Facts? In A Knife Fight?

My review of Jim Geraghty’s book “Voting to Kill” is up at the Examiner site.

I had to edit it pretty brutally for length, and as a consequence it reads, I think, a little more harshly about the book than I feel.

I think that Geraghty’s point is right on – which ties into Kevin Drum and Eric Martin’s posts expressing massive frustration with William Arkin.Kevin wrote:

Outside the blogosphere, of course, we have the actual Democratic establishment, the one that wields genuine influence. Some of them are in Congress and make floor speeches — about both Iraq and national security more broadly. Some of them run for president and lay out detailed position papers about how best to conduct foreign policy in an age of jihad. Others host symposia at think tanks or write lengthy articles in places like Foreign Affairs and Democracy. Still others write books covering practically every nuance of liberal foreign policy you could ever hope for.

Some of these liberals think we ought to withdraw from Iraq and some don’t. I think it’s safe to say that virtually all of them believe that a less militaristic and more internationalist foreign policy would be a net benefit. But it’s also safe to say that none of them — not one — believes this is all it will take to put a stop to militant jihadism. And yet, after five years of speeches, articles, symposia, and books by Democrats on national security, that’s what Arkin writes.

Kevin, I read most of that stuff, and I’ve got to tell you first that I don’t see a clear Democratic line of reasoning beyond the kind of thing that Martin has in his post here:

More profound success in this endeavor will ultimately require, as praktike and Matt Yglesias pointed out, a fundamental rethinking of many of the tenets that have guided our foreign policy decisions in that region for over a century. These tectonic shifts will be difficult to set in motion, slow developing once undertaken, and hardly aided by a noted lack of political will in many respects. These are the hard steps.

But there are easier ones too. For one, by focusing on the real costs of Iraq, and placing Iraq in its appropriately important context as one hindrance among a handful currently undermining our efforts in the war on terror, we can seek to avoid making a similarly counterproductive blunder in Syria, Iran or wherever else it is that the neoconservative wander/bloodlust would take us. Not invading yet another Muslim country in the span of a few years would be, you know, a positive first step even if that simple abstention wouldn’t solve all our problems overnight.

Further, rehabilitating our image and fortifying our influence by aspiring to back-up Bush’s soaring rhetoric with actual corresponding policies (ie, respecting habeas corpus, banning torture, etc.) – while not creating a solution “voila!” – will redound to our benefit in other areas crucial to our success. We would, among other things, decrease support for extremists, increase the likelihood of recruiting and maintaining valuable human intelligence assets, and help to secure the vital cooperation of a wide array of foreign governments and their respective intelligence agencies, on which we rely.

The use of human and signal intelligence, surgical military operations, marginalizing extremist organizations through the application of soft power in its myriad manifestations and fostering a more robust relationship with potentially helpful foreign national interests would all be attainable steps that would serve us well while we go about the larger, paradigm shifting overhaul cited above.

The praktike post he cites is the one that I commented on earlier – the one in which solving Israel/Palestine on terms acceptable to the Arab world, and not involving ourselves in any more invasions is pretty much the core prescription. I know that prak has made other suggestions…

But the part I emphasized is the part that the Democrats keep coming back to…better intelligence, surgical military operations, using ‘soft power to marginalize extremists’, and getting allies…and there are more than a few problems with that.

The first one is that the same Democrats are the ones who keep kneecapping intelligence programs like SWIFT and they are the ones who led the charge to get the ‘icky people’ out of the humint business. They don’t have a lot of credibility there.

The second is the classic Clinton ‘ninjas from helicopters’ fantasy. I’ve blogged my criticism of it several times in the past, but I’ll lay out the three core objections here: a) it probably won’t work (because we need huge networks within the target country to make such an attack work, and we can’t and won’t assemble intel networks in that depth everywhere in the world); b) it’s immoral – we’re talking a covert war of assassination here. Think the film Munich times 2,356; c) it consists of our committing acts of war in a number of foreign countries – something they may have a say about and a response to.

