Sunday, April 17, 2016

Welcome to Byzantium

The NSC is a cabinet body established in 1947 as the Cold War began to discuss and coordinate policy as directed by the president... And, as it has evolved, its main task has become to make sure that foreign relations do not get the president in trouble in Washington.

It originally had no staff or policy role independent of the cabinet. Kennedy’s initial NSC staff numbered six men, some of whom, like McGeorge Bundy and Walt Rostow, achieved infamy as the authors of the Vietnam War. Twenty years later, when Ronald Reagan took office, the NSC staff had grown to around 50.  By the time Barack Obama became president in 2009, it numbered about 370, plus another 230 or so people off the books and on temporary duty, for a total of around 600....

In many ways, the NSC staff has evolved to resemble the machinery in a planetarium. It turns this way and that and, to those within its ambit, the heavens appear to turn with it. But this is an apparatus that projects illusions. Inside its event horizon, everything is comfortingly predictable. Outside — who knows?— there may be a hurricane brewing. This is a system that creates and implements foreign policies suited to Washington narratives, but detached from external realities often to the point of delusion, as illustrated by America’s misadventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. And the system never admits mistakes. To do so would be a political gaffe, even if it might be a learning experience.

Read the entire article here at War on the Rocks: The End of the American Empire by Chas W. Freeman Jr.


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