Now that Hillary the hawk has been fully un-caged, thanks to her interview with former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg, the flak is flying. Moveon.org is trying to clip her wings and the Obama fan club is outraged. Of course, if she were running for Prime Minister of Israel – Peter Beinart dubbed her "the Israeli government’s best spokesman" for sounding even more hardline than Bibi on Gaza – her path to power might be a bit easier: but, alas, America is an entirely different country, one capable of war-weariness, and anti-interventionist sentiments are at an all-time high.
In the course of her interview with Goldberg she went on about how we should’ve armed the Syrian rebels – the same rebels who are now wreaking devastation in Iraq – because we might have "vetted" them and somehow transformed them into Jeffersonian democrats. And she went on to blast the President’s relative aversion to military intervention – relative, that is, to her own proclivity for armed "humanitarianism": "’Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle," Hillary scolded.
You could almost hear interviewer Goldberg’s gasp of pure delight at this little bon mot, but Hillary’s presumed constituency wasn’t exactly thrilled:
"MoveOn.org issued a stark warning to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in response to her not-so-subtle knock on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy approach.
"In a statement on Tuesday Ilya Sheyman, the executive director of MoveOn Political Action, said that Clinton or ‘any other person thinking about seeking the Democratic nomination in 2016, should think long and hard before embracing the same policies advocated by right-wing war hawks that got America into Iraq in the first place and helped set the stage for Iraq’s troubles.’”
On the other side of the barricades, the powerful interventionist faction of the Democratic party establishment was over the moon:
"Josh Block, president of the Israel Project, said it is ‘important’ to see a Democratic leader laying out a worldview ‘that recognizes the role of our values and very real threats and trends facing the U.S. and our allies today.’
‘’It struck me as the reemergence of common sense in Democratic foreign policy after a period of drift and indecision,’ Block added."
Most revealing was Brian Katulis, over at the decidedly Clintonian Center for American Progress. Politico reports he "dismissed the notion that progressives are well-organized around progressive foreign policy in the same way that they were at the height of the Iraq war."
Translation: When Democrats invade, the "progressive" antiwar movement goes AWOL.
"[Katulis] also noted that Clinton’s overarching position on foreign policy is squarely in line with the tradition of liberal interventionism held, largely, by most Democrats in the Senate. As of Monday evening, most prominent Democrats and even some progressive groups were staying clear of criticizing Clinton.
"’Some will disagree with how she talks tough on Iran, but that’s reflected by the consensus on the Hill right now,’ Katulis said. Of the anti-war activists, ‘I don’t think they’re as organized on foreign policy as they used to be. … They kind of went home, went to Wall Street and ‘Occupied’ … or something. I don’t know where they are. There’s that element in the base she may be out of touch with, but they don’t seem to be galvanized.’"
Shorter Katulis: those antiwar flakes can’t get their act together – and, besides that, where else can they go?
The emerging split over foreign policy in the Democratic party widened when top Obama advisor David Axelrod weighed in: "Just to clarify: “Don’t do stupid stuff” means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision." And the chasm took on Grand Canyon-esque proportions when Obama told a congressional delegation that criticism of his inaction in Syria is "horseshit." Naturally he didn’t mention any names, but then again he didn’t have to.
Oh, it’s getting mean out there, and for entertainment value the verbal gymnastics of Democratic party hack Joan Walsh can’t be beat:
"Political mischief-makers are having a lot of fun with Jeffrey Goldberg’s Hillary Clinton interview, published Saturday night for maximum Monday morning OMG predictability. I admit: That makes me instinctively inclined to minimize the fissures between Clinton and President Obama that Goldberg widened into chasms to conform with his own political worldview.
"Except I can’t entirely. Because Clinton and her team are smart enough to know that’s exactly what Goldberg would do. Which means that’s what they wanted him to do."
