Thursday, February 5, 2004 - Hudson Institute’s Washington, DC office
February 9, 2004
LAWRENCE KAPLAN - Good morning, my name is Lawrence Kaplan and I cover foreign policy for the New Republic Magazine. I’m also a Senior Fellow here at Hudson Institute. On behalf of both institutions, I would like to welcome everyone to Hudson today. Today’s panel marks the second in a series of discussions about ideology and foreign policy which is being jointly co-hosted by Hudson and TNR. The topic of the day is whether the Democratic Party is moving forward or backward when it comes to foreign policy and to have the answer as to how this question will play out in November. When Ken Weinstein and I first organized the panel, we thought we already had the answer. Howard Dean was sure to be the nominee and McGovern analogies were flying all over the place. Today of course things will look a bit different. The fact remains however that really for the first time since, I think, the 1980s events overseas could tip the balance in presidential election. The question then is how does the Democratic nominee, whoever he may be, erase or at least erode the long-standing advantage that the GOP has traditionally enjoyed on national security and foreign policy issues. More important what sort of principles or critique does he employ when doing so. I suspect that I’m not the only one who is having a tough time discerning exactly what those principles are this year. Hopefully, we’ll get some answers today. To get to the bottom of all of this, we have a distinguished panel with us.
A keynote speaker today will be Leon Fuerth, who is a foreign policy advisor to Governor Howard Dean. He was also, of course, National Security Advisor to Vice President Gore and is now a Professor at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University. We also have Rand Beers who is a foreign policy advisor to Senator John Kerry. Rand was also a counter-terrorism specialist at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush and I believe under previous presidents as well. We have my colleague Jonathan Chait here who is a senior editor at TNR and needs no further introduction. Morton Kondracke who, of course is the executive editor and columnist at Role Call, as well as, a contributor to the Fox News Channel. And, finally, we have Joshua Muravchik, who in addition to being the one who got me into this business is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of among other books, Heaven on Earth and the Imperative of American Leadership. I think that I will just ask Leon to introduce us with an opening set of remarks.
LEON FUERTH - Good morning. I noticed that there’s no sign of the muffin or bagel, cream cheese, and I want to thank the organizers for not exposing me to that kind of temptation. It would only mean another thirty minutes on some horrible machine to work it off. For whatever reason, whether budgetary stringency or general meanness of character to cause you to have us today on an empty stomach, I am personally grateful. You’ve got a really powerful ventilation system going here. Let me just cut to the chase.
In general, I think that the views of the Democratic candidates are clustered. For obvious reasons, I made it my business to find a web site some place, I think it was the run by the Council on Foreign Relations, which listed everybody’s position. So, I did my own diagram, a dot here, dot here, and dot there. In my view there are recognizable family resemblances in the positions taking there by the candidates with certain exceptions. I’m going to deal with the exceptions first and then come back to the family resemblances. The obvious exception is in National Security, is the argument over Iraq. That difference really has its polls set in Senator Lieberman that just left the campaign, and in Governor Dean. Lieberman has consistently been taking a position that the war was a good thing to do and he takes that position regardless of shifting justifications and the shifting of a (?) basis for it. Dean has consistently been taking the position that this war, this time, this place, was not the right thing to do. He’s been consistent about that. The other candidates have been somewhere in the middle and sometimes adjusting positions in the middle zone between these two relatively clear positions. I don’t want to minimize the significance of this. It does go to the question of what is a just war in a democracy. It also goes to questions of judgment and it is emblematic perhaps of the willingness to stand up and take positions that are unpopular. Whether Lieberman’s side is unpopular within the Democratic Party, to forthrightly advocate going to war or in Dean’s position it is unpopular beyond the Democratic Party and in some parts of it, the Democratic Party, to oppose the war. But, the primary point that I am going to be making today is that once we get into the areas where there is a general similarity, within this family, the differences between these candidates are far less significant than the difference between them as a group and the policies and patterns of the present administration. Which is why, when this is all over, there will be a candidate whom the others can in good conscious support to the hilt. Now I’m going to talk about what I think are the cluster values that one finds on this issue. Including a few areas where, who knows, there might even be some possibility of convergence with the present administration. Convergence is a bad thing for politics because it diminishes brand recognition -- but it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for the country if in the next administration there was a little less voltage on certain issues and a little more consensus. The question is whether or not convergence is real or just apparent because of the convenience of the moment. Anyway ...
