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By JOSEPH LIEBERMAN
May 21, 2008
How did the Democratic Party get here? How did the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy drift so far from the foreign policy and national security principles and policies that were at the core of its identity and its purpose?
Beginning in the 1940s, the Democratic Party was forced to confront two of the most dangerous enemies our nation has ever faced: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In response, Democrats under Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy forged and conducted a foreign policy that was principled, internationalist, strong and successful.
This was the Democratic Party that I grew up in - a party that was unhesitatingly and proudly pro-American, a party that was unafraid to make moral judgments about the world beyond our borders. It was a party that understood that either the American people stood united with free nations and freedom fighters against the forces of totalitarianism, or that we would fall divided.
This was the Democratic Party of Harry Truman, who pledged that "it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."
And this was the Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy, who promised in his inaugural address that the United States would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of freedom."
This worldview began to come apart in the late 1960s, around the war in Vietnam. In its place, a very different view of the world took root in the Democratic Party. Rather than seeing the Cold War as an ideological contest between the free nations of the West and the repressive regimes of the communist world, this rival political philosophy saw America as the aggressor - a morally bankrupt, imperialist power whose militarism and "inordinate fear of communism" represented the real threat to world peace.
It argued that the Soviets and their allies were our enemies not because they were inspired by a totalitarian ideology fundamentally hostile to our way of life, or because they nursed ambitions of global conquest. Rather, the Soviets were our enemy because we had provoked them, because we threatened them, and because we failed to sit down and accord them the respect they deserved. In other words, the Cold War was mostly America's fault.
Of course that leftward lurch by the Democrats did not go unchallenged. Democratic Cold Warriors like Scoop Jackson fought against the tide. But despite their principled efforts, the Democratic Party through the 1970s and 1980s became prisoner to a foreign policy philosophy that was, in most respects, the antithesis of what Democrats had stood for under Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy.
Then, beginning in the 1980s, a new effort began on the part of some of us in the Democratic Party to reverse these developments, and reclaim our party's lost tradition of principle and strength in the world. Our band of so-called New Democrats was successful sooner than we imagined possible when, in 1992, Bill Clinton and Al Gore were elected. In the Balkans, for example, as President Clinton and his advisers slowly but surely came to recognize that American intervention, and only American intervention, could stop Slobodan Milosevic and his campaign of ethnic slaughter, Democratic attitudes about the use of military force in pursuit of our values and our security began to change.
This happy development continued into the 2000 campaign, when the Democratic candidate - Vice President Gore - championed a freedom-focused foreign policy, confident of America's moral responsibilities in the world, and unafraid to use our military power. He pledged to increase the defense budget by $50 billion more than his Republican opponent - and, to the dismay of the Democratic left, made sure that the party's platform endorsed a national missile defense.
By contrast, in 2000, Gov. George W. Bush promised a "humble foreign policy" and criticized our peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.
Today, less than a decade later, the parties have completely switched positions. The reversal began, like so much else in our time, on September 11, 2001. The attack on America by Islamist terrorists shook President Bush from the foreign policy course he was on. He saw September 11 for what it was: a direct ideological and military attack on us and our way of life. If the Democratic Party had stayed where it was in 2000, America could have confronted the terrorists with unity and strength in the years after 9/11.
Instead a debate soon began within the Democratic Party about how to respond to Mr. Bush. I felt strongly that Democrats should embrace the basic framework the president had advanced for the war on terror as our own, because it was our own. But that was not the choice most Democratic leaders made. When total victory did not come quickly in Iraq, the old voices of partisanship and peace at any price saw an opportunity to reassert themselves. By considering centrism to be collaboration with the enemy - not bin Laden, but Mr. Bush - activists have successfully pulled the Democratic Party further to the left than it has been at any point in the last 20 years.
Far too many Democratic leaders have kowtowed to these opinions rather than challenging them. That unfortunately includes Barack Obama, who, contrary to his rhetorical invocations of bipartisan change, has not been willing to stand up to his party's left wing on a single significant national security or international economic issue in this campaign.