I’m all for using soft power – the attractive nature of our society and the value it has as an attractor – and I’ll fully agree that Bush hasn’t done a very good job of this. But it’s a feature of a strategy, not a strategy in and of itself.

And as to allies, you mean like the UNFIL troops in South Lebanon? The ones who won’t forcibly disarm Hizbollah, even though that’s what the UN resolution calls for? Or like the French, German, and Russian response to Iraq – the one that was certainly influenced by tens of millions in bribes paid to influential businessman and leaders in those countries?

Look, there’s nothing wrong with any of these proposals – but even as an intermediate term response while we’re getting the Arab world to stop educating its children that killing Jews is the highest calling (which makes the while ‘solving the Israel/Palestine’ thing problematic) – it’s obvious that the Democrats don’t have significant credibility here, either through stated policy or through their party history.

The Democratic presidents during my adult lifetime have been Carter and Clinton – and based on what I know of their administrations’ history (which is pretty well demonstrated by Geraghty), and which was just pretty closely confirmed to me by what I saw Tuesday night – and so here’s the problem.

The Democrats clearly have a perception problem – even within our own ranks. Is it perception, or is it reality?

Now I’m at a point where I’m disagreeing with Kevin and Martin (and all the folks standing behind them), as they’re telling me that I’m just flat wrong. Which is, as always, possible…

So here’s my proposal.

One thing that would be damn useful in deciding this issue would be to assemble a repository of links to core democratic positions on defense so that we could all go to primary sources. Right now the debate (including this part of it) consists of “yes they do” and “no they don’t” – which ought to be resolvable relatively easily, and seems like a perfect thing for blogs to do. I’m going to reach out to Kevin, praktike, and Phil Carter – and am open to suggestions on who else – and ask for links to top Democratic cites, papers, quotes, etc. on the subject of defense. I’ll keep a post live with the links we get, and offer to let them crosspost it as well and see what grows.

So folks, comment here with links central to understanding Democratic policy on defense.

This isn’t meant as a joke, and I’m not looking for people to do anything but contribute pointers to things we can use to do the best map possible of mainstream Democratic positions on defense. Let’s settle this debate with some facts – we can argue about what they mean once we have them.

25 thoughts on “Facts? In A Knife Fight?”

  1. The Democrats took America to war in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

    One win, one loss, one tie.

    The Republicans took America to war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq again.

    One win, and, say, one tie and one loss.

    Looks pretty even to me.

  2. “It is impossible to know with any precision whether the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created more terrorists than they’ve killed.”

    — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday


    But, if they help elect Republicans and only cost America the lives of 1000 soldiers and $100 billion a year, what the heck!

  3. monkeyboy, you’re pissing in the punch here – stop it NOW. I’d love to get what was requested – links to substantive Democratic positions on defense – from you.

    But I’ll delete the next poo-flinging post you put up and use it mock you instead.

    Is there anything not clear about that?

  4. I have thought for a while now that if the Dem’s are afraid to step up to the plate with something substantive overseas, why can’t they do it here in the continental U.S. by becoming the standard-bearer for immigration reform?

    Immigration is THE huge issue right now, and I think if either party promised Real Americans serious reform, including doing something about the gazillions of illegals currently here, they would be swept into office. My sense is that Americans are getting very tired of babysitting squabbling Iraqi’s and chasing bin Laden around from cave to cave in Afghanistan and are ready to withdraw into Fortress America, even if we’re not quite at the point of totally drawing up the bridges and shooting all incoming planes out of the sky.

    In other words, if we could begin to feel secure about our next-door neighbors and who’s slithering in during the night, we might feel better about abandoning or cutting back on all the wars in all those places where people are not only not grateful, but they insist on behaving in incomprehensible ways that are repugnant to us.

    And isn’t that basically what the Democratic Party’s bottom line wish-list is? Soft power and playing patty-cake with allies and all?

