As information comes out about the lead-up to the war, the intelligence failures along the way, and the grossly mishandled occupation, it becomes more and more clear that–contrary to conventional wisdom about the State Dept./Pentagon axis–the real power broker behind U.S. foreign policy is Dick Cheney’s office. Almost entirely behind the scenes, with little interaction with the media or the public, the VP and his staff have pushed hard for a maximally aggressive, ambitious, and unilateral pursuit of U.S. interests (very narrowly construed, in my opinion). Cheney is known around Washington as a “wise man,” almost entirely, if you read the encomiums, on the basis of his demeanor. This is in spite of his record of misprognosis and failure.

Regardless, if you want to understand the mind of Cheney, check out this fascinating new piece from Ackerman & Foer in _The New Republic_. There are few public figures that are more powerful and less scrutinized.

It’s long been my opinion that one of the most damaging aspects of politics in the U.S. is that, unlike domestic policy, foreign policy is almost entirely beyond the direct control and even view of the populace. Foreign policy is decided almost entirely by the executive branch, frequently by unelected ideologues, with virtually no wider democratic debate. If the populace really understood the how and why of U.S. actions toward other countries, much of it would horrify them. But they don’t hear about it, they just hear relentless self-absorbed and self-congratulatory rhetoric from politicians and a lazy national media. The rest of the world has a decidedly less rosy view of the U.S. than we have of ourselves, and as reaction to 9/11 shows, it baffles us. Only a baffled populace would accept Bush’s “they hate us because we’re free” pabulum. It’s a kind of cognitive dissonance that has become particularly pronounced and exacerbated under Bush’s watch. As to what can be done about it, well… that’s complicated. Let’s start with getting Bush the hell out of office.