Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Saturday, May 10, 2003  

Also in the New Yorker, another absolutely fascinating article by Seymour Hersch. This one about the flawed intelligence inside the Pentagon on Iraq's WMD capability (whether there are WMD in Iraq or not, the intelligence was bad). Read the article for specifics--it's well worth it.

But embedded in the story was this, which I can't resist quoting:

"Shulsky’s work has deep theoretical underpinnings. In his academic and think-tank writings, Shulsky, the son of a newspaperman—his father, Sam, wrote a nationally syndicated business column—has long been a critic of the American intelligence community. During the Cold War, his area of expertise was Soviet disinformation techniques. Like Wolfowitz, he was a student of Leo Strauss’s, at the University of Chicago. Both men received their doctorates under Strauss in 1972. Strauss, a refugee from Nazi Germany who arrived in the United States in 1937, was trained in the history of political philosophy, and became one of the foremost conservative émigré scholars. He was widely known for his argument that the works of ancient philosophers contain deliberately concealed esoteric meanings whose truths can be comprehended only by a very few, and would be misunderstood by the masses. The Straussian movement has many adherents in and around the Bush Administration. In addition to Wolfowitz, they include William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, and Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who is particularly close to Rumsfeld. Strauss’s influence on foreign-policy decision-making (he never wrote explicitly about the subject himself) is usually discussed in terms of his tendency to view the world as a place where isolated liberal democracies live in constant danger from hostile elements abroad, and face threats that must be confronted vigorously and with strong leadership.

"Strauss’s idea of hidden meaning, Shulsky and Schmitt added, 'alerts one to the possibility that political life may be closely linked to deception. Indeed, it suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception.'

Robert Pippin, the chairman of the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago and a critic of Strauss, told me, 'Strauss believed that good statesmen have powers of judgment and must rely on an inner circle. The person who whispers in the ear of the King is more important than the King. If you have that talent, what you do or say in public cannot be held accountable in the same way.' Another Strauss critic, Stephen Holmes, a law professor at New York University, put the Straussians’ position this way: 'They believe that your enemy is deceiving you, and you have to pretend to agree, but secretly you follow your own views.' Holmes added, 'The whole story is complicated by Strauss’s idea—actually Plato’s—that philosophers need to tell noble lies not only to the people at large but also to powerful politicians.'”

posted by Jeff | 11:35 PM |
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