As the "War on Terror" ensues and war with Iraq remains a high possibility, the role of the appeasers among us becomes increasingly questionable. Indeed, the serious question continuously surfaces: who are appeasers in a time of war and what do they represent? And what is the role of opposition parties in a time of war? Furthermore, what lessons can we draw from the effects of the anti-rearmament, anti-militarist movements organized by the Communist left in the Thirties? Are they relevant for today's War on Terror?
To discuss these and other questions in our Symposium Appeasement Then and Now, Frontpage Magazine has the privilege of being joined by Pat Buchanan, author of Death of the West, a former White House assistant to Presidents Nixon and Reagan who ran twice for the Republican nomination for President and was the Reform Party nominee in 2000; Michael Ledeen, a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of the new book The War Against the Terror Masters; Dr. Charles Kupchan, a professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author if the new book The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century; Victor Davis Hanson, currently a visiting professor of military history at the US Naval Academy and author of the new book An Autumn of War: What America Learned from September 11 and the War on Terrorism; and Danielle Pletka, Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute and an expert in Foreign and Defense Policy.
Question #1: What is the role of opposition parties in time of war? Historically, they tend to rally around the flag when their country is under attack. Are the Democrats doing that today?
Look at Arthur Vandenberg, the staunch isolationist in the late 1930s. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed his whole political disposition. Overnight, he became a staunch supporter of the war against the axis powers. Afterwards, during the Cold War, he championed the Truman Doctrine.
What do you think of the Democrats' behaviour today in comparison to Vandeberg's behaviour back then vis-a-vis the Nazis/Japanese and then the Soviets?
Hanson: In theory, opposition parties are to frame their very necessary critiques around questions of domestic policy and war strategy - their key role as public auditors being to sharpen, refine, modify, or improve the nation's war effort at home and abroad.
But historically - at Athens during the Peloponnesian War, in America during the Civil War and Vietnam, or in France during the colonial wars of the 1950s - once wars become costly they inevitably seize the moment to find political opportunity in daily harping even if they have little advice or policy to offer that is valuable.
The Democrats are now an abstraction. Some like Senator Lieberman are responsible statesmen who seek to offer advice within the framework of waging a necessary war. But others -Senator Daschle comes quickly to mind - simply sound off in an amateurish way, make wild charges, hope that something sticks, scream until hoarse, and then sheepishly go along with majority.
The Democrats as a party are having a terrible problem; their 1960s post-Vietnam credo of not intervening abroad under any circumstances has hit head-on with the de facto policy of removing odious fascists like Noriega, Milosevic, Mullah Omar, and Saddam Hussein. What do you do when the Joint Chiefs wage wars of national liberation and take out the homophobic, sexist, Medieval Taliban when the left wing of your party is wedded to the idea that such horrible people in the Middle East are simply "different"? The ripples of 9-11 keep lapping up in strange ways.
Pletka: Without excusing the behavior of a variety of naysayers -- Democrats and Republicans -- it is important to point out that the current war on terror is more similar to the Cold War than World War II and the Vandenberg era. In this case, our enemies are less concrete, our targets are less clear and much of the battle is fought with intelligence and police work, not with troops and fighter jets.
That said, the reluctance of some to embrace the very necessary war with Iraq on the grounds that it will diminish the war on terror is contemptible. Failure to understand that the war on Iraq is an integral component of the war on terror stems more from a desperate desire to politicize events than a genuine hostility to the removal of Saddam Hussein.
Those in the "opposition" like John Kerry and Al Gore who make such arguments are merely positioning themselves to criticize the President at an opportune moment. As such, one can hardly call them ideological opponents -- merely political gamesmen.
Buchanan: "Appeasement" has come to mean craven surrender to evil. But the policy of Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax meant something else entirely in the 1930s. My own view is that the word is retrievable from the ninth circle of hell, but that, as a policy, appeasement has been practised at one time or another by all Great Powers, including our own.
In the present situation, Democrats support the President in the "War on Terror." Rightly so. That is the war we are in. But before the President launches us into an imperial war on a nation that has not attacked us and does not threaten us, Iraq, the duty of the Loyal Opposition is to raise these questions: Is this war necessary? Is this war just? Is this war wise? Simply to stand up and salute Mr. Bush as he prepares to launch this war is less a model of democratic patriotism than it is of the Fuhrer Princip.
Everybody supported the war after Pearl Harbor, even good America Firsters like Jack and Joe Kennedy and Gerald Ford. As for Arthur Vandenberg, you should read more deeply into who the good Senator was fooling around with in 1940-41.
