Why Are These Professional War Peddlers Still Around?

One thing that every late-stage ruling class has in common is a high tolerance for mediocrity. Standards decline, the edges fray, but nobody in charge seems to notice. They’re happy in their sinecures and getting richer. In a culture like this, there’s no penalty for being wrong. The talentless prosper, rising inexorably toward positions of greater power, and breaking things along the way. It happened to the Ottomans. Max Boot is living proof that it’s happening in America.

Boot is a professional foreign policy expert, a job category that doesn’t exist outside of a select number of cities. Boot has degrees from Berkeley and Yale, and is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has written a number of books and countless newspaper columns on foreign affairs and military history. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, an influential British think tank, describes Boot as one of the “world’s leading authorities on armed conflict.”

None of this, it turns out, means anything. The professional requirements for being one ofthe world’s Leading Authorities on Armed Conflict do not include relevant experience with armed conflict. Leading authorities on the subject don’t need a track record of wise assessments or accurate predictions. All that’s required are the circular recommendations of fellow credential holders. If other Leading Authorities on Armed Conflict induct you into their ranks, you’re in. That’s good news for Max Boot.

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Boot first became famous in the weeks after 9/11 for outlining a response that the Bush administration seemed to read like a script, virtually word for word. While others…

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