I understand why conservatives balk at the notion of a politician running a car company. Obama hasn't done much with GM yet, but if he is not careful, he could easily get trapped, as David Brooks notes, in a hell of a pickle. He will face political pressure to hang in, even as the company continues to fail. And he has no expertise of the kind needed to run a car company. And this is the core conservative insight here: success is hard; it requires close attention to the details of a business or an enterprise; it takes experience and judgment and practical knowledge that no politician or economist or analyst has. Now I know GM's management has sucked as well - but that doesn't mean that government won't suck a lot more. This is a classic case of a mismatch between what a politician can do and what he is trying to do: an over-reach, a categorical error.
But why, pray, does this not equally apply to running Iraq or Afghanistan? Why does our conservative elite believe that these vast, complex, foreign cultures and countries are somehow more manageable than GM? What expertise does Barack Obama have in running Afghanistan?
All he knows is Chicago, Hawaii and America. If you think of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan as essentially foreign government take-overs of failed states, why would a conservative believe that it could be successful? If government cannot run a company within its own borders, why do we believe it can build a nation thousands of miles away? If it cannot control its own borders or balance its own books, what on earth is it doing trying to run or reorganize or pacify parts of the world it knows next to nothing about?
There is at present a massive disconnect between conservative economics and conservative foreign policy. The first is all about the wisdom of markets, or local knowledge, of irreplaceable specific expertise. The second is all about empire, control, liberal hubris and abstract ideology. At some point, conservatives will have to pick. I fear it will only happen when they have learned the lesson of why liberalism always fails.
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