Democrats and Our Enemies
By JOSEPH LIEBERMAN
May 21, 2008; Page A19
How did the Democratic Party get here? How did the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy drift so far from the foreign policy and national security principles and policies that were at the core of its identity and its purpose?
Beginning in the 1940s, the Democratic Party was forced to confront two of the most dangerous enemies our nation has ever faced: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In response, Democrats under Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy forged and conducted a foreign policy that was principled, internationalist, strong and successful.
|Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy, 1961.|
This was the Democratic Party that I grew up in – a party that was unhesitatingly and proudly pro-American, a party that was unafraid to make moral judgments about the world beyond our borders. It was a party that understood that either the American people stood united with free nations and freedom fighters against the forces of totalitarianism, or that we would fall divided.
This was the Democratic Party of Harry Truman, who pledged that "it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."
And this was the Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy, who promised in his inaugural address that the United States would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of freedom."
This worldview began to come apart in the late 1960s, around the war in Vietnam. In its place, a very different view of the world took root in the Democratic Party. Rather than seeing the Cold War as an ideological contest between the free nations of the West and the repressive regimes of the communist world, this rival political philosophy saw America as the aggressor – a morally bankrupt, imperialist power whose militarism and "inordinate fear of communism" represented the real threat to world peace.
It argued that the Soviets and their allies were our enemies not because they were inspired by a totalitarian ideology fundamentally hostile to our way of life, or because they nursed ambitions of global conquest. Rather, the Soviets were our enemy because we had provoked them, because we threatened them, and because we failed to sit down and accord them the respect they deserved. In other words, the Cold War was mostly America's fault.
Of course that leftward lurch by the Democrats did not go unchallenged. Democratic Cold Warriors like Scoop Jackson fought against the tide. But despite their principled efforts, the Democratic Party through the 1970s and 1980s became prisoner to a foreign policy philosophy that was, in most respects, the antithesis of what Democrats had stood for under Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy.
Then, beginning in the 1980s, a new effort began on the part of some of us in the Democratic Party to reverse these developments, and reclaim our party's lost tradition of principle and strength in the world. Our band of so-called New Democrats was successful sooner than we imagined possible when, in 1992, Bill Clinton and Al Gore were elected. In the Balkans, for example, as President Clinton and his advisers slowly but surely came to recognize that American intervention, and only American intervention, could stop Slobodan Milosevic and his campaign of ethnic slaughter, Democratic attitudes about the use of military force in pursuit of our values and our security began to change.
This happy development continued into the 2000 campaign, when the Democratic candidate – Vice President Gore – championed a freedom-focused foreign policy, confident of America's moral responsibilities in the world, and unafraid to use our military power. He pledged to increase the defense budget by $50 billion more than his Republican opponent – and, to the dismay of the Democratic left, made sure that the party's platform endorsed a national missile defense.
By contrast, in 2000, Gov. George W. Bush promised a "humble foreign policy" and criticized our peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.
Today, less than a decade later, the parties have completely switched positions. The reversal began, like so much else in our time, on September 11, 2001. The attack on America by Islamist terrorists shook President Bush from the foreign policy course he was on. He saw September 11 for what it was: a direct ideological and military attack on us and our way of life. If the Democratic Party had stayed where it was in 2000, America could have confronted the terrorists with unity and strength in the years after 9/11.
Instead a debate soon began within the Democratic Party about how to respond to Mr. Bush. I felt strongly that Democrats should embrace the basic framework the president had advanced for the war on terror as our own, because it was our own. But that was not the choice most Democratic leaders made. When total victory did not come quickly in Iraq, the old voices of partisanship and peace at any price saw an opportunity to reassert themselves. By considering centrism to be collaboration with the enemy – not bin Laden, but Mr. Bush – activists have successfully pulled the Democratic Party further to the left than it has been at any point in the last 20 years.
Far too many Democratic leaders have kowtowed to these opinions rather than challenging them. That unfortunately includes Barack Obama, who, contrary to his rhetorical invocations of bipartisan change, has not been willing to stand up to his party's left wing on a single significant national security or international economic issue in this campaign.
In this, Sen. Obama stands in stark contrast to John McCain, who has shown the political courage throughout his career to do what he thinks is right – regardless of its popularity in his party or outside it.
John also understands something else that too many Democrats seem to have become confused about lately – the difference between America's friends and America's enemies.
