November 13, 2004

They Ainít Studying War No More

The 1960s New Left thought “Ain’t gonna study war no more” was a good idea and a clever slogan. It was neither. It was a way of admitting in public that they were entering a phase of willful ignorance.

Bill Clinton won the 1992 election in part with a slogan that said “It’s the economy, stupid.” If he and his party said “Ain’t gonna study the economy no more” they would have gone nowhere.

I haven’t heard that silly 60s slogan in a while, but I see the effects of it constantly. Some intellectuals on the left (both pro- and anti-war) do take national security seriously. You’ll find them writing for publications like Dissent and The New Republic, but you won’t find them many other places.

So I’m happy to see that at least some people on the soft left understand this. Here is Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly.
If Democrats are going to engage in navel gazing, our gaze really ought to be directed toward the one topic we continue to avoid like the plague: becoming more credible on national security. That's where Kerry and the Dems lost the election. Like it or not — and I can almost hear the outrage brewing already in the comment section over the mere fact that I'm mentioning this — fighting terrorism is the major swing issue of the day, and perceived Democratic weakness toward terrorism is likely to remain our biggest electoral albatross for quite a while.
He then pointed to this article, published two years ago, by Heather Hurlburt. How refreshing it is to read an article like this from a member of the anti-war left.
Democrats are in this position precisely because we respond to matters of war politically, tactically. We worry about how to position ourselves so as not to look weak, rather than thinking through realistic, sensible Democratic principles on how and when to employ military force, and arguing particular cases, such as Iraq, from those principles. There are a lot of reasons for this failure, including the long-time split within the party between hawks and doves. But we will never resolve that split, nor regain credibility with voters on national security, until we learn to think straight about war. And we will never learn to think straight about war until this generation of professional Democrats overcomes its ignorance of and indifference to military affairs.


The reasons for this apathy aren't hard to discern. Many Democrats who came of age during the Vietnam War retain a gut-level distrust of the military. Younger staffers, who may not carry the same psychological baggage, have few mentors urging them toward military or security issues. I speak from experience: My main qualification for my first Washington job--covering European security for Congress--was that I could locate the Warsaw Pact countries on a map and correctly identify the acronyms of the relevant international organizations.

But lack of expertise is only a symptom. The malady is an irresponsible lack of interest. The issues that drive most contemporary Democrats into politics are reproductive rights, health care, fiscal policy, or poverty, not national security. Even those young Democrats who are interested in foreign affairs tend to be drawn to "soft" subjects such as debt relief and human rights. Aspiring foreign policy wonks will often get pulled into military affairs by way of, say, their work on demining. But when these young people visualize exciting jobs in the next Democratic administration, they think State Department, not Pentagon.


After Vietnam, the old Cold War liberalism no longer seemed credible to the party's core and to many of its leaders. Many Democratic officeholders and operatives responded by focusing on those foreign policy issues that they and their base were comfortable with, such as human rights and arms control, while others shied away from international policy altogether and focused on domestic issues. At the same time, most Democrats understood that a reputation for being "soft" on defense issues was a serious political liability. But instead of grappling with the substance of war and national security, Democrats began to approach their vulnerability as a problem of tactics and political positioning.


Without the White House, the Democrats had no institutional or organized way to think through national security issues. The Georgetown salons--like those Madeleine Albright held to nurture Democratic foreign policy in the dark days of the 1980s--had dissolved. And although plenty of Democrats populate foreign policy think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Brookings Institution, such above-the-fray outfits are no match for aggressively conservative institutions like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. The latter two are known today as the places where the current Bush hawks, formerly members of the Reagan and Bush I administrations, sharpened their critical knives during the 1990s. Unlike their mainstream equivalents, the national security programs at Heritage and AEI exist not so much to contribute ideas to the public square as to influence very specific policies and legislation on defense. Democrats have no equivalent. As Evelyn Farkas, a Democratic staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee, puts it, "Part of the reason we don't have a clear message on defense is that we don't have a place where people argue and create one for us."


Getting Democrats to take defense issues seriously will not be easy; it means changing the party's basic mode of thinking. But it can be done. After all, it took less than a decade for Democrats to go from being the party of deficits to being the party more trusted for fiscal responsibility. This transformation happened because enough Democrats got tired of losing elections and did the hard work of crafting innovative and effective ideas in areas like crime and economic stewardship that the party had previously ceded to Republicans. National defense is perhaps the last big area where Democrats have not really done this. And in a time of war, it's the one area where they can't afford not to.
This is exactly right. It is possible to be some kind of anti-Bush lefty and write thoughtful books and articles about national security without being a backseat heckler who opposes but offers no alternate vision. Paul Berman has managed to do it. But he labors away in an inhospitable left-wing environment that hardly has any room for him. For someone like me who doesn’t have a lifetime’s worth of street cred in the lefty press, I’m all but forced to play in the right’s sandbox whether I like it or not. (But I don’t dislike it as much as I did, and that’s bad news for the Democrats. An entire genre of intellectuals like me exists and has a name – neoconservatives - because mine is all-too common a storyline.)

These kinds of problems are self-reinforcing. The fewer intellectuals there are on the left who study military history and strategy, the less likely any otherwise left-minded person who is interested in such things will want or be able to work with or for liberals and Democrats. What has been happening is a nation-wide brain-drain from the left to the right – at least in certain areas.

I have a sinking feeling things will remain this way in the future to the horizon. Come on, Dems. Prove me wrong, would you please?

UPDATE: Texan Thucydides weighs in:
Listening to neo-conservative voices is important for Democrats, because contrary to popular belief, these people used to be liberals. This constituency should be a natural member of the Democratic coalition. They believe in a moral foreign policy that is driven by values instead of cold, hard, Realism.These are the intellectual heirs to the Scoop Jackson Democrats. The reason they left the Democratic Party is because we lost credibility on foreign policy issues when we decided to embrace the Marxist worldview as our primary ordering principle in the late 1960's. Should we bring them back into the fold, we'll be a majority party once more.

And Totten is right, we can't fake this. It can't just be an electoral ploy, we need a whole new series of serious democratic think tanks, focused on influencing policy. We can start in the Senate, where we have serious Democratic politicians who will be receptive to serious ways of thinking on foreign policy. They just need to be willing to take a leadership role and stand up to the liberal establishment. After a thorough defeat at the polls, now's the time.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2004 12:42 PM

“I’m all but forced to play in the right’s sandbox whether I like it or not.”

“I have a sinking feeling things will remain this way in the future to the horizon. Come on, Dems. Prove me wrong, would you please?”

Ain’t gonna happen. The national Democratic Party is too highly influenced by those uncomfortable dealing with defense issues. Michael Moore is literally their hero and Joseph Libermann is a marginalized figure. They perceive themselves as primarily citizens of the world--and only secondarily as American citizens. I see zero possibility of any meaningful change. It’s best that you join the Republican Party and persuade it towards your way of thinking.

Everything changed on November 2nd. Not only did President Bush win reelection, but the GOP also captured more seats in the US Senate and the House of Representative. What about 2006? More Democrats are vulnerable than Republicans. The future doesn't look bright.

Posted by: David Thomson at November 13, 2004 01:10 PM

Thanks for posting this. As a liberal Democrat who voted for Kerry, this is the crux of the issue, that is, the inability of Democrats and leftists in general to come to grips with the security issue. To be honest, I have not resolved this in my own mind. I know that force is sometimes necessary, but the question is when exactly is that? And I think our use of force in Iraq is the biggest blunder in foreign policy that this country has perhaps ever seen. And I was somewhat supportive of the invasion at the beginning, but I now think it is a terrible fiasco that will cost us dearly. And no one I know on the left has come to grips with the security issue. It is easier to blame Bush and the neo-cons for their policies, and make pious statements of peace and goodwill, than come up with concrete realistic policies of how to achieve that. Most leftists I know see themselves as somehow more loving and caring than people on the right, and because of that the leftists are unable to come up with policies that smack of self-interest. But thanks for your post. I will send it to all the leftists I know.

Posted by: miriam at November 13, 2004 01:36 PM

Here's a good illustration that hit very close to home for me: After watching some news of the fighting in Fallujah, my reflexively pacifist wife (who voted for Kerry) asked why our soldiers couldn't use tear gas to clear enemy fighters out of buildings--so we wouldn't have to kill people who were trying to kill us. Seriously. I was dumbfounded. I'm still dumbfounded. Where does one even start? "Kill or be killed" is just not a conceivable scenario for 60s antiwar types. Nor is the concept of sworn enemies beyond the reach of reason.

The best response I can come up with so far is: "If you were an officer in charge of 30-40 soldiers, how many of their lives would you be prepared to sacrifice on the off chance that hardened thugs who behead their captives would be prepared to surrender peacefully?"

Posted by: Joel at November 13, 2004 01:39 PM

It's like they're house pets who've been coddled so long that to stick them out in the wild would be to offer up a snack to any local predator.

Posted by: lindenen at November 13, 2004 01:45 PM

When John Kennedy gave his "bear any burden" speech he was entirely credible. Everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, believed him. But who could believe Kerry's claims to pursue terrorists? Not me.

What happened to the Democrats between Kennedy and Kerry? LBJ and Jimmy Carter, that's what. The former pursued war in Vietnam aggressively but with no national strategic aim. The latter temporized and eschewed a military response to our embassy's seizure in Iran for more than a year, then the minimalist mission he did send literally self-destructed.

Two Dem presidents in a row; the first a president who used massive military power, but to no clear purpose, the second who shunned power altogether.

The Democrat's state of affairs Heather Hurlburt describes is self inflicted.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at November 13, 2004 01:46 PM


There are many lefties who write knowledeably about war today, Paul Fussell, Studs Terkel and Norman Mailer (ok, Norm's gone over the edge, but you get my drift.

In additon, extraordinary books on war like "Fail Safe," "A Farewell to Arms," "The Red Badge of Courage" and "All Quiet on the Western Front," all of which condemn war, used to be on high schoolers reading lists. I don't think they are any more. They should be.

I think the major issue is that today in Academia, the study of the Classics is derided as ethnocentric, or Western centric and engaging in the study of war makes one subject to the claim of warmonger, as though the study of something makes one its advocate. Can you imagine an oncologist researcher being called a cancermonger?

But when Kerry raises 10x the amount from academia that W did in this campaign, can you imagine the environment for someone who wishes to study war as a discipline?

The left today is stuck arguing that war, except in response to direct attack, is morally unacceptable. The problem is, most folks are unwilling to see another 9/11 or worse before we act. The left has a MORAL problem at this point that supercedes everything else. They are still wandering around singing "Give Peace a chance," while the rest of us look at the WTC I, Khobar Towers, the Cole,beheadings, suicide bombings, massacreing of children etc. and say, ok, peace had its chance and it failed, let's try something else for a while.

Posted by: spc67 at November 13, 2004 01:47 PM

The comments of Miriam and Joel point out how desperate the situation is for Democrats. Deep in their guts, they know the party is dead. Intellectually, though, many will hesitate reaching this logical conclusion. I will make this prediction: the death of the Democrat party will be taken for granted before the end of the year. The only real question is what will replace it---or should one work within the Republican Party?

Michael Totten voted for President Bush, but desired for the Democrats to do well in the senate and congressional races. This did not occur. The Democrats are now royally screwed. They are rendered mostly powerless in the halls of congress. These elected politicians feel similar to someone forced to swim with both hands tied behind their back. It ain’t pretty, and it’s likely only going to get worse.

Posted by: David Thomson at November 13, 2004 01:52 PM

It appears to me that while this post accurately identifies the problem - lack of focus by Democrats on issues of security and the military - I think it misstates the underlying reason.

I don't see Democrats as being simply unknowledgable in matters of the military and security (even though they may be), nor do I see that they have put security too low on the priority list. What I see instead is a working (maybe substantial) majority of Democrats who are simply pacifists.

I cannot claim to follow Michael Moore all that closely but my limited understanding is that he believes war is NEVER the answer. Even in the ABB crowd the "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" thinking was just tolerated as a tactic not embraced as a philosophy.

Gone is the party that was led by the man who said this:

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
- President John F. Kennedy

Almost all modern liberal thought begins with the assumption that humans are basically good. Within this moral framework something such as terrorism cannot really exist, except as a manifestation of injustice, or unfairness, or lack of decent social services.

But as Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah, has said: "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you."

Unless and until the Democrats come to understand this they will never succeed in electoral politics when security is the dominant issue before the voters - as it was in 2004.

Posted by: too many steves at November 13, 2004 02:03 PM


After more thought, I think the political issue for Democrats boils down to this. The "blame-America first crowd," Chomsky, Moore, Sontag, Kingsolver, seemingly Jimmy Carter and Nancy Pelosi, Dennis Kucinich and others have got to be shunned by the Dems. On domestic policy matters, I don't think the Dems face much of a problem. But on foreign policy matters, they must simply and straightforwardly re-embrace a belief in American exceptionalism, re-embrace JFK's "America is Great because America is good" and re-embrace a belief that our Founding principles are universal. It has got to become the Dems reflective first answer. THEN they can go on about what we should be doing, our mistakes, whether war is the best answer etc afterwards without damaging themselves. But again, the blame America first crowd must be shunned. Net, net, Dems will pick up votes doing this.

Posted by: spc67 at November 13, 2004 02:03 PM

About the tear gas thingy... as a retired Army officer, let me say it's not a bad idea, but the Mrs. only got it half right. You would use the tear gas not to drive them to surrender, but to drive them to the street where you can shoot them more easily.

Unfortunately, in close quarters urban combat, you would be sucking your own tear gas, too, meaning that your own soldiers would have to fight gas-masked. That seriously degrades their effectiveness.

No gas can distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Finally, in 1997, the United States signed an international treaty banning wartime use of chemical weapons. Although tear gas is not classified as a chemical agent (it is a riot-control agent) the treaty we signed specifically forbids use on RCAs in battle: "Each state party undertakes not to use riot-control agents as a method of warfare."

The treaty does allow for RCA to be used for "law enforcement," but that is a huge can of definitional worms that no one wants to touch. And whatever is going on in Fallujah now, it isn't law enforcement by any stretch.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at November 13, 2004 02:04 PM

“In additon, extraordinary books on war like "Fail Safe," "A Farewell to Arms," "The Red Badge of Courage" and "All Quiet on the Western Front," all of which condemn war, used to be on high schoolers reading lists. I don't think they are any more. They should be.”

These are indeed great books. I also highly recommend them. They brilliantly deal with why going to war should be taken seriously. However, there are times when wars have to be fought! Too many influential Democrats run from this harsh reality---and that will continue to do so---and that’s why their party is akin to a rotting corpse waiting to be buried. The Democratic Party died on November 3rd, 2004. It’s time to hold the funeral.

Posted by: David Thomson at November 13, 2004 02:10 PM

"The Democratic Party died on November 3rd, 2004."

Correction: the death occurred on November 2nd, 2004.

Posted by: David Thomson at November 13, 2004 02:14 PM

The Democrats are now royally screwed. They are rendered mostly powerless in the halls of congress. These elected politicians feel similar to someone forced to swim with both hands tied behind their back. It ain’t pretty, and it’s likely only going to get worse.--DT

OK,Let's be crass.I have made no secret of my belief that the Democratic Party is,in fact,finished so no need to beat that horse any longer.The pivotal issue is not the WOT in general;it is Iraq in particular.Just as GWB bet his presidency on Iraq,the Dems have bet their survival on it as well.Although a disaster in Iraq will not save the Dems,a 'success'(however defined)will finish them as a cohesive force.If W can eventually bring the troops home after Iraq is truly standing on its own democratic feet,the party of Dean,Pelosi,Kennedy,Moore,Edwards,and CLINTON,will be finished.
I support Iraq for all the reasons outlined here by MJT and others,but on a purely 'political'level,the Dems are well on the way to being a giant casualty of the conflict.
Sorry,but I'm not at all sorry that this is so.The Party needs to die as it has become necrotic and also dangerous as it dimly senses its own demise,and lashes out blindly in its rage.
A new force will come along to better suit the new environment.Survival of the fittest in action.

Posted by: dougf at November 13, 2004 02:32 PM

David Thomson: Correction: the death occurred on November 2nd, 2004.

You could have said the same about the Republicans in 1992. And you would have been wrong.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2004 02:49 PM

What constantly struck me about the Democrats' nomination of Kerry was the calculated cynicism of the act. It wasn't that most of them genuinely admired his combat experience in Vietnam. Time and again, Kerry advocates would say things about how his military service "protected him against the charge he was weak on national defense", or that it "gave him leverage against the Bush administration chicken hawks who dodged the draft", or whatever. Or worse, it was a pandering stratagem, i.e., "Kerry's military service will appeal to mainstream America." (Indeed, Michael Moore said that was explicitly his motive, in supporting Gen. Clark.) Very rarely did I ever get the sense that Kerry's supporters admired his volunteering for military duty as a good act in and of itself, something every young American should emulate. Because, as it happens, I doubt very few of them probably believe that.

