Why do our “best and brightest” fail when faced with a man like Putin? Or with charismatic fanatics? Or Iranian negotiators? Why do they misread our enemies so consistently, from Hitler and Stalin to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph?
The answer is straightforward:
Social insularity: Our leaders know fellow insiders around the world; our enemies know everyone else.
The mandarin’s distaste for physicality: We are led through blood-smeared times by those who’ve never suffered a bloody nose.
And last but not least, bad educations in our very best schools: Our leadership has been educated in chaste political theory, while our enemies know, firsthand, the stuff of life.
Above all, there is arrogance based upon privilege. For revolving-door leaders in the U.S. and Europe, if you didn’t go to the right prep school and elite university, you couldn’t possibly be capable of comprehending, let alone changing, the world. It’s the old social “Not our kind, dahhhling…” attitude transferred to government.
That educational insularity is corrosive and potentially catastrophic: Our “best” universities prepare students to sustain the current system, instilling vague hopes of managing petty reforms.
But dramatic, revolutionary change in geopolitics never comes from insiders. It’s the outsiders who change the world. In the 21st century, our government suffers from the sclerosis of insider thinking that constantly reinforces itself and rejects conflicting evidence. The result is that we are being whipped by savages.
Of course, the insiders can’t accept so abhorrent a prospect as their own fallibility. So when new blood does enter — through those same “elite” institutions — it’s channeled into the same old calcium-clogged arteries. And we get generals with Ivy League Ph.D.s writing military doctrine that adheres cringingly to politically correct truisms and leaves out the very factors, such as the power of religion or ethnic hatred, that prove decisive. Or a usually astute commentator on Eastern European affairs who dismisses Vladimir Putin as a mere chinovnik, a petty bureaucrat, since Putin was only a lieutenant colonel in the KGB when the Soviet Union collapsed and didn’t go to a Swiss prep school like John Kerry.
That analyst overlooked the fact that Hitler had been a mere lance corporal. Stalin was a failed seminarian. Lenin was a destitute syphilitic. Ho Chi Minh washed dishes in the basement of a Paris Hotel. And when the French Revolution erupted, Napoleon was a junior artillery officer.
And sophisticated Germans assumed they could use Hitler and then dismiss him, while other Europeans mocked him. Stalin’s fellow Bolsheviks underestimated him, until it was too late and their fates were sealed. The French didn’t notice Ho. And Napoleon shocked even his own lethargic family. The “man on horseback” is often the man from nowhere, and the members of the club ignore the torches in the streets until the club burns down around them.
Put another way: We are led by men and women educated to believe in the irresistible authority of their own words. When they encounter others who use words solely to deflect and defraud, or, worse, when their opposite numbers ignore words completely and revel in ferocious violence, our best and brightest go into an intellectual stall and keep repeating the same empty phrases (in increasingly tortured tones):
“Violence never solves anything.” “There’s no military solution.” “War is never the answer.” “Only a negotiated solution can resolve this crisis.” “It isn’t about religion.”
Or the latest and lamest: “We need to have strategic patience,” and “Terrorists need jobs.”
Every one of those statements is, demonstrably, nonsense most — or all — of the time. But the end result of very expensive educations is a Manchurian Candidate effect that kicks in whenever the core convictions of the old regime are questioned. So we find ourselves with leaders who would rather defend platitudes than defend their country.
And negotiations become the opium of the chattering classes.
Once-great universities have turned into political indoctrination centers worthy of the high Stalinist Era or the age of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Their aims may be more benign, but their unwillingness to consider alternative worldviews is every bit as rigid. Students in the social sciences at Harvard or Yale today are cadets being groomed to serve a soft-Socialist form of government conceived not in the streets, but in the very same classrooms. It’s a self-licking ice-cream cone. And graduates leave campus brilliantly prepared for everything except reality.
This is not an argument against education. Rather, it is an argument for education and against indoctrination, against the fantasy that the barbarian with the knife bashing in the door poses no danger to the career government official who has published a book on “the false construct of race and its deleterious impact upon climate change.”
Putin, that “petty bureaucrat,” has won every significant confrontation with the West, conquering foreign territory and humiliating presidents. Iran’s negotiators have outmaneuvered their Western interlocutors so spectacularly that they really don’t need Obama’s deal, having gotten most of what they needed: time and partial sanctions relief. And the Islamic State has confounded not only our elite’s prejudices about how the world should work, but demolished their platitudinous nonsense that “All men want peace.”
In fact, some men delight in inflicting grotesque forms of violence on others.
We face a new age of barbarism. And we’re led by those whose notion of violence is a rugby game at Princeton, who won’t let their children play unattended but deny the murderous impulses haunting humanity. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that the lack of a prep-school background and a Brooks Brothers charge account doesn’t mean that a thug with slovenly manners can’t change the world.
Originally published on FoxNews.com