The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Burgeoning clash of foreign policy ideologies - what about Kerry?

The blog's chosen specialist subject [1] for this presidential election is the Kerry foreign policy [2], with special reference to the risk of a Kerry administration launching pre-emptive invasions.

To date, it's been mostly a question of running the rule over some of the guys candidate Kerry has been relying on the company he chooses [3] for foreign policy advice: a sort of internship for possible roles in his administration, if there is one [4].

Now, following the 53 diplomats protesting about Bush Middle East policy [5], we have the 27 Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, with their own website on which is a statement calling for regime change at home. The signatories are, I suspect, mostly known only to aficionados and professionals - most I do not know from Adam (or, in two cases, Eve).

Ron Brownstein today places them as distinctly Democratic-leaning.

He frames the division [6] in thinking thus:
The result of these tremors may be the most turbulence in the foreign policy landscape since the late 1970s, when a flight of hawkish Democratic thinkers known as neoconservatives migrated to the GOP in reaction to the dovish post-Vietnam foreign policy embraced by most Democratic politicians.

What do the 27 say on pre-emption? After condemning the general Bush MO - prioritising military action, failure to practise competent diplomacy and work with allies, the UN, etc, miserable execution in Iraq - we get
'No loyal American would question our ultimate right to act alone in our national interest; but responsible leadership would not turn to unilateral military action before diplomacy had been thoroughly explored.

It doesn't address pre-emptive war (or preventative war) as such - of course, if US territory were actually attacked, unilateral military action may be the only sane course to take.

I sense a deliberate fudge to avoid pronouncing on pre-emption.

And what of the Kerry campaign and the DMCC [7]? None of the names ring a bell with me as been on that long list of those at one time or another described in the media as Kerry foreign policy advisers. There is no quote from the Kerry campaign in the Brownstein piece (BC04 takes a hack!). The overall tone of the DMCC statement is a good deal less forward than what (rightly or wrongly) I would expect from Sandy Berger or Rand Beers: far closer to the Brent Scowcroft/Bush 41 relatively conservative line [8].

Kerry may reason that, if elected, he will have something far more than a Doctor's Mandate [9] merely to clean up Iraq and revert to Bush 41-style consensus policies that I suspect most of the 27 would be comfortable with. The first JFK stands as a tempting model (and the likes of Berger and Beers would be urging it on him): the 27's statement might even be used by B and B as an example of the safe, grey, establishment thinking that a President Kerry worthy of the name should reject.

  1. Shades of Magnus Magnusson and the Mastermind black chair!

  2. There isn't one yet: the stitch in time principle is in operation!

  3. The ever-ready Frank Crumit song:
    'You can tell a man who "boozes"
    By the company he chooses'
    And the pig got up and slowly walked away.
  4. The full 'series': May 12, May 24, May 29, May 30, June 2, June 7, June 8, June 11, June 15, and June 17. E & OE.

  5. Mentioned here; unlinked text here, supposedly.

  6. Not cleavage, people! It's the sort of crass calque (from clivage) that the French, with their poorer vocabulary, have to put up with. In English - well, let's just say Alex Kerry in Cannes...

  7. Bad choice of acronym: so many Democratic hack organisations - DNC, DCCC, etc - have acronyms starting with a D - and these folks are trying to appear non-partisan!

  8. Josh Marshall in his Atlantic Monthly piece compared likely Kerry policy to that of Scowcroft: then showed exactly how far from Scowcroft a lot of Kerrymen's ideas are (June 11).

  9. Ramsay MacDonald in 1931.


An earlier Brownstein piece (June 13) on the initiative from before the statement was issued includes denials from both the group and the Kerry campaign that the campaign was involved [1].

  1. Note the difference of terms:
    The signatories said Kerry's campaign played no role in the formation of their group.
    Stephanie Cutter...also said that the Kerry campaign had not been involved in devising the group's statement.
    That sort of difference between the formulation of denials makes one suspicious that there's a non-denial denial in there! In this case, I doubt there's anything in it, though.

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