It's this total cultural separation from a tradition of military service, a failure to fully admire that tradition, that has damaged liberalism to the core. At worst, some of them have devolved into outright psychic opposition to the military. At best, they seem to consider the armed forces like they consider plumbers brought in to fix a clogged toilet: maybe someone you call on in emergencies, when things get really ugly, but not someone to mention in polite conversation; someone you'd hesitate to even socialize with in mixed company.

For most liberals in the blue states, the military tradition is simply an alien thing-- and here, it should be pointed out that the armed forces are now overwhelmingly comprised of recruits from the mid-west and the South, the red states. It's why liberals were so surprised when Kerry was hit hard by the Swift Boat charges. Most of them assumed Kerry's military service would innoculate him against all criticism. But the thing is, people who admire the military do appreciate Kerry's service, for the most part. What so many of them objected to, however, was the kind of language he used against that service when he became an anti-war protester-- his repeating of hearsay atrocity claims, his unverified assertions that these atrocities were official US military policy, and so on.

US military recruits were once asked whether they'd prefer their advertised budget tripled, or have Chelsea Clinton sign up for duty. Overwhelmingly, they clamored for Chelsea to enlist. And if Democrats really want to get serious about taking back power in a post-9/11 age, they should clamor for that, too.

Posted by: Wagner James Au at November 13, 2004 02:57 PM

"You could have said the same about the Republicans in 1992. And you would have been wrong."

The difference is that the Democratic Party isn't really all that good at actual politics anymore. When they lose a particular demographic, it usually ends up being gone. For that matter, who's going to be their Newt Gingrich?

Posted by: Myopist at November 13, 2004 03:28 PM

Michael - I wonder whether you are even aware of what Dem-orbit security policy work is out there. As far as I can tell, the only material that penetrates the bubble is stuff that you either already know that you agree with, and you read to bolster the point of view you already hold, or stuff that you know will provide a cartoonish and easily dismissed "alternative" view, which, again, you read to bolster the point of view you already have.

Have you read, for example, this:

And, when it's all said and done, nothing will enhance the Dems' national security credentials vis a vis the administration than the simple fact that the administration's policies will continue to lead to disastrous results.

I know you're becoming very accomplished at it, Michael, but there comes a point at which reality gets too difficult to gloss over with breast-beating rhetoric and outraged condemnations of anyone who dares question the wisdom of the Dear Leader.

Posted by: Mork at November 13, 2004 03:31 PM

Mork, congratulations on accusing Michael of being stupid. Not only have Leftists like you alienated millions of red state voters who have likely already become "yellow dog republicans", but you have made Michael that much less likely to actually listen to anything sensible you might say. Bravo.

As for the Democratic Party being dead, its too early to tell. It will take weeks, months before we can get an idea about how the Democratic party is heading. Its possible we might see '06 become a reverse '94, with the Democrats taking back Congress. But I don't see it. The 'hard core' leftists are still too strong. It will take a very nasty and determined fight by the moderates, like Lieberman and Clinton (yes, she is actually a moderate in the Democratic party), to get the party breathing again. However, the problem is that most of the money for the party comes from the leftist part, especially the social left activists. I am going to wait some before making any judgements on how this will turn out.

Posted by: FH at November 13, 2004 03:49 PM

"Leftists like me"?

Can you point me to a single thing I've ever said that is left wing?

Like the Dear Leader (and, for that matter, our dear host), you prefer to label something perjoratively so you don't have to respond to it substantively.

Posted by: Mork at November 13, 2004 04:52 PM

"Almost all modern liberal thought begins with the assumption that humans are basically good. Within this moral framework something such as terrorism cannot really exist, except as a manifestation of injustice, or unfairness, or lack of decent social services."

Too Many Steves has hit the nail on the head here. Left and Right today are separated by different conceptions of human nature and man's relationship to the larger society. Basically, all politics comes down to Plato vs. Aristotle. Platonists think man is fundametally good but corrupted by society. To make a perfect man you first have to make a perfect society. Aristotelians take the opposite view. Man is basically bad, or at least fundametally selfish, but society redeems him. A perfect society is unattainable and should not even be wished for, since any attempt to bring it about will likely make everyone worse off.

Most liberals today are animated by the Platonic view of human nature, whereas most conservatives are Aristotelians. In studying the world, the former group naturally prefers fields where the focus of attention is on how things ought to be, whereas the latter prefers to look at the world as it actually is, taking a bad human nature as given. The liberal avoideance of military history and strategy is perfectly understandable, since these subjects are steeped in an Aristotelian world view. Or to put it another way, liberals would rather read Noam Chomsky than Machiavelli or Thomas Schelling.

There are pros and cons to both approaches. In the extreme, the Platoist view of human nature is behind some of the worst totalitarian tyrranies of the 20th century, but in moderation it can be a stimulus for postive change in society. Aristotelian conservatives sometimes need this kind of 'shove' to shake off their complacency, but their preference for the status quo means that they tend to avoid extremism. They also have the advantage of being right in their view of human nature, as any reasonably objective person would have to conclude from reading history or observing society.

Liberals are repelled by the assumption of a 'bad' human nature because they can't see how any decent outcome for society is possible under it. They should read Adam Smith. His great insight was that individuals acting in a totally self-interested fashion could still produce the best possible outcomes. The same is true of the game theory that prevented a nuclear conflict during the Cold War. Liberals have always been afraid of Doctor Stranglove scenarios, but in fact it was the doctrine of mutually assured destruction that prevented all out war between the U.S and the Soviet Union. Pacifism would have been much more dangerous, since it might have invited a reckless attack by the other side.

I've gone on too long. The point is that Democrats need to overcome their aversion to these subjects, study them and base their policy proposals on first principles. However, it may be extremely hard for them to do this since it entail a rejection, or at least a serious reassessment, of their fundametal view of the world.

Not optimistic...

Posted by: american in europe at November 13, 2004 05:21 PM

The thing is, Kerry wiped the floor with Bush in the foreign policy debate. No Democratic candidate will ever compete with Fox News.

Posted by: news at November 13, 2004 05:24 PM

I hope the Democratic party does die. What do they stand for? Pacifism punctuated with the occasional missle-lob. More regulation. Higher taxes. Racial preferences. Government-funded partial birth abortions. Hypocracy on Gay Marriage. No change to the utterly bankrupt Social Security and Medicare programs. Socializing health care and destryoing the Pharma industry.

I dislike a great deal of what the Republicans stand for too, but there are some good ideas in their coalition and in the absence of the Democrats the Republicans will split into a hawkish libertarianish party and a hawkish religious right party, probably with protectionist impulses. I'd much prefer to vote for the hawkish libertarianish Republican party, but until a stake is driven into the heart of the Democrats I'll never have that option.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at November 13, 2004 06:35 PM

american in europe - when you describe philosophy in the abstract, I find myself agreeing with what you say. But it seems to me that you have the practical implications reversed. Surely only a platonist (in your terms) - and, in particular, one who was naive enough not only to believe that people were generally good, but they were good in a specifically western way - could possibly believe that, if only freed by American military power, the people of Iraq would welcome Americans as liberators and spontaneously adopt liberal democracy. The more skeptical view of human nature - which I share - does not seem to provide any grounds for believing that military conquest in places like Iraq is going to spontaneously release floods of goodwill towards the United States. On the contrary, it seems to me that someone holding an "aristotelian" (in your terms) view of human nature might have been better able to predict the preparedness of bad agents to capitalize on the opportunities created to turn the situation to our disadvantage.

Posted by: Mork at November 13, 2004 06:41 PM

“David Thomson: Correction: the death occurred on November 2nd, 2004.

You could have said the same about the Republicans in 1992. And you would have been wrong.”

There is one thing you are conveniently overlooking: the 1992 Republicans did not have to worry about marginalizing a large number of pacifists within their ranks. The Democrats do! This is why the party is doomed. You are not allow to “eliminate” these individuals---and they will not freely exit the Democratic fold. Thus, you will have to leave.

Posted by: David Thomson at November 13, 2004 06:58 PM


You might want to read Don Sensings posts three or four times and then read american in europe a couple of times. What you wish for does not currently exist. I believe that the party you seek ceased to exist when LBJ made the purely political decision to purchase the black bloc in '64 and then purchase the welfare bloc in '67. Had the Civil Rights Act been written with more attention and the 'War on Poverty' been conducted with more attention to human frailty, the Dems might still be ascendant. The decision to follow oppressors/oppressed Marxist theology destroyed the Dem party as surely as it has emptied mainstream churches (Don could probably fill you in on that, too).

If you wish to understand the descent of the Dem party, I really would recommend that you read Caro's biographies of Johnson. It's all there.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at November 13, 2004 08:00 PM

Before you guys crow any longer about the demise of the Democrats, remember that 55 million people voted for them. That is not some minuscule minority.

Posted by: miriam at November 13, 2004 08:06 PM

What's "demining"?

Posted by: Reader at November 13, 2004 08:17 PM

Reader: What's "demining"?

Clearing land mines.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2004 08:22 PM

Miriam: Before you guys crow any longer about the demise of the Democrats, remember that 55 million people voted for them. That is not some minuscule minority.

Don't forget. Jane's Law is still on the books. The devotees of the party in power and smug and arrogant, etc.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2004 08:23 PM


I hope you weren't referring to my post. It is my hope that the Dems regenerate a party that is capable of asserting a clearly distinguishable stand on policy matters. The party as it currently stands is incapable of delimiting substantive differences. Note that that all of Kerry's positions regarding external affairs were based upon "me too but mo' bettah" while his domestic positions amounted to bread and circuses. Too many people recognized that he could not deliver bread and circuses without a legislative majority and so he lost. This ain't brain surgery.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at November 13, 2004 08:37 PM

The problem with the Democratic party is that ideologically it is half new left, half old left. The new left part is noxious, anti-American to its core, sides with our enemies, viscerally opposes any American action in the world and has a dark and negative view of the engine of free enterprise. The part that is old left continues to speak the populist language, of how they are the party of the people and their opponents the party of plutocrats, of how the main purpose of government should be the "fair" distribution of the fruits of labor and about how their opponents "oppress" minorities and women. In particular, this last issue is one the Democrats have simply got to get past because it is deeply offensive to people who vote Republican to be told that they are rascists or sexists. The real proble is that the "liberal" moment has past. Most of the sixties liberal agenda was enacted and achieved. Racism will never be eliminated but state sponsored overt rasicsm and sexism is gone, laws enacted to protect individual rights and the Republican party has moved on to other things. While a portion of the Republican base does seek to enact a culturaly conservative agenda, and some are ideologically committed to reducing the federal government for its own sake, the majority, including first time GOP voter me, are committed to two basic ideas: The increase of American prosperity and opportunity through robust economic growth and the promotion of a forceful American foreign policy to protect our interests at home and abroad. This philosophy MUST be adopted by the Democratic party. I believe Clinton had the first part down and at least rhetorically, the second part as well. But since 2000 and Gore running as Harry Truman in 1948, the party seems to have rejected it. There is lot's of room for differentiation within this core approach. Dems. would favor stronger regulation, more outreach and aid to displaced workers etc. But in this country, their is no room for a governing party to reject either American exceptionalism or economic growth as an ideology. The sooner the Dems. stop defining themselves in pure opposition to the Republicans, the sooner they can rebuild.

Posted by: Doug at November 13, 2004 08:46 PM

After watching some news of the fighting in Fallujah, my reflexively pacifist wife (who voted for Kerry) asked why our soldiers couldn't use tear gas to clear enemy fighters out of buildings--so we wouldn't have to kill people who were trying to kill us.
Tell her she supports War Crimes then LOL that would be Chemical Warfare

Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at November 13, 2004 08:59 PM

The thing is, Kerry wiped the floor with Bush in the foreign policy debate. No Democratic candidate will ever compete with Fox News.

Oh stop it. Most were smart enough to compare Kerry's 20 year voting record to W's 3 1/2 years in office to make a foreign policy judgement.


Jane's law continues. We righties will screw this up somehow. It'll just take time.

Posted by: spc67 at November 13, 2004 09:16 PM

Rick Ballard: I hope you weren't referring to my post.

I wasn't, no.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2004 09:20 PM

Except the Democrats do think and write about national security issues. How about The Century Foundation's Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action or Winning the War on Terror from the minority staff of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security?

There are plenty more like that. What about big leftish papers like The Washington Post backing the war in Iraq?

The Democrats' biggest failing isn't a lack of thinking or talking about national security. It is that they are awful at articulating their thinking to the public, and that the Republicans have been incredibly successful at painting the Democrats as being unserious.

Sort of like how the Republicans paint the Democrats as being out of touch with the common folk and beholden to monied interests, when the Republicans won among the rich and the Democrats won among the poor.

Hm. Could it be that the Republicans are just really good at dominating political discourse and distorting the truth? I think it could be.

Posted by: Blogtheist at November 13, 2004 09:36 PM

"The difference is that the Democratic Party isn't really all that good at actual politics anymore."

Except that, nation-wide, Democratic Senate candidates won 3,000,000 more votes than Republican Senate candidates. Apparently, they were even better than the Republicans at politics. The country is, at least in terms of the Senate, gerrymandered against them.

And the second-highest number of votes ever won by a presidential candidate, a few percentage points below Bush, doesn't seem to indicate being bad at politics. Maybe not great, but certainly not bad.

Posted by: Blogtheist at November 13, 2004 09:42 PM

Read Graham Allison. I don't know if he's a Democrat, but with the very notable, very noble exception of Dick Lugar, only Democrats are paying attention to him.

Michael Ignatieff writes about similar issues to Paul Berman. I think he's about 10x better. Mileage may vary.

Phil Carter. Ashton Carter. (no relation.) Daniel Benjamin. Richard Clarke. Rand Beers.

Professors of mine--Phillip Heyman, Juliette Kaayem.

Some former Senators: Bob Graham, Sam Nunn, Gary Harte. Some current Senators: Biden. Kerry. The obvious folks--the former Clinton officials and/or might-have-been Kerry administration officials.

Actually, I think there are comparable number of left-of-center and right-of-center anti-terrorism wonks out there, and I think our wonks are doing, frankly, a much better job.

I do agree that we need a central think tank explicitly dedicated to foreign policy, anti-terrorism, military wonkery for the Democrats. You don't need to be partisan hacks like Heritage to be clear about working for one party--it should be partisan in that its ideas are meant to be adopted as policy by Democratic politicians, and that it figures out how to express those ideas in a politically compelling way, but not in the sense that the fortunes of the Democratic party determine its conclusions.

We need this desperately. I don't have the credentials to help create it, but I'd love to work for it.

Posted by: Katherine at November 13, 2004 10:20 PM

And I will echo the charge that, for someone allegedly devoted to reforming the Democrats, or hoping devoutly for their reform, you know shockingly little about what we actually think, and make shockingly little attempt to find out. (Perhaps I'm confusing you with your commenters here, but you never seem to disagree.) Michael Moore's foreign policy views are nothing at all like John Kerry's, Wesley Clark's, Howard Dean's, John Edwards', Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham's, or Joe Lieberman's. All of those seven--widely considered to be the serious Democratic presidential candidates--have much more in common with each other than with Moore. The only one anything like Moore was Kucinich, and he's a laughingstock within as well as outside of the party. All 6 serious presidential candidates supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Lieberman, Edwards, and Gephardt supported the decision to invade Iraq without much reservation, though they criticized the execution to varying degrees. Kerry criticized both, but he did vote for the war. He was more interventionist than Bush in Afghanistan in away, would have been more willing to use U.S. ground trips at key moments. He was also more interventionist as far as Kosovo and Darfur, and I think no less willing to use force if needed in Iran and Korea, and more competent--more likely to negotiate an enforceable settlement, less likely to start an unnecessary war or fiddle while Pyongyang builds nukes. He was also much more serious about securing nuclear weapons and weapons grade material--as were all of the Democratic candidates, without exception. THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING WE CAN DO FOR NATIONAL SECURITY, and Bush is doing a godawful job, and now we have word that Bin Laden has obtained a fatwa from a Saudi cleric giving him political and religious cleric to use a nuclear weapon against us. Why Kerry didn't make it the centerpiece of his campaign I'll never know, but that's a failure of campaign rhetoric--his policy was dead right.