Second, there was nothing immoral, or unwise, about the isolationists’ position of 1940-41. Because of the courageous efforts of Lindbergh and America First, the United States stayed out of the war until Hitler threw the full force of his war machine against Stalin. Thus, the Soviet Union, not America’s young, bore the brunt of defeating Nazi Germany.
In the 20th century, anti-war patriots kept us out of both world wars until most of the blood-letting had occurred. We did not go into battle in a big way in France until the middle of 1918, four years after the Guns of August. We did not land on Normandy until four years after France had been overrun and the Brits had been tossed off the continent, and three years after Hitler had invaded Stalin’s Soviet Union. America comes in like Fortinbras, after the blood-letting is over, to take charge of affairs. Our forefathers taught us well.
As for the postwar era, I agree with Vandenburg’s stand, obviously, but to compare Saddam Hussein’s Iraq -- with less than 1% of our GDP, a fourth-rate air force, no navy, an army that was unable to hold onto Kuwait, which is half the size of Denmark -- with Stalin’s massive empire circa 1950, is ludicrous. Communism declared war on the West in general and the U.S. in particular. We had not choice but to fight that war, and the way President like Eisenhower and Reagan did it was exactly right. Peace through Strength, and outlast them.
Kupchan: Yes, Democrats are generally rallying around the flag and supporting the president on matters of foreign policy - which is what they should do. However, I feel that they have gone too far. It is one thing to support the president; it is another to give him a blank check.
Particularly on the question of Iraq, a searching national debate is warranted, and responsibility for triggering that debate falls on the shoulders of the opposition party - the Democrats. One of America's greatest strength comes from its vital public debate and the operation of the marketplace of ideas. That debate is today as important as ever - but it is for now truncated by the beating of the drums of war and the successive warnings of another terrorist attack.
Roosevelt succeeded in convincing the American people and the Republican Party of the merits of not just internationalism, but a liberal brand - one committed to multilateralism and international institutions. The Senate rejected the League of Nations after World War I, but warmly embraced the U.N. after World War II, largely because of the internationalist consensus forged between Democrats and Republicans. In contrast, the Bush Administration is pursuing a markedly unilateralist brand of internationalism, one that is undermining the multilateral institutions that America worked so hard to build after World War II. Democrats should support the president in America's effort to fight terrorism, but should resist the administration's unilateralist inclinations.
Hanson: In response to Dr. Kupchan, let me say this: we are witnessing such a debate whether we watch congressmen fly to Baghdad, or the Senate Majority Leader literally lose his voice on the floor of the Senate, or ex-President Carter advocate disarmament and be praised by the Nobel committee for opposing President Bush, or the quite amazing invective of Senator Bird, or the fury unleashed in East Coast and European dailies.
Much of what critics cite as unilateralism are simply post-Cold War perceptions of a world that is still hard to fathom. With hundreds of Soviet divisions on the borders of Western Europe, our allies asked for and expected unilateral American action, and were more often afraid that we would not show such leadership. Without that threat and with less perceived immediate dangers to Europe, American initiatives that require sacrifice are now easier to dismiss if not caricature.
By the same token, it is rare to have two allies, a united Europe and America, that share roughly the same heritage, have about the same sized population and economy - and yet have radically different militaries. The imbalance is quite staggering in a world where the US Marine Corps is larger than any European army. France is quite unilateral in Africa as Britain was in the Falklands and Spain was over an uninhabited rock in the Mediterranean, but only when their militaries allow it - less so on a global scene.
Our supposed undermining of multilateral institutions is again wisdom of the day, but in reality there is little concrete evidence of that the removal of fascists like Noreiga, Milosevic, and the Taliban was applauded; the composition of ships in the Arabian sea is quite multinational, and given US demands, no one is surprised that suddenly Iraq is allowing inspections, treating its neighbors in a new manner, and claiming that it will work with the UN.
In the present crisis it is incumbent for critics to cite concrete examples where American actions were either wrong or amoral - the victory in Afghanistan, the galvanizing of allies to crack down on terrorist cells, or the pressure on Iraq to live up to accords.
My greater worries in the present world lie elsewhere and involve more the moral sins of omission than commission: a Europe that watched 200,000 Bosnians butchered under its nose, a UN with frightful regimes on the Security Council or the Commission on Human Rights, and a series of sanctions and resolutions that were simply ignored by Iraq while Russia, Germany, and France well after the Gulf War sold it materials that had strategic implications.
Pletka: I would also like to make a few comments in regards to Dr. Kupchan’s remarks. First, a "searching national debate" regarding Iraq? We have had 12 years of debate about Iraq, and it is a mystery to me how supporting a policy (cynically) articulated by Bill Clinton and effectively (and multilaterally) executed by George W. Bush constitutes a blank cheque.
