War Party fights dirty, as Howard Dean is beginning to find
out. His antiwar stance has galvanized Democrats and independents
sick unto death of a tame "opposition" party terrorized into
silence on the vital question of war and peace. Unlike the
other Democratic critics of the President, he isn't a born-again
anti-interventionist, but opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.
Growing disaffection with our increasingly belligerent and
high-risk foreign policy is the primary reason for Dean's
stunning rise in the polls: he
leads in Iowa, and is neck-and-neck
with Kerry in New Hampshire. The all-too-predictable result
of his success is a smear campaign orchestrated by "centrists,"
i.e. the most rabidly
pro-war elements in the Democratic party.
"Stop Dean!" movement, a holy war declared
by some of the editors of The New Republic, has found
its fountainhead and champion in Joe Lieberman, who apparently
believes that, having failed in the number two spot last time,
he deserves to be promoted to the top of the ticket. In arguing
against Dean, TNR editor Jonathan Chait quipped:
he's nominated, by next year most Americans will think he's
a dues-paying member of Al Qaeda."
crack was meant as a prediction of Dean's fate at Republican
hands, but Lieberman is intent on giving the GOP a head start.
In a recent blast at the putative front-runner, Lieberman
share the anger of my fellow Democrats with George Bush and
the direction he has taken this nation. But the answer to
his outdated, extremist ideology is not to be found in the
outdated extremes of our own. That path will not solve the
challenges of our time, and could send us back to the political
wilderness for years to come."
labeling his primary opponent an "extremist," Lieberman is
lobbing the political equivalent of a bunker-buster at the
Dean camp. In the age of terrorism, those are more than fighting
words: they're an indicator that you're a danger to the country,
if not a terrorist then a passively unconscious sympathizer.
Lieberman is essentially saying that Dean and Osama bin Laden
– another exponent of an "outdated extremist ideology"
are kindred spirits.
viciously subliminal implication, coupled with Lieberman's
critique of Dean as soft on national security issues, is,
at the very least, meant to characterize the former Vermont
governor as another George McGovern. This is the mantra Dean's
neocon critics, in both parties, repeat endlessly. But what's
so bad about that? If today's voters identify
Dean with McGovern's foreign policy views, that's to his advantage.
McGovern was right about the Vietnam war, and the majority
of Americans agree with him in retrospect.
interesting that the avidly pro-war Lieberman is admitting
the historical parallels between the Iraq war and that similarly
doomed attempt to bring "democracy" to the Asian landmass.
Vietnam was a quagmire: and Iraq promises to be more of the
same, which is precisely why a
growing number of Americans of all parties oppose it.
Of course, history never repeats itself exactly: there are
many indications, however, that this war could be far worse.
At least back in the Vietnam era we didn't have to worry about
Ho Chi Minh sending his agents to strike domestic American
claims to represent the "vital center," but his role as chief
mudslinger of the "Stop Dean" campaign is only "vital" to
the War Party, which considers the two major parties to be
merely "right" and "left"-wing extensions of itself. Just
how "centrist" is it of Lieberman to start off the primary
season with explosive and divisive accusations of "extremism"
hurled at his opponent?
"extremist" means going off on a tangent and undertaking a
radically different course, if it means venturing into uncharted
and dangerous waters, then surely this term describes the
current foreign policy of the United States. What else can
we call an attempt to carve out a "democratic" empire in the
Middle East, the most volatile region on earth, if not an
extreme solution to the perceived problem of terrorism? The
Bush administration has authored a
strategic doctrine that claims the
right of imperial preemption: the right and even the duty
to strike before a challenge to American hegemony rises in
any particular region. Dean, for all his faults, has come
out foursquare against this nutty and dangerous policy. As he puts it:
Congress approved the President's authorization to go to war
in Iraq – no matter how well-intentioned – it was giving the
green light to the President to set his Doctrine of preemptive
war in motion. It now appears that Iraq was just the first
step. Already, the Bush Administration is apparently eyeing
Syria and Iran as the next countries on its target list. The
Bush Doctrine must be stopped here."
isn't just red meat thrown to left-leaning Democratic party
activists. Dean is clearly sincere, and just as clearly means
to make rising opposition to this rotten war the fuel that
drives his campaign for the White House. Responding to the
Establishment's attempted drive-by smearing, he stoutly maintains
that he alone can beat Bush:
opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, so it turns out
that the four Washington candidates all supported a war which
turns out to be based on things that weren't so."
effort to typecast him as McGovern Redux is bound to run into
a lot of problems, namely his real views, as demonstrated
during his tenure as governor of Vermont when he reined in
big-spenders in his own party. He's against gun control, and
describes himself as "socially liberal and fiscally conservative."
