War Whisperers: The 2008 Hopefuls Promised a Change in Foreign Policy Then Hired the Old Guard

By Vlahos, Kelley Beaucar | The American Conservative, October 8, 2007 | Go to article overview

War Whisperers: The 2008 Hopefuls Promised a Change in Foreign Policy Then Hired the Old Guard


Vlahos, Kelley Beaucar, The American Conservative


IT MAY SURPRISE NO ONE that former deputy secretary of defense and ousted World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz still enjoys the red-carpet treatment among Washington's elite. That he indulged in it at the screening of an HBO documentary about 10 wounded Iraq War veterans who barely made it home alive from the conflict Wolfowitz helped to engineer might raise an eyebrow.

Yet he was singled out as a VIP at the Sept. 5 premier of "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq" and was still smiling after the screening, which featured insurgent footage of IED attacks, severed limbs, shredded brains, and left hardly a dry eye in the place. Organizers discreetly overlooked Wolfowitz's marquee role in justifying the invasion that brought them all together.

The continued deference to former administration officials extends to the very lifeblood of the city right now--the presidential election, where neoconservative war boosters still enjoy A-list invites, give and get tons of money, and have the ear of top-tier GOP candidates. Meanwhile, old and new Democratic hawks have largely pushed anti-war liberals to the margins of the establishment, creating think tanks with muscular names and erudite journals to catapult their colleagues into top-level jobs in a new Democratic administration.

Despite the declining appetite for war among regular Americans, the message is clear: when it comes to shaping future foreign policy for either party, hawks and internationalists are in, doves and realists are out.

"My view is, if you want a shift in strategy, you aren't going to get it from these people, who are just hungry for a job in the next administration," observed one Beltway policy wonk. Any conceivable Democratic White House, he noted, would smell a lot like the status quo. Reappearing would be a phalanx of Clinton I protagonists with names like Albright, Holbrooke, Lake, and Berger, followed by a lesser-known generation of liberal interventionists like Peter Beinart, Lee Feinstein, Martin Indyk, and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

They inhabit a growing galaxy of politically ambitious Democrats, most of whom have been careful to criticize President Bush's war in Iraq on mostly tactical points, for hubris and unilateralism, but not his doctrine of regional democratization and preemptive intervention.

It is not so far from their own humble beginnings, after all. Most of the Democratic policy advisers today cut their teeth in the Clinton administration, where they oversaw a disastrous military-humanitarian mission in Somalia, approved strategic strikes and sanctions on Iraq, believed Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction, and ultimately supported his ouster.

But it was in the 1994 NATO bombing of Serbia and the subsequent Dayton Peace Accords that Team Clinton found its foreign-policy mojo.

Richard Holbrooke, today a key adviser to Hillary Clinton, has called the Balkans a huge show of strength and moral authority. "There will be other Bosnias in our lives," the former assistant secretary of state declared in his 1998 memoir, To End a War, about the peace accords he helped broker, "areas where early outside involvement can be decisive and American leadership will be required.... The world will look to Washington for more than rhetoric the next time we face a challenge to peace."

Anthony Lake, Clinton's national security adviser during the Balkan war, said in a 1993 speech, "We have the blessing of living in the world's most powerful and respected nation at a time when the world is embracing our ideals as never before. We can let it slip away. Or we can mobilize our nation in order to enlarge democracy, enlarge markets and enlarge our future." He's now a top adviser in the Obama campaign.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, considered a close adviser of Mrs. Clinton, was right there with them. In his memoir An American Journey, Colin Powell recalled how, in 1993, he urged the newly-minted Clinton team not to bomb Bosnia too hastily. …

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