I've been thinking about your post for a couple of days now, but find my brain is still just as much of a swirling mismash as it was earlier, so I'm going to try to put together a decent reply.
I suppose you've heard by now that Perle has resigned his chairmanship of the Defense Policy Board (although he will remain on the board). Is this what you would site as an example of the system working well, as in a little more daylight has revealed on a conflict of interest situation, and the Pentagon responded? Or do you think of it as a partisan-inspired lynching?
I haven't seen CNN since this afternoon, but it was clear that at least the afternoon reporters mangled the story terribly. I thought this New York Times article was good though: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/28/business/28GLOB.html
(you have to register, but it's free and I don't think they send spam)
I think that it is the right thing to do for him to resign, especially in consideration of the Global Crossings deal. He advertised his position as chair of Defense Policy Board to get the contract, and stood to gain a large sum of money if the deal went through.
As far as ethics go, I think that the DPB should be held to a higher standard than that of a lobbysit. One expects a lobbyist to have a stake in "their" issue, and would be wise to keep that in mind when considering their recommendations. The DPB, on the other hand, should be able to make recommendations without raising concerns of conflict of interest, or even apparent conflicts of interest. The stakes are just too high. Also, there's the issue of public trust, and we see how quickly a scandal of this sort can blow sky-high when exposed to some sunlight and hot air. That's not good for the system.
"So let me ask you this. Do you admit that there is any advantage to our interests, at this point, to retain some information as secret, even Top Secret, because if it fell into the hands of our rivals and enemies, that our national security could be threatened?"
Yes, of course. But, we both knew that, didn't we? I completely support the idea that our elected officials be advised by experts, and, if you're talking about war and peace, then it follows that those individuals would have access to classified information.
But, I reserve the right not to blindly trust anyone simply because they're in that position. As you said, there is a tendency to obscure. Actually, the fact that this has become so much of an issue in the past few days give me renewed faith in the system; there seems to be a mechanism in place that will help discourage abuse.
Now, let's talk about the hawks in general. I'm sure you've guessed that a lot of my skepticism stems from my mistrust in Bush, so I might as well get that out on the table first. It's no secret that Bush knew very little about foreign affairs when he was running for president. A few short years is simply not enough time for any individual to develop a thorough and deep understanding of the complex issues involved. So, although it highlights the importance of non-elected advisory boards, it also gives them more control over what is happening, and even over what the President himself is aware of. You seem to trust Bush to navigate through all of that smoothly, and make his own, independent, informed decisions in the end, but I don't think he's capable. I don't think anyone could be. He did clearly make the choice to align himself with the hawks after 9/11. But, there's a lot of issues that are more complicated than simply choosing a "camp" (the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, for example), and an understanding of those issues takes time.
While I'm opening up worm cans, I have a lot of trouble with the system of elections that resulted in electing a President who had very little foreign policy background in the first place. I really wish that elections were covered as an examination of issues and not just as a horse race. It's true that nobody expected this President to have to face such momentous times, but that just highlights the fact that the selection of a President is to something that can not be taken lightly.
I don't have a solution for any of this, other than thinking that we may be able to avoid contributing to the problem by having conversations such as these; ones that seek to go beyond "sound bytes".
OK, now on to the hawks for real. I think that their policy has a greater cost than they realize. For example, the hawks seem to have completely dismissed any concerns that a war in Iraq could inflame anti-American sentiment in the Arab world. The claim seems to be that we shouldn't have to worry about it because we know that we have no imperialistic goals. I know that the military strategy and many of the speeches have been designed to alleviate those concerns, but one has to admit that, to some degree, that interpretation is going to be inevitable in this situation.
I wouldn't support all the conclusions that the author draws there, but worldwide public sentiment needs to be taken into account (even if we are right, and this is the right thing to do!)
Perhaps we can afford the "rep hit" that goes along with our action in Iraq. But, a prolonged hawkish stance doesn't seem like it would be sustainable. We can't afford to ignore everyone who doesn't agree with us in the long run.
I'm not saying that we should be paralyzed if we can't create a world consensus, but it is important to give a little, somewhere, to show our good faith in maintaining good relations. The hawkish point of view does not seem to allow for this on any level.
For example, let's say that our "get tough on nations who harbor terrorists" policy works, and even nations that we don't invade get scared and crack down. But, if the same policy causes a rise in anti-American sentiment, it could mean that those nations would have more terrorists in total to crack down upon. We know all too well that it's possible for terrorists to go unnoticed for years, living what appears to be a normal life! An end to state-sponsored terrorism is a worthy goal, but it wouldn't be an end to terrorism.
It's also possible that a pro-American and tough-on-terrorism government could become very unstable if the population is simultaneously shifting towards anti-Americanism.
I just read a 02/02 Perle interview where he stated, "This is a dove-free country," apparently speaking about Colin Powell (even back then). I'm not so sure I'd agree with that statement, though.
Powell clearly believes that the time has come for regime change in Iraq. I don't know that it follows that he has accepted all the tenets of the hawkish philosophy. Unfortunately, I don't believe that he ever had a chance in the UN. I always saw the President's choice to go to the UN as an afterthought, brought about by a combination of Powell's recommendation and the hesitation of Congress when they addressed the issue. Yes, Congress passed the resolution, but not without considerable, often heated, debate, and not without requesting that the administration revise the wording and seek a multilateral consensus.
Did anybody really believe that the President had not already made his mind up before they ever went to the UN? That whole thing seemed more like an afterthought than an attempt at diplomacy, and I'm not surprised that Powell couldn't build the consensus that he was looking for under the circumstances. I don't think that means that he's become a hawk, though!
I hope you're right. I hope that the pendulum does swing back in the other direction. But, I'm worried about what might happen in the meantime.