I'm waiting – just waiting! – for him to describe himself
as a "libertarian." Why not? It seems like everyone else has,
Ventura, Neal Boortz, and a long line of fakers, phonies,
and flim-flam artists who thought they were getting on a rolling
– who advocates some form of socialized medicine, and shows
no understanding of the essential libertarian insight that
the State isn't just inefficient, but downright evil
– is no libertarian. But he is no con artist, either: he seems
far too contrarian and intelligent to take a dogmatic view
of economic and domestic political issues, and is thankfully
free of the Democratic candidate's traditional
subservience to the union bosses. Whether this means he's
free of labor's big government agenda remains to be seen,
but attempts to cast the Dean movement as a re-run of the
more traditionally left-wing McGovern campaign are premature.
These are the nothing but the tired epithets of cynical, know-it-all
neocons of both parties, who believe history has "ended"
in the triumph of their power fantasies.
great thing about Dean is that he seems to have a clear understanding
of just who his enemies are:
next president will need to undo the work of this band of
radicals currently controlling our foreign policy – who view
the Middle East as a laboratory for their experiments in democracy-building,
where no such traditions exist. Their approach will drastically
change the view that the world has had of the United States."
has defined the problem precisely: the foreign policy of this
country has been hijacked by a very small band of radicals,
who are intent on wrecking our economy and the Constitution
in pursuit of their Napoleonic delusions. It is time the American
people – the real "vital center," if you will – took it back.
War Party is out to get Dean for a simple reason. They are
merely implementing, in the realm of domestic politics, their
doctrine of launching a preemptive – and crippling – first
strike against any possible center of opposition. Lieberman
claims to be making a fight for "the soul of the Democratic
party," and pretends to defend the authentic traditions of
the party against an "extremist" interloper. But the Democrats
are, supposedly, the heirs of Jefferson,
the great enemy of imperialism. While the Republican party
was born in the crucible of war, and has – with the exception
of the pre-World War II period – nearly always stood for expansionism
and militarism in foreign affairs, the Democrats have a long
Jefferson and continuing through William
Jennings Bryan, the hard-money, pro-peace "Gold Democrats,"
otherwise known as Cleveland
Democrats, the antiwar anti-FDR Democrats of the 1930s
exemplified by the anti-interventionist Senator Burton K.
Wheeler, right on up to the Vietnam era insurgents who
took back the party, for a brief period in the early 1970s.
They took it back, ironically, from a coalition of liberal
corporatists and repentant ex-Trotskyites
who had temporarily taken on the coloration of right-wing
Social Democrats – some of the very same people, and
who make up the "radical band" Dean rightly disdains.
from agreeing with his position on gun control, I emphatically
disagree with Dean's domestic policies but I must confess
to being less than bored by the subject. The two parties are
so evenly balanced in terms of political power, thanks, in
part, to energetic gerrymandering, that no radical program
of domestic "reform" is likely to make it through Congress.
His scheme for national health insurance will go nowhere,
even if he is elected in a landslide, but it wouldn't matter
even if I'm wrong.
the domestic arena is pretty much impervious to Presidential
bullying, except in a national crisis, such as an economic
depression, it is only in the realm of foreign policy that
a President can make his real mark, as the case of George
W. Bush makes all too ominously clear. Congress long ago ceded
this arena to the imperial Presidency, abdicating its constitutional
duty in the process, and so what happens, every four years,
is that we elect a foreign policy dictator who can take us
into war – or out of it – at will.
recognition of this strategic reality, Murray N. Rothbard, the founder of the
modern libertarian movement, supported Adlai Stevenson
for President against Dwight Eisenhower, the "moderate" Rockefeller
Republican, on the grounds that Eisenhower's interventionist
foreign policy was inimical to the first precondition of liberty,
which is peace. Stevenson supported taking steps toward mutual
disarmament, and Rothbard was alarmed by the militaristic
behavior of the U.S. government during the Eisenhower era,
as in the infamous U-2 incident, in which an
American spy was shot down flying over Soviet territory. The
possibility of World War III neutralized ostensible Republican
opposition to the growing welfare state just as effectively
as the prospect of another world war today threatens our constitutionally-protected
liberties on the home front.
is good news for opponents of our crazed foreign policy. His
statements opposing the Iraq war betray not a radical disposition,
but a basically conservative mindset that disdains the revolutionary
hubris of "democratist"
zealots and seeks to undo the damage done by the current President's
neoconservative advisors. Best of all, he has all the right
enemies: Joe Loserman
and Rush Limbaugh, the union bosses and the big corporate
interests, The New Republic and the Weekly Standard.
This is going to be fun.
smearing of Howard Dean is part of a continuing attempt by
the neoconservatives of both parties to make sure the American
people never get a chance to veto our policy of global intervention.
Bush 43 ran on the merits of a "humble" foreign policy – and
look what we got. The Dean campaign is a populist movement
against the War Party's political monopoly: quite apart from
Dean, the personality and the politician, the insurgency inspired
by his candidacy is a harbinger of hope.
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