Lieberman's hawkish credentials are well established, and I believe you've also noted Edwards'. Dean supported the first Gulf War, wrote to Clinton to urge him to act sooner in Bosnia, supported the Biden-Lugar version of the Senate resolution on Iraq, and has written to the E.U. urging them to act on Darfur or forfeit the right to complain when the U.S. acts unilaterally. Gephardt followed the Bush administration line on Iraq as much as anyone--something I thought showed alarmingly little thought, but you probably see that one differently. Wesley Clark was the freaking Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, and Bob Graham's Senate record shows him to be one of the most knowledgable and hawkish about fighting terrorism when it comes to Islamist terrorist groups, as opposed to states with tenuous connections to them. I'm not sure there's any U.S. politician more concerned about Hezbollah than Bob Graham.

Posted by: Katherine at November 13, 2004 10:42 PM

see Yglesias.

I would also note that the Democrats are the ones currently pushing for intelligence reforms consistent with the unanimous recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The Senate Republicans agreed--there was a consensus bipartisan bill that passed unanimously--but the House Republicans wrote a godawful bill that creates a figurehead national intelligence director that Tom Keane said would be worse than the current system, and uses the report as an excuse to do all kinds of immigrant-bashing and human-rights-disrespecting that the 9/11 Commission did not recommend, and which may have been poison pills to kill the whole deal. The bill is stuck in conference, and will probably die in conference. The Bush administration has flip flopped and dithered and done nothing useful.

Finally, in every survey I've seen that asks factual questions related to national security, liberal/Democratic voters do much better than Republicans voters. It's usually not even close.

Posted by: Katherine at November 13, 2004 10:52 PM

P.S. our foreign policy wonks are refreshingly skeptical about fairy tales sold by corrupt Iranian spies!!!

P.P.S. we are also refreshingly skeptical of A.Q. Khan and the Pakistani government's reassurances that its nuclear black market is shut down after a joke of an investigation and zero punishment for anyone involved.

P.P.P.S. we are also refreshingly skeptical of the doctrine of Presidential Infallibility.

Come on over, the water's great.

Posted by: Katherine at November 13, 2004 11:04 PM

Well, Michael, I don't intend on proving you wrong on this one because you're exactly right. My only beef with this analysis is in the defining of human rights as a "soft" concern. It need not be. You mentioned Paul Berman. Paul Berman's basic idea in Terror and Liberalism is that a better way to fight the War on Terror is to take the abusers of human rights head-on. In his words, "liberty for them will mean safety for us". It's ironic that this very liberal conception of an ideological war against fascism has found a supporter in President Bush, but even Bush's vision is not really the same as Berman's.

The left needs to pick up Paul Berman's insights in a hurry. Human rights, in and of themselves, are indeed "soft" concerns. But the beauty of what Berman argues for is in the fact that he suggests fighting a better War on Terror by attacking those "soft" but vital concerns with hard power. In essence, by advocating liberalism with a grenade launcher, he turns human rights into a "hard" subject matter.

Just because Carter prattled on and on about human rights but only chose to deal with them in strictly diplomatic terms doesn't neccessarily mean if you care passionately about human rights that you have to take to the same tactics as Carter did. Had we flooded Rwanda with American troops and put a much greater amount of pressure on Saudi Arabia and Iran to reform or face serious military consequences back in the 1990's, no one would have called that a "soft" foreign policy. They might have called it a "hard foreign policy with a big heart", but it wouldn't have been weak. I still think the Democratic Party could win with the heart of a dove and the instincts of a hawk.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at November 14, 2004 12:03 AM

Katherine, what you say here about mainstream Dem politicians' credentials may be accurate, but changing a generation of stereotypes about the party, among that great number of voters who don't pay attention to the nuances of Dick Gephardt's foreign policy views, or the prescriptions of the Democrats on the Senate Intel Committee, will also require a heavy and long-term investment in symbolism, and within the party, some throat-cutting (symbolic, of course).

What this disaffected Democrat would like to see are strong-minded Dem politicians who will smack down the Michael Moores of the party publicly, hard, and FREQUENTLY. A politician, or preferably a group of them, who will publicly challenge the sort of people who see Fidel Castro as a cuddly curmudgeon rather than the ruthless totalitarian that he is. Make the most liberal wing of the party uncomfortable as hell, for a long long time, and make sure everyone knows you're doing it. Call them on their indifference to totalitarianism; call them on their economic illiteracy; insist that their constant bitching about foreign policy be matched with some practical suggestions that take into account the way the world really works, not how they wish it would work. You may come back with a list of dems who fit that prescription quite well, but there obviously aren't enough of them, and they're not doing those things well enough, because it's still much too easy to associate the Dems with some of the most poisonous elements of their coalition.

Used properly, even little things can plant the seeds of perceptions in people's minds. My favorite example of this is Schwarzenegger's smoking tent in Sacramento. It's a thinly veiled slap to the face of the anti-smoking activists. Yeah, I know, it's trivial in the larger scheme of things, but it plants a positive seed in the minds of people (like me) who are rubbed the wrong way by the nanny-statists. But a few well-publicized baby steps like that can help to plant the foundation of larger shifts in public perceptions.

Posted by: Gene at November 14, 2004 12:04 AM

The article is right that Democrats know nothing useful about the military(anyone who writes what I've already been thinking is right by definition).

And I agree with the commenter that the problem of a largely pacifistic base is unsolvable. Well it's unsolvable when a war like the one in Iraq is a hot button issue among the naive. But a point in time will come when whatever the situation is, it ISN'T a hot button issue.

Even as bad as the situation was, and as incompetent as Kerry was as a campaigner, he came in a close second. Think about that - as bad as the situation in the Democratic party was, a better politician than Kerry would have won. If Kerry had even 1/2 of Bill Clinton's smarts he'd be president right now, guaranteed.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at November 14, 2004 12:26 AM

Amen, Grant and Gene.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 14, 2004 12:53 AM

Hi all -

Great thread. I think that the problem that the Democrats are facing is that they aren't in control of what the public percieves as being the policy of Democrats: in their desire to beat Bush, they opened the party to the fringes. Perhaps one should analyze the role that 527s played in the marginalization of the Democrats in the last election: on the one hand, you have groups espousing all sorts of distateful behavior, on the other hand these groups were "affiliated" with the Democrats on a loose, ad-hoc manner that meant these groups garnered credibility without being responsibile to the Democrats as such.

Hence the point of the Democrats needing to smack down those who appear to be speaking in their name: having Michael Moore do his brand of political activism might be thrilling on a partisan basis, but ultimately is terribly damaging to the reputation of the Democrats.

What to do? All I can hope for is that Lieberman et al can triumph in the internal party blood-letting that will come and that the Carvilles and others will disappear from the scene. Unlikely, but I think necessary for the return of credibility.

And the Democrats needs to repudiate 527s and reapproach campaign finance reform. I think the last election has shown that the entire McCain-Feingold approach has resulted in a monster rather then the reforms it desired.


Posted by: John F. Opie at November 14, 2004 02:31 AM

“All I can hope for is that Lieberman et al can triumph in the internal party blood-letting that will come and that the Carvilles and others will disappear from the scene. Unlikely, but I think necessary for the return of credibility.”

Unlikely? Your last sentence says it all. At least you are not ignoring reality. The high probability is that Joseph Lieberman will continue to be a marginalized figure within the Democrat Party. The left wingers have far too much influence. They have no plans in leaving---and so the rest of you will have to do so.

Posted by: David Thomson at November 14, 2004 06:47 AM

Much hay has been made of the fact that Michael Moore appeared at the Democratic National Convention. This is usually seen as proof that the Democrats are beholden to nutjobs like Moore. Moore was, of course, an invited guest not of the Democratic National Committee, but of former president Jimmy Carter. Moore spent the evening with Carter.

Why has similar hay not been made out of the fact that at the Republican National Convention, Jerry Falwell spent the evening signing autographs? Falwell, of course, blamed the September 11 attacks not on Islamic fascism, but on the people who clearly deserved the blame:
I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'
Clearly, the Republican Party is beholden to people like Falwell or noted isolationist Pat Buchanan, neither of whom have been publically repudiated by the party's leadership.

Or, it could be that parties, as coalitions of vast and sometimes competing interest groups, aren't necessarily beholden to the fringe groups in their midst. The Republicans have just as many as the Democrats, and the fringe on the Right is just as vile as the fringe on the Left.

The fact that so many people believe that Democratic national security decision making is informed or directed by Michael Moore and his ilk is less the result of that actually being true, and more the result of two complementary factors: the Democrats are really bad at getting people to notice what they're actually saying, and the Republicans are really good at getting people to believe untruths.

P.S. Katherine, I think I love you.

Posted by: Blogtheist at November 14, 2004 08:56 AM

There's an old Yiddish proverb: az di bobe volt gehat beytsim volt zi geven mayn zeyde (if my grandmother had balls she'd be my grandfather). If the Democratic Party followed your prescription, Michael, it would simply not be the current Democratic Party. I wish it were otherwise but that change will require a generational change—too many of the current movers and shakers came of age in the 1960's. And the trajectory of the party is currently not favorable—the younger generation is not appreciably more interested in foreign policy and defense than their elders.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at November 14, 2004 09:17 AM

From Texan Thucydides:

"It can't just be an electoral ploy, we need a whole new series of serious democratic think tanks, focused on influencing policy."

The Left already has lots of think tanks as well as dominance in the universities. Do you really think more are going to help? I've been reading the Right Nation and the section on Left Vs. Right think tanks is especially interesting:

"Why are conservative ideas so much to the fore? The capital, after all, supports a flotilla of liberal think tanks and liberal magazines. The big conservative foundations are minnows compared with liberal behemoths like the Ford, Rockefeller and MacArthur foundations. Bradley gives out less money in a year than Ford does in a month. Liberal America has first call on the country's paper of record, the NYTImes, most of its network news organizations and America's giant universities. Put simply, there is more brainpower on the Left, more money and more resources. Yet the Left does not exercize the same influence as the Right, either in coming up with specific policies or in changing the general climate of opinion.

This is partly a function of power, of course. With a Republican White House and Congress, it is harder for liberals to make their thoughts known. Most conservatives would claim that it is also a reflection of the ideas offered. Despite their partisanship, they have a point. For better or worse, most of the interesting ideas of the past two decades have come from the Right (just as in Webbs' day they came from the Left). If conservative ideas weren't more vibrant than liberal onces, then George Bush would probably not be in the White House, American troops would not be in Baghdad and we would certainly not be writing this book."

I think the crucial issue is the world view that has developed in the Far Left of the Democrats since Vietnam. They won't be credible on national security until that worldview is shattered.

Posted by: lindenen at November 14, 2004 10:03 AM

Lindenen, once again, puts his/her finger on it. It's the worldview. Ex-liberal and antiChomsky pundit Benjamin Kerstein put it succinctly and accurately: "Liberalism in its post-Vietnam form, (is) a kind of quasi-pacifist libertarian socialism shot through with a ferocious strain of racialism." It's this that gives the Democrats whatever passion they muster, but it holds their minds and policies in thrall to an ideology (hard or soft hardly (!) matters) that no longer matches the post 9.11 world.

Posted by: EssEm at November 14, 2004 10:50 AM

Hmm. While I can't prove or disprove the alleagtion that liberal or leftist intellectuals don't study military history and strategy, I wonder about the large number of conservatives that do, and who are blisteringly critical of the administration's actions in Iraq.

Didn't seem to make much of a difference to the electorate. Maybe it's more about marketing than substance.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 14, 2004 12:13 PM

I'm surprised no one here (that I can recall) has yet mentioned Kenneth Pollack, as a noted liberal hawk. His Threatening Storm is almost entirely responsible for mustering any kind of principled support for OIF among the intelligentsia. (He was also honest enough to do a "where was I wrong?" analysis, after the main battle, something both sides could learn.) There's something bracing about a liberal arguing for war, because there's little fire-breathing flimflam and chest pounding-- just a humble, carefully reasoned deliberation for war that fully acknowledges the horror of what is being proposed. But for that very reason, it has substance and steely resolve to it. Sort of like Richard Dreyfus in Jaws, the nebbishy-but-ballsy intellectual to Richard Kagan's brawn-and-bluster Robert Shaw. (And you remember what happened to him.)

Pace Michael, Paul Berman is a great liberal hawk theoretician, but he doesn't evince much interest in the actual nuts and bolts of military intervention. I truly admire him, but in his post-war analysis for the New Republic, he made some hit-and-run remark about how surprised he was over the US military's incompetence in Iraq. That's just simply uninformed. The chief blame for any major boondoggle lies with the Administration's mismanagement on a macro level, and to the extent that Iraq gains something like democratic stability, it'll chiefly be to the credit of people like David Petraeus of the 101st Airborne and the soldiers who are now playing the multiple role of ambassador/diplomat/local magistrate/humanitarian/constable/terrorist shitkicker.

Posted by: Wagner James Au at November 14, 2004 12:50 PM
If the Democratic Party followed your prescription, Michael, it would simply not be the current Democratic Party.

What about abortion rights, strong social safety nets and the like?

There is more to the DNC than presenting an anti-war face and pouring theater makeup over all of the serious liberal hawkishness that Katherine cited. This election season, they did a goodly amount to cover up the voices of unabashed "warmongers" in favor of Kerry's rather ineffective "reporting for duty" meme. Even Edward's record, cited by Katherine, seemed rather subdued in part not to eclipse Kerry's horribly dodgy and often inconsistent stance on Issues Of War. The Democrats are going to have to shed the shame of being hawkish on foreign policy if they wish to continue as a credible party. They get nowhere by pandering to the party's Idiotarian wing who produce little than synchronized protests, pouting and temper tantrums -- and of course select blue state votes at election time (which, in time, will become blue city votes as they alienate more of the democrats).

Posted by: Bill at November 14, 2004 04:22 PM

"The Democrats are going to have to shed the shame of being hawkish on foreign policy if they wish to continue as a credible party."

Wow, you sure don’t ask for much. Why not petition God to let you win next month’s state lottery? You would be hoping for less of a miracle. No, the Democratic Party cannot be saved. Too many of its leading lights are pacifists to the core. A few might even deny this fact, but existentially it’s part of their psyche. It will likely stay with them until the day they die.

Posted by: David Thomson at November 14, 2004 04:59 PM

Seabury and Codevilla in their "War: Ends and Means" refer to a generation of students--for whom the book was mostly written--not only abysmally ignorant of history (a given) but perfectly ignorant of military issues and hostile to learning anything of them.
They dedicate their book to this group, and the dems will find their names, figuratively speaking, in the preface.
It's a primer on war, so people can read a headline and a couple of paragraphs about a military issue and not think they're reading a piece from an alternate universe.
Now that Saving Private Ryan has been back on the tube most places, we can ask ourselves which of the American characters, except for Hanks' captain, would be most welcome in a faculty lounge.
Right. The cowardly, useless clerk.
As a friend of mine used to say, this has to mean somethin', 'cause it can't mean nothin'.
The dems are on the wrong side of this issue in so many ways that it is probably an irreparable condition. The future will be a split in the Republican party.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 14, 2004 05:17 PM

Nobody's mentioned that the Ivy League Left, like Stanford, got rid of their ROTC programs -- all top schools should include ROTC programs. (Maybe the Reps could use Tile IX or some heavy handed pressure? Nah, let the Leftist dangle...)

There were 3 main issues of Bush: pro-War (his response to 9/11), pro-Tax Cuts (his domestic economic policy), pro-God (he believes in a Christian God, and acts on it).

The Dem Party is morally bankrupt on war, believing that Peace Now (and genocide) is better than Fighting Evil (and killing people). The Dems have to decide on better criteria for deciding WHEN to fight evil, when that means death, destruction, and even innocents killed.

[Optimistically, with the upcoming Pali elections, and Iraq elections ... heck, Israel and the US could do a couple more unpopular regime changes in Syria and Iran -- and 2008 might be time for Give Peace a Chance, again.]

Katherine, thanks for links -- but under Carter, genocide was allowed in Cambodia. Under Clinton, genocide was allowed in Rwanda. There is NO evidence, none, that Kerry would actually act, invade, to stop genocide in Sudan. He has the tough talk-- "win the war", "against gay marriage", "believes abortion is wrong" -- but his action history totally supports abortion, indicates total acceptance of judicial activated gay marriage, frequently has voted against military budget, obviously needed to act, in war. I'll return to God, but Sullivan supported Kerry, for instance, because he knew Kerry "didn't mean it" in opposing gay marriage.

[I hope Roe gets overturned, on States rights grounds, and both abortion and marriage go back to the states -- the EU can live with Poland having abortion illegal, why can't California accept Texas w/o?]

The Bush-hate that's been drowning out debate on the left, and allowing the Press to avoid pressing Kerry on his Form 180, includes hatred of those tax cuts (for the rich!). Envy. A desire to destroy something good that others have -- well known to Nazi Jew haters, and Commie landlord haters.
I am enraged at the destructive envy at the heart of the Dems. Also the dishonesty about the "bad economy"; low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates, reasonable GDP growth. What G-8 country is better? (If you can't answer that, how can you honestly say the US has a "bad" economy?)

