Stop endorsing failure
He did not enlist to become an imperial stormtrooper
Atrios picked this up from Big Media Matt
Continuing a trend of writing blog posts criticizing people who I'm soon going to be collaborating with (more on that later, as the kids say). By way of introducing my criticism, let me say that I really like the conclusion of Kenny Baer's latest New Republic column:
Bush and the GOP provide that vision: the terrorists are evil; democracies are good; America will defeat evil and support and spread good. It's simple, but extraordinarily compelling, especially to pro-Israel voters. Strategically, the Democratic answer to Bush's idealism can't be realpolitik (after all, these voters know that interests can change more easily than beliefs). Ideologically, it's not the answer either. Democrats have fought for generations to bring values into the practice of foreign policy, from Wilson trying to make the world safe for democracy to Truman's stand against Soviet expansion and Clinton's launching an air war to stop a genocide in the Balkans--and shouldn't allow Republicans to take that mantle. Democrats need to remember that for decades they have been able to speak to Americans' deep sense that we are a unique "city on a hill" and a "light unto the nations." Democrats must reclaim that heritage and make the case that Republicans have undermined America's moral standing (and, by extension, our security) both in the world and at home. If they do that, Democrats not only will win over security voters of all faiths and win elections, but they also could once again become the automatic choice of the chosen people.
That is what Democrats should do. But in the broader context of the column, Baer offers a very strange reason for doing it -- that this step is necessary to halt the erosion of Jewish support for the Democratic Party. All else being equal, of course, halting said erosion is a good thing. But it'd be mighty odd to orient one's entire approach to national security for that reason. Among other things, erosion of Jewish support for Democrats isn't really a huge problem. The areas where Baer sees it happening -- New York City, Northern New Jersey, some inner NYC suburbs -- just aren't vulnerable terrain. It's almost impossible to imagine a scenario where Democrats lose an election because they lost New York (which is to say that if they lose New York, they'll have lost enough other stuff that winning New York wouldn't have won the election). The reason to do what Baer suggests is that it's right on the merits.
Politics and policy aside, I think those of us who'd classify ourselves as being among the more "hawkish" brand of liberals have a media strategy problem. Roughly speaking, a lot of Democratic voters don't like us very much. What we need to do is convince more liberals that they should like us. That means spending more time trying to convince liberals of the merits of our views, and less time re-enforcing the impression that we're just opportunists searching for votes out there in some ill-defined center. Give the people a convincing argument for a plausible hawkish policy (Kosovo, for example) and plenty of liberals will come along for the party.
Let me start by saying that I like Big Media Matt. He's a nice kid. But he's wrong, talking out of his ass actually.
Matt, if you are "hawkish", I think there are recruiting station in Boston Common, Times Square and off the Mall in DC. Any one will accept your enlistment. Because if you are going to support interventions, you need to get your ass in the Army and support it as an 11B. This is real life. You can sit on your ass and proclaim policy and not be taken seriously, or you can get a commission, lead a platoon for a couple of years and have real world experience. Because, otherwise, you are pretty much a chickenhawk suggesting poor people die for your ideas. And I think you're smarter and better than that.
Kenny Baer is an idiot. I would suggest that he read Russell Weigley and Williamson Murray before putting pen to paper. Then for light reading, some Stephen Ambrose, maybe toss in Ronald Spector.
Then, when finished, read Hackworth's full bio, Andrew Krepenivich, Andrew Bacievich and Patrick Cockburn.
When finished, he should end his reading with Daniel Yergin's The Prize.
Why? Because he knows fuck all about the military, forget strategy. Baer could be talking about his period for all his supposed knowledge.
First of all, Jews are not a monolith and all the Jews who want to live in Israel live there. The AIPAC crowd dominates Washington, but they have little sway in New York. We see nuance here and there are more than one opinion on Israel.
Second, "security" Dems need to state the obvious: Bush's policies have failed. Thay have made the country far more dangerous than need be. By their racism and imperialism, they have made the US far less secure. The US needs a very different and cooperative military, and one with radically new weapons to meet a new threat, light infantry armies mobile in light vehicles. We need a radical rethink of how we fight wars.