There are of course times when it makes sense to engage in tough diplomacy with hostile governments. Yet what Mr. Obama has proposed is not selective engagement, but a blanket policy of meeting personally as president, without preconditions, in his first year in office, with the leaders of the most vicious, anti-American regimes on the planet.
Mr. Obama has said that in proposing this, he is following in the footsteps of Reagan and JFK. But Kennedy never met with Castro, and Reagan never met with Khomeini. And can anyone imagine Presidents Kennedy or Reagan sitting down unconditionally with Ahmadinejad or Chavez? I certainly cannot.
If a president ever embraced our worst enemies in this way, he would strengthen them and undermine our most steadfast allies.
A great Democratic secretary of state, Dean Acheson, once warned "no people in history have ever survived, who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies." This is a lesson that today's Democratic Party leaders need to relearn.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. This article is adapted from a speech he gave May 18 at a dinner hosted by Commentary magazine.
From the pages of the Wall Street Journal
If this does not prove that Holy Joe is a Republican in "Independent Democrat" clothing what does? So many lies, smears, distortions, and fabrications; where do we start?
Let us begin at the beginning shall we? Let us start with the very first straw man argument. No Democrat in any position of power ever argued that the
Soviet Union was all sweetness and light. There were some student radicals and University Professors who may have argued that the was solely responsible for the cold war but these were people on the outside looking in. U.S.
Responsible people did argue that the Soviet threat was much less than it appeared. They argued that the
pact was more of a defensive arrangement than a tool for aggression. They argued that our belligerence was counterproductive. They argued that our Anti-Communist foreign policy did more harm than good. The pointed to our entanglement in Warsaw as an example of us blundering into commitments that had no real benefit to our national security. There was some disagreement in how to fight global communism and how to spread democracy but there was never a serious disagreement on whether to scrap these two goals. Lieberman once again drags up the old McCarthyite Smears. He drags out the rotten, vile corpse of Tail Gunner Joe for yet another dance around the political stage. Anyone who disagrees with him is part of a left-wing Vietnam hating cabal who wants us to surrender to the enemy. Any one who wants to negotiate ,or even just talk is a coward and appeaser. He flips the Churchillian logic to “better war, war than jaw, jaw.” America
Even Richard Milhous Nixon, red-bater and anti-communist extraordinaire talked; even he stat down with the Soviets. Even he finally had to trim his sails viz the Russians. The man opened up trade with them; he negotiated START and ignored human rights issues. Jimmy Carter, not the name that falls off the lips of Scoop Jacksonian Democrats, was much tougher with the Soviets than Nixon. No one in their right minds equates his National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski with a tree-hugging, Latte sipping, Sandal-wearing, peace-love-and-granola type. By the way Ronald Regan did talk to Mikhail Gorbachev and Reagan’s minions even did the arms for hostages deal with
. Good Ol’ Ronny was knee deep in Iran Contra, remember? Ronny and his crew was knee deep in Iranian appeasement and double dealing. Ronny and his crew rewarded Iranian misbehavior. By the way Lieberman’s bestest buddy in the world, George W Bush, has overseen numerous contacts with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran provided yeoman assistance with our Afghan mission; they hate the Taliban even more than we do. Iran
Lieberman is correct in one respect, Ronald Reagan would never talk to someone like Ahmadinejad, why bother with the court jester? Chavez on the other hand is a direct result of Regan's mindless anti-communism south of the border. Chavez is the direct result of Regan’s contra-insurgent strategy. The concept is called blow-back; something that has slipped the Senator’s thought processes.
JFK never did talk to Castro this much is also true; but he did talk to Khrushchev and had he lived he might have found a way to live with Fidel in his second term. JFK was much more of a pragmatist than advertised. He was a cold war warrior through and through, but he knew where to cut his losses. If we could have an embassy in
Moscow we can certainly have an embassy in the reasoning could have gone. Havana
Carter too talked with our opponents. Carter had the misfortune to inherit a badly damaged military. The toll of our misadventure in the jungles of Southeast Asia played out in the
. Our foolish interference in 1950's desert of Iran , covered by anti-Communist dogma, blew back in the form of the Islamic Revolution. All combined into the hostage crisis. Please note that Carter managed to return all the hostages alive, the only loss of life coming in the botched Dessert One mission. Reagan on the other hand got 300+ Marines needlessly slaughtered in Lebanon on a fools mission that did major damage to our reputation in the Middle East. Odd, Carter gets slagged for extracting us out of the Iran crisis with minimal loss of life while Regan gets praised when he slinks away from Islamic radicals. Somehow the first incident emboldened the "Islamofascists" while the second struck fear in their hearts. Iran
Ideological anti-Communism caused harm elsewhere. Most of South and Central America is still trying to recover from despotic military rule supported by
. Most of Washington Africa lies waist due to Kleptocratic rulers supported because they were "our son of a bitch" in the fight against Communism. Critics pointed this out to the Scoop Jackson Democrats. Even though there is ample documentation to the folly of ideological monomania, of the us-vs.-them mindset, Holy Joe is just itching to repeat the follies of Cold War mental rigidity. This time it the global war on Terror. This time it is the "fight against radical Islam." The need for some grand ideological struggle is even more felt.
