Ralph Peters Nails the Ruling Class - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Ralph Peters Nails the Ruling Class
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Fox News strategic analyst, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, has scored a bull’s-eye with his recent thoughts on the real problem facing America in the conduct of foreign policy. 

In a piece in the New York Post titled “Why our prep-school diplomats fail against Putin and ISIS,” Peters more than effectively makes the case as to why the U.S. keeps getting its lunch eaten in dealings with tyrants. Writes Peters:

Why do our “best and brightest” fail when faced with a man like Putin? Or with charismatic fanatics? Or Iranian negotiators? Why do they misread our enemies so consistently, from Hitler and Stalin to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph?

The answer is straightforward:

Social insularity: Our leaders know fellow insiders around the world; our enemies know everyone else.

The mandarin’s distaste for physicality: We are led through blood-smeared times by those who’ve never suffered a bloody nose.

And last but not least, bad educations in our very best schools: Our leadership has been educated in chaste political theory, while our enemies know, firsthand, the stuff of life.

Above all, there is arrogance based upon privilege. For revolving-door leaders in the U.S. and Europe, if you didn’t go to the right prep school and elite university, you couldn’t possibly be capable of comprehending, let alone changing, the world. It’s the old social “Not our kind, dahhhling…” attitude transferred to government.”

Peters goes on to analyze the problems of an “educational insularity” that breeds students whose objective in life is to “sustain the current system,” students that are not really “educated” as much as they are “indoctrinated” by leftist “insiders” who, among other things, have a disdain for the world physical.

The end result is that the world’s “outsiders” — the Hitlers, Stalins and their modern tyrannical descendants — run rings around these people. 

A while back this theme was touched on here in a piece titled “Hillary and the Cult of ‘Best and Brightest.’”

To take but one example of this problem at work, one has only to look back at the conduct of the latter stages of the Cold War. Peters uses the word “mandarins” in his piece and in fact that is exactly how “arms control” was viewed in the day — as a subject only for the mandarins who had mastered the intricacies of throw-weights and the acronym world of SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks), START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), SLBM’s (Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles), and oh-so-much-more.

The classic here was a book in 1984 by Strobe Talbott, the diplomatic correspondent for Time magazine. Titled Deadly Gambits: The Reagan Administration and the Stalemate in Nuclear Arms Control, it reeked ofdisdain for the outsider who was President Ronald Reagan. Among Talbott’s takes? Reagan had a “small grasp of the issues” and had “set about to break with the past” because he believed — gasp! — that the Soviets reserved unto themselves “the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.” In fact, said a horrified Talbott, Reagan’s “top ranks of the Executive Branch” — whom he lists as “Edwin Meese, Michael Deaver, Lyn Nofziger, Caspar Weinberger, and William Clark”—were not only “conservatives” but

representatives from the West Coast with little background or interest in foreign affairs. They represented a geographical as well as ideological break with the East Coast’s establishment’s traditional concerns. The new President’s views and those of his closest advisers on foreign policy tended to be simple, with more than a touch of nostalgia for the good old days of global American predominance and the Cold War.… [T]hey had little understanding of, even less patience with, Western Europe.”

Reagan’s “simple” view of the Cold War was “we win, they lose.” In fact, Talbott believed, all of this parade of Reagan-led horrors was leading America to ruin. According to Talbott, Reagan had “not succeeded” and “the Reagan Revolution in arms control was over.” A disastrous failure led by a bunch of simpletons who simply didn’t have the intellectual heft that all those oh-so-smart arms control professionals possessed in spades. As the latter all knew and reassured each other endlessly. 

Alas for Talbott, Reaganas Margaret Thatcher would later say — “won the Cold War without firing a shot.” Oops.

Let’s return to Colonel Peters’ point: 

And last but not least, bad educations in our very best schools: Our leadership has been educated in chaste political theory, while our enemies know, firsthand, the stuff of life.

Above all, there is arrogance based upon privilege. For revolving-door leaders in the U.S. and Europe, if you didn’t go to the right prep school and elite university, you couldn’t possibly be capable of comprehending, let alone changing, the world. It’s the old social “Not our kind, dahhhling…” attitude transferred to government.

Strobe Talbott, trumpeted the flyleaf cover of his book, was “Educated at Hotchkiss, Yale, and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar” before he went on to serve “on the Time staff for thirteen years.”

And Mr. Talbott’s take on the Cold War was… to put it mildly… wrong. Wrong but entirely representative of the mandarins in their tight little world of arms control negotiators for whom, as Peters says, “negotiations become the opium of the chattering classes.” These were people who had in fact a not-so-very-well-concealed contempt for Reagan, termed by longtime Washington lobbyist and Democrat stalwart Clark Clifford as an “amiable dunce.” Reagan, of course, was not a product of East Coast prep schools and the halls of an Ivy League institution. He was a graduate of little Eureka College in Illinois, and his career had been spent as a sportscaster in Iowa and an actor and union leader in Hollywood.

In other words? Ronald Reagan was the classic Outsider. An Outsider who recognized other Outsiders and understood exactly what the barbarians in the group were like and how to deal with them. 

So too, while we’re at it, were Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher Outsiders. They came from different backgrounds. While Churchill was indeed the son of a British Lord he had an American mother, had never graduated from university, and as biographer Boris Johnson points out “got into Sandhurst [the Royal Military Academy] only on the third attempt.” Thatcher was the daughter of a shop owner who did get into Oxford. Yet temperamentally they were distinctive Outsiders, each possessing the ability to look through into the character of their respective opponents (Nazis and Communists for Churchill, Communists and an Argentine dictator for Thatcher) and unhesitatingly use blunt force to stop them. Not for nothing was Thatcher nicknamed “the Iron Lady.”

In the world of villains Peters has it right exactly. Neville Chamberlain and his government — filled with people like the Eton-educated Lord Halifax — were stunningly unable in their ability to grasp the reality of Adolf Hitler. Hitler was seen as something of a clown, a mere corporal in the German army not to be taken seriously. Boris Johnson (who doubles as the Mayor of London and is in his own colorful fashion quite the Outsider) notes in his book of Halifax’s position at a meeting with Churchill and others in the British War Cabinet on May 28, 1940 — mere weeks after Hitler had invaded France, Belgium, and Holland. Halifax had served as Chamberlain’s foreign secretary and still held the post. His advice? In the words of Johnson, Halifax advised “that Britain should see sense and come to an arrangement with reality.” In other words, one of the “best and brightest” of upper class British education was advising capitulation to Adolf Hitler. 

That, in essence, is exactly the same idea behind St. Paul’s and Yale-educated John Kerry’s proposal in his nuclear dealings with Iran. John Kerry is the Lord Halifax of today’s U.S. government. There is more than a whiff of elitist, ruling-class sentiment in Kerry’s haughty response to the 47 Republican Senators — a number of them distinctive “Outsiders.” 

It is a fact, as the world has learned over and over and over again that all men do, in fact, not want peace. Let’s close this out with Colonel Peters’ astute observation: 

In fact, some men delight in inflicting grotesque forms of violence on others.

We face a new age of barbarism. And we’re led by those whose notion of violence is a rugby game at Princeton, who won’t let their children play unattended but deny the murderous impulses haunting humanity. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that the lack of a prep-school background and a Brooks Brothers charge account doesn’t mean that a thug with slovenly manners can’t change the world.

Amen.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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