JIM PINKERTON GETS CREDIT for pointing out a fascinating and, one would think, conflicting set of references in the latest Memorandum to Opinion Leaders by the Project for the New American Century‘s Gary Schmitt.
Gary Schmitt spends his page poking holes in John Kerry’s statement “I know I can run a more effective, smarter, more productive war on terror… I will do it by bringing to our side the allies that we used to have which should have been with us in the first place. I’ll take the target off American troops. . .and we’re going to get our troops home where they belong.”
I don’t share Gary Schmitt’s views on how to fight the war on terror — but I do think that there is a strange gap between John Kerry’s hindsight-informed willingness to go to war against Iraq and the view that a better president might have had more success getting European allies to see this Iraq mess as their war. But that topic will wait for another day.
What Gary does is fault Kerry for both Nixonian and McGovern-like thinking in back-to-back paragraphs.
Paragraph three reads:
Moreover, Kerry continues, in Nixonian fashion, to promise that he has a way out of the struggle that takes the burden off the United States and passes it on to France and Germany and other reluctant nations. On the one hand, that is hardly a revolutionary idea. Germany and France are already helping in Afghanistan, one critical front in the war on terror. But as for Iraq, another front in the war on terror, Kerry will not succeed in convincing those allies to send troops. (emphasis added)
Paragraph four reads:
The bottom line is that Kerry sounds more like McGovern every day. The call to bring the troops home “where they belong” is straight out of the Democratic Left’s playbook of the 1970s. (emphasis added)
Frankly, I don’t think Kerry’s views are sufficiently Nixonian or that influenced by McGovern. Nixon was a champion of ‘enlightened self interest’ as the driver of U.S. foreign policy. Nixon’s misfortune was, that in contrast to Bush, he inherited a U.S. foreign position perceived to be in global decline and while retreating from many commitments that America had around the world while deploying rather shrewd realist instincts to preserve those assets most significant to American interests.
McGovern spoke not just about bringing troops home from a war that he felt illegitimate — but wanted to reengage America in a positive comity with leading nations of the world through the United Nations and other multilateral institutions. The key point is that McGovern saw Vietnam as a huge mistake.
George Bush, in contrast, inherited an America perceived to be in ascension, an America that many have argued has the strongest, largest economy and most capable military in world history. Bush could have been a realist/internationalist president using buoyant American power to generate stability and new opportunities for many in the world into the next generation. Bin Laden clearly wanted to dent the sense of imperviousness and triumphalism that America enjoyed — just as he did with the Soviets in Afghanistan. My difference with Schmitt and his colleagues is that George Bush & Co.’s Iraq adventure burst the bubble of American mystique and demonstrated our “limits,” limits which I believe were pretty well concealed before this conflict.
In the mean time, vital American interests remain at dire risk from the real threat of bin Laden-inspired transnational terrorism.
This Iraq War would not in my estimation have been supported by either Richard Nixon or George McGovern.
But as John Kerry has stated, he is with Bush on Iraq — but frankly, though I still have my doubts about the Democratic contender, I’d rather spend four years with Kerry explaining to him why his hindsight views need some more adjustment.
— Steve Clemons