He was also much more serious about securing nuclear weapons and weapons grade material--as were all of the Democratic candidates, without exception. Um, you mean after 8 popular years of utter failure under Dem Clinton, NOW there's a big proliferation problem? Oh no, wait, I remember, Dems believe that Talk == Results. So if they talk intending to get some good result, like no nukes in No. Korea in 94 in return for big cash, we are all supposed to believe that the good intentions are more important than the actual results.

The success of liberals in getting their "good policies" enacted, and the disappointment by most people in the results, is a huge Dem problem -- "more of the same (failed policy)" is not attractive, nor progressive. Even blacks are starting to wonder why so many white school teachers send their own kids to private schools, 40 years after LBJ’s Civil Rights Act.

On War the Dems can change quickly -- with both Hillary, John Edwards, and even Barack all supporting active, American led, pro-democracy, NATO or other coalitions of willing forces, towards supporting more local democratic empowerment against dictators. Stopping World Bank and IMF support for places without a free press would be a nice start, even if it's just advocating that now.

On God, it seems unlikely the Dems will escape from being pro-abortion. Meaning the 48% of the Catholics that voted for (nominally Catholic) Kerry could, in the next election, easily vote for the pro-life Republican. The Dems should pre-emptively put a States Rights on Privacy Amendment up, to overturn Roe and send it back to the states, where the Blue states will have abortion legal and Red states not (mostly).

(Don't I have my OWN blog? Well, yeah -- I wanted somewhere to keep my comments from this one; plus...)

Posted by: Tom Grey at November 14, 2004 05:34 PM

I think the real issue Michael's trying to get at is the Atrophy the Democrats have suffered from in the area of common sense when it comes to very important issues. We may all joke that it's not all that common, but surprisingly, it is. There are many americans (and I know quite a few) who are quite liberal in their views and had many a disagreement in their commander in chief on many core issues.... but they voted Bush anyway. Why? I think my friend Alex said it best..... know what he stands for.

If anything, the Democrats failed to project that, and while Kerry is partially (if not completely) to blame for this image, I think the whole Democratic Party is also at fault for this too. I say this because if many people knew what the real Democratic Party platform was.... we would not have seen the numbers so close to what they were. I hate to say this, but it's the far-left wing of the party who's in charge of the democrats, and they will say whatever's necessary to placate the worries of the electorate only to get elected and fulfill those fears.... they themselves said that the only thing that mattered was who won.... and that view is far too dangerous for me, as it was for many others.

We knew where Bush stood, and while it wasn't the perfect platform for everyone, it was darn good enough for 60 million of us versus the yes-no-maybe bowl of mush that Kerry was giving us. Sorry to all you lefties for quoting the late former senator Zell Miller, but even my friend Alex said that's the way it was.

And he's a liberal who voted for Bush mind you.

The question now is this: who will take the reins in the democratic party? Will the far left refuse to give up the helm and steer the ship into more icebergs, or can the more centrist democrats wrest control of the helm away from the likes of Pelosi. I doubt the Moderates will rule the day because for one, the figurehead for the moderate democrats in the senate, the late senator Thomas Daschle had his head handed to him by Thune. Dean is planning to replace McAuffle (who himself is a radical, but compared to Dean looks darn well like a Centrist) and the most vocal voices of the Democratic Electorate call for secession.

The disenfranchised Democrats within their own party have little chance of taking back control to save their own party. I fear only more defections will take place. If the bleeding doesn't stop by 2006, the democrats won't be facing a few years in the wilderness.... it will be the end of their relevance. While I am a conservative, I hate to see any one party take total control because of the eventual consequences, even if they are on my team.

Just one concerned American, who loves country more than his party, as all Americans should.


Posted by: Charles Hammond Jr. at November 14, 2004 05:38 PM

Many of you write quite well. I wouldn't begin to try to equal your efforts.

One picture being worth a thousand words, I can only give you the image which will live on with many of us.

And that is the image of M. Moore, sitting in a place of honor at the convention, next to an ex-President of the United States.

And not one highly placed Democrat had the will to disown him.

Posted by: TedM at November 14, 2004 05:51 PM

I am reminded of Hans Blix' notorious MTV interview:

"To me the question of the environment is more ominous than that of peace and war. We will have regional conflicts and use of force, but world conflicts I do not believe will happen any longer."

This amazing sentiment voiced even as he led inspections in Iraq, ostensibly to prevent just such a conflagration. (No, not the Iraq war itself, but the likely consequences of ignoring unpleasant Middle Eastern developments.)

It seems that for some, "peace for our time" has become peace for all time.

Posted by: ArtD0dger at November 14, 2004 06:05 PM

blogtheist -- the comment on Senate races is illogical, as non-competitive big-state races favored the Democrats strongly. Shumer had a 3 million vote margin over his token opponent; Boxer had a 2 million vote margin over an almost-token opponent. Obama had a 2 million vote margin over an insane opponent. In all three races, Bush ran well ahead of the Republican Senate candidate. The closest GOP equivalent was Voinovich over an almost-token opponent, picking up a 1.5 million vote margin, but most of the Republican cakewalks were in smaller states.

Posted by: anon at November 14, 2004 06:23 PM

The Democrats' problem with military matters in general and wars in particular will persist if the best you can do is show an interest in military matters for the sake of winning elections. We are not looking for shrewder campaigners, not even ones who sincerely, humbly admit their former lack of shrewdness. We are looking for strategists, deadly strategists, deadly strategists who have taken America's side. If your plan is to study war for the sake of "credibility," so you can take offices, you don't even know what credibility is in these matters. Say it with me: "I am a Democrat. I want to study war so I'll be really good at killing people who may be dangerous to America." If you can't say that, you're still useless.

Posted by: Doug at November 14, 2004 06:25 PM


That was my point. There are relatively few, large states in which the Democrats hold majorities. There are many large states in which the Republicans hold majorities. Because every state returns two Senators, regardless of population, the Republicans are likely to dominate the Senate not based on their vote totals nationwide, but based on the fact that they are divided into many smaller states.

The country is "gerrymandered" not in the sense that somebody consciously drew state boundaries to create these "districts", or states. The country is "gerrymandered" in the sense that even if nationwide the Democrats win many more votes, perhaps implying the same "mandate" that Bush won by the same vote margin, they will still be unable to control the Senate.

Imagine if we were to take 2.5 million of Shumer's voters, and 1.5 million of Boxer's voters (still leaving each of them with a margin of victory of half a million votes), and divided these 4 million people into 8 states with a population of half a million each (the same as Wyoming's population), then there would likely be 16 new Democratic Senators. But because those Democratic voters are concentrated in a few big states, that doesn't matter. That was my point.

Posted by: Blogtheist at November 14, 2004 06:45 PM

Chaz: Well said, but I don't believe Senator Miller is "late" unless he quite recently lost some duel with C. Matthews. Neither is he "former"; at least not until January.

Posted by: petty at November 14, 2004 06:54 PM

The levers of power in the Democratic Party are largely held by baby boomers who cut their political teeth in the anti war movement of the Sixties. This exists from the local level up through the national party. Until those people retire, there is little likelihood that any Democrat who expouses 'serious thinking' about the use of force in a national security context is going to find him/herself without the party infrastructure to support any national aspirations. And I will continue to vote Republican in any circumstance where national security is a major consideration...

Posted by: John Fisher at November 14, 2004 06:58 PM


I wish I could write as well as you. But I will try to make my point as best I can.

The strength of our republic is that the founding fathers were fearful of what we would call a direct democracy. They deliberately set up a system which would prevent mob rule. The composition of the Senate and the Electoral College were designed to prevent that.

The state into which I have recently moved has a system of voting for constitutional amendments. Naturally, I am not in favor of that, but it is what it is here. We had two no brainers on the ballot. One was to raise the minimum wage and the other was to limit attorneys fees in personal injury cases. Of course both passed with huge majorities. I don't have the patience to amplify on that, but it should be obvious to conservatives.

Posted by: TedM at November 14, 2004 07:01 PM

Here's a view from a Republican. The Democrats can get tough on defense if they want to. I'm sure they can figure out some handwaving or "framing the issue" bullshit that'll do the job. After all, Clinton went into Kosovo unilaterally and no Dem compared him to Hitler.

news wrote: "The thing is, Kerry wiped the floor with Bush in the foreign policy debate. No Democratic candidate will ever compete with Fox News."

Hmm, let's see. Kerry said he'll get Germany and France to work with us in Iraq. They publicly say "no way". Kerry said we should give nuclear material for peaceful purposes to Iran. Iran publicly tells him to go fly a kite, they can get anything they want.

Two concrete fp proposals shot down before the election! Oh, that really inspires confidence! So much for the value of winning a debate. (That is, if he actually did. I didn't watch it and opinions vary.)

Amd I didn't hear about any of that from Fox. So stop whining about it, it just makes you look immature and divorced from reality.

Katherine wrote: "And I will echo the charge that, for someone allegedly devoted to reforming the Democrats, or hoping devoutly for their reform, you know shockingly little about what we actually think, and make shockingly little attempt to find out."

I only know what I hear on the news (not Fox, see above). I'm shocked, shocked that the Dems couldn't get their message out. It sure isn't the media's fault. Of course, I think the problem is that their real message did get out, and that's why they lost.

"The only one anything like Moore was Kucinich, and he's a laughingstock within as well as outside of the party."

Kucinich is a laughingstock but Moore is not. That says a lot.

"and now we have word that Bin Laden has obtained a fatwa from a Saudi cleric giving him political and religious cleric to use a nuclear weapon against us."

Do you seriously think a fatwa makes one bit of difference as to the likelihood of OBL using a nuclear bomb? A little naivete can be charming, but this much, well...

Posted by: Jim C. at November 14, 2004 07:06 PM

One part of the post others haven't focused upon is the quotation of Texan Thucydides:
"Listening to neo-conservative voices is important for Democrats, because contrary to popular belief, these people used to be liberals."
It's not contrary to popular belief; it's why they are "neo." It's also why neocons are hated by the Left; they are not just conservative, they are seen as traitors for abandoning the traditional Democratic coalition. This thread is an excellent exploration of why this happened, and what the Left might learn from it.

Posted by: Karl at November 14, 2004 07:08 PM

Blogtheist -

So you want to repeal federalism, too? Moreover, your comment is illogical even on its own terms, because nobody has any idea which candidates would win if the races were run nationally. Example: Would Barbara Boxer beat George Voinovich? Not in a million years.

Posted by: Ben at November 14, 2004 07:09 PM

Miriam's comments were interesting to me. She said:

-I know that force is sometimes necessary, but the question is when exactly is that? And I think our use of force in Iraq is the biggest blunder in foreign policy that this country has perhaps ever seen. And I was somewhat supportive of the invasion at the beginning, but I now think it is a terrible fiasco that will cost us dearly.

Miriam, why was it a blunder? What was war supposed to look like? What does a fiasco look like, compared to a war?

How does one jump start a city that has no working infrastructure? Where has that been done before? What did it take then? What did it take to make Western Europe work again after WWI? to make South Korea work after the Korean War?

What is the right policy wrt invading mosques that contain weapons and terrorists? Do we go in and wipe them out, or do we not, to maintain sensitivity? Do we occupy, or do we not occupy?

I don't think you know enough about the history of rebuilding to actually judge "fiasco". Perhaps that is also part of the problem? Without a reasonable background in military history, how can you judge the effectiveness, historically speaking, of our logistics, political leadership, military battles, etc.?

Posted by: carrie at November 14, 2004 07:43 PM

This has been fascinating reading, including the comments. As someone who considers themself both conservative and intelligent, I have just a few observations.

As to the idea that the Democrats' main problem is marketing, setting aside the insulting, condescending nature of that thinking, I think in the "internet age" marketing is a failing strategy. There's far too much evidence easily searched to expect marketing to have much effect. The internet will reveal candidates for who they really are, and the public will judge accordingly. They have just done so.

With regard to the comparison of Moore on the left and Robertson/Falwell on the right, pointing to their respective attendances at the Convention ignores the main point. Moore's thinking held sway in the party. Falwell/Robertson's did not. Where they sit is less revelant and much more symbolic.

With Michael, I'm not convinced of the Democratic party's demise. We will know more as time progresses and the "Lieberman wing" either prevails or recedes. If the Democrats truly decide to remain on the path they are on now, they will lose for the foreseeable future.

Katherine, the fact that you would list Richard Clarke and John Kerry as "anti-terrorims wonks" is more an indication of how far the Democratic party has to go than it does with reality. I'm afraid I chuckled when I read that. Please read the SICR carefully and then tell me what a wonk Clarke was. Kerry is so confused even he has no idea what his policy would be (and he would call 200 of his closest friends to find out.)

Bush may be wrong about a lot of things, but he is definitely right that the world changed forever on 9/11. But then I'm still mad at Reagan for doing nothing after Lebanon. :-)

Posted by: antimedia at November 14, 2004 07:45 PM

Holy smoke! This is the sanest thing I've heard any Democrat write since 9/11. Hallelujah and thank you. As I've said a hundred times before and on fifty different blogs: there are millions of people like me - some call us conservative libertarians or "south park republicans" or whatever (I think a lot of us were once called Reagan Democrats) - and we've been dissed, shunned and dismissed by the modern Michael Moore/Howard Dean style Democrat party. Why do Dems think Instapundit gets a quarter million hits a day, or LGF a hundred thousand plus? Do they really think all those people are Republicans? This post is the first instance I've seen of any sort of reach out on the part of Dems to people like me. And guess what: we're get-able. We live in urban areas. We have strong libertarian streaks. We're for drug policy reform. We have lots of gays friends. But we're not Socialists. And there's one thing we categorically refuse to give up on our: our core western ideals. We recognize Islamists and Islamofascism for the threat to our civilization that it is. Whereas Mike Moore and company think the threat to our civilization is Bush. No wonder Bush got 60 million votes. I hope the Dems wake up - and maybe you, Totten, will help lead the way - because it's just not healthy for the Republic to have absolutely no opposition party. But that's where we're headed. If the Dems don't wake up, they'll be looking at 60 Republican senate seats, a 70% Republican House, and Jeb or Rudy or Condi or who knows who as President in 2008.

Posted by: Sergio at November 14, 2004 07:51 PM

Now that I have managed to portray myself as a nutjob that wants to repeal federalism, please allow me to try and explain what that line of conversationw as actually about.

Much earlier in the conversation, someone stated that "the Democratic Party isn't really all that good at actual politics anymore."

I responded by saying that Kerry, while having lost, still won a not-insignificant number of votes, the second-highest number ever won by a presidential candidate and just a few percentage points under Bush.

Likewise, the Democrats won more votes nation-wide than the Republicans in Senate races.

I think the conversation certainly veered away from what I was originally trying to get at: that the winner-take-all system is masking the actual strength of the Democratic Party. I didn't help this by talking about other things.

And yes, I would like to do away with the Electoral College and the Senate, not because I seek to destroy federalism (which every Bush-fearing Liberal should seize upon in the days when all they have left are state governments), but because I think these things are inherently undemocratic. I think the Senate was a wonderful comprimise that solved a problem that existed hundreds of years ago, but doesn't exist anymore. But MAN, does this topic deserve its own blog dedicated to just that.

Posted by: Blogtheist at November 14, 2004 08:00 PM

It's interesting as a military member watching this debate play out. National security is just that - it is in the interest of the nation. When people join the military, they swear an oath to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, and to bear true faith an allegiance to the same.” The United States military has prided itself over the last 228 years in defending the nation against its enemies, and has never taken up arms to overthrow the government (and, yes, I look at the Civil War as a domestic threat). Whether it is a Democrat or a Republican as the President, we serve to protect this land. More importantly, we have since the Vietnam War VOLUNTEERED to do this, under our own free will as citizens of this nation. So, please stop the comments about "sending children off to combat." Those comments are condescending to the men and women that protect the nation, and worse, demonstrate the ignorance of the speaker. The President is charged with being Commander-in-Chief, empowered to defend the country under the Constitution with all the elements of national power. As such, the President also is the leader of the military, and maintains civilian control over it. What does this mean in the debate that is currently raging? It means that both major political parties have to remain serious about defense, intelligence, and all the other sectors of national security. If you don’t have that wired tight, you simply aren’t competent to lead the country. Commander-in-Chief is not an “additional duty” – it is a basic component of being President.

Much of this debate neglects basic facts. We are the most powerful nation in the world, with the third largest population in the world, and the global engine of economic prosperity. That is a fact, not an aspiration. We do not seek out solutions to problems because we are bored – we address them because they are in our national interest. Twenty million Americans of the 134 million working today depend on trade for their jobs. We have extended security assurances to over forty nations by treaty, and a like number de facto. A billion people live in peace under the shield we provide, and two-thirds of the world’s economy prospers under it. Commerce crosses the seas not because it is peaceful, but because the US Navy assures it remains so. We are the only nation in the world that has a strategic intelligence system that scours the globe in search of threats, and the only nation in the world that can cast a quarter million of its professional military service members to the other side of the globe to deal with threats. These are the facts. If politicians think that being “strong on defense” is an electoral gimmick, then they deserve to be repudiated by the electorate.