  5. Here’s a link I found via “Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Internationalism:_A_Democratic_National_Security_Strategy

    “Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy”:http://www.ppionline.org/ppi_ci.cfm?knlgAreaID=124&subsecID=158&contentID=252144

    bq. We begin by reaffirming the Democratic Party’s commitment to progressive internationalism — the belief that America can best defend itself by building a world safe for individual liberty and democracy. We therefore support the bold exercise of American power, not to dominate but to shape alliances and international institutions that share a common commitment to liberal values. The way to keep America safe and strong is not to impose our will on others or pursue a narrow, selfish nationalism that betrays our best values, but to lead the world toward political and economic freedom.

    Evidently just a proposal.

  6. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

    How far is Monkyboy from Pelosi, Reid or Dean? With their leadership why should we expect anything else? Time to recognize that the Democrat position is to seize the contrary position for partisan advantage without regard for the merits of the case.

    Lieberman and Zell Miller were the closest thing to serious national secuirty Democrats and they have been run out of the party. Now there’s none. I’m not happy about it because there are holes in the Bush policy that aren’t being pointed out and aren’t being filled. It lets the trunks get lazy. Perhaps it will get debated in the trunk primaries running up to Minneapolis. HHH must be spinning.

  7. Guys, I chastized monkeyboy for not doing as requested, and I’ve got plenty of chastise left for the rest of you (Mrs. Davis). The comments thread here should specifically present links to serious Democratic position documents on defense…please?


  8. AL,
    I wonder why you responded to Mrs. Davis, who technically violated the rules you’d laid down, and did not respond to #9 Sando, who definitively linked to the Democrat(ic){don’t want to PO, otherwise great blogger Marty Peretz “The Spine”)Party’s National Security Policy.
    While I do seem to remember you’ve earlier posted on this document, it surely seems relevant to the question here.

  9. The problem with Dems positions are:

    *The Military is derided and the very idea of militar force “solving things” is derided. Thus a critical component of foreign / national security policy is ignored. Dems advance politically as Drum noted through domestic issues like Gay Marriage not National Security.

    *Excessive reliance and overestimation of international agencies even when all available evidence shows them a total failure (UN in Darfur, Iraq, Iran’s nukes etc).

    *Actively inflicting harm on National Security: against Missile Defense when North Korea and Iran threaten to nuke us, and outing every intelligence operation in sight.

    *Fundamental misperception of the problem.

    Dems believe the main problem is that “Muslims don’t love us” and if we just tried really, really hard (and helped them kill all the Jews in Israel) why they’d recognize us as really cool guys wearing black, with about 25 piercings and some rockin tribal tats man!

    How this relates to the defacto ban in Europe on Mozart (Muslims will kill if his opera is performed) or various writers, filmmakers, the Pope, Cartoonists etc doesn’t penetrate them.

    Our very SOFT POWER creates the conflict. The global economy, culture, trade etc guarantee Muslims are shown how bankrupt and failed their culture and religion are every day. No wonder they seek to destroy us.

    If anything it’s the fundamental inability due to PC multi-culti romance of the primitive by Dems that prevent them from anything other than Black Clad ninja fantasies from Clinton.

  10. Jim –

    Cites for the Democratic positions please?

    C’mon folks, the rules aren’t that hard to understand. If you’re going to comment, have a link to something that represents a substantive major Democratic FP position.


  11. Debate Transcript: September 30, 2004. The First Bush-Kerry Presidential Debate … SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY (MA), DEMOCRATIC … The umbrella topic is foreign policy and homeland security … (link)

    I think the announced positions of the party’s only candidate for the presidency in the post 11 September, 2001 world should carry some weight unless repudiated by the party since then.

    John F. Kerry: But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you’re doing what you’re doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

  12. I don’t know if James Fallows is a central spokesperson for the Democratic party, but his article “Declaring Victory”:http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200609/fallows_victory (subscription required) contains a number of key themes: The Iraq War is a distraction, we’re wasting too much money, and by overreacting to terrorist threats we’re giving the terrorists the initiative.(FN) It also contains some decidedly non-Democratic talking points, namely that we have been made safer. Declaring victory appears to be a means of demoralizing terrorists and shifting to a low- visibility apprach, involving military transformation, spies and renewed diplomacy. In response to the airline bombing ring broken up in England, Fallows “argued”:http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200608u/airline-plot/2 that “it was police work, surveillance, and patient cultivation of sources that broke the airline bombing ring.” I would add that it was also a domestic spying agency that the United States does not have.

