[Marxism] Stay the Course, Win or Lose

Dan DiMaggio dannydamage at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 2 19:52:23 MST 2006

Here is a pretty devastating response to those who are arguing for
supporting the Democrats, by a leading neo-con and founder of the
Project American Century, nonetheless. 

Staying the Course, Win or Lose

By Robert Kagan
Thursday, November 2, 2006; A17
Washington Post

BRUSSELS -- Here in Europe, people ask hopefully if a Democratic
victory in the congressional elections will finally shift the direction
of American foreign policy in a more benign direction. But
congressional elections rarely affect the broad direction of American
foreign policy. A notable exception was when Congress cut funding for
American military operations in support of South Vietnam in 1973. Yet
it's unlikely that a Democratic House would cut off funds for the war
in Iraq in the next two years.

Indeed, the preferred European scenario -- "Bush hobbled" -- is less
likely than the alternative: "Bush unbound." Neither the president nor
his vice president is running for office in 2008. That is what usually
prevents high-stakes foreign policy moves in the last two years of a
president's term. In 1988 Ronald Reagan had negotiated a clever
agreement to get the dictator Manuel Noriega peacefully out of Panama,
but Vice President George H.W. Bush and his advisers feared the
domestic political repercussions of cutting a deal with a drug lord at
the height of the "war on drugs," so they nixed the plan. The result
was that Bush had to invade Panama the very next year to remove Noriega
-- but he did get elected.

This President Bush doesn't have to worry about getting anyone elected
in 2008 and appears to be thinking only about his place in history.
That can lead him to act in ways that please Europeans -- for instance,
the vigorous multilateral diplomacy on Iran and North Korea. But it
could also take him in directions they will find worrisome if that
diplomacy fails.

There is a deeper reason this election, and even the next presidential
election, may not change U.S. foreign policy very much. Historically,
and especially in the six decades since the end of World War II, there
has been much more continuity than discontinuity in foreign policy. New
administrations change policy around the margins, and sometimes those
changes prove important -- George H.W. Bush temporized about the
Balkans; Bill Clinton temporized and then sent troops. Clinton
temporized about Iraq and then bombed. George W. Bush temporized and
then invaded. But the motives behind American foreign policy, and even
the means, don't differ all that much from administration to
administration. Republicans berated the Democrats' "cowardly"
containment until they took the White House in 1952, then adopted that
strategy as their own.

This tendency toward continuity is particularly striking on the issue
that most divides Americans from Europeans today: the use of military
force in international affairs. Americans of both parties simply have
more belief in the utility and even justice of military action than do
most other peoples around the world. The German Marshall Fund
commissions an annual poll that asks Europeans and Americans, among
other things, whether they agree with the following statement: "Under
some conditions, war is necessary to obtain justice." Europeans
disagree, and by a 2 to 1 margin. But Americans overwhelmingly support
the idea that war may be necessary to obtain justice. Even this year,
with disapproval of the Iraq war high, 78 percent of American
respondents agreed with the statement.

This broad bipartisan conviction is reflected in U.S. policies. Between
1989 and 2003, the United States engaged in significant military
actions overseas on nine occasions under Bush I, Clinton and Bush II:
Panama in 1989, Somalia in 1992, Haiti in 1994, Bosnia in 1995-96,
Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq three times -- 1991, 1998
and 2003, an average of one major military action every year and a

The reasons for this prolific use of military force have to do with the
nation's history -- Americans have been fighting what they considered
just and moral wars since the Revolution and the Civil War. And it has
to do with Americans' relative power. It is no accident that the United
States began to use force more frequently after the fall of the Soviet

Those who imagine that the Iraq imbroglio may change this approach
could be right, but the historical record suggests otherwise. Less than
six years after the defeat in Vietnam, Americans were electing Reagan
on a promise to restore American military power and engage in a
concerted arms race with the Soviet Union.

Even today leading Democrats who oppose the Iraq war do not oppose the
idea of war itself or its utility. They're not even denouncing a
defense budget approaching $500 billion per year. While Europeans
mostly reject the Bush administration's phrase "the war on terror,"
leading Democrats embrace it and accuse the administration of not
pursuing it vigorously or intelligently enough. Nor do leading
Democrats reject the premise of the United States as the world's
"indispensable nation" -- a notion that most Europeans find offensive
at best and dangerous at worst.

In this respect, there is even less debate over the general principles
of American foreign policy than during the Vietnam era. In those days,
opponents of the war insisted that not just President Richard Nixon was
rotten but that the "system" was rotten. They did not just reject the
Vietnam War, they rejected the whole containment strategy of Dean
Acheson and Harry Truman, which, they rightly claimed, helped produce
the intervention in the first place. They rejected the idea that the
United States could be a benevolent force in the world.

Today Democrats insist that the United States will be such a force as
soon as George W. Bush leaves office. Although they pretend they have a
fundamental doctrinal dispute with the Bush administration, their
recommendations are less far-reaching. They argue that the United
States should generally try to be nicer, employ more "soft power" and
be more effective when it employs "hard power." That may be good
advice, but it hardly qualifies as an alternative doctrine.

Many around the world will thrill at the defeat of Republicans next
week. They should enjoy the moment while they can. When the smoke
clears, they will find themselves dealing with much the same America,
with all its virtues and all its flaws.

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace and transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall
Fund, writes a monthly column for The Post. He is the author of
"Dangerous Nation," a history of American foreign policy.

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