Democrat foreign policy retreat

James Kirchick:

Accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992, Bill Clinton promised “an America that will not coddle dictators from Beijing to Baghdad.”

Weeks later, his running mate, Al Gore, delivered a speech detailing the now long-forgotten history of the first Bush administration’s support for Saddam Hussein and Iraq’s weapons programs (which shamefully continued long after the ostensible purpose for America’s initial support of Saddam — his war with Iran — ended).

Gore said the first Gulf War was a necessary consequence of President George H.W. Bush’s failed diplomacy and coziness with Saddam all the way up to his invasion of Kuwait (tacitly encouraged by the first Bush administration) and declared that “coddling tyrants is a hallmark of the Bush foreign policy.”

Observers would be forgiven were they to mistake Clinton’s and Gore’s campaign speeches as part of the dreaded “neo-con” oeuvre.

The specific targets of Clinton and Gore were the Republican realists — a breed of the foreign policy establishment embodied by Bush, along with his secretary of state, James Baker, and national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft.

In their talk of “coddling dictators from Beijing to Baghdad,” Clinton and Gore faulted the Bush administration for its feckless response to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and cooperation with Saddam Hussein.

How ironic, then, that in his column last week attacking Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, self-identified “progressive” and former Democratic Senate nominee Ned Lamont would hail Bush, Baker and Scowcroft — the latter described by Lamont as “Bush No. 1’s top foreign policy adviser” — as offering the prescription for the Democratic Party’s foreign policy woes.

Lamont focuses his critique on Lieberman specifically, and this is reasonable given his understandable bitterness over losing an election.

But the Connecticut senator has become a foil on whom many Democrats project their political frustration and lack of ideas about the role America should play in the world.

Lieberman is a convenient punching bag for Democrats; attacking an otherwise liberal senator who sides with the president on the war allows Democrats to avoid the unpleasant truths about the self-defeating narrative they have constructed about Iraq.

Pathetically, today, this reigning element of the Democratic Party attacks Gore’s running mate and simultaneously rallies around a Greenwich, Conn., dilettante as some sort of sage on foreign policy.

While faulting Lieberman for historical ignorance in his recent claim that the Democratic Party has abandoned its “muscular tradition” of “Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and the Clinton-Gore administration,” the commentary by Lamont in last Tuesday’s Politico underscores his own lack of political knowledge.

Praising the first Bush administration and “our bipartisan foreign policy tradition,” Lamont neglects to mention that the vast majority of Democrats in Congress opposed the first Gulf War; Gore and Lieberman were two of just 10 Democratic senators to vote in favor of authorizing the use of American force.


Amid his effusive praise for GOP realists, Lamont betrays an astounding degree of obliviousness to the fact that he epitomizes the death of the Roosevelt-Truman-Kennedy tradition that Lieberman bemoaned earlier this month.


Kirchick is giving the anti war left, as represented by Lamont, more credit for rational thinking than they deserve. They are embracing the realist as an excuse for inaction, and not because they actually agree with them.

Their primary motivation is to avoid the use of force for any reason other than to stop the Mexican army before it gets to LA.

They seek to discredit the use of force period. That is why they cannot admit the success of the surge in Iraq. That is why they are so desperate for defeat in Iraq. If they secure that defeat they will move on to seeking our defeat in Afghanistan.

They want the Military to return to a meals on wheels humanitarian assistance program. When it comes to foreign policy one should never give the anti war left credit for operating in good faith on anything.


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