Joe Lieberman was the last Iraq war hawk in the Democratic Party until he was ousted by the anti-war netroots last year. Re-elected as an independent Senator he explains what's at stake in Iraq in an article for today's Washington Post:
"Al-Qaeda, after all, isn't carrying out mass murder against civilians in the streets of Baghdad because it wants a more equitable distribution of oil revenue. Its aim in Iraq isn't to get a seat at the political table; it wants to blow up the table -- along with everyone seated at it... The challenge before us, then, is whether we respond to al-Qaeda's barbarism by running away, as it hopes we do -- abandoning the future of Iraq, the Middle East and ultimately our own security to the very people responsible for last week's atrocities -- or whether we stand and fight. To me, there is only one choice that protects America's security -- and that is to stand, and fight, and win."
Of the Democrat presidential candidates nearly all are avowedly anti-war. Part of the reason for Barack Obama's improving ratings is the fact that he opposed the Iraq war from day one. John Edwards has said that he regrets his Iraq war vote whilst Senator for North Carolina. Hillary Clinton has refused to retract - much to the consternation of the anti-war netroots. Some believe Mrs Clinton's loyalty to her 2002 vote comes from a fear of looking like a flip-flopper. In an article for the April 2nd edition of the relaunched New Republic, Michael Crowley speculates at the real reason why she won't apologise. Mrs Clinton might be a moderate hawk. Here are some of Crowley's main points:
- During her late twenties Hillary Clinton briefly attempted to enlist in the Marines.
- She was a supporter of the bombing of Serbia in the late nineties, subsequently explaining: "I urged [Bill Clinton] to bomb. You cannot let [ethnic cleansing] go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?"
- In 1999 she said: "I am very pleased that this president and administration have made democracy one of the centrepieces of our foreign policy."
- A 2000 speech in which Mrs Clinton said: "There is a refrain... that we should intervene with force only when we face splendid little wars that we surely can win, preferably by overwhelming force in a relatively short period of time. To those who believe we should become involved only if it is easy to do, I think we have to say that America has never and should not shy away from the hard task if it is the right one."
- A number of her unofficial foreign policy advisers are "generally hawkish." Although not a supporter herself of the President's increased troop deployments she regular confers with Jack Keane, an architect of 'the Baghdad surge'.
- Explaining her vote for the Iraq war she has consistently said that she does not regret deferring to Bush's authority - only the way he used that authority.
None of this will be enough to convince many that Mrs Clinton is a hawk but she certainly stands apart from the militancy of the anti-war factions within her party.
Meanwhile - back in Britain - our leading leftish hawk, Tony Blair, defends his "liberal interventionism" in an interview with The Guardian. This is an extract from Timothy Garton Ash's account of his meeting with Britain's soon-to-quit Prime Minister:
"So what is the distinctive feature of Blair's own approach? What is the essence of Blairism? His answer could not be clearer: "It is liberal interventionism." Blairism is, he elaborates, about a progressive view of the world, starting from the reality of interdependence in an age of globalisation, and acting according to certain values. "I'm a proud interventionist." He would not withdraw anything he said in his 1999 Chicago speech, with its liberal interventionist "doctrine of international community". Even if it is true, as I suggest, that the Bush administration is rowing backwards from its advocacy of democratisation as a central plank of its foreign policy, he is not: "Whether they do or not, I don't."
Next in this series of reflections from BritainAndAmerica's week in Washington will be a post on 'The unhappiness of America's conservatives.'