- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2006

American voters last week put a party in charge of Congress that wants U.S. troops out of Iraq pronto, doesn’t like the Patriot counter-terror act and refuses to give the president the option of intercepting al Qaeda calls to the United States on the spot.

But there is another view within the Democratic Party perhaps best represented by two pro-defense liberals who have written a book on a new path for their party. Chapter after chapter seem like a firewall against creeping McGovernism that threatens America’s re-emerging majority party.

Kurt M. Campbell, a former Clinton and Bush Pentagon policy-maker, and Michael E. O’Hanlon, the ubiquitous military analyst at the Brookings Institution, have coauthored a book on how Democrats can capture votes from veterans, security moms and anyone else who might believe the party is soft on terrorists.

After all, when is the last time a prominent Democrat had tough words for Osama bin Laden or North Korea’s Kim Jong-il? Stalinist Mr. Kim orders an underground nuclear test and the Democrats bash President Bush. Bin Laden issues another call to slaughter and Democrats bash President Bush.

In “Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security,” Mr. Campbell and Mr. O’Hanlon take a series of sensible positions on defending America. The two call for creation of a new coalition of “Hard Power Democrats and moderate Republicans” who would use firepower when needed, not cut the defense budget and go it alone if the United Nations ducked its responsibility. Come to think of it, the current White House occupant might say the same thing.

Just read the main manifesto of “Hard Power”:

“Hard power Democrats and other moderates prefer to work through alliances and the U.N. Security Council if possible and would heed the views of others much more than the Bush administration has, but would not insist on U.N. approval or international popular support before carrying out certain military missions.” Sound familiar?

The book goes on, “They would avoid the extreme casualty aversion of much of the 1975-2000 period in American politics, being willing to risk American lives to deal with the serious threats to the country before those problems get worse.”

Mr. Campbell and Mr. O’Hanlon dish criticism out evenly. They concede “the sometimes timid role played by civilians during the Clinton administration.” Perhaps it was a reference to the fact that Mr. Clinton and his staff were never able to convince Defense Secretary William Cohen and Joint Chiefs Chairman Hugh Shelton to use ground troops to go after bin Laden.

They called Mr. Rumsfeld a “tragic figure” whose “domineering approach” fostered failures in Iraq.

They lament the armed forces’ general admiration of the current president. The military is “highly politicized — some would even say Republican — institution,” the authors conclude, without asking why the politically conservative are more attracted to a patriotic, American-defending organization than are liberals.

The book’s title is a play off the term “Soft Power,” coined and written about by former Jimmy Carter and Clinton administrations official Joseph Nye. Mr. Nye stressed diplomacy and arms control, backed by the threat of force.

But using the word “soft” to describe the way a political party would defend America is probably not the right message in the age of al Qaeda terrorism. Mr. Campbell and Mr. O’Hanlon do not specifically criticize “Soft Power,” but obviously they saw a need to supercede it to get the Democrats out of the national security doghouse.

The authors have some good ideas, such as a special National Guard brigade ready to pounce on any domestic turmoil and a State Department fast-reaction force for postwar nation-building.

Some of their assertions are curious, such as, “The Republican Party traditionally has been more dominated by isolationists, right up to Pat Buchanan’s ‘America First’ campaigns of 1996 and 2000.”

Really?

Ronald Reagan started the world debate on free trade, on expanding free markets and killing communism. President Bush, like his father, is anything but isolationist. As for Mr. Buchanan, hehardly dominated the party. He did not win the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 or 1996, left the party and ran as the Reform Party candidate in 2000. He got less than a half-percent of the total vote.

“Hard Power” does not offer any one preferred option for de-nuking North Korea or Iran. It lauds Mr. Bush for confronting North Korea for cheating on the 1994 Agreed Framework that was supposed to stop Pyongyang’s appetite for atomic weapons. But it says military action in either case is not advisable. The book’s solution here is more soft power, not hard.

Rowan Scarborough, the author of “Rumsfeld’s War,” is a reporter for The Washington Times.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide