Joe Klein vs Charles Krauthammer: Two Cheeks of the Same Backside

by Ben Cohen

It is always good fun when beltway hacks attack each other, although at the higher end of the spectrum, the arguments are a little harder to decipher. When you boil it down though, debate generally revolves around the following topics: Is America the best country ever, or is it just the best? Is American healthcare really amazing, or does it need a little fixing, and was the war in Iraq a brilliant success, or was it a bit too costly?

Laced with DC vernacular, ‘Leftist’ columnist Joe Klein ripped into neo hawk megalomaniac Charles Krauthammer for his overt American cheerleading:

Charles Krauthammer has disgorged a magnum opussy sort of rant

on the cover of the week’s Weekly Standard, based on a lecture he gave

to the Manhattan Institute, a neoconservative think tank that has

actually done some creative thinking about urban issues over the years. Nothing creative about Krauthammer’s thinking, though, which stands as

an anti-Nobel exegesis, blaming Barack Obama for choosing a foreign

policy that will lead, inexorably, to American decline.

Krauthammer’s article is, of course, completely insane and ridiculous. He writes:

“There is a reason that we are the only hegemon in modern history to

have not immediately catalyzed the creation of a massive

counter-hegemonic alliance….And that reason is simple: We are as benign a hegemon as the world has ever seen.”

However, Klein then goes on to make pretty much the same argument, albeit a little less arrogantly:

Our reputation in the world, now being regained after the Bush debacle,

is a result of the fact that we’ve always been half-hearted

imperialists, pathetic in our occasional attempts at oppression–and,

more often, from the Bosnian accord to the Indonesian p0st-Tsunami

airlift, willing to act selflessly to benefit humanity. All you need to

do is compare the Russians’ utter brutality in Afghanistan with our

real, if ineffective so far, attempts to bring education and economic

development to the people so that we can leave a more stable country.

It’s a clever trick Klein is playing, and one straight out of the Democratic Party playbook. You slam your conservative opponent, then make a very similar argument but with prettier words. (Joe Biden is a particular expert at this. During the election, he would rip George Bush for the botched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — which he voted for — then differ ever so slightly on strategy).

Klein’s assertion that the U.S is somehow a benevolent empire is atypical of elitist commentators throughout history. The British Empire viewed itself as a benevolent force for its colonies, despite the enormous death toll and destruction of indigenous culture, as did the French, the Spanish and the Romans.

You can read a list of the many war crimes the United States has committed in the last 40 years here. It isn’t a pretty record, and for Joe Klein to say something so brazenly false is a testament to his abilities as a journalist. Millions of people lost their lives in an illegal war started by the U.S in Vietnam. The U.S also invaded Korea, funded the coup of the democratically elected government in Iran, invaded Cuba, Grenada, propped up countless dictatorships in South America, funded genocide in East Timor, illegally invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, destroyed the infrastructure of their countries, and have yet to pay a single dollar in reparations.

To defend that record is inexcusable, and Klein is just as bad as Krauthammer.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.