Friday, August 06, 2004

A New Strategy or Just the Same Old Tactics 

Sen. Gary Hart’s op-ed in the LA Times (A New Grand Strategy) is a clearly written piece that lays out what I agree to be very important themes that should be carried forth. I agree whole heartedly that the United States needs to clearly define and put forth a grand strategy that is both worthy of our efforts and resources as well as being true to our character and principals. I am surprised, though, that while I see that President Bush has done just that with his groundbreaking support of democracy in former totalitarian regimes, all Sen. Hart seems to see is the limited vision of "so-called neoconservatives" pushing pre-emptive war as a path to a "benign empire".

He is spot on in several other ways, though. A United Europe does present new challenges to what he refers to as "the Atlantic Alliance" and no administration, I believe, has ever given the level of attention to Asia that their population, military and economic impact deserve. As well, there is little argument that these challenges will, indeed, be well served by "new international institutions", such as the recently formed PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative). It is disappointing, though, that such promising common ground is then used as a starting point to only raise old canards and rehash the tired nefarious implications so often hurled at the current administration.

Once again we are treated to that favorite word of the administration’s detractors: "unilateral". This word has been so often used that it has almost become the Democrat equivalent of "you know" or "like". The unacknowledged truth in this use of "unilateral" is that what is really meant is acting contrary to France, Germany, Russia and China, as these four constituted the greatest part of significant opposition to the Iraqi campaign. And while I understand and share legitimate concern about perceived alienation of allies and loss of international consensus, casual use of the u-word has become a way to take a jab without having to address the serious question of at what point does an erstwhile ally become a neutral or, even, an opponent?

Another problem I have is reference to "the Bush administration's 'war on terrorism'". Perhaps I am inferring more from the choice of words than I should, but to couch it as such is imply that the war is either a specious construct of the administration or somehow does not effect or involve the entire country. Does Sen. Hart really doubt the need to confront those who would deal with us in terms of murder, blackmail and wanton destruction? Or does he doubt the necessity of a "war" to confront such a threat, preferring, instead, to rely upon the tried and disproved law enforcement model? I believe most rank and file Democrats across the nation recognize the reality of the war and would feel much a part of it in spite of their party’s rhetoric. While there were occasional contemporary references to the Civil War as "Lincoln’s war" and WWII as "Mr. Roosevelt’s war", is that really the side of history on which the Democrat party as a whole wishes to find itself?

My final point is with the three purposes Sen. Hart proposes as part of the grand strategy: ensure security, expand opportunity and promote democracy. I agree completely that these should be at the forefront in our national policy, and I would argue that in this regard the Bush administration is ahead of the curve. While Sen. Hart looks at the GWOT and sees only a "unilateralist and militaristic" methodology to the first goal, I believe President Bush has clearly laid out that theses three exact same goals are intimately entwined. The military action in Iraq serves the purpose to both provide immediate security gains as well as enabling the promotion of democracy and opportunity, the eventual fruits of which are even greater security without the need for military action. This administration clearly believes in the McDonald’s model for world peace (i.e. the contention that no two nations that both have McDonald’s franchises have ever gone to war), and while it may not strictly be true the fact of the matter is that democracies do not militarily challenge each other. Their citizens simply will not support it, as it presents too much risk and adverse effect on their own opportunities.

As I said at the beginning, Sen. Hart has many good points and ideas that I think could constructively add to where we, as a nation, go in the dawning days of this century. That so much effort is directed, though, toward casting dispersions toward the current administration may be more a factor of election year politics than heart-felt sentiment. If so, though, its only long-term effect is to further reinforce on both sides the tendency to distrust the other’s motivations and goals regardless of how plainly stated they may be. Albert Einstein said "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." Likewise, the creation of a bold new grans strategy for our nation cannot be accomplished in the face of the same short-sighted political tactics of half-truth and inuendo that led us to our current rancor.

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