Our foreign policy has been consistent since the days of Woodrow Wilson: we want a world based on democratic states that trade freely and interact within international institutions. The democratic peace theory has been closely adhered to by both the parties since the end of World War II, which has assured our allies and has terrified the tyrannical and the illiberal. It is when we turn away from this goal, when we decide it isn’t worth fighting for, when we turn selfishly inward that problems happen (anyone remember WWII?). That is what the “peace movement” now stands for, in my opinion – if we say “no” to war when it is justifiable under “just war” theory, then we de facto say “yes” to tyranny. That is the basic problem, and until the “liberals” cease with their support of the illiberal, the selfish, and the tyrannical and re-embrace the national goals of the nation, then they will continue to suffer defeat at the ballot box.

Posted by: Brian at November 14, 2004 08:30 PM

This post reminds me of something Irving Kristol said back in the Seventies: "No modern state has ever constructed a foreign policy that was acceptable to its intellectuals."

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at November 14, 2004 08:59 PM

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Posted by: Z.Z.Bachman at November 14, 2004 09:03 PM

I couldn't agree more with the general tone of Mr. Totten's post. Although I'm a registered Republican, I do want the opposition to be thinking about this stuff. There are a lot of smart people on both sides of the divide, and I believe that more informed discussion leads to better results.

If a conservative is "a liberal who's been mugged," in the old formulation, then a neo-conservative would be what, exactly? The answer bears considering, but it doesn't necessarily limit world-weary wisdom to the neo-conservative class.

Posted by: John Lilly at November 14, 2004 09:07 PM

A neo-conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, and has a pulpit from which to tell his story.
The rest of us are just conservatives.
To take on the theme of an earlier poster, those who think the Iraq situation is a bungle, a fiasco, a mess, are invited to point to a neater war.
Just for the fun of it, we lost twenty-five times as many guys in a training exercise (see Slapton Sands) as we've lost in Fallujah.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 14, 2004 09:14 PM

"The former [LBJ] pursued war in Vietnam aggressively but with no national strategic aim."

That's remarkable. The fact of the matter is that Johnson had no coherent military strategy to support serious contention of "aggressive" war in Vietnam.

There is a great deal to be learned.

Posted by: Billy Beck at November 14, 2004 09:15 PM


We had a variant of this conversation over on Winds of Change in July of 2003 here:

Dumb and Dumber -- The Two Schools of Democratic Foreign Policy
by Trent Telenko at July 11, 2003 07:36 PM

You said:

"#4 Michael J. Totten on July 11, 2003 10:58 PM

Trent, you and I are not very far apart in our foreign policy ideas, but playing Ann Coulter games only alienates me.

Andrew Sullivan recently said that the right is trying to build an audience while the left is busy purging theirs.

There is sometimes truth to this. Many on the left think I am a heretic. Fine. I no longer feel any solidarity with them anyway.

But playing Ann Coulter games is just a way for the right to shrink the size of its own audience as the reactionary left often does.

You and I can either learn from each other, or not. I didn't vote for Bush, but I regularly defend him against the idiotic Bush=Hitler charge. And so I think I've earned the right to expect conservatives to stay away from the Democrats=Treason formulation.

The thing is, Trent, some on the far-left really ARE as Ann Coulter describes them. But no one can make that point convincingly if they don't make the proper distinctions.

So here's what I suggest. Divide the Democratic foreign policy into threes. Smart, Dumb, and Dumber. Then you might get some traction.

Are you familiar with The New Republic magazine? It is a partisan magazine for the Democratic Party. And its foreign policy is very hawkish and highly critical of the Dumb and Dumber sets. You have an ally there whether you're aware of it or not. It is worth buying a paid subscription."

I replied:

"#5 Trent Telenko on July 11, 2003 11:58 PM


Yes I am familiar with the New Republic.

I am also familiar with it's publisher, who threw out Andrew Sullivan as unclean. The New Republic was later caught shading the truth several times by a friend of mine. So I dropped them from my list of reading publications.

The latest and greatest from the Liberal Hawks has been the chanting of "Bush lied on WMD" with the rest of the Democratic Party. That sort of thing is the Democratic equivalent of "Ann Coulter games" and it is par for the course for all Democrats.

I repeat, what have Liberal Hawks said or done to merit different treatment from the "Dumb and Dumber" crowd?

Nothing at all that I can see.

The doom of the 2004 election and beyond is that Republicans are not going to get a "loyal opposition" that is trying to win the war faster. They are going to get the American equivalent of the Labour Party's "Loonie Left." That lack of political audit for the Bush Administration policies is going to get Americans killed needlessly.

"All it takes for evil to triumph is for men of good heart to do nothing."

Well, "Liberal Hawks" are doing nothing while the "Dumb and Dumber" Loons howl at the Bush moon. If you can't take my word on how badly this is playing with ordinary people. Try Lt. Smash's:

"But the crux of the debate on Hardball was whether that faulty intelligence was used to sell the war with Iraq to the American people—in other words, as one pundit put it, whether “we went to war on a lie.”

I wasn’t sure whether I should be amazed or amused by this argument. Today was the first time I’ve heard of this debate, which apparently has been going on for a while now. When Bush made those remarks in the State of the Union Address, that bit of intel didn’t even register with me. In fact, I didn’t even watch the speech.

You see, I wasn’t home that night. I was here in the Sandbox, busy getting ready for war. A war, I might add, for which I had been actively preparing for two months. A conflict which had been debated—and authorized—in the United States Congress last October.

You can read the Congressional Resolution here. Not once does it mention the words “uranium” or “Africa.” It does talk quite a bit about Saddam’s failure to live up to his responsibilities after the First Gulf War, his well-documented support for terrorists, and his brutal treatment of the Iraqi people, however.

But why confuse the issue with facts, when there are political points to be made?""

Michael, you really ought to go back and read the whole thread simply to see how your thoughts on the future of the Democratic Party and Liberal Hawks in general actually plaid out.

As for the issue of reaquiring the "war making job skills" of the Democratic Party, this is what I said in response to you and Joe Katzman about Liberal Hawk's chances of changing the Democratic Party to get them:

"#14 Trent Telenko on July 12, 2003 08:10 PM


What is left of national security Democrats don't make up a corporal's guard with respect to the Democratic party.

When President Clinton came into office, the best national security Democrats were those on the Congressional staffs for the Armed Services committees and their members. They were taken enmass over the Clinton' Defense and NSC staff without adequate replacements, and as executive level appointees, they are now too senior to go back to those staff jobs on the Hill. They have now either burrowed into the Senior Executive Service or gotten jobs as lobbiests. In either case they are lost to the Democratic Party as paid political, pro-national security, activist cadre. Democratic members of Congress on the Armed Service Committees have been hiring Republican national security experts as their staff since for lack of qualified Democrats.

Outside those groups, those who are left have no institutional $upport in the Democratic party to put them in think tanks or foundations to develope ideas when out of power. The creeping PC/leftist group think in academia hiring and tenure has denied them of that hidey hole as a place to develope ideas as well. So there is no career ladder inside the Democratic Party any more for national security minded Democratic operatives to climb.

At best, compared to Republican hawks perched in the Republican-funded think tanks and foundations, credentialed Liberal Hawks are third raters.

Worse, none of the potential "Liberal Hawk" Democratic leaders are going to get professional class advise without the "Republican taint." The Democratic Party's "Liberal Hawk's" inability to accept that 9/11/2001 made America's deployment of global anti-ballistic missile defenses a certainty, and communicate that to the rest of the party, is a case in point of the problem.

So, Joe, where is the downside of thwacking the Democrats every time on national security in the Ann Coulter style?

At this point buiding a bridge between the remaining "Liberal Hawks" in the Democratic Party and the Republicans will see their final exidous of the former into Republican neo-con ranks.

The only way Democrats as a party are going to learn on national security is to have their face rubbed in it such that Democratic political leaders and money men create a career ladder for Democratic national security experts the way the Republicans have."

Now it is too late for Kevin Drum's or your concerns about the Democratic Party relearning the arts of national security policy making. The few remaining Democratic National Security pros are about to be purged from the Federal government.

See this column:

The C.I.A. Versus Bush
by David Brooks

The key section of Brooks column is the closing paragraph:

"This is about more than intelligence. It's about Bush's second term. Is the president going to be able to rely on the institutions of government to execute his policies, or, by his laxity, will he permit the bureaucracy to ignore, evade and subvert the decisions made at the top? If the C.I.A. pays no price for its behavior, no one will pay a price for anything, and everything is permitted. That, Mr. President, is a slam-dunk."

A friend of mine put it this way:

"The CIA's bureaucratic culture changed, and that changed its mission. The new mission - Get The Bush Administration - is not acceptable to the Bush administration. And, since the CIA's self-chosen mission ceased to be longer national security, there is no national security downside to this purge."

I take a different view here. The CIA isn't David Brooks' beat like it is Safire's. That makes this a planted story and what is coming won't stop at CIA.

It is traditional that when one Administration leaves and another of a different party is coming for the senior appointees to "burrow in" the various bureaucracies by becoming senior GS grade or Senior Executive Service types in D.C. or the major field offices of the major agencies.

This is done primarily by Democrats in the national security field because they have no national security equivalent to the major think tanks of the Republican Party to stay employed in while Democrats are out of power.

The place where Clinton got most of his senior Democratic national security talent was from the Democratic Majority House and Senate Armed Service Committee staffs in the Congress. That source of Democratic talent lost their jobs in 1994.

I'd bet that all the three letter national security agencies and departments are going to get a thorough going purge of the Democratic appointees turned permanent senior bureaucrats.

All that has to be done is to screen the senior permanent employee hires at senior levels between Jan. 1993 and Jan 2001. In particular those who "burrowed in" between Nov 2000 and Jan. 2001

With neither the Republican think tanks nor the Congressional staff positions to hide out in, the remaining national security professional brain trust of the Democratic Party is about to go extinct.

Death for the Democratic Party on national security issues has arrived.

Political damnation awaits.

Posted by: Trent Telenko at November 14, 2004 09:20 PM

Maybe it's more about marketing than substance.

Please ++Ungood, you knew this already. Its always about marketing. EVERYTHING is.

Posted by: crionna at November 14, 2004 09:21 PM

So many commenters have noted that nearly 60 million votes were cast for Kerry in a losing effort...thereby showing continued strength for the Democrat Party.

How many of those were votes not for Kerry, but against Bush?

What would have happened in this election if Bush had been a more likable candidate?

Can you say blowout?

Posted by: bjbarron at November 14, 2004 09:24 PM

Blogtheist :
but because I think these things are inherently undemocratic.

They certainly inhibit direct democracy. That is a good and wise thing IMHO. For those of us who believe in original sin, the fact that the Founders wisely noted the dangers of pure democracy - its tendency to tyranny, rash decisions, and thoughtless pandering - and put restraints on its practice is a blessing. Their cynical and informed view of human nature produced a document that has served us well.

Posted by: chuck at November 14, 2004 09:36 PM

Mork --

Thanks for the link, quite revealing. It has MANY good things that should be done, such as more effort domestically to work with first responders, increase training with the FBI, add Arabic speakers to the CIA, acting against financial networks etc. I urge everyone here to read it.

But shot through all these many good recommendations is one massive "avoidance of risk" that borders on near fantasy. Take for example the rec to increase Special Forces to 100K. Not only is this not realistic (Special Forces are well, special, the elite of already elite existing soldiers within the Military) but the view to using them to fight terrorists "without risk" of a conventional military engagement displays profound military ignorance.

Special Forces have their uses as "force multipliers" and scout/recon/pickets; as well as pathfinders etc. They are however no substitute for conventional military forces which the disaster in the Iranian Desert during the Hostage Crisis showed Jimmy Carter. Special Forces can't be increased much from what they are already, and they are not a magic bullet to avoid war.

Much/Most of the Democrat Party wants desperately to avoid risk, defined as a conventional military engagement which they always see as Vietnam. It's the mutated version of the Powell Doctrine, requiring near unanimous domestic and UN/NATO support, overwhelming military advantage, and a quick/clear exit strategy. Hence things like firing a few missiles into the desert after the Embassy Bombings, or a pure aerial campaign in Serbia, or abject withdrawal in Somalia.

After 9/11 this avoidance of risk was seen to have it's own cost ... convincing not just terrorists but weak states that aid them that there was no serious cost to helping AQ or other terrorist organizations in actions that lead to massive American casualties. Remote controlled limited action through UAV strikes or a few missiles won't significantly impact regimes like Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran. Credible threat of a US invasion that would physically remove the regime on a permanent basis WILL change state behavior at least.

This is why Kerry lost ... the Democratic Party simply can't countenance a large scale conventional action. It's true that in any such action too many soldiers will die; but not acting (the Powell Doctrine seen as futile missile strikes) can lead to too many civilians dying just as violently. Sadly, I don't see this changing any time soon.

War is risky, it should indeed be avoided when it can be avoided. However, sometimes there is just no way round it.

Posted by: anon at November 14, 2004 09:45 PM

This is a very lucid and enjoyable discussion. My family tradition is blue collar Democratic, and my mother, at 80 years, can still get pretty upset about any Republican, like Gingritch or Bush, that gets in the news.

I was a Kennedy-Johnson Democrat in the 60's, and enthusiastically supported LBJ in '64 when he promised not to get involved in any Asian wars.

I started voting 3rd parties in '72, when the New Left took over the party, and have rarely voted for a Dem candidate since, except at the local level.

I do not believe that the party will collapse. I do believe that there must be an internal movement, similar to the purge Humphrey spearheaded in the '40's against marxists in the party, which will wrest control from the leftist radicals who very clearly control the party apparatus.

Since McGovern, the only Dem Presidents have been Carter, who played the centrist-outsider, and Clinton, who also campaigned as a moderate-centrist, and moved right constantly, much to the dismay of many party activists.

This past election was one of the strangest charades I have ever seen. Kery was a very left member of the anti-war/military wing of the party, was chosen precisely because he satisfied the activist core, and yet tried desparately to present himself as a moderate, pro-military candidate.

I agree with the comment earlier that this facade was simply not credible, and, indeed, led to the utter incoherence of the campaign. The result, given the weaknesses of Bush, and the massive support of the MSM for Kerry, was another indicator that this leftist, anti-military posture is not going to succeed.

The New Left must be deposed as the power brokers within the Democratic Party in order for it to return to a more centrist position which accepts that national interests are legitimate, and that military action is sometimes justified.

The Democratic Party cannot continue to protest the Vietnam War endlessly, nor can it base its policies on a mindset which automatically condemns any military action as evil imperialism by the capitalist warmongers.

Posted by: veryretired at November 14, 2004 11:14 PM

Much hay has been made of the fact that Michael Moore appeared at the Democratic National Convention. ... Why has similar hay not been made out of the fact that at the Republican National Convention, Jerry Falwell spent the evening signing autographs?

Yes, I found Fallwell's official speech at the RNC convention to be particularly moving.

Attendance != Endorsement. Being asked to speak, however ...

Posted by: bkw at November 14, 2004 11:16 PM

Forget about Michael Moore at the Democratic convention a bit, and take a look at the delegates that were there:

"In the planning, proposed segments about Kerry's Senate record -- on the environment, on small business, on foreign policy -- were scrapped or scaled back. And aides sought to ensure that both prime time and afternoon speeches were short, on message, and positive about Kerry without being overly harsh on Bush.

"Those goals, meant to appeal to swing voters, were out-of-synch with a staunchly antiwar audience; a Globe poll indicated that about 90 percent [emph mine] of the delegates inside the FleetCenter opposed the war, which Kerry had voted to authorize. And anger at Bush was so fierce that delegates broke into raucous cheers at even the most gentle denunciations of his administration."

Ninety percent! At the worst moments in the history of this war, general public opposition to it hasn't run any higher than 50-55%. This is a party whose leaders are deeply, deeply out of touch with the mainstream on foreign policy. An even scarier figure (anti-Bush liberal hawk Michael Ignatief cites it in the last NYRB, though I don't have a direct link to the survey on hand):

"Anyone in his right mind wants Americans out of Iraq as soon as possible; the question is whether the US can withdraw before Iraq becomes more stable. In May of this year, an ABC/Washington Post survey found that 53 percent of Democrats said the US 'should withdraw its military forces from Iraq...*even if that means civil order is not restored there*.'" [emph mine again]

We are talking about a suicidally, pathologically unserious treatment of a crucial national security issue that has become, against all sanity, the majority view within the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Wagner James Au at November 15, 2004 12:50 AM

"I do not believe that the party will collapse. I do believe that there must be an internal movement, similar to the purge Humphrey spearheaded in the '40's against marxists in the party..."

