Monday, March 21, 2011

Exit The Valkyries And Richard Nixon

My two concerns about Libya, stated better by others. First, Jacob Heilbrunn on the roots of the Iraq and Libyan wars:
Contrary to popular opinion, the Iraq War was not simply the product of neoconservatives. It was also championed by liberal hawks. An alliance between the two factions propelled the debate forward. It was forged in Bosnia, welded together by Iraq, then seemed to fall apart as the liberal hawks went AWOL. Now the liberal hawks have returned with a vengeance....

[I]f the venture goes south, Obama knows squarely where to stick the blame. [Hillary] Clinton, [Samantha] Power, and [Susan] Rice have taken their biggest gamble. The liberal hawks and neocons may well have prepared a new foreign policy disaster should Libya devolve into tribal warfare. And so this is a crucible for the idea of humanitarian intervention. If it fails, the liberal hawks will return to ignominy. At least until the next crisis erupts.
And "HuffPo" on President Obama's poor consultation with Congress. I'd raise my hand on that one as well. I definitely feel insufficiently consulted with, principally because the U.S. hasn't mentioned one vital U.S. interest to explain its decision to go to war in Libya. Obama actually veered in the direction of rash overstatement when he said Friday that Qaddafi was a risk to "global peace and security." That reminds me of George W. Bush stressing WMD instead of his freedom agenda in justifying the Iraq war. For his turn, Obama used strategic rhetoric to justify a humanitarian war.

It's important to give worthy motives their due. Perhaps Obama really fears a Libyan genocide. He's mentioned Muammar Qaddafi's "no mercy" rhetoric at least twice. George Will said yesterday that we've intervened in a civil war in a tribal society we don't understand. Fair enough, but if President Clinton had intervened in Rwanda in 1994, Will probably would've said exactly the same thing, and we might have saved a few hundred thousand lives nonetheless. If Obama or anyone else has evidence that Libya is different than a hundred civil wars before it that didn't lead to genocide, we should see it.

In suggesting that Libya is just a bleeding heart war, like the Washington Post and New York Times before him, Heilbrunn can't resist stressing the divide between, in his estimation, the pro-war "Valkyries" and Obama's more cautious male advisers. The mama grizzlies, this line suggests, were more attuned than the male grouchies to the potential f0r massive civilian casualties.

But if you're afraid of a repeat of Rwanda, as the secretary of state and President Clinton reportedly were, then gender has nothing to do with it. Yet Heilbrunn and the other gender-fixated reporters and analysts seem to be suggesting that women are more likely to commit our volunteer forces out of the goodness of their hearts, even in situations where civilians are at risk but U.S. interests aren't. That's pretty much tantamount to saying women aren't ready to be president, which, I don't think, Heilbrunn and the others really mean.

Actually, I'd put this all down to lazy journalism and a lapse of good taste. Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, and Fred Malek were, I trust, the last to count Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nobody would write anymore that a president's African-American advisers had lined up against his white ones. It's also time to stop categorizing presidential advisers by gender.

That shortcoming aside, Heilbrunn and others are providing essential commentary, rooted in principles of Nixonian pragmatism, at The National Interest, published by the Center Formerly Known As Nixon. The Nixon Center's experts did the same after Sept. 11 and during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But today, the Nixon legacy is silent. "" is now inoperative. The web site of its blandeloquent successor, "The Center for the National Interest," though promised last week, is still nowhere to be found. There's also not a word on Libya from Nixon's foundation in Yorba Linda, now controlled by lower-echelon, non-policy Nixon-Haldeman operatives.

On March 10, James Joyner stuck up for the former Nixon Center's decision to throw its founder and namesake over the side. Joyner thinks Watergate and the bigoted comments on Nixon's tapes make it hard to operate a foreign policy center in his name.

I don't buy it. Without his name and personal endorsement, the Center wouldn't have attracted the funding and star power to get started in the first place. That was because Nixon was internationally acknowledged as a course changer, in the words of one top supporter, whose foreign policy principles, at once hard-nosed and enlightened, would have permanent salience in the post-Cold War world. As Joyner himself admits, Nixon was "a giant of American foreign policy [whose] vision looks all the better in hindsight, in a town where neoconservatives and liberal interventionists seem to see no affliction in the world that is not worthy of American military intervention."

Eerily, Joyner wrote that a little over a week before the Libyan war. We need Nixon's vision in foreign policy now more than ever. But his friends in Washington and Yorba Linda had other plans.

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