Let us by all means have a searching national debate, but let it not be about the value of standing up for freedom or standing against weapons of mass destruction -- those debates were won long ago; instead let us debate about the value of those beloved offspring of post-Rooseveltian internationalism, the United Nations and its spear, the United Nations Security Council.
We will soon discover that multilateral internationalism equates to inaction and unilateral internationalism means action. The defense of that which is inarguably right (saving Bosnia, crushing Milosevic, removing Saddam, deterring and ending terrorism) should not be delegated to the international committee for the least common denominator. If the UN had existed in 1939 or 1942, the Nazis would be ruling Europe right now.
Ledeen: I think the Democrats' failure to wholeheartedly support the war on terrorism cost them in the Congressional elections. It was obvious that Daschle wasn't a real supporter, and Gore's performance was disgusting. If those two had behaved like Scoop Jackson, the Dems would still control the Senate.
Question #2: What were the effects of the anti-rearmament, anti-militarist movements organized by the Communist left in the Thirties? Is that relevant for today's War on Terror?
Ledeen: The Communist left went through two stages. The first was when the Nazi-Soviet Pact was operative, during which the Western Communist parties supported both Soviet and Nazi aggression. Then, when Hitler invaded Soviet territory, they became anti-war. So it had nothing to do with true convictions; it was purely political all along.
And that is very relevant to today’s appeasers, because many of them were either silent or supportive when Clinton was threatening war against Iraq, or bombed Sudan and Afghanistan, but today, even after September 11th, oppose military action.
My favorite example is Al Gore, on the Senate floor just before the vote on the Gulf War, offering his vote to the "side" that guaranteed him the most prime time television coverage.
Hanson: Their legacy, energized by Vietnam, was the sort of Pavlovian idea of "anything the US does I am opposed to." Such knee-jerk opposition was also coupled with a deep sense of pessimism about American motives and ability. All that comes out now and again in the present crisis. If the snowy peaks of Afghanistan are too tall and the Northern Alliance too weak on Monday, by Tuesday without a blink we hear 9 million Afghan children are starving. And then by Friday we are back to the "graveyard of the Russian army." Then learning nothing from burqa piles, GPS bombs, and a miraculous 6 week victory, we are again assaulted with absurd scenarios and horror stories about Iraq and "thousands of babies being bombed in Baghdad."
Because all that hysteria is so anti-empirical, you conclude that it is instead being driven by deductive theory - and in that sense, yes, it is the legacy of an anti-American creed that took hold long ago. The taproot of most of the current "cultural studies" ultimately grew from bankrupt ideas common in the 1930s.
Pletka: The various pro-Soviet and Soviet front groups that agitated against rearmament in the 1930s made common cause with the isolationists like Idaho Senator William Borah. They worked together effectively enough that in the face of war in Europe and Asia, Congress managed to pass the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 (the first peacetime draft) by only one vote. War in Europe wasn't enough; Pearl Harbor finished them off.
The experience of left and far right making common cause is hardly new, and we see it in every era. They were wrong then, they are wrong now. However, without drawing the parallel too sharply, it is entertaining to watch the great meeting of the minds between Amnesty International and Brent Scowcroft over war in Iraq.
Buchanan: Communists were boot-lickers of Stalin in the 1930s. I don’t believe Democrats today are doing the bidding of Saddam or Osama. Second, responsibility for the lack of American preparedness at the time of Pearl Harbor rests wholly with FDR. He had been in power nine years and had controlled both Houses of Congress for all nine of those years. Blaming our lack of preparedness on the isolationists (or even on the Communists) is the shilling of court historians.
Kupchan: These forces are now at the margins of American politics. They will have little, if any, effect on public debate or foreign policy.
Pletka: I agree. They fill pages in the absence of actual news.
Ledeen: Well, wait a minute. . . .it all depends how well the war goes. Everybody despises a loser.
Hanson: But the problem is just as much one of perception and should be addressed on a variety of fronts. When Democratic congressmen go to a fascist Iraq and criticize their own government they should be publicly censured; the literary and culture elite who really do have influence, whether novelists such as Alice Walker or Norman Mailer, filmmakers like a Michael Moore or Oliver Stone, or public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag, all said some silly things after 9-11, in some cases quite ghastly things, and were not challenged by those more moderate on the left.
