Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Howard Dean: Hawk?

I agree with Mathew.

Kagan gets it just about right (though perhaps a little to snarky towards Clark).

[...] Howard Dean is no George McGovern. He opposed the Iraq war, he says, because it was "the wrong war at the wrong time," not because it was emblematic of a fundamentally misguided American foreign policy. Dean has not, in fact, challenged the reigning foreign policy paradigms of the post-9/11 era: the war on terrorism and the nexus between terrorism and rogue states with weapons of mass destruction. "I support the president's war on terrorism," he told Tim Russert this summer. He supported the war in Afghanistan. He even supported Israel's strike against a terrorist camp in Syria because Israel, like the United States, has the "right" to defend itself. (European Deanophiles take note.) Dean does not call for a reduction in American military power but talks about using the "iron fist" of our "superb military." He talks tough about North Korea and at times appears to be criticizing the Bush administration for not addressing that "imminent" threat more seriously. And he especially enjoys lacerating Bush for not taking the fight more effectively to al Qaeda, a bit like John F. Kennedy criticizing Eisenhower in 1960 for not being tough enough on communism.

[...] Dean may not be offering a stark alternative to Bush's foreign policy, therefore, so much as he is simply offering Democrats a compelling and combative alternative to Bush himself. The Iraq war provided the occasion to prove his mettle.

If so, that has two implications, one small and one big. The small one concerns the general election: The Bushies are planning to run against a dovish McGovern, but there's a remote possibility they could find themselves running against a hawkish Kennedy. The bigger implication, which the rest of the world should note well, is that the general course of American foreign policy is fairly stable and won't be soon toppled -- not even by Howard Dean.

I especially agree with the thought that the Republicans might run against Dean as if he were a dovish McGovern and end up surprised that he is more of a hawkish Kennedy. I hope they do because I think he is.


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