Thursday, May 22, 2008

Senator Lieberman looks for answers.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Senator Joe Lieberman poses the question of how the Democratic Party went from FDR and Truman to Obama:
How did the Democratic Party get here? How did the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy drift so far from the foreign policy and national security principles and policies that were at the core of its identity and its purpose?
Here Liebermen essentially points to those "darn kids" of the Vietnam era as the cause of the shift:
This worldview began to come apart in the late 1960s, around the war in Vietnam. In its place, a very different view of the world took root in the Democratic Party. Rather than seeing the Cold War as an ideological contest between the free nations of the West and the repressive regimes of the communist world, this rival political philosophy saw America as the aggressor – a morally bankrupt, imperialist power whose militarism and "inordinate fear of communism" represented the real threat to world peace.
In a very limited sense, the 1960s protestors are right and Senator Lieberman is wrong about the causes of this shift in the Democratic Party. The cause for the shift in the 1960s was that the old foreign policy establishment had dramatically failed, with the Vietnam War being the most obvious symptom of that failure. The cause of this failure of the old foreign policy establishment was a blunder -- a blunder of such world-historical, geopolitical stupidity that its equal may never yet be achieved.

The source of the blunder was Truman. If you would have asked him, circa 1946, to name the one man who posed the most dire threat to United States interests in Asia, he would have immediately mentioned Stalin. This answer is certainly correct. However, if you were to ask him to name the man who was next most dire threat to United States interests in Asia, his answer would have been somewhat odd: Ho Chi Minh*! Yes, you read that correctly. President Truman and his Democratic Party literally believed that Mao Zedong was going to turn China into one big pro-American happy-land, but that an obscure, s.o.b. communist rebel leader in some tiny little country in the middle of nowhere had to be stopped at all costs.

The principle error in Asia that Truman made is the notion that there are "no enemies on the Left", except that Truman applied the principle somewhat more inconsistently than the 1960s protestors and their successors wished. That Obama believes in "no enemies on the Left" should be abundantly clear by now.

*By the way, not stopping Ho Chi Minh's ambitions in Vietnam would have pissed off France quite a bit. Even in the 1940s, losing France's approval was a major American no-no.

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