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News ::
Washington Post columnist discovers Howard Dean is a warmonger like Bush (english)
19 Nov 2003
Dean has not, in fact, challenged the reigning foreign policy paradigms of the post-9/11 era: the war on terrorism and the nexus between terrorism and rogue states with weapons of mass destruction. "I support the president's war on terrorism," he told Tim Russert this summer. He supported the war in Afghanistan. He even supported Israel's strike against a terrorist camp in Syria because Israel, like the United States, has the "right" to defend itself. (European Deanophiles take note.) Dean does not call for a reduction in American military power but talks about using the "iron fist" of our "superb military."
The Washington Post

No George McGovern

By Robert Kagan
Monday, November 17, 2003; Page A25

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently did his
best to justify the war in Iraq, and he expounded a
bit on the role of American power in the world. Here
are some excerpts of what he said: "The war against
Saddam Hussein was right. . . . He is a vicious
dictator and a documented deceiver. He . . . invaded
his neighbors, used chemical arms and failed to
account for all the chemical and biological weapons he
had before the Gulf War. And he . . . tried to build a
nuclear bomb. . . . I think we're going to find
weapons of mass destruction. I'm convinced that these
weapons were there and that they could have found
their way into the hands of terrorists and found their
way to the United States, and that's what we had to
stop. . . . A nation always preserves the right to
take preemptive action in defense of our security and
our freedom. . . . We have a chance to show the world
that we were in fact in Iraq for the right reasons,
that we were there for the purpose of liberating the
Iraqi people, that this was not about the expansion of
American power, that this was not about oil. . . . I
think the commander in chief has to be tough. I
appreciate the fact that we have a strong military in
this country. . . . I think the world has proven, and
we have proven, that there is a rationale for our
containing the most powerful military on the face of
the planet. To win the war on terror, we must be
prepared to use the iron fist of our superb military."

Okay, I lied. Rumsfeld didn't say any of that. The
above quotation is a composite of statements made over
recent months by John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Joseph
Lieberman, John Edwards and Howard Dean. (The lines
about Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear
weapons are Dean's, as are the "strong military" and
"iron fist" lines.)

It has been said that the United States is polarized
these days. Maybe so. But on foreign policy questions,
where the country is presumably most polarized, the
poles are a little hard to define. The fact remains
that a majority of the Democratic Party's most
plausible candidates supported the war in Iraq and
have not, with the exception of Wes Clark, tried to
claim otherwise. Howard Dean is the preeminent antiwar
candidate, but aside from his dissent on Iraq, does he
really offer a fundamentally different vision of
American foreign policy? Will the 2004 election, in
other words, be a national referendum on the
fundamental principles of American foreign policy in
the post-Cold War, post-Sept. 11, 2001, world? At this
moment, it seems unlikely, even if the matchup is Bush
vs. Dean.

Dean has been portrayed, especially by Republicans, as
the new George McGovern. But judging by Dean's public
statements at least, there is a big difference between
the nature of his antiwar critique and the
anti-Vietnam critique offered by McGovern and his
followers three decades ago.

At the heart of the anti-Vietnam critique was a
wholesale rejection of anti-communist containment, the
reigning American foreign policy paradigm in those
years. Vietnam was not just "the wrong war at the
wrong time." It was, McGovernites believed, the
logical culmination of two decades of misguided and
immoral Cold War strategy. The problem was not just
Richard Nixon but the whole foreign policy
"establishment," Democrats and Republicans alike, from
Dean Acheson through McGeorge Bundy, all of whom who
had taken America down the wrong path. And the answer
was not just withdrawal from Vietnam but a complete
reorientation of American foreign and defense policy.
America was on the wrong side of history; its power
and influence in the world were a source not of good
but of evil. In the McGovernite view, any war was the
wrong war. Americans needed to "come home" both to
save themselves and all who suffered from their
nation's oppressive global influence.

In this respect, at least, Howard Dean is no George
McGovern. He opposed the Iraq war, he says, because it
was "the wrong war at the wrong time," not because it
was emblematic of a fundamentally misguided American
foreign policy. Dean has not, in fact, challenged the
reigning foreign policy paradigms of the post-9/11
era: the war on terrorism and the nexus between
terrorism and rogue states with weapons of mass
destruction. "I support the president's war on
terrorism," he told Tim Russert this summer. He
supported the war in Afghanistan. He even supported
Israel's strike against a terrorist camp in Syria
because Israel, like the United States, has the
"right" to defend itself. (European Deanophiles take
note.) Dean does not call for a reduction in American
military power but talks about using the "iron fist"
of our "superb military." He talks tough about North
Korea and at times appears to be criticizing the Bush
administration for not addressing that "imminent"
threat more seriously. And he especially enjoys
lacerating Bush for not taking the fight more
effectively to al Qaeda, a bit like John F. Kennedy
criticizing Eisenhower in 1960 for not being tough
enough on communism.

Of course, all this tough talk could be hot air. Maybe
Dean is doing a great job controlling and hiding his
inner peacenik. If so, that in itself tells you
something about the current state of the foreign
policy debate. Even Mr. Speak-My-Mind thinks he has to
talk tough. George McGovern didn't.

Another possibility is that Dean's opposition to the
Iraq war has been over-interpreted by his supporters
on the Democratic left. They think he rejects the
overall course of American foreign policy, just as
they do. But maybe he doesn't. They think he's one of
them, but his views may not be all that different from
those of today's Democratic centrist establishment.
When Dean criticizes Bush's foreign policy
"unilateralism," he sounds like a policy expert at the
Council on Foreign Relations, not a radical. "There
are two groups of people who support me because of the
war," Dean told Mara Liasson a few months ago. "One
are the people who always oppose every war, and in the
end I think I probably won't get all of those people."
The other group, Dean figures, simply "appreciates the
fact" that he "stood up early" and spoke his mind and
opposed Bush while other Democrats were cowed. Dean
may not be offering a stark alternative to Bush's
foreign policy, therefore, so much as he is simply
offering Democrats a compelling and combative
alternative to Bush himself. The Iraq war provided the
occasion to prove his mettle.

If so, that has two implications, one small and one
big. The small one concerns the general election: The
Bushies are planning to run against a dovish McGovern,
but there's a remote possibility they could find
themselves running against a hawkish Kennedy. The
bigger implication, which the rest of the world should
note well, is that the general course of American
foreign policy is fairly stable and won't be soon
toppled -- not even by Howard Dean.

The writer, a senior associate at the Carnegie
Endowment, writes a monthly column for The Post.
See also:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50126-2003Nov16.html
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