A Little Education Can Be a Dangerous Thing | The Nation


A Little Education Can Be a Dangerous Thing

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"I've remained dovish ever since," says the professor, a well-regarded author of numerous books on US foreign policy, including Inside CIA's Private World.

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John Nichols
John Nichols
John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated...

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Westerfield's dovishness puts him in a very different camp from that of his former student. "I do not agree with his worldview today," says the professor. "I'm not even sure I understand it. He is so at odds with what we know about the world today. Unfortunately, I think it is clear that Bush is quite dependent on him. He prefers a backroom role, but he is obviously very influential. Even Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz I do not think have the influence that Cheney does."

Westerfield last spoke with Cheney in the mid-1990s, at a memorial service for Les Aspin, Cheney's successor as Defense Secretary. Cheney greeted the professor warmly but showed no interest in serious discussion with the internationally respected academic. Does Westerfield wish that he could sit Cheney down and set his former student straight? Westerfield does not think more course work would do much good. "He's obviously incorrigible. He seems to be determined to go his own way, no matter what facts he is confronted with. It's disturbing."

What to do? As the 2004 campaign heated up, Westerfield said that he had settled "very comfortably" into the camp of those who seek to bring an end to his former student's tenure in the White House. "Yes, I really want to beat Bush and Cheney. I feel that this Administration doesn't want to work in coalition with the rest of the world; they really do not want to cooperate with the world. And that is precisely the wrong approach for the United States at this point."

As an expert in such matters, Westerfield says, "There is a great deal of work that needs to be done to re-establish American credibility in the world. And the first step, I think, is to elect an administration that takes our relationships with other countries more seriously."

And just for the record, what about Dick Cheney's grades in the course that so influenced him? "His grades were not particularly good," the professor says sheepishly. Pressed, Westerfield explains, "Allowing for grade inflation, his final grade would probably be a low B." Translation: Dick Cheney passed the course that sent him on the way to guiding the affairs of state with a gentleman's C.

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