So the problem is more than just spirited and necessary discussion in the Congress, but a hysteria that insidiously and incrementally erodes and polarizes the public debate. Just as Republicans in the 1950s and 1960s had an enormous problem with the anti-Civil Rights reactionaries - which they never addressed and so paid a necessary penalty - so too the present Democrats must make efforts to distance themselves from elements in their own party and more extreme supporters. Much of their inability to do that explains the quite inexplicable fact of a mid-term election at a time of recession favoring an incumbent President.
Question #3: Can there be a legitimate "anti-war" movement in the present context?
Ledeen: Sure, why not? Folly is thoroughly legitimate. It is the dominant force is human history.
Kupchan: It depends on which war. The war against Al-Qaeda is manifestly legitimate and should continue. The impending war against Iraq is more complicated and those opposed to it, depending on their rationales for opposition, may well be relying on sound and legitimate arguments.
Hanson: Of course, depending on both the administration's capability and motive. Should we fight the wrong type of war in Baghdad, take thousands of chemical casualties and get bogged down, all the arm-chair generals will immediately attack the effort in terms of method.
We saw some of that frenzy in the last few weeks of Afghanistan when the word "quagmire" was bandied about. In addition, should we expand the war precipitously and began fighting in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, or Libya all at once, there would be an immediate outcry of hubris. But so far, the present measured and steady response is hard to fault - which explains either the collective silence of the wiser Democrats or the embarrassing gaffes of those either dense or running for something.
Pletka: Of course. Who is the judge of what is legitimate and illegitimate? Anti-war movements have their place and the freedom to be wrong and act like a fool is precious. But let's not make the mistake of thinking these people are somehow more saintly than the rest of us. They are hypocrites plain and simple -- people for whom Saddam's war on his people and Kim Jong Il's willingness to starve millions are acceptable international behavior and America's war on terrorism is an outrage.
Buchanan: Of course. While every American favors paying back the perpetrators of 9/11, some of us believe that, even as we hunt down Al Qaeda, the United States should address the causes of the rising anti-American animosity and hatred in the Arab and Islamic world, by getting out of that part of the world militarily, and letting them solve their own problems.
With the Cold War over, we have no need of allies, or enemies, or bases, over there. We may have to fight a War on Terror, but most of us would like to see a U.S. policy, that, consistent with our honor and our national interest, removes the incentives for these nutballs to travel half-way around the world to kill us.
Question #4: What do you think really rests at the heart of the "anti-war" movement today?
Kupchan: A mix of different impulses - pacifism, anti-globalization impulses, traditional suspicion toward the "military-industrial" complex among them.
Ledeen: As usual, I don’t think there is a single explanation. There are many components: fear, hatred of America, sympathy for terrorists, stupidity, misplaced moralism, ignorance of history. If they would just read The War Against the Terror Masters they would change their minds.
Hanson: Partly it is a product of the post-Vietnam educational system - utopian pacifism, moral equivalency, multiculturalism - isms and ologies that have nothing to do with reality but find a certain resonance with mostly an upper-middle class suburban elite, which has had little experience with the age-old brutalities of life at work or in the neighborhood.
Mechanics or farmers are not on NPR or in the campus plaza denouncing the US. A person from Mars would realize that you cannot be pacifistic with someone like bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, or that the Taliban or the Baath Party is not anything like the US Congress, or that the radical Islamists are simply fascists, bullies, and thugs - but to say that requires refutation of much of what has been taught the last 20 years.
We've created a new English romantic movement that has a tolerance for totalitarians and authoritarians - like Byron, who loved the thug Napoleon but hated the parliamentarian Wellington--which is smug, aristocratic, completely naive, and resentful in theory of the largess it hates but won't give up. Signs at the DC demonstration that blared "I love Iraq, bomb Texas" say it all.
Buchanan: As for the War on Terror, we have to fight it. As for the war on Iraq, why is this our war? Saddam Hussein has not attacked us, he does not threaten us, he is desperately trying to avoid war with us. He is going to be dethroned and killed and his country is going to be smashed and defeated if he can’t avoid war. But why do we want this war? The Turks do not fear Saddam, nor do the Saudis, nor do the Iranians, nor do the Syrians. As for the Israelis, they have the power to destroy him ten times over. Let them deal with him.
Ledeen: I think Saddam was involved in several attacks against us: the first World Trade Center bombing, the attempt to assassinate former President Bush, and September 11th. So we have abundant reasons to defenestrate Baghdad.
Hanson: Withdrawing from the world - and I share Pat Buchanan's frustrations often - will only incite more anti-Americanism and increase the level of dangers in an era of global and stealthy terrorism. Clothing Britni Spears or removing McDonald's arches would give us more security than drydocking the USS Kennedy or Truman. The Cole was hit at a time when President Clinton had done little to retaliate to past bombings, may have refused offers to extradite bin Laden, and was deeply involved in the Middle East on a daily basis. Look - the reason of "rising anti-American animosity" is as rational as German or Japanese hatred of the United States during World War II.