You need to cut the bullshit out about National Service and the disguised draft. You aren't sending your kids to Ft. Leonard Wood under ANY circumstance you can avoid. Stop seeking to send the poor there. America has had a draft for about 43 years of it's existance. That's it. Raise the pay, lessen the impact of IRR and improve family lives and once the war is over, people will join again.
Matt, there is NO plausible reason for a hawkish policy and if you think Kosovo is it, you're wrong. We were stopping a civil war between the drug funded KLA and the criminal Serbs. It took the better part of a decade to get to that point. Bosnia was turned into an abettoir before the US jumped in. We watched people bring concentration camps back to central Europe before we dropped a bomb. And then we moved with our allies.
The reason most Democratic voters don't like you is because you seem to keep finding ways to get their kids killed while sitting behind a desk. Ever been in a VA hospital? Well, that's where the victims of your ideas wind up.
American troops need a mission where there are three goals:
1) Stop agression
Aggression is destabilizing to US economic and foreign policy. Stopping it is not acting as the world's policeman, but ensuring peace and stability when needed
The US needs to take an active role in peacekeeping and ensuring that peacekeepers have the force needed to quell disputes.
3) Logistical support for other militaries
The US has the ability to move other armies to trouble spots without risking massive loss of US life, and not taking a role in regional conflicts where we have no major stake.
The Democratic hawks are fools trying to sell an already discreted package. I don't want to emulate a failed foriegn policy which going to destroy the US Army twice in 30 years. Why would anyone want to say we have a varient of that utter and complete failure.
Democrats have to define national security as prosperity at home and alliances abroad, with an army which is trained and equipped to fight the next war, not the last one.
Republican foreign policy has been all talk and failure. Do Israelis sleep secure at night? Do Iranians have free and fair elections? Is Cuba a democracy?
All GOP failed policies. Every one.
We talk big, and for the most part, people run. But when they don't, like the NVA and the Iraqis, they find out we do not have the will they do. And one hopes that the Iranians don't find this out the hard way. Or the US soldiers in Iraq.
American foreign policy needs to be smarter, for one thing. We have to be serious members of the world community. We cannot pick and choose to join the ICC and the Kyoto protocols. We need to be credible, in word and deed. We need to stand behind our ideals, like closing Guantanmo and using the Internation Criminal Court, to endorse them, to bolster them.
Swinging dick imperialism is advocated by those who will never be at the sharp end of it. We need more friends. Friends who will disuade our enemies from attacking us, by standing side by side with us, as they did after 9/11. We need to be honest brokers, as willing to respect Islam as we do Christianity.
Stephen Ambrose described the American Army of 1945 thusly: "Whenever someone saw an American helmet, that meant they were free". That is the greatest legacy of the US Army in World War II, that when American troops rolled in a German or Italian town, or Okinawan village, that we were there to do more than kill and destroy, but to help. That Filipinos, Karens and Kachins, and Yugoslav partisans could fight side by side with us, knowing we had no designs on their land or people and only wanted them to share the freedom we were fighting and dying for.
It was not perfect. It was not ideal. But as we brought home the POW's and liberated concentration camps, we knew what we had done was right, without question or hesitation.
Imperialism is fool's gold. The worst war the US fought until Vietnam was the Conquest of the Philippines. We murdered and raped and pillaged to subject them for over three years. Now forgotten, it is one of the darkest legacies of US military and foriegn policy.
I am for a strong, effective foriegn policy, which not only includes allies and respect for human rights, but an Army which is trained and equipped to fight effectively, one where soldiers do not get loans for armored vests, do not uparmor their vehicles with "hillbilly armor" found in Iraqi scrapyards and coated with god knows what chemicals. Or field expedient gun trucks. Soldiers who do not fire with abandon with rifles which may jam.
The Group of Soviet Forces Germany is a memory. Why do we still train to fight it? A real foreign policy, a real, tough, democratic policy would build on success, not failure, call the GOP policy for what it is, a quagmire, not only in Iraq, but North Korea, Iran, the West Bank.
The time has come to call the GOP policy for the fraud it is and frame "toughness" as a way to promote and protect this country without claiming an imperial right. The right has failed and the left needs to state that and offer real, credible alternatives.
posted by Steve @ 12:00:00 PM