Daily Archives: October 7, 2003

David Brooks Can’t Write – Or Think

Somehow, the more of David Brooks’ stuff I read, the less surprising it is that this rather–can we say “superficial”?–thinker was so thoroughly taken in by some pretty obvious right-wing propaganda. The wonder isn’t that he fell under its spell in the first place, the wonder is that he ever scraped together the intellectual wherewithal to escape.

Witness the first paragraph of his latest NYT Op-Ed piece:

Imagine if James Madison and the other Founding Fathers had tried to write a constitution while carriages were being blown up on the roads from Boston to Philadelphia. Imagine if, instead of holding their debates in complete secrecy, they had been forced to conduct them in the full glare of the global media. Imagine if they had been forced to write that document while America’s neighbors worked to ensure their failure.

Can you imagine an opening paragraph that could manage to miss the key point as thoroughly as this one did? And so far as I know, there aren’t even any exploding carriages outside his townhouse to wreck his concentration.

Imagine, David, if the FF’s had to write a constitution under the noses of a British Colonial Govt watching their every move and holding veto power over any clause they didn’t like. Imagine if they had been forced to write that document on orders from the Foreign Minister while British soldiers broke into the homes of their friends and family and put bags over their heads when they arrested them for sedition. Imagine if they had been forced to write that document while their neighbors and allies were too busy protecting themselves from threatened British invasions of their own countries to be of any help. Imagine.

If you can imagine those things, you can begin to understand how difficult it is going to be for Iraqis to write their constitution.

And yet, Mr. Brooks avers, “things are going pretty well.”

Things are also going well because while Americans are making most of the decisions about how Iraq is run now, they are not dominating the constitution-writing process. “It has to be an Iraqi product,” a senior Bush administration official insists.

Uh-huh. Well, I’m convinced. It’s not like the Bushies ever lie, or anything. I’m sure neither Bremer nor Cheney nor Wolfie nor any of our other vested officials would interfere. Why should they? While they keep the Iraqis busy pounding out a document that may never be adopted, they’re selling off the country to foreign business interests (except oil, thank you very much, which we’ll just hold onto for a little while if you don’t mind–well, even if you do, frankly–until Shell and Chevron have it locked up) who plan to be too well-entrenched (and US-protected) to be removed no matter what the Iraqis need or want, say or do.

I don’t mean to belittle the serious work the more serious Iraqis are trying to do. It’s not impossible that one day the constitution they’re struggling with may actually have a chance to be enacted.

But with the US restricting their options from the outside and would-be dictator/autocrats like Ahmad Chalabi worming their way into power from the inside, the realistic chances that the Constitution they’re slaving over will ever be the foundation of their govt as ours is rather than a largely-ignored token gesture with little real force and even less influence aren’t good.

But Mr. Brooks is so focused on how impressive it is that we’re letting them play at being independent that he’s aquiver with excitement and blind to the dark shapes looming not that far off-screen.

If he were a movie character, he’d be Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween.