The Dem's failure to study war

Michael Totten:

The 1960s New Left thought “Ain’t gonna study war no more” was a good idea and a clever slogan. It was neither. It was a way of admitting in public that they were entering a phase of willful ignorance.

Bill Clinton won the 1992 election in part with a slogan that said “It’s the economy, stupid.” If he and his party said “Ain’t gonna study the economy no more” they would have gone nowhere.

I haven’t heard that silly 60s slogan in a while, but I see the effects of it constantly. Some intellectuals on the left (both pro- and anti-war) do take national security seriously. You’ll find them writing for publications like Dissent and The New Republic, but you won’t find them many other places.

...

... this article, published two years ago, by Heather Hurlburt. How refreshing it is to read an article like this from a member of the anti-war left.


Democrats are in this position precisely because we respond to matters of war politically, tactically. We worry about how to position ourselves so as not to look weak, rather than thinking through realistic, sensible Democratic principles on how and when to employ military force, and arguing particular cases, such as Iraq, from those principles. There are a lot of reasons for this failure, including the long-time split within the party between hawks and doves. But we will never resolve that split, nor regain credibility with voters on national security, until we learn to think straight about war. And we will never learn to think straight about war until this generation of professional Democrats overcomes its ignorance of and indifference to military affairs.

[…]

The reasons for this apathy aren't hard to discern. Many Democrats who came of age during the Vietnam War retain a gut-level distrust of the military. Younger staffers, who may not carry the same psychological baggage, have few mentors urging them toward military or security issues. I speak from experience: My main qualification for my first Washington job--covering European security for Congress--was that I could locate the Warsaw Pact countries on a map and correctly identify the acronyms of the relevant international organizations.

But lack of expertise is only a symptom. The malady is an irresponsible lack of interest. The issues that drive most contemporary Democrats into politics are reproductive rights, health care, fiscal policy, or poverty, not national security. Even those young Democrats who are interested in foreign affairs tend to be drawn to "soft" subjects such as debt relief and human rights. Aspiring foreign policy wonks will often get pulled into military affairs by way of, say, their work on demining. But when these young people visualize exciting jobs in the next Democratic administration, they think State Department, not Pentagon.

[…]

...At the same time, most Democrats understood that a reputation for being "soft" on defense issues was a serious political liability. But instead of grappling with the substance of war and national security, Democrats began to approach their vulnerability as a problem of tactics and political positioning. (Emphasis added.)


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