The Marxists of the 40s were not wealthy. That's not the case with today's far left-wingers. They have got the big bucks (like George Soros)---and are not planing to go anywhere. No, the more moderate Democrats must leave the party. Remember the golden rule: he who has the gold, rules!

Posted by: David Thomson at November 15, 2004 02:16 AM

"They have got the.."

Should be: "The have the..."

Posted by: David Thomson at November 15, 2004 03:48 AM

You're absolutely right! It's a pity that the whole world seems to forget these facts. The global liberation war was by definition always a project of the humanistic left. It was even quite popular when it meant repression, death squads and killing fields under the wise leadership of Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara.

But now, as the job finally can be done by the democracies themselves, saving many lives by fighting relative short campaigns with professional high tech forces instead of sacrificing myriads of civilians in bloody civil wars which last for years, the left dropped it and lost many of their brightest heads who were forced to change the sides.

And after they forced them out they dare to call them neocon - I'll never understand it.

Posted by: Paul13 at November 15, 2004 04:16 AM

Military policy think tanks, taking a serious interest in national defense, etc., are all good ideas for the Dems. It wouldn't have taken that much to get me to vote against Bush, though. For starters, they might try nominating a candidate for President who hasn't negotiated with the enemy in time of war, and who didn't "represent" those who compared all American officers in Vietnam to Genghis Khan. Seems like a no-brainer to me. I really can't understand why they keep shooting themselves in the foot.

Posted by: Helian at November 15, 2004 04:54 AM

All this assumption that 'the Dems are over' is way overblown. The only reason Bush got approval this time is that the Dems failed to field a credible alternative.

The Anyone But Bush party voted 49%. If Lieberman had been on the ballot, do you think you might have got 2 or more of the 5 percent Dems that voted Bush?

This win was clear, but it isn't a proven fundamental shift until a CREDIBLE dem candidate is beaten by a loser GOP candidate.

Posted by: Chris at November 15, 2004 05:45 AM

Chris: how do you expect them to ever field a serious candidate when the guy that really excites them compares Bush to Slobodan Milosevic?

I'm beginning to think they're not actually serious about governance and maybe never will be again. It's starting to all look like nothing but a self-definition exercise, a kind of national therapy for millions of people to assure themselves of their own self-image, utterly divorced from either the reality of winning an election or governing afterward. Walking to work this morning there was a magazine on the newsstand here in NYC with a picture of Bush and the headline "We Shall Overcome." It's just farcical. None of this has anything to do with politics or governance, it seems to me, it's all about urban, salon Democrats asserting their image of themselves publicly, and its only point is urban social cohesion and a bit of reassurance to all the people here who escaped from red states and are now living in tiny studio apartments: you did the right thing, you are here, and you are better.

Posted by: Sergio at November 15, 2004 06:59 AM


After 9/11 this avoidance of risk was seen to have it's own cost ... convincing not just terrorists but weak states that aid them that there was no serious cost to helping AQ or other terrorist organizations in actions that lead to massive American casualties. Remote controlled limited action through UAV strikes or a few missiles won't significantly impact regimes like Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran. Credible threat of a US invasion that would physically remove the regime on a permanent basis WILL change state behavior at least.

This seems so obvious, but so few people actually "get it." The Libyas and Irans and NoKos have to know that providing any assistance to terrorists means their governments will be destroyed. Words and symbolic gestures simply won't suffice to make that point.

Iraq got away with brazen defiance of the terms of the cease fire from GW I for far too long, and Hussein's beligerance planted and nurtured the seeds of disdain in far too many heads (including probably Osama bin Laden's nutty little noggin). No more half-measures when national security is at stake. We can't afford them.

Posted by: Mark Poling at November 15, 2004 07:23 AM

What would a credible Democratic foriegn policy look like? Here in lies the problem, there is no answer. Clinton had no discernible foriegn policy, it was a series of events, not connected by an overarching world view. Now he was President at the time that our principle enemy had collapsed, so a foriegn policy by crisis seemed to be what was going to be the norm. The end of history and all that. It became process and more process, treaties and conferences and talk. That problems were not being solved (and the big problem of Islamic Jihad was not being identified) did not seem like a big idea in the 90's, left or right. The problem is that the democrats have no response to 9/11 and its aftermath, other than they'd rather not have to do it, really because there are so many issues at home to deal with. Kerry's main message was I would do it better. But what would he do better? The process? Where was his strategy? He didn't win any debate really, he set up a series of tactics that I would better, using 20/20 hindsight. If Bush had actually brought the game he had in the second debate, to the first debate, he would have crushed Kerry like a small grape. The problem is there was no there there. There was never a feeling like they even agreed with the idea of transforming the ME to democracies? Bush has laid out a classic liberal solution, transforming societies from autocratic to democratic societies. What we got in response was whining that this either couldn't be done or worth the price and that we were being mislead about the price and yada yada yada. Again it was all we would do it better but we really agree/don't agree with the policy. Bush laid out a comprehensive vision, he said it would be hard, the cost would be high but it was a cost that we needed to bear, that we had to see it through. Democrats and thier media apologists act like Bush never said these things and we haven't born these costs in the past. I have not forgotten these speeches, or the underlying rationale. Until the democrats can say convincingly that American foriegn policy needs to stay transformational and on the offense, that America First and this is what we will do etc, in clear concise language with no caveats or weasel words, they will remain on the outside looking in at the adults.

Posted by: kevin at November 15, 2004 07:29 AM

Superb post and discussion. I think any fair reading of the recent exit polls supports your hypothesis, especially since the data appear to be slanted slightly left. The most telling point (IMO) was that a majority (55%) of Americans felt Iraq was part of the War on Terror . . . and they voted overwhelmingly for GWB (81% to 18%).

Thanks to Blogtheist for the pointer to Clarke's new report (available on-line here) DEFEATING THE JIHADISTS: A BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION. However, I don't think it helps the case. In fact, Clarke's history as a war-protester-turned-foreign-policy-wonk (and general disdain for the military) is exactly the formulation many of us distrust. A striking part of Clarke's earlier book was his unrealistic suggestions for using special operations forces. These are repeated in the Going after the Jihadists (PDF) section of his new work, and still seem unworkable. And even that military option is almost an afterthought--coming in number seven on his 10-item list of proposals--after notable entries like:
  • 1. Focus on Winning the Struggle of Ideas . . .
  • 2. Invest in Education and Development in Islamic Nations . . .
  • 3. Implement Tailored Strategies for Key Countries . . .
  • I think it a plausible argument that the main reason Republicans have been so successful at painting Democrats as unserious about the WoT is because they are unserious. And until that changes, I, for one, won't consider any of their candidates for national office. Posted by: Cecil Turner at November 15, 2004 07:40 AM

    Blogtheist -

    Chuck is right, but I'll go further: Federalism is, by definition, not democratic. Its purpose is to avoid the tyranny of the majority -- it is similar to the Bill of Rights in that regard. In setting up our nation this way, the Founders were extremely wise. Can you imagine the social conflict that would be occuring here if all social policy was set on a national level? Do you really think that New York City should determine how those in rural Mississippi lead their lives?

    Posted by: Ben at November 15, 2004 07:42 AM

    In an attempt to inject some more data/ideas into this debate, it is worth pointing out (as some have) that strategic thinkers who consider themselves Democrats or liberals do exist.

    I'd recommend the work of Thomas P.M. Barnett, especially his The Pentagon's New Map, which lays out a comprehensive strategy that has the benefits of dealing with the world the way it is and describing what is generally going on. (See his website at

    I'd also recommend the thoughts of Mark Grimsley at OSU who is "interrogating the project of military history." See his blog at Some very good ideas coming out of the academic side of things.

    Now a personal opinion: The biggest challenge to the Democrat Party vis-a-vis national security issues is the desire for moral superiority, above all else. The world is messy and too many wish it would just go away. That this worldview is central to the "Greater New England" region (northeast, upper midwest, west coast) is no historical accident. It has always been that way.

    Cheers, lancer

    Posted by: lancer at November 15, 2004 08:00 AM

    45% of the electorate thought the Iraq war was a stupid idea. Millions of others (like me) were ambivelant or were former supporters dismayed by the Bush Administration's incompetence in prosecuting the war. Just what were Democrats supposed to say to this massive slice of the electorate? Kerry worked hard to address the concerns of these voters, without taking irresponsible positions such as advocating a pullout or reduction in US forces.

    Kerry was credible on foreign policy. If he hadn't pissed off a bunch of veterans with his 1971 testimony, and if he had quoted Thomas ("decent respect for the opinions of mankind") Jefferson when explaining the "global test" comment -- he would be Presdient today.

    Posted by: Markus rose at November 15, 2004 08:02 AM

    One of the biggest questions this raises in my mind is to wonder how much of that is due to a lack of military service among these same young staffers? I'd be interested to see statistics comparing military service between Democratic staffers (and their immediate families) and that of Republicans. It might admittedly be a symptom rather than a cause, but I am definitely curious.

    Posted by: Cathouse Blues at November 15, 2004 08:04 AM

    Before you guys crow any longer about the demise of the Democrats, remember that 55 million people voted for them. That is not some minuscule minority.

    Winfield Scott won 46% of the popular vote in 1852. By 1856, his party (the Whigs) was pretty much gone.

    I don't know if the Democrats are doomed or not, but I would not look to the popular vote as comfort. If the Dems collapse like the Whigs did--and I see a lot of parallels--then their popular vote can easily be stolen by a new party.

    Posted by: Jeff Licquia at November 15, 2004 08:21 AM

    Actually, the Leftist solution to this Left-Right national security intellectuals imbalance is to de-fund " traditional" fields of stduy in History and Poli Sci at our universities in favor of race/gender/queer/ethnic/multi-cult " studies" methodology approaches - i.e. blatant political indoctrination. That way each side can be equally ignorant of strategy and defense issues because it will be extremely difficult for students to get into credible prepatory programs that are not larded with PCspeak rubbish.

    KC Johnson at HNN's Cliopatriarch blog touches various ways that this is being implemented:

    Posted by: mark safranski at November 15, 2004 08:29 AM

    The dems might contain--structurally--some good heads on foreign policy, and be supported by more.
    Eventually, these folks could make a difference.
    But their time is not infinite.
    They have to make a difference before the loonies take the party down the tubes, and the loonies are not only the great majority of the structure and the loudest support, they are the wealthiest.
    The smart dems won't have a chance to do their thing within the democratic party as we know it.

    Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 15, 2004 09:45 AM

    I'd like to hit on a couple points.

    First: Michael Moore was not a speaker at the Democratic National Convention. Here is the speaker schedule for those interested. He was an invited guest. Falwell was a guest at the Republican National Convention. He did not give a speech there either. The point of comparing the two is this: both parties have morally repugnant extremist wings. Calls for the Democrats to repudiate their extremist wing while ignoring the Republican extremist wing could be construed as a tacit endorsement of that extremist wing. But it is not repudiated, because there is a double standard. The Democratic Party is not driven by Michael Moore - it is driven by the tens of millions of average people who voted for John Kerry. The Republican Party is not, I hope, driven by Falwell - but perhaps Bush needs to repudiate him in order to prove that to me.

    Do you see how silly this gets?

    Second: perhaps I was mistaken about the intent of federalism, but I always thought it was intended to placate a number of sovereign states that were pooling their sovereignty by devolving a great deal of political power to them, while at the same time ensuring a central government strong enough to deal with the problems caused by the Articles of Confederation.

    Certainly, federalism can be utilized for undemocratic purposes, but it can also be used (as I like to see it used) to devolve as much political authority as possible to the lowest levels.

    The fears held by the founding fathers over democracy were, in my opinion, elitist and motivated as much by personal interest as genuine concern over a tyranny of the masses.

    The Senate was designed not so much to prevent direct democracy as to, again, placate those states that were hesitant to join a union in which they might be swamped by larger states (I've argued that the European Union should scrap its qualified-majority voting nonsense and just adopt a bicameral legislature along our lines, but that's another story...). That was fine then, when the states were in essence independent states coming together to form a single political entity. Now, however, the states are far from sovereign, the original impetus no longer exists (the states aren't going anywhere anytime soon, thank you very much 1865), and the population differences are much greater than they were at the time of our founding. Does it make sense to give half a million people in Wyoming the same power as 35 million Californians? Can political inequality be justified by state boundaries drawn, in some cases, four hundred years ago? Why do small populations in some states deserve more representation than small populations in sections of larger states, simply by virtue of happening to live in a state?

    Imagine this: two people live in neighboring states. One lives in a very populous state, and the other in a very unpopulous state. These two people are neighbors who live in a town bisected by the state border. They have far more in common with each other than either has with the millions of people who live at the other end of the one populous state. One neigbor gets 5, or 10, or 30 times as much political clout as the other, by virtue of the state in which he lives, even though he lives a stone's throw away. Does this make sense? What greater principle is served here?

    I am not arguing against federalism; I happen to like federalism a lot, thank you very much. I also like a bicameral legislature. I just think the Senate has served its purpose and should be replaced by something that's, well, fair and equal.

    I apologize for my wordiness. It is a great failing of mine.

    Posted by: Blogtheist at November 15, 2004 09:50 AM

    You can call them adages or cliches, but two things the Dems need to take to heart if they plan to regain any relevance (and I sincerely hope they do, I'd like to be able to vote for a pro-choice candidate again):
    Talk is Cheap
    Actions Speak Louder Than Words
    The debates were largely irrelevant. Kerry supporters pretty much all felt Kerry won, Bush supporters pretty much all felt Bush won. Not many votes 'changed hands.' As anyone who's ever taken a course in debating can confirm, you don't even have to believe the position you're arguing. Debates are all about talking a good game, reality is about playing a good game.
    Kerry could claim till he was blue in the face that he supported the military, but his slagging of them in the '70s and his two decades of voting against military and intelligence spending gave that the lie. He could cry to the heavens that he wasn't a liberal, but a Congressional career lived a quarter inch to the right of Ted Kennedy drowned him out.
    Bluntly put, thanks to the dichotomy between his words and his deeds, Kerry simply wasn't credible. Not on national security, not on foreign policy, not on anything.

    Posted by: Achillea at November 15, 2004 09:57 AM

    I would again like to clog Mr. Totten's comments with more of my words.

    His post, and a number of these comments, are incredibly frustrating: "the Democrats aren't serious about national security. They're dominated by pacifists/Michael Moore/various assorted other crazies. They're on the verge of imploding as a party." And so forth.

    It is frustrating because I am a liberal Democrat, but I am also serious about national security, far more so than many (but obviously not all) of the people commenting on the Democrats' supposed unseriousness. After September 11, I redirected my life: completed a relevant degree, moved to a new city and state, and took up a new career in the national security apparatus of the federal government. It is frustrating because I doubt, perhaps incorrectly but likely not, that many people critical of the Democrats have done little themselves beyond talk.

    Imagine what a Democratic national security wonk or soldier must feel every time Ann Coulter, whose life work amounts to shrill and vile lies, says that Liberals are traitors.

    It is frustrating because the Democrats do think about, and produce, a great deal of serious national security work, but somehow this goes unnoticed.

    It is frustrating because the president has clearly won, even if by a narrow margin, the war of ideas in this country: more people trust him on fighting terror than trust the Democrats. But bluster, rhetoric, and aggression mean nothing if they make us less safe, which is what a great many serious Democratic (and some Republican) national security thinkers believe about Bush.

    It is frustrating because hawkishness, in of itself, is irrelevant without a competent plan to back it up. Yes, Bush can talk a lot about freedom being on the march, the end of dictators, America being safer because we did this or that.

    But what about the dictators that he has coddled along the way? What about the Russian nuclear material that is less secure? What about Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia?

    Imagine this: faced with a variety of national security options, a hawk weighs them carefully and decides, as a hawk, to pick the hawkish plan. But what if, objectively, a non-hawkish policy would have produced better results, made us more secure? Are options being ignored because of ideology?

    As a hawk, I have to say this: when making decisions, the decision makers cannot be hawks, or doves, liberals or conservatives, idealists or anything other than the most cold, calculating rationalists imaginable.

    Of course I would love to see the might of America brought to bear against tyrants and dictators. An aggressive foreign policy has never, in my eyes, conflicted with liberal idealism. I supported the war in Iraq not beacuse I actually thought there was a threat, but because I was in love with the idea of our might toppling a dictator. But when the lives of Americans are at stake, our leaders should never feel they have the luxury of ideologies. They should never be allowed to make decisions based on the feeling received from having looked a man in the eye. They should never be allowed to throw out mountains of contrary evidence because one man promised them that reality would conform to their pre-conceived notions.