Lieberman and his ilk so desperately need this struggle of ideas; they need an existential struggle to justify their views. Never mind that like the Pope, Al Qaeda is woefully short of divisions. Never mind that our pointless misadventures in the
are adding fuel to the jihadist fire. Never mind that being stateless actors they have no way to attack the land of Mesopotamia ; that there is no way they will be able to fight us on our home front. Never mind there is no way to wage war on a tactic (terror.) OBL and his scruffy, rag-tag bunch of ne'er-do-wells is equivalent of the Old Soviet Union. OBL / Al Qaeda are the equivalent of the massed divisions of the U.S. pact, the equivalent of the 30,000 nuclear device holding Russian menace. OBL/ Al Qaeda in their little mountain hide-out have the intelligence capability of the old KGB/MGB. OBL/ Al Qaeda have the billions of dollar of resources and the vast human capital of the old Bolshevik Empire. Really? Then what, pray tell, are they doing hiding out in the tribal badlands of the Warsaw Pakistan / border regions? The comparison is ridiculous. The best Al Qaeda has managed so far is to fly some passenger planes into a landmark building. The Afghanistan Soviet Union fought and defeated one of the greatest military machines ever assembled- Nazi Germany.
The views of the NeoCons are bankrupt. They suffer from a rigidity of thought and deed. They latch on to Military might as the sole means of power projection. This brute strength ideology is an insult to the Democratic fore bearers that Lieberman holds up for justification. FDR, Harry Truman, JFK were never this tone deaf. JFK would never confuse a flea for an elephant.
Even if you think that the
has a right to use project its power wherever and whenever it wants to (a dicey proposition to be sure), military muscle is last tool to reach for not the first. There is an old saying that you can get a lot more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. It is called soft power, a concept totally foreign to NeoCons like Lieberman. Of course soft power works best with some hard power resting behind it. That is not the argument. The argument is that words are better than bombs. The argument is that all countries have interests and it is the best policy to see if there is way to way to trade off interests. Diplomacy is not necessarily a zero sum game. US 's gain does not necessarily mean our loss. Both the Iran US and Iran can gain from a stabilization of the Middle East; even Israel can gain from an that is engaged in negotiation instead of trouble making. Iran
This is not to say that the
US is in a poor position viz. Iran in the Middle East, we are. We are in this position because of Senator Lieberman's other obsession in the region-Iraq. There was no bigger cheer-leader for the invasion than Holy Joe. Lieberman was for regime change before 9/11 and before George W. Bush got into office. The invasion and occupation of Iraq was his fondest wish. He and his Likud buddies thought that taking Iraq Iraq out of the equation would be a benefit to and stabilize the region. A democratic, free-market, libertarian Israel would be a beacon to the region. Iraq Iraq would set off the dominoes in the Middle East and all those bad Arab actors would see the light and join the Club For Growth. What really happened? The NeoCons and their Likudnick allies screwed the pooch so badly in that the poor mutt died. Iraq is now a hollow shell. Every day brings more news of a Hobbesian struggle of the all against the all. What is the good Senator solution to rise of Iraq brought about by our Iraqi catastrophe? Why he proposes that we engage in a naval blockade or better yet an attack. Good idea Joe! Let us add even more chaos to a region that has a surplus of that item. Let us see if we can get oil up to $500.00 or better yet $1,000.00 a barrel. That should be a real boon to limping American economy; that and $10.00 a gallon gasoline. JFK would be ecstatic with that prospect. Truman would be doing cartwheels over that kind of result. Yes, this exactly the type of foreign policy Scoop Jackson would support. Iran