    (FN) He appears close to making another point I’ve heard, which is that a large part of “the problem” is in Europe, so a war is not a useful tactic.

  13. The first one is that the same Democrats are the ones who keep kneecapping intelligence programs like SWIFT and they are the ones who led the charge to get the ‘icky people’ out of the humint business. They don’t have a lot of credibility there.

    Democrats “kneeboarded” SWIFT? Pretty creative thinking there Marc.

    Which democrat are you referring to?

    Or are you saying SWIFT, but meaning FISA?

  14. SWIFT, as in the international bank messaging service.

    That has been kneecapped, and it’s probably the most damaging loss from the intelligence toolkit that we actually know about.

  15. Larry Diamond – “What Went Wrong in Iraq” (This guy actually knows a think or two about nation-building, and has some influence with the DLC. A student of Lipset’s.)

    I’ve been looking for a link to an article I read some time ago, by a fellow named David Halpern (I think), where he talks about what I thought at the time was an intriguing strategy. He supported the War in Iraq, but felt that the US presence there was probably inspiring jihadism. His proposal was to have the US military take up positions “beyond the horizon”, and eventually to move to a redoubt in Saudi Arabia from which we could launch expeditions to deal with acute problems as they emerged. The thing is I think Murtha and some of the Dems cribbed from this strategy without attribution and without his careful understanding of the situation. Halpern’s version sounded a lot more knowledgable, and he wasn’t really opposed to the mission in Iraq. He saw the liberal transformation of the neighborhood as critical. As I recall he even used allusions to the Crusades.

    Anyway, I’ll be darned if I can find the link now, so thought maybe someone knows about it.

  16. I took some time to pull some of Hillary’s public offerings which might be used to discern her positions on various facets of National Security.

    “National Security”:http://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/NationalSecurity/ ; from her Senate campaign web site.

    “Homeland Security”:http://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/HomelandSecurity/ ; from her Senate Campaign website

    Military Comissions:
    “Senator Clinton Underscores Opposition to Military Commissions Act”:http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=264039&& (28 Sep ’06)

    Preventing Terrorist attacks on US:
    “Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Reported Terrorist Plot”:http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=261657&& (10 Aug ’06)

    Iraq War:
    “Remarks of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Senate Floor on Iraq”:http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=257561&& (21 Jun ’06) In this, her focus is support for the Levin Amdt (4320). This can be found “here”:http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?r109:1:./temp/~r109Ja6A8Y:e119912: ; word search “Sec.” at the page and the amendment text is below that.

    Intelligence Gathering:
    “Remarks of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Privacy to the American Constitution Society”:http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=257288&& (16 Jun ’06)

    “Remarks … Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School ….”:http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=250529&& ; (19 Jan ’06)

  17. Well my memory isn’t what it used to be, but I was close. Not David Halpern but Mark Helprin, in the WSJ, May, 2004: Templar Plan. Again, I think the Dems cribbed from this, without actually understanding the strategy. Helprin isn’t a military historian, but he’s a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. Excerpt:

    In a war that has steadily grown beyond expectations, America has been poorly served by those who govern it. The Democrats are guilty of seemingly innate ideological confusion about self-defense, the Republicans of willful disdain for reflection, and, both, of lack of imagination, probity, and preparation–and, perhaps above all, of subjecting the most serious business in the life of a nation to coarse partisanship. Having come up short, both parties are sorely in need of a severe reprimand and direct order from the American people to correct their failings and get on with the common defense.

  18. This may lie a bit outside Marc’s brief, but I’d be interested in where the various Dem camps come down on Tom Barnett’s foreign and military policy prescriptions. ‘Cut and run’ it’s certainly not. I don’t get the feel that the Repub side of the aisle is in any mood to go further into the ‘SysAdmin’ role as Barnett defines it; the Wilsonian momentum there is about played out. That direction lies open to the Dems, though it would be a tough fit with the Bush=Iraq=evil conflation.

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