Former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered his latest attack against President Obama last week -- Fox said he took "a flamethrower" to the president -- speaking on Thursday at the Hudson Institute, delivering fairly predictable rhetoric. This, however, struck me as interesting.
"That entire part of the world appears to be, or a good part of it certainly, to be moving in a direction that's fundamentally hostile to long-term U.S. interests. And yet we are -- seem to be unable to influence events in that part of the world, partly because we're headed for the exits, and everybody knows we're headed for the exits.
"We pulled out of Iraq -- we didn't even bother to negotiate the stay-behind agreement that was traditional in those kind of relationships. We're well on our way out of Afghanistan. And we have had a president who's been to Cairo; one of the first things he did, to apologize for the U.S. reaction to 9/11, alleged that we had, quote, 'overreacted' and fallen away from our basic traditional values."
For now, it's probably best to just put aside the obvious problems associated with Dick Cheney claiming credibility on matters related to foreign policy and national security. Instead, let's consider two unrelated angles.
First, the former V.P. believes he was quoting Obama when he said the president told Egyptians that the U.S. "overreacted" to the 9/11 attacks. In reality, Cheney has no idea what he's talking about -- Obama never said this; the "quote" is made up. It's not a matter of opinion, since one need only check the transcript.
Obama did say in his Cairo speech that after 9/11, the "fear and anger," in some cases, "led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals." Cheney's affinity for torture, for example, comes to mind. But if the former V.P. is going to say he's quoting the president, the least he can do is check to see if the quote is imaginary.
Second, and on a more substantive note, I continue to find Cheney's view of the Middle East fascinating.
As he sees it, there's turmoil in the region, in part because "everybody knows we're headed for the exits." I'd love for Cheney to flesh this out in more detail -- does he genuinely believe the Middle East would be more stable and friendly towards U.S. interests if the longest wars in American history simply continued indefinitely?
Or more to the point, why in the world would anyone think this would work?
For that matter, under Cheney's vision, it seems the ideal way for the United States to "influence events in that part of the world" is to deploy tens of thousands of American troops -- at a minimum -- into wars without end.
And before anyone dismisses this as ridiculous rhetoric from a failed politician no one takes seriously, it's worth reemphasizing that Dick Cheney remains a popular figure in Republican politics, and his foreign policy worldview is still embraced by GOP policymakers like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and just about everyone involved in the 2012 Republican presidential campaign.