An element of Islamic fanatics hates us like a small minority of fascists, Nazis and militarists hated us, and they are in a war for the majority of hearts and minds of their own populations in a way Hitler, Mussolini, or Tojo were as well. Instead of Jews, communists, and traitors being responsible for European and Japanese malaise, now it is to be Jews, Americans, and Christians that explain why tribal societies that are autocratic, fundamentalist, and practice a gender apartheid cannot deal with soaring birthrates and failing economies while Europeans and Asians on their borders, with open markets, the rule of law, and secular rationalism, create real wealth. We have tried isolation before and it brought only a brief pause before a greater storm.
Saddam Hussein? Well, he attacked 2 of his neighbors, sent missiles into 2 others; broke all the prior armistice agreements, violated all the UN resolutions, butchered tens of thousands of his own people in a manner that makes Milosevic look amateurish, sends bounties to suicide murderers, tried to ruin the ecology of Kuwait, fabricated frightful weapons, tried to assassinate a US president, and his role in 9-11 is not at all clear to this day - the Czechs, some anthrax experts, and students of al Qaeda argue that Iraqi intelligence in the past have had numerous contacts with Baghdad. There is a reason, after all, why the late Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas, killers of Americans, found nice homes in Baghdad. All that and more prior to 9-11 apparently did not make a casus belli, but after 3,000 Americans disappeared in a second, there in no longer a margin of safety.
Buchanan: With due respect to Mr. Hanson, terrorism is the price of empire. The Irgun used terror to drive the Brits out of Palestine, the Algerians used it to drive the French out of Algeria, Hezbollah used terror to drive Israelis out of Lebanon. Chechens are using terror to drive out the Russians out of Chechnya. When imperialists go home where they belong, they find that the terrorism diminishes in almost every case, and in many it disappears.
Now that the United States has been isolated from Iran, by Iran's choice, for almost a quarter of a century, one finds that the people of Iran are less anti-American than the people of many of the Islamic nations we defend.
We see anti-American riots today in South Korea and yesterday in Okinawa. If we withdraw from both, as we wisely did from Subic Bay we will find that the anti-Americanism dissipates. Several years back, in A Republic Not an Empire, I predicted an act of cataclysmic terror would take place on American soil. If we do not deep six this drive for some new empire, down the road an American city may pay the price. What is there over there worth mass slaughter in my home town of Washington, D.C.?
Ledeen: Yeah, well, I predicted an outbreak of terrorism on American soil too, for the opposite reasons. Pat just doesn't know enough history to get this one right. Every modern country has a history he would call "imperialist," and there are always evil people around to stir up terrorist attacks: Irish against English, etc. Does he want us to abandon all Indian lands, too, lest we have redskin terrorists? On that basis we should abandon New England and all the rest of the continent, n'est-ce pas?
No, terrorism is just another form of warfare, and war is always with us and always will be with us, at least on this earth. We can win or lose, but we can't run and hide. Pity. But there you have it.
Buchanan: If Michael is going to be our Gauleiter in Teheran, he has to be less emotional. On U.S. imperialism, all the lands we "liberated" before 1898 -- West Florida, East Florida, Texas, the Southwest, California -- were largely uninhabited. Indians didn't count. We converted them all into states of the Union. It was when we began to occupy foreign lands and rule foreign peoples -- such as Puerto Rico and the Philippines -- that we began to betray our heritage and history. As Ronald Reagan used to say, "mistakes were made."
On terrorism, it is a form of war. But there are many strains. Anarchic terrorism, the assassination of McKinley for example, seems purposeless and was almost always futile, while anti-colonial and anti-imperial terror seems to be one of the few occupations at which Arab and Islamic peoples are proficient and successful. Turks, British, French, Israelis, Russians, and, yes, Americans (Lebanon in 1983), have been pushed out of these countries by terrorism and guerrilla war. Why do we want to go back? They have nothing we need save oil. And they have to sell that to survive.
Finally, Americans have gone along and will go along with these little imperial wars, so long as the cost in blood and treasure is not significant. But we are, as Ike said in 1946, "running out of army," and if this adventure, or the next one in Korea or Iran, calls requires conscription, "isolationism" will make the greatest comeback since Richard Nixon. The rubber band is stretched to the limits, fellas.
Pletka: Let me interject here for a moment. We have to fight the war on terror because terror arrived on our doorstep on 9/11. But by Mr Buchanan's logic, the proven threats are the only threats. We should not therefore have addressed the Taliban before September 11, though in so doing we may have averted that attack. We should not have taken on the Saudi support for terror, because terrorism levied only marginal costs on the US prior to 9/11.
