In his lead article for The National Interest, Jacob Heilbrunn writes about a Richard Rovere article in the America Scholar on the establishment. “The Establishment, as I see it, is not at any level a membership organization, and in the lower reaches it is not organized at all. In the upper reaches, some divisions have achieved a high degree of organization and centralization and, consequently, of exclusiveness and power. The directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, for example, make up a sort of Presidium for that part of the Establishment that seeks to control our destiny as a nation.”
Heilbrunn tells readers that the Vietnam War discredited the establishment. And he writes that establishment foreign policy studies that depict leading foreign-policy figures from the Cold War, some of whose surviving members (most notably George F. Kennan, who died at the age of 101 in 2005), warned against both NATO expansion and the Iraq War.
Writing about former U. S. National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, Heilbrunn tells readers that Scowcroft “played a central role in promoting an internationalist foreign policy grounded in realist precepts. He stands for the antithesis of a crusading doctrine that goes abroad in search of monsters to destroy. The bluster and braggadocio that characterize many of his detractors are alien to Scowcroft. So as a welter of Republican candidates prepare to seek their party’s nomination for the presidency, they would do well to contemplate his legacy.”
Regarding Saddam Hussein, Scowcroft wrote in a WSJ article (Don’t Attack Saddam) that toppling Saddam would “swell the ranks of the terrorists” and might “destabilize Arab regimes in the region.” “Scowcroft had it right,” concludes Mr. Heilbrunn.
Jacob Heilbrunn wraps up with a rembrance of a dinner party attended by both Brent Scowcroft and Condoleezza Rice. Rice commented regarding Iraq, “No one told me Iraq would be so difficult.” “Yes they did,” Scowcroft replied, “but you weren’t listening.”