On the West Wing, a show I like very much, I see people working together to achieve good results. I also see these people making various adjustments to survive - "political decisions", that may not be good decisions for the country. Generally I think the show is more idealistic than a real administration would be. People in the show have honest debates about subjects, shit happens, I might disagree on some points but I tend to like the characters and their ability to think and listen.
In other words, I believe that some of the decisions made on that show are ostensibly made for all the right reasons, but I suspect that in the real world the reasons would be different.
I have read Bob Graham's book on the abuse of power in the Bush Admin, and am currently reading Against All Enemies, by Richard Clark. Both of these men are long-time Washington insiders. And in both of these books I have detected a willingness - not acknowledged as such - to view political actions rather generously. For example, Clark says that the first Bush admin sent in forces to stop the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait because of a fear that the Iraqi invasion would lead to an invasion of Iran and loss of control of the oil there. In other words, we went to war to protect the oil. He says it clearly and doesn't question this motivation, is even supportive of it. He doesn't talk of the cost in death and destruction, or of other ways to avoid our dependence on that oil, for example.
Similarly Graham looks at war events from a global or U.S. viewpoint rather than from the point of view of a person on the ground. And to him the Country has often made good decisions and has a need to have bases all over the world, to be involved in other countries' business.
Contrast this view with that of what they call "Washington observers", who see these actions in less glowing terms. Samantha Power, who wrote of genocide, characterized Clinton's late action in going into the Balkans as an action motivated by Clinton's need to "look good" to the media, to be seen as someone who will step in when necessary. He did the right thing, finally, late, because he was afraid of looking bad.
Chalmers Johnson, in The Sorrows of Empire, is significantly more inclined to offer cynical reaons for what the U.S. does in the world.
I am inclined to believe more what Johnson and Powers suggest than what the insiders say. And I don't say this because I think the insiders are not telling the truth - as they see it. I suspect, instead, that they convince themselves of good reasons to do what they do and skip on past what may underlie the reasons or what consequences there may be to others.
Particularly I find that they skip on past the deaths. Iraqi citizen deaths. Timorese deaths. So many deaths. Some people justify our killing innocent people in the name of protecting others. I can't. I can never justify it. It's that old question: If you could press a button and kill an innocent person on the other side of the world and thereby save thousands of people on this side of the world, would you do it? It's a devil's question and I do not have a good answer, but I believe there is always going to be another way to get the thing done. Further, I doubt the result would ever be the saving of thousands of others, not in the real world.
So far my thesis is ragged, but I put it here as a start.