I can agree that we have taken on problems that are not important to our national security in the past: Haiti comes to mind. But a loony dictator with weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East isn't only a threat to Israel. And Muslim extremists don't hate us because we exist in their midsts. They hate us because we exist.
Buchanan: Our war on terror should more properly be called a war on Al Qaeda, the ones who attacked us. Terrorism is a weapon of war that has been used from before the destruction of Carthage. Chechens, the IRA, teh Tamil Tigers, the Moslem peoples of Western China all have used terrorist tactics. Yet, we do not wage war on them. One war at a time, Mr. Lincoln said.
Second, the "looney dictator" who does have weapons of mass destruction, almost surely nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver on U.S. troops is Kim Jong-Il. Stalin and Mao had these weapons and we deterred them. Iraq has been contained and deterred from using chemical and bio weapons for more than ten years, and no one in the region appears to fear him quite so much as the mightiest power on earth, on the other side of the world.
There is a hidden agenda here, at least it was hidden until it was blared to the world. We are to invade and "democratize" the Middle and Near East. We are into the great game of "empire." Nonsense. If Churchill could cut a deal with Stalin in the Balkans, and Nixon could cut a deal with Mao, and the Israelis could cut a deal with Hafez al Assad for peace on the Golan -- and make it stick for 35 years -- we can cut a deal with Saddam and make it stick, because we control something he wants: his life.
Ledeen: I'm happy to do a history tutorial for Pat; God knows he needs it. Arab and Islamic people have been very successful at lots of things, such as preserving Western civilization while the Catholics were doing Dark Ages. This is decidedly a dark time for the Muslims, but there's nothing congenitally uncivilized about them.
It seems impossible to convince Pat that we are under attack from the Terror Masters because of what we are, not because of what we do. There is no policy that would cause them to relent, since our very existence threatens their legitimacy and authority. If we withdrew to the homeland, they would continue to attack us here.
The great failure of our Middle East policy in recent years was to have stopped short of Baghdad. But Pat wouldn't have fought the Gulf War at all, thus leaving Saddam the hegemon of the region. A fine mess!
Lastly, I'm grateful to Pat for my Gauleiter nomination, and I hope he has the wherewithal to deliver. But could he make it Positano instead of Tehran?
Buchanan: If Michael Ledeen believes that Islamic peoples were "preserving Western civilization while the Catholics were doing Dark Ages," his quarrel is with Urban II and Godfrey of Bouillon, not me. Clearly, Islam is going through an upheaval with its incapacity to reconcile itself both with
modernity and its militant faith. We should stay out of this revolution inside Islam, as Washington, Adams and Jefferson sought to keep us out of the wars that came out of the French Revolution and its Napoleonic aftermath.
That revolution may hit our shores, and when it does, we have to defend ourselves and punish those who attack us. But wholesale military intervention in the Middle East and Islamic world is throwing rocks at bee hives. The Ledeen-proposed war on Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia is a
war on four separate nations that are not enemies of the United States, but enemies of Israel and Ariel Sharon. They surely are more threatened than we, they have the means to deal with that threat, and they have decided not to launch preemptives strikes or preventive wars. Why, then, should we?
Hanson: In reference to Mr. Buchanan, let me say this: supporting autocracies like present-day Saudi Arabia or Egypt is wrong but not necessarily must be synonymous with positive activism per se abroad. What we did in Afghanistan and Serbia made better not worse countries, as was true of Panama and Grenada. Kurdistan is a more humane place for the no-fly zones; take away our "imperial" jets and you would have thousands gassed in minutes.
The problem in Iran was initial support for a dictator without pressing him for reform-followed by sudden abandonment of him by Carter and coddling of religious murderers. Terror may seem the cost of so-called "empire" due to the vastly increased exposure of Americans abroad. But three points are salient to avoid simplistic generalizations. First, it is easy to tally the price of an American presence overseas when terrorists strike, but far harder to calibrate the value to the world when China chooses not to invade Taiwan or intimidate Japan due to the 7th fleet; the lives we save and the ruin we prevent are always unappreciated vis-à- vis the more visible hazards we incur.
Second, we do not exercise an empire like the British or Romans: we colonize no one; pay for bases rather than demand them; take no territory; and steal no one's national treasure. South Korea, Greece, or Japan can ask us to leave anytime they wish -- as did the Philippines -- and we will be departing promptly. Instead Filipinos seemed to have been saying "Leave and take all of us with you" -- if their immigration patterns are any indication.
