Of What Ifs and IsolatistsFascinating new interview with Christopher Hitchens available here.
I do disagree to some extent with his answer here:
Q - If there was a Democratic president on 9/11, would there have been a difference of opinion in the American left about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?In point of fact, I knew many conservatives who were annoyed with President Clinton for not providing a more robust defense against both Al Qaeda and Iraq during his Presidency. I expect more conservatives would have attempted to blame the Democratic administration for the multiple foreign policy failures that resulted in 9/11, and with far more justice than than that directed at Republicans by Democrats in my mind since the Clintonian refusal to respond to multiple aggressions was exactly what triggered their comparatively greater terror attack on 9/11.
Not from people like Michael Moore (the American film director and strong critic of President Bush), who makes a perfectly good brownshirt [fascist]. Or Noam Chomsky. No, it would not. To them it would have been further proof that the ruling class just has two faces and one party. But I think, in the mainstream of the democratic and Republican parties, you would have seen an exact switch. Richard Holbrooke’s position (Holbrooke was Clinton's UN Ambassador and is a leading Democratic foreign policy thinker) would be Dick Cheney’s position. The ones in the middle would have just done a switch, finding arguments to support or criticize the war. In fact, I remember that people in the Clinton administration spoke of an inevitable confrontation coming with Saddam. They dropped this idea only because it was a Republican president. That is simply disgraceful. It is likewise disgraceful how many Republicans ran as isolationists against [former Vice-President] Al Gore in the 2000 elections. The only people who come out of this whole affair well are an odd fusion of the old left – the small pro regime change left – and some of the people known as neoconservatives who have a commitment to liberal democracy. Many of the neocons have Marxist backgrounds and believe in ideas and principles and have worked with both parties in power.
Moreover, as is once more in the news, Clinton responded to the terrorist threat with a law enforcement approach that created a wall between our intelligence services and our criminal investigative services, which paid excessive deference to the rights of visitors -- even when their actions were highly suspicious -- and, in doing so, paid insufficient attention to the safety of citizens. This, despite the fact that there were ample warnings from intelligence chatter that America would soon be facing terrorism at home. How the ACLU and its entire subculture, must have loved that legalistic wall holding in check the intelligence services so that they didn't encroach onto the rights of the people, even when the people so protected were tourists dreaming of terrorism!
This whole approach derives from the ingrained leftist disdain for the military and the intelligence services popularized in the wake of Vietnam and the Cold War. Because it seeks a separation of law enforcement from intelligence that neuters both, believing all the while that the controlling influences of the various intelligence services are as likely to be an enemy of the people as is an external terrorist threat.
Really, this kind of notion is just the effluvia of leftist ideology. While this attitude made perfect sense under the authoritarian European regimes of the 19th century and the early 20th century, it no longer fits the worldview of many in the West these days.
No doubt the left would riposte that this is naive on our part. And as proof for their argument they would point to their belief that the War on Terror is only a subterfuge, a pretext to generate widescale the Politics of Fear for the purpose of wresting rights from the hands of gullible American citizens.
Obviously in some situations, relying on government agencies to rein in their own power would be self-delusional and criminnally shortsighted. In this case, against this form of international terrorism, their entire construction of the problem as a Wag the Dog scenario betrays the unseriousness of their approach. Meanwhile, I wonder if the people who espouse the leftist view are at all conscious of the historical derivation of their own paranoia in this regard and what a relic of the old world, and old worldviews, it is.
Still, coming back to our original subject, I think if it had come to war after 9/11 with a Democrat administration, there would have been great conservative support. People were mad as hell after Clinton refrained from responding to the bombing of the Cole, though he now has some half-fangled excuse worked out for himself about how he would only have been accused of interfering in the 2000 election if he had. Bollocks. That's precisely the nature of the job as Commander in Chief, a part of the job his nature made him less suitable to fulfill than Bush.
Although I have no doubt if 9/11 had happened under a Democratic administration that the Pat Buchanan/The American Conservative wing of the party - the isolationist response - would certainly have proved more popular than it is now. But I don't believe the realignment would have been proportionate to the way it exists now, with the current, signal lack of support for the war among democrats.
But, man, the idea of entrusting our security to a President Gore -- still scary as all hell!
Hat Tip on the Hitchen's piece: Harry's Place
Head's Up to Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute for his excellent opening gambits in parsing the messy Able Danger affair.