In this, Sen. Obama stands in stark contrast to John McCain, who has shown the political courage throughout his career to do what he thinks is right - regardless of its popularity in his party or outside it.
John also understands something else that too many Democrats seem to have become confused about lately - the difference between America's friends and America's enemies.
There are of course times when it makes sense to engage in tough diplomacy with hostile governments. Yet what Mr. Obama has proposed is not selective engagement, but a blanket policy of meeting personally as president, without preconditions, in his first year in office, with the leaders of the most vicious, anti-American regimes on the planet.
Mr. Obama has said that in proposing this, he is following in the footsteps of Reagan and JFK. But Kennedy never met with Castro, and Reagan never met with Khomeini. And can anyone imagine Presidents Kennedy or Reagan sitting down unconditionally with Ahmadinejad or Chavez? I certainly cannot.
If a president ever embraced our worst enemies in this way, he would strengthen them and undermine our most steadfast allies.
A great Democratic secretary of state, Dean Acheson, once warned "no people in history have ever survived, who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies." This is a lesson that today's Democratic Party leaders need to relearn.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. This article is adapted from a speech he gave May 18 at a dinner hosted by Commentary magazine.
By Michael Goodwin
May 18, 2008
With his eyes fixed on the nomination finish line, Barack Obama did not expect a charge of appeasement from President Bush last week. Perhaps the surprise attack explains Obama's disjointed, mushy response.
Or perhaps he doesn't have a good response. That's more likely given Obama's failure to effectively defend his own plans in two tries.
With the mess we are in around the world, it's not enough to say Bush's policies have failed. Anyone who wants to be President also must lay out a credible vision for success.
For Obama, that means more than a "Kumbaya" hope Iran, Syria and North Korea will suddenly behave in rational ways if he's elected. He needs to snap out of the liberal fantasy about root causes - that Islamic terrorists will drop their jihad in exchange for better jobs and schools.
Bush's attack found the holes in Obama's national security credentials, which escaped scrutiny during his battle with Sen. Hillary Clinton. Beyond plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, neither Obama nor Clinton has articulated a serious plan for protecting America in a dangerous world.
Most revealing, Obama pledged to meet, without preconditions, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Even Clinton calls that naive.
Yet Obama is not alone in that loopy approach, with former President Jimmy Carter meeting with leaders of Hamas, despite its involvement in terrorism and its pledge to eliminate Israel. In that sense, Bush's broadside, delivered in Israel, was aimed at Obama, Carter and the peace-at-any-price wing of the party.
"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them that they have been wrong all along," Bush said, adding: "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.'"
Obama's responses, one in a statement and another at a campaign rally a day later, were peppered with mush that Bush was being divisive and fostering fear mongering. That was predictable. Obama's habit of calling every criticism a violation of fair play is a tired copout.
But Obama also hit Bush for foreign policy failures that include the inability to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden, the mess in Iraq, Iran's growing influence there and the strength of Hamas and Hezbollah. Obama linked John McCain to those policies, saying McCain "wants to double-down on" them.
Politically, that's a deft move, because Bush is so unpopular and because most Americans are more worried about the economy than Iraq or the Mideast.
But Obama needs to start thinking beyond politics and talk as though he might actually be President. In the short term, that means being honest with Americans about Iran and its murderous influence.
While it's clear Iran is behind much of the mayhem in Iraq, including the killing of American soldiers, Obama has said he wants to see the evidence compiled by the American military for those charges. Does he not believe the charges? Why not?
But instead of contacting the Pentagon for a briefing, he acts as though America is the problem and Iran deserves sympathy. Which was exactly Bush's point when he mocked the notion that talking to Hitler would have stopped World War II.
Obama is smart and talented, but his views of Islamic fundamentalists, like those running Iran, are consistently muddled. He expresses a sloppy faith in standard political negotiation, as though Hamas and Hezbollah are just special interest groups haggling for a better deal.
