FORMULA FOR POLITICAL OBLIVION
Wouldn't it be interesting if a candidate
put it in such explicit terms? How do you suppose that would go
over? I can almost imagine John McCain saying it, but I find it
difficult to imagine that it would gain him much electoral support.
The American people were willing to be stirred up about Saddam Hussein
in 1990-91 and probably would have supported an assault on Baghdad
back then to take him out, even if they knew that the rhetoric about
the worst threat since Hitler was a bit overblown. After all, Saddam
really is a tyrant who has ambitions to unsettle his neighbors.
But they have processed the conduct of that war and the aftermath.
They know now that Saddam is far from an overarching strategic threat
but a local if troublesome pipsqueak.
WANTS TO MAKE THIS FIGHT?
Americans don't seem to be too exercised
about continuing feckless (although destructive to many people in
Iraq besides Saddam and his allies) bombing of Iraq. But are they
ready to gear up for another war in the Persian Gulf?
I don't think so. And I don't think anybody who seriously wants
to be elected president thinks so either. In fact, I don't think
John Bolton thinks so. He hopes one of the presidential contenders
musters the courage and leadership to make Iraq a major campaign
issue, and soon. If one doesn't, "if we miss the opportunity,
there is little hope that we will ever get another.''
That strikes me as remarkably good news. The keepers of the Warfare
State or at least some of them) are worried that the political process
won't give them the chance to take out one of their enemies.
Another article in the same issue of
the Standard, by Lawrence Kaplan of The National Interest
concentrates on bashing Congressional Republicans who are so impudent
as to question perpetual military and diplomatic engagement and
aggression in the rest of the world and insist on "grappling
over questions presumed to have been settled half a century ago.''
Oh, those upstarts who don't know that once the elites have settled
a matter and influenced the writing of the history textbooks, the
matter should be forever closed to discussion! How can they have
the nerve to intrude on the counsels of the anointed with their
picky questions and doubts?
IKE, BUT NOT THAT MUCH
Kaplan notes that "this is hardly
the first time Republicans have been split down the middle with
respect to the aims of American foreign policy.'' In 1952, when
Eisenhower won the nomination and the election, he was peppered
from behind by pesky quasi-isolationists from the Taft wing, who
had the insufferable nerve to question the Marshall Plan and NATO.
But Ike won the election.
Unfortunately, in Kaplan's view, he made too many bows to party
unity after he was elected, which meant he was unable to carry out
a foreign policy aggressive enough to suit Kaplan. And then "the
gap between the Eisenhower administration's aggressive hyperbole
and the reality of its tentative foreign policy led to the justifiable
impression of American hypocrisy most notably, in the case
of the Hungarian uprising.''
THE FIRST ROOSEVELT
Mr. Kaplan urges the next Republican
president to hark back to the example of Theodore Roosevelt, who
also "found his vision of America's global role hamstrung by
Republican isolationists. And so he wielded executive power to send
the US fleet around the world, dispatch forces to South America,
engineer our acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone, and win a Nobel
Prize for brokering peace between Japan and Russia.''
Fascinating. Leave aside for the moment that the United States is
already far more intimately involved, with heavy, expensive commitments,
in more places around the world than Teddy-Boy could have imagined.
And leave aside the assumption that it should be virtually instinctive
for a Republican to be eager to expand and use executive power unilaterally
in the face of significant congressional opposition.
Would a Republican President elected in 2000 let's stick with
the conventional wisdom and say George Bush or maybe John McCain really want to spend a good deal of his political capital being
"in-your-face'' to his own party for the sake of global adventurism?
Maybe, if there's a near-universally-perceived crisis of some sort.
But for a continuation of the Clinton fiasco in Kosovo or an uprising
in Indonesia or Pakistan? If enough congressional Republicans are
firm and vocal on the matter and it's likely at least some would
be a president would probably think twice about making some pipsqueak
imperialist mission a make-or-break issue.
And I think the keepers of the Imperial
Flame at the Weekly Standard have the same impression, except that
what I would call hopes they would call fears. The enthusiasts for
American global hegemony seem to have this uneasy feeling that maybe,
just maybe, their enthusiasms are not widely shared. That's why
they run articles urging presidents and presidential candidates
to be more aggressive in putting down the pretensions of the "neo-isolationists''
Again, I don't want to make too much of this. But I think this just
might be a sign of imperial weakness and therefore good news.
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