Indeed, Mr. Buchanan is angry at our presence abroad precisely because its value to us is not explainable in terms of national advantage and results in none of the profits of his examples of traditional empires. Quite literally, we bear the costs -- unduly as I can attest as a smaller farmer who has seen my entire family wiped out by cheap imported food -- of a world gradually evolving toward democracy and market capitalism that sorely bothers tribal and traditional peoples.
The better question rather is a South America or Asia better or worse for our promotion of consensual government and opposition to thuggery abroad? We can retreat homeward, but without US influence abroad -- impossible without military power -- we will soon be dealing with a nuclear Brazil, a threatening North Korea, and a Middle East blackmailed by theocracies and dictators who will buy multi-staged rockets and nuclear material from Europe, China, and Russia. Isolationism did not prevent nor win the World Wars, nor stop Russian divisions from overrunning Europe, and it will not appease or thwart the present criminal regimes. They despise us--at home, abroad, whatever--for what we are, not what we do.
Third, with all due respect to Mr. Buchanan, there is not necessarily any direct connection between terror and empire: The Maryland sniper was a thug not a terrorist with a political agenda; the British, Dutch, Greeks, Italians, and French are being terrorized by Islamists despite staying home in Europe for a half century. Why do the Kenyans get killed when they have no profile; did their neutrality earn them a reprieve? Did Australians colonize Bali? Are Paraguay and Uruguay frequented by al Qaeda because of their imperial pasts? By such logic the Catholic Church should call in all its missionaries abroad to stop the daily threats to the Vatican from Islamists who have "legitimate" grievances due to priests in the Holy Land. If Mr. Buchanan were right, the Tibetans would be bombing their Chinese occupiers who really are brutal imperialists. Indeed, his array of false exegesis almost lends legitimacy to the fundamentalists, who are mostly pampered and educated; they are not national liberationists, but opportunistic criminals who envy and crave what they cannot create themselves and take out their sense of inferiority by talking grandly of the Crusades and Moorish Spain as bromides for their own failed tribalism, fundamentalism, and gender apartheid.
Question #5: What’s up with Colin Powell?
Buchanan: While Colin Powell is not a Goldwater-Reagan conservative, he is an Eisenhower conservative who wants to keep his country out of unnecessary wars. And while I do not share the General’s views on abortion or affirmative action, his instincts are dead right on Iraq, and on the folly of trying to erect some American Imperium in the Middle or Near East.
Ledeen: Politics makes strange alliances, doesn't it? Two neo-pacifists find happiness together by saving Middle East tyrants.
Buchanan: General Powell and I agreed on Vietnam. We agreed in the Reagan White House on aid to the Contras, Savimbi, and Afghan resistance. And we agree today on on the Powell Doctrine of not involving America in wars where America's vital interests are not in peril. We are, I admit, at something of a disadvantage in arguing with Mr. Ledeen, for, unlike him, we only have one country.
Kupchan: Powell is doing his best to keep America on a centrist course and resist the extremist impulses of his neoconservative colleagues. He understands that America's overweening power, coupled with blustery unilateralism, will alienate the rest of the world, not rally it behind the United States. The recent public opinion surveys carried out by Pew make clear the divide opening up between the United States and everyone else. I fear, however, that Powell will generally be outnumbered and outflanked by his neoconservative colleagues.
Hanson: He has greater confidence in international solutions, and seems to be comfortable with the military-diplomatic culture of the beltway that is Eurocentric, conventional, and seeks to preserve stability at all costs, whether that is in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Germany. It is popular to suggest that his caution arises out of the wastage and carnage he saw in Vietnam; but most in the State Department share his view without his background.
Instead, I think his legitimate concerns are principled and arose out of the Cold War, when MAD forced the United States to fight under impossible circumstances in wars that were nearly impossible to win in the traditional sense. In hindsight his advice of restraint in varying capacities after the Marine bombing in Lebanon, not going to Baghdad, no intervention in Serbia, and hints of coalition governments with the Taliban was all mistaken.
That being said, when war breaks out, he is quite good; remember his memorable prediction about cutting off and killing the Iraqi army. So I expect that after the UN and inspection process is exhausted and there is no solution but armed removal, he will be at the forefront in ensuring that our forces beat badly Saddam's. His critics fail sometimes to note that he is a great American, and when the barbarity of war breaks out, you must have a reasoned man of his experience in public for a - neither a firebrand like LeMay nor a naïf like McNamara - and in reasoned tones explaining to the world and the American people why unfortunately some very frightful weapons are raining down on parts of Iraq.
