissinger? Or perhaps just to Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon, both of whom knew the war was unnecessary and unwinnable but lied to the country because neither wanted to be “the first president to lose a war.”
We invaded Iraq on the phony premise of Saddam Hussein’s weapons program. The intelligence community was manipulated into analyses that served a preordained, misguided purpose. And then there was the brilliant decision to “de-Baathify” the Iraqi military and flip Iraq from Sunni-dominated to Shiite-dominated, thus making Iran the real winner, plunging Iraq into civil war, destabilizing the Middle East and ultimately giving rise to the Islamic State.
So are liars worse than simpletons? Perhaps.
Jerome M. Segal, Silver Spring
The writer is president of the Jewish Peace Lobby.