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What do Richard Perle and Smokey the Bear have in common?

At a New America Foundation event today, featuring some of America’s grandest grand strategists, Richard Perle proved willing to play with fire metaphors.  It all began when Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Walter Russell Mead described what he saw as the contradictory nature of American power. The United States usually attempts to preserve the ...

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

At a New America Foundation event today, featuring some of America’s grandest grand strategists, Richard Perle proved willing to play with fire metaphors. 

It all began when Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Walter Russell Mead described what he saw as the contradictory nature of American power. The United States usually attempts to preserve the international status quo, Mead argued, while at the same time acting as the world’s "arsonist," whose interventions and innovations are responsible for some of the world’s largest conflicts.

That was all it took to get Perle, who was by far the most unenthusiastic panelist regarding Obama’s first year, talking about forest fire prevention. "Sometimes fires are put out by setting deliberate fires," he noted. "I think you sometimes set a fire to contain a fire, in order to deprive the fire you’re hoping to contain of combustible material, which would enable it to spread or expand. So I’m not against using fire to fight fire."

"I’m not an expert on fires," Perle noted, preempting any accusation that the New York-born foreign policy analyst knows little about fire-fighting techniques.

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