"Except I can’t entirely" is right – although she does try, bless her. Poor Joan spends the rest of her piece parsing Clinton’s words and blaming Goldberg for "stretching" the differences between the Obama policy and Clintonian interventionism, but in the end, although she reiterates her support for The First Woman President, Walsh writes:
"I also hope anti-interventionist progressives won’t be fooled by Sen. Rand ‘Stand with Israel’ Paul. That said, I am not sure what we need is an American president who’s even closer to Benjamin Netanyahu and who can’t be moved to utter a word of genuine compassion for innocent Palestinian victims. Clinton may think she can write off the anti-interventionist left – again — and win the White House this time. But she may find out she’s wrong this time too."
Walsh and her partisan ilk are scared to death of Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), whose emerging presidential campaign based on civil liberties, economic freedom, and a noninterventionist foreign policy has great appeal to antiwar Democrats as well as political independents and the so-called "millennials." Yet that fear may be unjustified, in the end, undone by the Senator’s own incomprehension of what real opportunism is all about.
Many libertarians criticize the son of Ron Paul for not measuring up to his father’s political standards – although, naturally, Ron has said nothing to encourage them. Rand partially assuaged the elder Paul’s supporters – his base – by going all in against the Surveillance State, taking advantage of the Snowden revelations to launch his own political and legal assault on the spying activities of the National Security Agency. However, when it came time for the acid test – Obama’s return to Iraq, the bombing, the arming of the warlike Kurds – he failed, big-time:
“I have mixed feelings about it. I’m not saying I’m completely opposed to helping with arms or maybe even bombing, but I am concerned that ISIS is big and powerful because we protected them in Syria for a year. Do you know who also hates ISIS and who is bombing them? Assad, the Syrian government. So a year ago, the same people who want to bomb ISIS wanted to bomb Syria last year. Syria and ISIS are on opposite sides of the war. We’re now bombing both sides of one war that has spread into another country,’ said Paul."
What’s a little bombing between friends? And why not arm the Kurds – who claim a third of Turkey, half of Syria, a substantial sliver of Iran, and even demand a good chunk of Armenia? If Rand thinks arming the Syrian rebels was problematic, then wait until he sees the consequences of handing the big guns to the Kurds.
Our "limited" intervention won’t – and can’t – stop with bombing: ground troops are needed in some measure to drive ISIS out of Iraq. The Iraqi "army" can’t do it, and neither can the Kurdish peshmerga, all by themselves. They’ll need US special forces to accomplish that task. They’re already there, and more are on their way.
Rand Paul has a problem: indeed, he has several problems. First, he doesn’t know jack-shit about foreign affairs, and he’s "learning" at the knee of some pretty dicey characters. Secondly, the 2016 campaign season hasn’t even dawned and already he’s got a Romney-esque reputation as a flip-flopper, due to his kowtowing to the Israel First crowd – an act of abnegation that isn’t going to do him any good anyway. The above-cited article is headlined "Sen. Rand Paul Responds to Flip-Flopping Criticism," and this is going to haunt him until and unless he grows a pair.
Daily Caller editor Jim Antle, writing in Rare, notes Hillary’s shift into interventionist hyper-drive, and avers:
"Paul will be positioned to be the anti-Hillary: anti-Obamacare, anti-big government and relatively antiwar. In a Republican primary, being anti-Hillary is not a bad thing. The senator from Kentucky may be able to demonstrate that Clinton’s politics and foreign policy are indeed yesterday’s news."
Antle’s piece is entitled "By unleashing her inner hawk, is Hillary helping Rand Paul?" Hillary may well be helping Paul by revealing her true colors – but Rand, at least so far, seems to have difficulty helping himself. He’s trying to be opportunistic, but his mealy-mouthed approach is a nonstarter – and he is rapidly alienating his base, never a good idea. Is it really necessary to point out that the American people overwhelmingly believe the Iraq war wasn’t worth it – and that they were lied into supporting it? Any opportunist worth his salt would take the interception Hillary is clearly placing in his hands and run with it – but no. Instead, the Senator from Kentucky has "mixed feelings" about what is, in effect, the re-invasion of Iraq.
"Mixed feelings" never won the multitudes, Senator. It’s time to put up – or shut up. You can be the wise owl to Hillary’s hawk – or you can be the sparrow-like also-ran sitting on the fence.
Which will it be?
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.