He doesn't appear to take seriously their stated goal of wiping out moderate Muslim governments, Israel, the U.S. and anyone who tries to block a strict Islamic empire. No wonder Hamas endorsed him.
On the Hezbollah-led chaos in Lebanon, Obama called for "an end to the current corrupt patronage system ... and a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment."
Ah, if only it were so easy. "Kumbaya," indeed.
By Amir Taheri
May 21, 2008
BUOYED by their modest electoral success last month, critics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's provocative foreign policy were preparing to launch a series of attacks on him in the Islamic Majlis, Iran's ersatz parliament. But then Ahmadinejad got an unexpected boost from Barack Obama.
Ali Larijani, Iran's former nuclear negotiator and now a Majlis member, was arguing that the Islamic Republic would pay a heavy price for Ahmadinejad's rejection of three UN Security Council resolutions on nukes. Then the likely Democratic presidential nominee stepped in.
Obama announced that, if elected, he wouldn't ask Iran to comply with UN resolutions as a precondition for direct talks with Ahmadinejad: "Preconditions, as it applies to a country like Iran, for example, was a term of art. Because this administration has been very clear that it will not have direct negotiations with Iran until Iran has met preconditions that are essentially what Iran views, and many other observers would view, as the subject of the negotiations; for example, their nuclear program."
"Talking without preconditions" would require America to ignore three unanimous Security Council resolutions. Before starting his unconditional talks, would Obama present a new resolution at the Security Council to cancel the three that Ahmadinejad doesn't like? Or would the new US president act in defiance of the United Nations - further weakening the Security Council's authority?
President Bush didn't set the preconditions that Obama promises to ignore. They were agreed upon after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran was in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Acting in accordance with its charter, the IAEA referred the issue to the Security Council.
Dismissing the preconditions as irrelevant would mean snubbing America's European allies plus Russia and China, all of whom participated in drafting and approving the resolutions that Ahmadinejad doesn't like.
Such a move would make a mockery of multilateral diplomacy - indeed, would ignore such diplomacy in exactly the way that critics claim the Bush administration has.
Obama clearly hasn't asked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy what they think of the United States' suddenly changing course and granting Ahmadinejad's key demand in advance.
Maybe Obama hasn't been properly briefed about the "preconditions" he gets so worked up about. He cites Iran's "nuclear program" as a precondition. Wrong: No one has asked, or could ask, Iran to stop its nuclear program - period. On the contrary, Iran's participation in in the Non-Proliferation Treaty gives it the right to seek help from other signatories, including the US, to access the latest technology in developing its nuclear industry - for peaceful purposes.
The Security Council isn't asking the Islamic Republic to do something dishonorable, humiliating or illegal. All it's asking Ahmadinejad to do is to stop cheating - something the Islamic Republic itself has admitted it has done for 18 years. The Security Council has invited Iran to "suspend" - not even to scrap - a uranium-enrichment program clearly destined for making bombs, in violation of the NPT.
Iran has not a single nuclear-power station and thus doesn't need enriched uranium - except for making bombs. Its sole nuclear plant is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2009. But that can't use the type of uranium that Iran is enriching; the station requires fuel of a different "formula," supplied by Russia, which is building the project, for the next 10 years. (And the Russians have offered to provide fuel for the plant's entire lifetime of 37 years.)
Another precondition asks Tehran to explain why it is building a heavy-water plant at Arak - when it has absolutely no plans for plutonium-based nuclear-power stations. The Arak plant's only imaginable use is to produce material for nuclear warheads.
Finally, the IAEA and the Security Council are asking Tehran to allow international inspectors access to all sites related to the nuclear project - access that Iran is obliged to provide under the NPT.
In short, the minimum show of goodwill on Ahmadinejad's part would be to comply with the UN resolutions before he goes to the White House for talks with President Obama on other issues.
Obama's words on "preconditions" have helped ease domestic pressure on Ahmadinejad to comply with the United Nations and the IAEA. The Iranian president is telling his domestic critics to shut up until after the US election. Why, after all, should he make concessions that a putative President Obama has already dismissed as unnecessary.