Pletka: Colin Powell is no different from the many others who have succeeded in the military (Scowcroft, Zinni, Clark etc) only to discover that the world outside the Pentagon is not quite the same as the one inside. The military rewards and protects people who work within the system; staying inside the box saves lives if you're in uniform. Staying inside the box in foreign policy is a recipe for disaster. Worse yet, the traits that make Colin Powell a wonderful man for whom to work and a good and loyal friend are the same traits that betray him in the foreign policy world. His subordinates, to whom he is so loyal, are foreign policy apparatchiks who despise everything this president stands for. Their advice to Powell ("we need a road map for Middle East peace", "we should reach out to Iran", "the Saudis really are important") reflect the worst conventional wisdom of the career foreign service.
But let us not forget that Colin Powell works for the President of the United States. Unless you assume that President is a fool, you must accept that he weighs the advice given him by Powell against advice given him by Rice and Rumsfeld and makes an informed decision. Powell isn't leading the President down the garden path. And if the President doesn't like him, thinks he's a leaker, thinks his advice is bad - then it is up to him to get rid of Powell.
Question #6: And what’s Europe's problem? Like, aside from the British, do the Europeans go to bed at night and pray that some dark totalitarian force will come and conquer them?
Buchanan: We should have listened to Eisenhower and left Europe in 1961. By now, they would be defending themselves. Instead, we turned them into welfare queens. Now they are behaving like welfare queens. The best thing we could do for them is to say to them: Fellas, the Cold War is over. Our job is done. NATO is yours. The defense of Europe is yours. If you wish to
mount a strong defense against any threat from the Islamic south, fine, you're capable of that. But if you wish to go back to remain disarmed, that’s fine with us, too. We bailed you out twice. Enough is enough.
But, frankly, Europe is dying. There is not a single European nation with a birth rate to enable it to survive in its present form through the middle of this century. Italy, Russia, Spain have birth rates half of what is needed to replace existing population. It is over for Europe. They are as rich as we are, as populous as we are, as advanced in technology. If they are unwilling to do what is necessary to insure their own freedom, prosperity and survival, let them pay the danegeld like the Saudis do.
What serious America's should be thinking about is how we remain secure, prosperous and free, and how we avoid the blunders that brought down every other empire of the 20th century. And launching imperial wars is not the way to do it. Indeed, that is what finished off all the rest.
Kupchan: No. But they do pray that the United States will wield its power in a more intelligent and far-sighted manner. So do I.
Hanson: They should ask the Eastern Europeans that question who know far better the answer. All the exegeses for their depressing moral slumber have now been provided: a continent with a larger population and economy than ours without commensurate military power to protect itself in the post-Cold War that was supposed to usher in perpetual peace, leading to an EU-inspired global socialist utopia.
So they are in envy of us, fearful of the future, sorely disheartened that mankind has so disappointed them, and completely flummoxed that their trust in the UN and other accords only works when the US - whose military power they slur - is involved. So we are not only a cause of jealousy, but a profound reminder that theirs, at this moment, is a flawed world view: that the US alone can ensure morality and largely through its power rather than mere talk.
Nevertheless, winds of change are in the air. Let us not forget they are democratic and Western - indeed the thesaurus of our civilization - and ultimately they will not so easily surrender a distinguished culture to blackmail, terror, and barbarity of thugs and theocrats. So at the eleventh hour, kicking and screaming, they will welcome our efforts against Saddam Hussein, start rounding up their lunatic mullahs, hunt down al Qaeda on their shores, and thank God that George Bush is president privately as much as they caricature him publicly.
And finally, remember they have the capital, manpower, knowledge, and military traditions to field some frightful militaries should they choose to do so; so their paralysis is self-induced, and is not quite like the Arab's world's which is based on real impotence. If al Qaeda blew up the Vatican, the Louvre, or Big Ben, I imagine we'd see something like the RAF and the Luftwaffe back in real strength within five years.
Pletka: Let's face it, the Europeans are a group of second and third rate powers desperate for a place in this scary new world. As Bob Kagan wrote so eloquently in Policy Review some months ago, they have embraced the strategy of all weak powers throughout history -- they seek to restrain the greater power in whatever way possible. Their attitude is if they can't lead, no one shall. The problem, growing worse every year, is that the more they stand against the US, the less they stand for anything. Socialism has failed; Europe cannot act in concert outside its own borders; where do they go? I suppose there are always more lawnmower and mozzarella regulations to propagate.
Interlocutor: Our time is up. Danielle Pletka, Victor Hanson, Charles Kupchan, Michael Ledeen and Pat Buchanan, it's been a pleasure. Thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium. We'll see you again soon.
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