    I object to faith-based initiatives for a variety of reasons, but that is an academic debate: few peoples' lives are at stake. But Bush has essentially led a faith-based foreign policy. As a result, we are less safe. That is inexcusable.

    Certainly, I could be wrong, but I don't think that I am. And it is incredibly frustrating to listen people claim that Bush offers the only credible choice on national security when reality tells me that anything but that is true.

    Posted by: Blogtheist at November 15, 2004 10:16 AM

    Bloqtheist. Let's presume you're right. Your beef is with the big shooters in the democratic party.
    What, to look at you from Coulter's point of view, makes you a liberal.
    I would guess her defintion is circular. In addition, we can always go back to the Orwell observation that, effectively, the pacifist favors the fascist.
    That is, screw the protestations of good intentions. Let's look at the most likely results
    One can effectively favor the fascists by being an idiot, or one can do so on purpose, with camouflage by way of endless talk of good intentions.
    And, of course, there's always the left's view that we were the bad guys in the Cold War. Hard to cover that with any number of layers of presumed good intentions and still come out not a traitor.
    Sounds to me as if you're a neocon, to the extent that has any meaning outside of conservative.

    Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 15, 2004 10:29 AM

    From Mudville per a Commander on the ground in Iraq:

    I believe that we are making progress in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Despite the ravings of pundits and uninformed ambulance chasers, this fight doesn't' hinge on oil or payback. It isn't about religion or race. And it damn sure is not about any innate desire to rule the world. These people will succeed or fail on their own merits. The task is daunting. You can release a person from bondage. You can remove a tyrant from power. You can create the conditions for liberty. But, you cannot simply grant or proclaim freedom. Freedom without honest action is a whisper in a storm just as change without vision and purpose is the illusion of progress. For ages these people were literally beaten to the point of submission by oppression, censure, murder, torture, and rape - regardless of age or gender. I have asked myself why they let it happen. The only answer I can fathom is that evil flourished because good people refused to pay the price required to oppose it.

    This enemy has twisted and distorted things both sacred and profane to guideas well as justify its means and its stated end. Nothing is beyond the realm of the possible when it comes to the depths to which it will sink, the horror it is willing to commit, or the suffering it is willing to inflict. This enemy has no concept of mercy nor does it recognize combatants. Innocence is not a factor. You need only look at the headlines of the day to confirm that children, teachers, and doctors are murdered everyday by these villains. What makes them evil? I submit that it is not the act that earns them the epithet of evil - it is the intent to commit and the pride theydraw from the act. These animals revel in the post act announcements that they are responsible. They feel vindicated by the proclamations that they perpetrated these horrors in the name of God and that having committed the seacts some how elevates them. Make no mistake, this enemy is formidable but by no means invincible. To defeat this cancer requires the one thing that civilized people all over the world possess in absolute abundance - The will. The will to be free can only be surrendered by the person that has it - it cannot be murdered, raped, tortured, or stolen. It's not about being a martyr or a saint, it's about being a decent human being. And, the unvarnished truth is that the killing and the horror will continue until those with the will to endure prevail.

    Posted by: gibs. at November 15, 2004 11:09 AM


    I remember Bush repudiating Robertson and Falwell shortly after 9/11. It made a huge impression on me and I have not forgotten it.

    Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 15, 2004 11:12 AM

    Mr. Totten,

    Then why was Falwell signing autographs at the Republican National Convention?

    Why hasn't Coulter, who called for us to conquer Islamic countries, kill their leaders, and Christianize their people?

    Why don't blowhards on both sides get a smackdown from their party leadership?

    Because if party leaders spent their time repudiating and countering the nutjobs on "their" side, that's all they'd do. There are too many of them and they are too vocal. It is a shame when someone like Moore attaches him- or herself to an otherwise legitimate institution, but it happens.

    Posted by: Blogtheist at November 15, 2004 11:19 AM


    ". . . I am also serious about national security, far more so than many . . ."

    Good on ya. But individual attitudes aren't really the issue. Coming up with an overarching strategy is.

    "I supported the war in Iraq not beacuse I actually thought there was a threat, but because I was in love with the idea of our might toppling a dictator."

    Sorry, but this to me is not an indicator of seriousness.

    "But Bush has essentially led a faith-based foreign policy."

    I'm having a hard time seeing the position supporting the war in Iraq yet claiming a "faith-based" foreign policy. It's even harder to reconcile support for the war with believing it made us "less safe."

    Finally, on the point of no alternative. If the Democrats have a war strategy, they're certainly playing it close to the vest. Clarke's book is typical--when he finally gets to specifics, it's . . . not:
    In this chapter, we describe what we believe is the current state of affairs in these nations. We do not offer specific country-by-country strategies, which must be developed in detail by teams of experts on each nation, including nongovernment specialists.
    Personally, I think the Administration focus on terror sponsors is the correct approach. Obviously you don't agree. I'm not sure you're wrong--and the debate is past due. But IMO, the reason no debate has taken place is that no credible alternative has been offered. Posted by: Cecil Turner at November 15, 2004 11:20 AM

    Sorry, that second sentence about Coulter should have had a "been repudiated" in there somewhere.

    Posted by: Blogtheist at November 15, 2004 11:21 AM


    I claimed to be more serious than many (but not all, as there are certainly military and hopefully others actually working in national security in here) because I actually altered my life to contribute to our national security, and am busy making a career working as a public servant in national security.

    I did this mostly to contrast this with the attitude of people like Coulter (probably the Right's best [most vile] response to Moore) who attack Liberals for being unserious while doing nothing themselves except to say that Liberals are...unserious.

    Word vs. Action.

    And, I could certainly do my best to explain my stance on Iraq, but I'm not sure you have either the time or the desire to read what would surely be a very long, very rambling attempt to explain what it is like to be a liberal idealist confronted with what should have been a liberal idealist's dream - only to watch it go down in flames because the man you hoped could pull it off was, in fact, horrifically incompetent.

    See? I've already started. Look what you've done!

    Posted by: Blogtheist at November 15, 2004 11:27 AM

    I'm sorry, but to anyone who says that, "sure the Democrats may actually have a much better strategy for keeping nuclear weapons out of bin Laden's hands, but what I really want is more public denunciations of Michael Moore"-- you are not taking this seriously. I'd love to see Kerry or Dean or Clark go all Sister Souljah on Moore, just as I'd love to see Bush go all Sister Souljah on James Dobson, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Bob Jones, and every radio personality or Congressman who argued that Abu Ghraib was no big deal. But what REALLY matters is the policy, and its execution.

    People's lives are on the line here. My life is on the line. And instead of honestly arguing over whose policies are better, you want to argue over whose propagandists are fatter, shriller, more dishonest and generally more repugnant. As it happens, I actually think the Republicans' actually win the "more repugnant fringe" award, but except when they're passing constitutional amendments or killing people, I don't really give a crap.

    Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2004 12:45 PM

    ":He was also much more serious about securing nuclear weapons and weapons grade material--as were all of the Democratic candidates, without exception. Um, you mean after 8 popular years of utter failure under Dem Clinton, NOW there's a big proliferation problem?"

    Actually, we believe that Kerry and Clinton are--hard as this is to believe--TWO. SEPARATE. PEOPLE.

    And we believe--for real, not just as a rhetorical club--that the world changed on September 11. We should have been securing nuclear weapons better all along, of course, but now there is really no excuse for not doing so.

    Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2004 12:49 PM


    I'm a military guy (retired, actually) and that admittedly colors my perspective. I don't find the incompetent Iraq meme terribly persuasive, perhaps because I can't come up with any significant improvement proposals. I note most of the critics can't either.

    But the big gap is in grand strategy. The President has a sensible plan which he laid out in one of his best policy speeches:
    "We bring more than a vision to this conflict -- we bring a strategy that will lead to victory. And that strategy has four commitments:
  • "First, we are using every available tool to dismantle, disrupt and destroy terrorists and their organizations. . .
  • "Secondly, we are denying terrorists places of sanctuary or support. . .
  • "Third, we are using all elements of our national power to deny terrorists the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek. . .
  • "Fourth and finally, we are denying the terrorists the ideological victories they seek by working for freedom and reform in the broader Middle East. . . "
  • The operations appear to match the strategy. Kerry's closest was this speech at Temple University:
    "First, I will build a stronger, smarter military and intelligence capability . . .
  • Second, I will move decisively to deny the terrorists the deadly weapons they seek.
  • "Third, as president, I will wage a war on terrorist finances every bit as total as the war we wage on the terrorists themselves. . .
  • Fourth, as president, I will make homeland security a real priority . . ."
  • It goes on, but where it's not "Bush Lite," the gist is a law enforcement operation, with utterly unconvincing bits about how he'd deal with uncooperative nations (e.g., "I will make it clear to Iran that we will lead an international effort to impose tough sanctions if they do not permanently suspend their uranium enrichment program . . ."). It's also full of dubious accusations like "outsourcing" the Afghan operation, or equating nuclear proliferation with material in the Former Soviet Union. Maybe I'm a cynic, but looking at the body of writings on the liberal side, my conclusion is that they are mostly for political effect, and attempt to hold together an uneasy alliance of peaceniks and liberal hawks. In other words, they aren't serious. This is one case where I hope to be proven wrong--but don't really believe I will. Posted by: Cecil Turner at November 15, 2004 01:14 PM

    I do not understand the hatred toward the Vietnam War after all these years. I am not (yet) a US citizen, so I guess I must be missing something. My own viewpoint is this:

    1. With the demise of Communism, we now see more clearly what an evil that was. It killed 100m+ people and deprived 100s of millions more of their liberties by imposing totalitarian states.
    2. The Vietnam war was fought, plainly and clearly, to prevent the onward march of Communism. There was no oil (or bananas for that matter) or anything else to wage war for.
    3. In hindsight, if fighting evil is the right thing to do, the Vietnam war was clearly right.

    So why is there hatred towards the Vietnam War, now that we have the benefit of hindsight?

    Posted by: JM at November 15, 2004 01:46 PM

    I think Michael Moore has castrated the democrats. They no longer have any balls, and everybody can see that.

    In a world of Zarqawis that want to decapitate every westerner, being without balls is no way to reassure the electorate.

    Michael Moore is the albatross around your neck.

    Posted by: Franck at November 15, 2004 02:08 PM

    When you're talking about grand strategy, divorced from policy, you're talking about speeches. I agree that President Bush has better speechwriters than John Kerry did. But he is not carrying out that grand strategy--and not only in the sense that nothing is ever executed perfectly:
    "First, we are using every available tool to dismantle, disrupt and destroy terrorists and their organizations"

    This is not true. We are focusing heavily on military means to the exclusion of other tools. We have pulled away resources from the fight against terrorism for the fight against Iraq. We have under funded and under prioritized non proliferation. We have needlessly alienated some countries, and put up with much more than we should from others. (Specifically, Pakistan's failure to shut down or conduct a real investigation of its nuclear program.) We have focused resources on fights peripheral to the war on terrorism, like Iraq (it started out peripheral, I know it's not anymore) and tools peripheral to the war on terrorism, like missile defense. We have taken them away from where they are most needed. We have not done much to reform the INS--it's more likely to violate people's rights, but it's incompetent as it ever was. We haven't done real intelligence reform, instead we've used the CIA for political score settling and I don't know that we've done much of anything to improve the FBI, which was the real disaster. We have helped make a close alliance with the U.S. a serious political liability, and frontation with the U.S. and cheap and easy way to score political points, because we are so unpopular and disrespected in most countries of the world. The Homeland Security department is kind of a joke. It hasn't even coordinated everyone's various terrorism watchlists yet. It's funding to local first responders is determined by politics, not need--New York, L.A., and most densely populated cities in large nearly enough to shore up our infrastructure. The blackout was a warning sign about the power grid, and even worse, there are similar warning signs about the tunnels that supply Manhattan with its drinking water--both working ones are old and crumbling and vulnerable, and the new one isn't scheduled to be done for close to 20 years and the date keeps getting pushed further back. Port security. I could continue.

    "Secondly, we are denying terrorists places of sanctuary or support. . ."
    In Afghanistan, yes. In Iraq, Islamist terrorists have much more sanctuary, and certainly more access to Americans to kill, than before the war.

    Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2004 02:10 PM

    "Third, we are using all elements of our national power to deny terrorists the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek..."
    Boy is this one not true. We've neglected the real dangers to go to a war against a threat we knew was much lesser, and which we now know was non-existent. We're actually lucky Saddam didn't have WMDs in a way, because the fiascos at Al Qa Qaa and the IAEA locations and with the shoulder missiles demonstrate that my fears that a war would make it MORE likely that Al Qaeda got chem or bio weapons from Iraq. But, we've shot our credibility and our alliances completely to heck, and overstretched our armed forces, and this severely harms our ability to deal with the real proliferation threats in Russia, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, every country with a Soviet-supplied HEU-fueled nuclear reactor...

    "Fourth and finally, we are denying the terrorists the ideological victories they seek by working for freedom and reform in the broader Middle East. . . "

    We tried this one, but it seems to me unarguable that the Iraq war to this point has been a not idelogical loss for us and net ideological gain for the terrorists. That may change, I hope it does, but unfortunately I doubt it.

    We've also harmed our credibility as promoters of democracy with things like Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and extraordinary rendition. Is Egypt really going to take our clarion calls for freedom seriously when we're secretly sending suspects to be tortured there? No.

    Kerry's vision, as you say, is quite similar. There's a bit more emphasis on law enforcement, and a bit of fuzziness about when we use force--but since Bush neglects law enforcement completely and his use of force policy amounts to "because I say so, that's why"--it's really quite similar. But even if you prefer Bush's vision, Kerry's policies come much closer to carrying it out than Bush's. Without action, these are just a bunch of nice soundbites--and Bush's four goals have either not been matched with any action, or the actions taken have been useless or harmful.

    Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2004 02:13 PM

    "So why is there hatred towards the Vietnam War, now that we have the benefit of hindsight?"

    Because we killed a lot more innocent people than we saved--and contrary to the revionist history you still hear on the right, this is not because we left; by the late 1960s and early 1970s it was clear that to continue the war would kill a lot more innocent people than it saved.

    "We must oppose evil" is as simplistic and naive as "war is bad for children and other living things." Yes, we must oppose evil, yes war always kills innocents and that's a terrible thing--but you shouldn't fight every war where your opponents are evil any more than you should refuse to fight any war where innocents will die. That your opponents are evil, is no guarantee that you are good. Look at Hitler and Stalin, or look at any one of Africa's civil wars--Sierra Leone, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda. The French regime in Algeria practiced brutal torture--but what followed it was much, much worse. The Mobutu regime in Zaire was corrupt and oppressive--but the civil war that followed it was much, much worse. The Ian Smith regime in Rhodesia was horrendous--but Robert Mugabe's is worse.

    Not that I'm saying the U.S. is comparable to RENAMO, to any of the many sets of thugs in the West African wars, to Savimbi. But even when one side is clearly better than the other, the war may still kill more innocents than it saves or liberates. This is what happened in Vietnam, and more and more I fear it will happen in Iraq.

    The test isn't whether our opponents are evil--if that's the test we have to invade a good third of the earth. The test isn't whether innocents will die--if that's the test we'll never go to war anywhere, and more innocents will die than would have if we'd acted. The test is whether it will put the U.S. in greater or lesser danger of terrorism, whether it will save or free more innocent civilians than it kills or imprisons, whether the benefits outweigh the risks and the costs in blood and treasure.

    The thing is, the simplistic "war is bad, peace good" camp does not control Democratic policy. The "evil must always be opposed" camp DOES control GOP policy.

    Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2004 02:33 PM

    (phrasing error alert: Rwanda is not a civil war, but a genocide. "Internal conflicts" was the term I was looking for, or I could have subsituted Liberia or Cote d'Ivoire for Rwanda.

    Rwanda is an example of the second category, where both sides are bad but they are by no means equally bad. Kagame's government isn't equivalent to the Hutu Power genocidaires, but it's not good either. For that matter, RENAMO is pretty clearly worse than Frelimo in Mozambique, and the rebels in Sierra Leone were pretty clearly more brutal than the government.

    All of this is orthagonal to the main argument.)

    Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2004 02:47 PM

    I think the real issue that needs to be addressed is the the bandonment of the Fairness Doctrine. Everything else is superfluous until this critical element of society is corrected.

    Posted by: BSAlert at November 15, 2004 02:50 PM

    Grand strategy is necessarily overarching ideas. And all the "we haven't . . ." would be a lot more convincing if it were followed by a "we should have . . . [insert constructive idea here]"

    "We've neglected the real dangers to go to a war against a threat we knew was much lesser, and which we now know was non-existent."

