Glenn Greenwald and Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, engaged in an interesting exchange about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in which Greenwald suggested that Boot is both a liar and a neocon coward. The exchange arose out of Boot’s critique of an op-ed by Snowden published last week by the New York Times. In an article in Commentary, Boot criticized the Times for publishing Snowden’s op-ed, stating in part:
Oddly enough nowhere in his article — which is datelined Moscow — does he mention the surveillance apparatus of his host, Vladimir Putin, which far exceeds in scope anything created by any Western country. . . .That would be the same FSB that has taken Snowden into its bosom as it has previously done (in its earlier incarnation as the KGB) with previous turncoats such as Kim Philby. . . .
But of course Ed Snowden is not courageous enough, or stupid enough, to criticize the dictatorship that he has defected to. It’s much easier and safer to criticize the country he betrayed from behind the protection provided by the FSB’s thugs. The only mystery is why the Times is giving this traitor a platform.
Why does Greenwald consider Boot to be a liar? Well, because in his New York Times op-ed, Snowden stated the following:
Basic technical safeguards such as encryption — once considered esoteric and unnecessary — are now enabled by default in the products of pioneering companies like Apple, ensuring that even if your phone is stolen, your private life remains private. Such structural technological changes can ensure access to basic privacies beyond borders, insulating ordinary citizens from the arbitrary passage of anti-privacy laws, such as those now descending upon Russia.
That sounded like a criticism of Putin’s Russia to Greenwald. And it sure sounds like one to me.
In a twitter exchange with Greenwald on June 5, Boot said that he had failed to notice Snowden’s critique of Russia when he wrote his article. An “oversight” he called it. Oddly, as of this morning, the “oversight” has still not been corrected on Boot’s Commentary article.
It’s Greenwald’s accusation of cowardice against Max Boot and, for that matter, other neo-cons, however, that I find much more fascinating, partly because I raised this issue last November in an article entitled “Max Boot’s Newest Plan for Iraq.” (Also, see my article “A Great Debate on Afghanistan,”, which details how Boot went ballistic in a debate I participated in against him in New York City when I mentioned the “moral degeneracy” regarding the indifference to Iraqi lives on the part of U.S. officials during the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country.)
Keep in mind, first of all, what Boot said about Snowden: “Ed Snowden is not courageous enough, or stupid enough, to criticize the dictatorship that he has defected to.”
Here is how Greenwald responds:
It is literally the supreme act of projection for Max Boot to accuse anyone of lacking courage, as this particular think tank warmonger is the living, breathing personification of the unique strain of American neocon cowardice. Unlike Snowden — who sacrificed his liberty and unraveled his life in pursuit of his beliefs — the 45-year-old Boot has spent most of his adult life advocating for one war after the next, but always wanting to send his fellow citizens of his generation to die in them, while he hides in the comfort of Washington think tanks, never fighting them himself.
Ironically, last week the New York Times published an editorial entitled, “Who’s Willing to Fight for Iraq?” which quoted Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has saying that Iraqi troops, although vastly outnumbering the ISIS insurgents at Ramadi, “just showed no will to fight.”
But, hey, they’re not the only ones! Put Max Boot and all the rest of America’s neo-cons in that category too!
As I pointed out in my article Max Boot’s Newest Plan for Iraq” and as Greenwald points out in his critique of Boot, Boot displays little reluctance to send U.S. soldiers into foreign wars and interventions. If courage is measured by the willingness to send others into battle, there is no doubt that Boot is among the most courageous people you’d ever find. But if courage is measured by the willingness of person to fight against foreign enemies that purportedly threaten U.S. “national security” or “our rights and freedom,” Boot’s record on courage fails miserably.
Consider the fact that U.S. national-security state officials, including the Pentagon and the CIA, have been saying for about two years that ISIS poses a serious threat to U.S. “national security.” In this latest fear-mongering campaign, they’ve been repeatedly telling Americans that something has to be done about ISIS. That’s what their latest bombing campaign in Iraq is all about—stopping ISIS. Apparently the idea is that if ISIS ends up taking over Iraq and surrounding areas, the dominoes will start to fall and the terrorists will end up invading and conquering the United States and taking over the IRS and the rest of the federal government.
The fear of ISIS is what motivated Boot to come up with his latest plan for Iraq. See, for example “Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 51” issued by the Council on Foreign Relations. It is entitled “Defeating ISIS” and is authored by Boot. In his memorandum, Boot writes:
To defeat ISIS, the president needs to dispatch more aircraft, military advisors, and special operations forces, while loosening the restrictions under which they operate. The president also needs to do a better job of mobilizing support from Sunnis in Iraq and Syria, as well as from Turkey, by showing that he is intent on deposing not only ISIS but also the equally murderous Alawite regime in Damascus. Specific steps include: Intensify air strikes…. Lift the prohibition on U.S. “boots on the ground”…. Increase the size of the U.S. force….
Do you see something dreadfully wrong with that picture?
The question naturally arises: Why hasn’t Boot or any other American neocon traveled to Iraq and volunteered to fight alongside the Iraqi forces? Don’t they consider ISIS to be a grave threat to U.S. “national security”? Isn’t that why they want President Obama to resend U.S. troops into Iraq — to protect U.S. “national security”? Wouldn’t that also be a good way to help the Iraqi people, whose welfare Boot is supposedly concerned about?
Indeed, why didn’t Boot ever go to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight against Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda? He didn’t have to go over there as a U.S. soldier. He could have gone there as a private citizen and joined up with the forces fighting these so-called threats to “national security,” just as he can travel to Iraq today to join up with the Iraqi forces fighting ISIS.
If a foreign power were about to invade the United States, my hunch is that most Americans, including me, would volunteer to fight the aggressor. But like most Americans, I certainly am not willing to go to Iraq to fight ISIS. That’s because I have no doubt that all the Pentagon and CIA fearmongering is based on lies, just as the Vietnam War, in which they sacrificed 58,000 plus American men, was based on lies. The fact is that whether Iraq is ruled by ISIS or by the crooked, corrupt, dictatorial regime that currently rules the country, it’s not going to result in the terrorist takeover of the U.S. government, any more than the North Vietnamese takeover of South Vietnam resulted in a communist takeover of the U.S. government.
But Boot and his fellow neocons are in a different position. Assuming they’re telling the truth, they truly believe that U.S. “national security” depends on defeating ISIS on the battlefield. And so what are they doing about it? Why, they’re sitting here at home and, even worse, exhorting the president to send others to die in the fight in Iraq against ISIS?
How would Boot respond if the United States were under a threat of an invasion? Well, if he won’t go to Iraq to fight to defend America from what he himself believes is a grave threat to our “national security,” how could we count on him to fight alongside those of us who would be willing to defend our country in the face of a foreign invasion of our homeland.
But Boot should sleep easy because he can rest assured that we libertarians would never force him to join us in the defense of our country. That’s because we libertarians, with our opposition to conscription, will fight to protect anyone who chooses to engage in either hypocrisy or cowardice.