    The "real danger" is Islamist terror sponsors providing sanctuary and support (and eventually WMDs) to terrorists. The DPRK and nuclear waste in the former Soviet Union is an order of magnitude less threatening. And what we "know" about Saddam is that after 12 years of sanctions, he had no intention of permanently dismantling his WMD programs. What's the answer? More sanctions?

    Posted by: Cecil Turner at November 15, 2004 03:01 PM

    Actually, I think the concensus among people who should know about these things (i.e., the National Intelligence Council) was that the likelihood of a state giving terrorists WMD was much smaller than terrorists acquiring them for themselves from former Soviet stocks. No state wanted to risk having a WMD attack on the US or an ally traced back to them.

    Posted by: Blogtheist at November 15, 2004 03:12 PM

    Sorry, "consensus".

    Posted by: Blogtheist at November 15, 2004 03:14 PM

    ". . . the likelihood of a state giving terrorists WMD was much smaller than terrorists acquiring them for themselves from former Soviet stocks."

    I'm not sure if you're talking about getting a weapon from Russian stocks or enriching/refining uranium or plutonium from former Soviet material. The first would seem to be possible, the second beyond any non-state actor for the foreseeable future--though obviously it's a (state) proliferation concern. In any event, neither would seem to be terribly likely. I'd be obliged for a steer to any contrary assessment. In any event, the larger near/mid-term risk is most likely biological.

    "No state wanted to risk having a WMD attack on the US or an ally traced back to them."

    Judging from the single American WMD terror attack so far (post-9/11 anthrax), the risk of being traced (at least for a bio attack) isn't terribly great.

    Posted by: Cecil Turner at November 15, 2004 03:34 PM

    The basic problem with this fixation on the Vietnam War is that it was the liberal's war - they blew it - and now draw poor conclusions from it. As you said, it was done for all the right reasons, yet because the President that developed the "Great Society" had no vision of victory, liberals are left with a bad taste in their mouth. I went to Vietnam a couple years ago, and the "Vietnam" experience is much more alive in the US than it is over there. 85% of the people in Vietnam weren't even born when the American-led war took place. Quite frankly, most of the service members in the American military weren't even born when it happened - so the "Vietnam" trauma is alive mostly in the Baby Boomers and their acolytes that emptily mouth their "wisdom".

    The Left was left with the ideology that it isn't worth fighting for freedom anymore - and as long as other people live with a boot on their neck is better than standing tall and doing the right thing - even when the enemy declares war on us. They convinced themselves that JFK was wrong, that we should not "pay any burden", that Communism wasn't evil, that genocide wasn't a real problem (Rwanda), because they didn't want to put thier skins on the line anymore. They took the counsel of their fears, because they fear another massive failure. So, Katherine is right on the money with her analysis, but not her remedy. We do need to look at if we go to war, are we being put at a greater or lesser risk of terrorism (obviously, doing nothing and turning over initiative to the terrorists doesn't work), whether we save more innocent lives than it costs (and the US military is the most precise military on the planet - if we can't get it done cleanly, than no one can - notice that Katherine "fears" for the civilians in Iraq - but evidently didn't care that much if Saddam murdered his own people), the benefits outweigh the risks (the easy cop out for most libs), and the costs in blood and treasure (i.e. I only want to do it if there is no pain and no cost to me. When the Dems whined about the cost of operations in Iraq during this campaign WHILE THEIR FELLOW CITIZENS WERE GETTING KILLED IN IRAQ, that showed where their hearts really were!) Vietnam put in their minds that the United States couldn't make a difference. Luckily, most Americans reject that gloomy perspective.

    The GWOT is being waged in these terms. The threat to our nation and its allies is real, the cost of fighting the war is relatively low (@ 4% of our GDP - a third less than during the Cold War, and 25% of what we spent on the Vietnam war), the innocent protected to the best we can (I'm sure Al Quida's hacking off heads doesn't bode well for their following the laws of armed conflict - at least we hold our own people accountable when they make mistakes), and the benefits definately outweigh the risks of doing nothing. JM, you have the right of it. It is up to the Dems to buck up and prove themselves serious in the realm of national security rather than taking the counsel of their fears in the ghost of Vietnam. For the rest of us, we need to deal with the real opportunities and challanges both now and in the future, and not keep looking backward and inward.

    Posted by: Brian at November 15, 2004 03:46 PM


    I guess you are saying that going to war was good, but the means used were wrong. You said that the Vietnam war is hated, "Because we killed a lot more innocent people than we saved.". I am not sure the facts bear that out.

    This link ( shows that, not including collateral damage, the North Vietnamese killed about 216k civilians, the South Vietnamese 42-118k civilians and the US about 6k (including My Lai). Collateral damage, i.e., unintentional killing of civilians during bombing or other attacks, amounted to 65k in North Vietnam and 400k in South Vietnam - the blame for this lies on all parties including NV, SV and the US. After 1975, the Communist regime sent 95k civilians to their deaths in re-education camps, executed 100k outright and another 500k boat people died as they tried to escape on rickety and leaky boats.

    I am not sure how reliable the site really is, but it looks quite reliable to me.

    So the conventional wisdom seems to be wrong. The NV and Communist regimes killed far more innocent and civilian people than the US and the South Vietnamese. It is wishful thinking to assume that none of this would have happened if the SV/US did not wage war.

    I agree with you that not every evil can be fought especially if the cure is worse than the disease, but specifically in the case of Vietnam, it does not seem true. The disease in this case, had already killed 35m+ in a neighboring country (China) and would go on to kill another 2m+ in Cambodia. The strongest argument, in my mind, that the war was worth fighting is from the boat people. Over 1.5m people attempted to flee even when the death rate was catastrophic at close to 40%.

    Posted by: JM at November 15, 2004 05:48 PM

    If a conservative is "a liberal who's been mugged," in the old formulation, then a neo-conservative would be what, exactly? The answer bears considering, but it doesn't necessarily limit world-weary wisdom to the neo-conservative class.

    Perhaps the neo-con witnessed the mugging and sympathizes with him/her.

    Posted by: Publius Rex at November 15, 2004 05:55 PM

    I didn't say we killed more people than the North Vietnamese--we may have or we may not have; I don't know. They were probably more brutal but we had better weapons--I just don't know.

    What I said is that we killed more people than we saved. And this would have been true even if we hadn't withdrawn when we did.

    Cecil, as for my list of "we haven't done x"--all of those things are feasible and doable; and I wouldn't blame Bush for failing to do them if not. I thought the "we should do X" was kind of implied.

    Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2004 09:19 PM

    Oh, and North Vietnam != the Khmer Rouge. Come on. North Vietnam invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge, for Christ's sake. I know they were both Southeast Asian and Communist, but that doesn't make them the same thing. (And the war between Vietnam and Cambodia is yet another example of my point: the fact that your enemy's evil does not prove that you are good. Sometimes there are no good guys.)

    Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2004 09:23 PM


    We will never know how many would have been killed/saved if the US had not waged war. I don't know and you don't know either - if you are a believer, then you can surmise that God would know what would have happened if an alternative course of action had been taken. I would be very surprised, however, if Vietnam War haters based their hatred now (not in 1972) on knowledge of this counterfactual.

    The tragedy, IMO, was not in the US going to war, but rather was in the US unable to or not having the will to win or at least stay on and enforce a stalemate. If the US had won the war and kept NV out of South Vietnam, it is my opinion that we would have seen a parallel of the Korean divide. A totalitarian North Vietnam just like North Korea and a vibrant, rich and eventually free South Vietnam just like South Korea. I grant you that NK leaders have been nuttier than NV Communists, but NV communists would still have been very totalitarian.

    Do you also believe that the US killed more Koreans than saved?

    Yes, I am aware that the Vietnamese communists overthrew the Khmer Rouge, but the point is that the KR would not have existed without communist ideology. They were absolute Blank Slaters, who wanted to mold a new utopian society. Would they have been able to wreak their havoc with a victorious (or at least undefeated) US next door in South Vietnam? Another counterfactual for sure, but the likelihood would have been less.

    Posted by: JM at November 15, 2004 10:55 PM

    "I thought the "we should do X" was kind of implied."

    Katherine, there's no positive side of: "We've neglected the real dangers to go to a war against a threat we knew was much lesser . . ." What are the real dangers? What should we have done?

    "Without action, these are just a bunch of nice soundbites--"

    No action? The usual argument is that there's too much action. The only two Mideast terror sponsors left on the list are Syria and Iran, and we're fighting their surrogates in Iraq. Terrrorists don't operate freely in Afghanistan any more. Neither are training camps run in Iraq (except for the live-fire training . . . which has its own down side). Libya is on-side, the proliferation network run by AQ Khan is contained . . . both due to the object lesson provided by Iraq.

    Again, what do you suggest? Lean on Pakistan to arrest AQ Khan (possibly leading to the overthrow of a shaky allied government--which would undoubtedly be replaced by something worse)? Perhaps "hold Saudi Arabia accountable" (with the same likely outcome)? Should we have lobbed some missiles at the admittedly significant proliferation concerns in DPRK or Iran?

    Iraq was in violation of a cease-fire with the US, more than a dozen UN collective security resolutions, and openly flouted restrictions on terrorist support and WMDs. Geographically, it forms the linchpin between the two other main terror sponsors (Syria and Iran), and until recently it had the most advanced and active WMD programs of interest (biologicals). From a military standpoint--focusing on Mideast terror sponsors--Iraq was precisely the right war at the right time. But that's not really the issue. Whether you agree with them or not, the Administration actually has a policy--and "you can't beat something with nothing."

    Posted by: Cecil Turner at November 16, 2004 04:38 AM

    The Democratic Party died on November 3rd, 2004.

    Correction: the death occurred on November 2nd, 2004

    Is this a reference to the paradox of Schrodinger's chads?

    Posted by: Alan Peakall at November 16, 2004 05:13 AM


    I'd like to briefly address your argument for eliminating the electoral college. You correctly identified the original motivation for setting up both the electoral college and the Senate: that smaller states "were hesitant to join a union in which they might be swamped by larger states". You then said that now, "the states are far from sovereign, [so] the original impetus no longer exists, ... and the population differences are much greater than they were at the time of our founding."

    Indeed, the population differences are much greater now than they were; and the political contrast, the balance of power, is not so much large state/small state as it is urban/rural. This graphic says it so much more clearly than any ten paragraphs I could write:

    Look at those colors. Look at the height of the red bars, and the height of the blue bars. It's abundantly clear that major urban centers vote D, while rural areas all over the country vote R.

    Any argument for or against abolishing the electoral college, in my opinion, needs to take this reality into account. Three questions need to be answered:

    1) Will people living in an urban environment be able to set and implement as good policy for rural environments as people living in rural environments will?

    2) Given that there are significantly more urban voters than rural voters, will the urban voters' votes effectively swamp those of the rural voters? And is that a good thing, or should we set up a system that gives rural voters effectively more power than the urban voters?

    3) Is the electoral college, in its current form, such a system?

    Personally, I feel that the electoral college is indeed such a system, and that it's a good thing. Because the electoral college is in place, Presidential candidates have to court the smaller states and the rural voters -- or at least, the states they think they will win. (I don't think Kerry spent much money running campaign ads in Texas, for example). If we got rid of the electoral college, suddenly the politically smart thing to do would be to court the cities and ignore the rural population entirely. Oops.

    Posted by: Robin Munn at November 16, 2004 08:43 AM


    The electoral college already discourages politicians from concerning themselves with vast swaths of the country. Kerry didn't campaign in Texas anymore than Bush campaigned in New York. In fact, the election was decided more by a handful of states - the ones in which the candidates actually spent time and money. The true swing state turned out to be Ohio. Will Bush now govern as if Ohio were the only state that matters?

    A national election would encourage politicians to campaign for votes anywhere they could acquire those votes.

    And, to quote: Will people living in an urban environment be able to set and implement as good policy for rural environments as people living in rural environments will?

    The electoral college was not designed to deal with issues of urban versus rural. It happens to play out that way because of centuries of demographic changes. But in response to your question: what happens if a minority of rural voters elects a candidate against the wishes of a majority of urban voters, as could happen under the electoral college? Will people living in a rural environment be able to set and implement as good policy for urban environments as people living in urban environments?

    This point - that the electoral college must exist in order to protect rural voters from urban voters - only makes sense if we desire to privilege rural voters over urban voters, even if they are a minority. I, for one, care more about weighting everyone's vote equally than I do about the population density of the county in which you live.

    Setting aside the fact that Wyoming's voters weren't really courted by anyone anyway, do the citizens of Wyoming deserve, for any moral reason, to have their votes count more than the citizens of California because of the fortunes of geography? Moreover, is it good policy to weigh the votes of someone more than another because their state borders happen to enclose fewer people than those of another state? If just one person lived in the state of Wyoming, would Wyoming still get three electoral college votes, by virtue of the fact that it is still, in theory, a state? I think the answer to these questions is a resounding "no".

    Posted by: Blogtheist at November 16, 2004 11:09 AM

    But, to add something.

    You wrote: Given that there are significantly more urban voters than rural voters, will the urban voters' votes effectively swamp those of the rural voters? And is that a good thing, or should we set up a system that gives rural voters effectively more power than the urban voters?

    To rephrase: in a democracy, will a majority defeat a minority in an election? Is this a good thing? Or should we set up a system that gives the minority more power than the majority?

    Does this make sense? Because it really doesn't make any sense to me at all.

    This isn't an argument for direct democracy, or for an elimination of all checks and balances. A majority, for example, should not be allowed to vote a minority out of existence. But if fear of majority rule leads to minority rule, then it's not democracy anymore.

    Posted by: Blogtheist at November 16, 2004 11:16 AM

    Have you guys seen this? Little Green Footballs poster or Late German Fascist?

    Posted by: jean-paul at November 16, 2004 11:40 AM

    Robin -- If the electoral college was eliminated, Presidential candidates would definately court not smaller states, but the VOTERS in those states. Republicans would do so especially, since those are the voters who tend to hold conservative views. And it would be economical to court votesrsin those states, since the cost of media is so much less prohibitive than in urban areas.

    Posted by: Markus Rose at November 16, 2004 03:25 PM

    A few comments from a right-libertarian who cares about country a great deal more than patronage:

    1. The reason that there is no significant national security academia revolving door anymore is because liberal academics short circuited it. If you, as a student, let it be known that you're interested in national security, there are national organized boycotts that will target you in several fields including language skills fields. End the boycotts and you have something to work with on the left. There is a scholarship program that is designed to attract people into public service but if you take that money, you're finished as an academic if you fall in one of the boycott fields.

    2. I do wonder what Democrats who are in the South and West who have to run away from the national party every two, four, or six years actually get for the D after their name? Why not just break the association at the national level, pledge to auction your organizing vote to those that are best for the relevant electorate and run a regional party without the baggage of NYC and San Francisco. In similar circumstances, blue state Republicans would be asking the same sort of questions. It can't just be a snazzy national party headquarters.

    3. If you shift the right amount of votes around correctly, President Bush could have won all the votes in the electoral college. That doesn't prove a thing except that the Senate voters vote shifting exercise is similarly silly.

    4. Thomas PM Barnett is a true blue Democrat, has a very good grasp of grand strategy, his base is currently at the Naval War College, and I have an open bet with him that he's going to be driven out of the Democrat party. When I first suggested this to him, he dismissed it out of hand. His treatment in certain reliably center-left publications has led him to, quietly, recognize the sort of pressure I was referring to.

    Posted by: TM Lutas at November 17, 2004 08:20 AM

    I can't believe that you are seriously insisting that national security is not a concern of the Dems. Didn't we have a candidate that promised a smarter, tougher, war on terror, who would finish the job in Iraq? I seem to recall the only major Dem that was avowedly anti-war is Dean, and he got shunted aside pretty quickly. As an anti-war Dem, I swallowed my convictions to support Kerry, and feel I got nothing for it. I don't know why you feel so persecuted - I think you have internalized the mindset of the neocons, which is to feel perpetually slighted.

    Posted by: More Zen at November 17, 2004 04:58 PM

    Mr. Totten apparently confuses opposition to the neocons idiot views with lack of a policy on national security. The disastrous bad judgement and sheer incompetence of the neo-cons shouldn't make any sane Democrat look to join them.

    I speak as someone who designs wargames and writes military history for a living (despite Mr. Totten's claim that few intellectuals on the left "study military history and strategy"). There has been no "nation-wide brain-drain from the left to the right" in national security, for the right offers only a comic-book version of military power and the role it can and should play in making America safer.

    In fact John Kerry had a far greater understanding of how to fight the threat posed by bin Laden, and that 51% of the public bought into the frankly ridiculous notion that Bush would do the better job making us safer simply proves that it's the general public, not the left, that lacks a basic understanding of national security matters.

    How the Dems can go about educating them, is the real issue, though of course first someone will have to educate Paul Berman and Mr. Totten.

    Posted by: Ted Raicer at November 17, 2004 06:31 PM
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