What are the areas of a basic co-consistency? In my opinion, all of the Democratic candidates accept the necessity for the use of force on occasion to defend the security and the interest of the United States. But they are universally opposed to an approach to force that embraces it as the first resort, rather than the last if time permits some choice between these things. I think that as a group they tend to reject the concept of preemption and the idea of dominance for several reasons. Some of them may have technical and legal arguments about this. But, I have a feeling that in general they regard these things as unnecessary to have said and damaging to the interest of the United States. I mean, every one of them believes that a President of the United States will do what is necessary to protect the country. But, that, in the meantime, it isn’t necessary to shock the rest of the world by creating a doctrine that says we have a perfect right to use military force when and as president sees fit. Nor is it necessary to get the backs of the rest of the world up, by saying our intention is to be so dominant as a matter of policy that nobody will ever dare to raise a hand. Those things I think the Democratic candidates take as ______ when on for any president and talking about them is not couth and has hurt us in terms of our material interest in the world. I think that most Democrats, all Democrats, let me amend that, have a view that there is high residual value to the United States in our formal alliances and international organizations. On the other hand, they do not pursue multilateralism as some kind of cult. The saying that was current in the Clinton Administration “with others if possible, and alone if we must,” is still current in my opinion among the Democratic candidates. It distinguishes them from the attitude that one finds in the Administration which is the inverse and that is alone preferably with others if we just absolutely have to. I think that the Democrats as a group believe that one of the major goals of the United States in the world, aside from simply protecting its physical existence, is to help develop an international system based on the concept of international law -- something that animated U.S. presidents going back not only to Wilson, but before. I think that Democrats in general reject the Administration’s theory that the way to run the world is to have essentially a reversion to the concert of powers. You can find this idea showing up in Powell’s speeches and Condi Rice’s statements and it appears to be that all we need to do is to reach an agreement with a couple of other major actors on the scene and we can run things as we please. I don’t think Democrats who want to be president think that is the way in which the world can reliably organized in a way that is comfortable for the interest of the United States.
I think also, that most Democrats, I keep on saying most, but I really think all once I get down to the key figures, believe that the military is due for an overhaul. They also believe that overhaul has not occurred during this Administration. If you look at the military budget of this administration, it really appears to be the Clinton defense budget on steroids. Nothing really other than possibly one weapon system for the Army has disappeared, but everything else is in there. Once again I think that most Democrats looking at the future see a (inaudible) wave of expensive projects that will come due later on for which the United States will be unable to pay. Just as was the case under the Reagan Administration for the same reasons that applied under the Reagan Administration -- namely we are in a financial hole, and sooner or later we will have to curtail our expenditures even for military things. The original premise of the Bush Administration was that it was going to find a way to deeply revolutionize the military. But it lost its way. I think that whether or not they agree with the high-tech philosophy of this administration, Democrats are going to recognize, do recognize, that our projected levels of expenditure on defense are very difficult to visualize continuing and expanding into the future. There is going to be a reckoning of some sort. I think that there are a couple of areas where there has been an interesting blurring of lines. During the Clinton Administration, there was a recognition that the national security interest of the United States included not only a physical or material component, but a moral component as well. And, then, in some balance with our material interests, our moral interests as a country also had to be projected and defended. This equation applied in discussions and decisions relating to Haiti to Bosnia to Kosovo, and so on, in my opinion, distinguished the Clinton approach to national security issues from the then dominant conservative republican approach which was centered on classical definitions of national security namely, a concern only for those things that could physically threaten the security of the United States or its treaty allies. If you go back and look at the literature of the time, Republican writers were constantly castigating Clinton for doing things which this administration is now deeply engaged in doing, such as nation building and so on.
The question is whether there really has been some kind of convergence under the pressure of harsh experience on the issue of a moral component in national security strategy. Here, I think the Democrats will have their doubts about the bona fides of what is occurring. The Administration now talks a lot about human rights. But, the question is whether it talks about the human rights in the clinch when there is a choice to be made between the support of our particular son of a bitch in country a, b, c, or d, and what that particular person is countenancing in governance in his own country. There is also a lot of stuff being said about democracy by this Administration -- except in this Administration, its view of democracy is rather teleological. You look at it and are apparently being a law of history that all of these things will occur. I think that most Democrats, especially the candidates in the field have a little (unclear word) view about this, worry about the consequences of doing it, support it. But, in their memory the approach to a new issue like this is Jimmy Carter’s: which is, it has to be grounded in at every level of your diplomacy. It has to lead to trade offs in which you conduct your relations differently with this new policy than in the past. We haven’t seen that yet in this Administration.
I also think, finally, that as a group the Democratic candidates adhere to a broader concept of what national security comprises than does the Administration. They would accept that the global environment and some of the major disturbances that now appear to be surfacing is capable of being an active in volatile factor in national security. They would maintain that U.S. technology, U.S. manufacturing base is a national security concern. They as a group, I think, would express the sense that globalization and free trade interacting have produced some consequences for the U.S. economy that was not what we all bargained for. There, I think, is a search on for an alternative. The alternative is not protectionism. Everybody knows where protectionism leads but the alternative is some other path which avoids having the economy of the U.S. treat as an open commons by other countries in there trade policies. And finally, I think the Democratic candidates as a group would assert that the fiscal health of the United States is a national security concern. That when you get to a situation where because of deliberate acts of policy the federal government is incurring a half a trillion dollars of debt on an annual basis for the foreseeable future and much of that debt is being purchased by the Peoples Republic of China, we’ve got a national security problem. We have an unbalanced economic relationship in which we are incurring more and more debt which we owe to fewer and fewer people so that we can go deeper and deeper in whole. At some point, something breaks in that system. In any event, the idea that so much of our indebtness is owned by a country that we don’t particularly feel comfortable with, in terms of its long-term objective, is a national security issue.
My last comment has to do with internal security. There we have the question of whether or not Democrats are comfortable with the Patriot Act. There is an array, some of them voted for it, it makes them uncomfortable to think how it has mutated or what it has turned into. But, in general I think the candidates feel that this administration has done things to conceptions about the international rights of prisoners and the constitutional rights of Americans that are in excess of what is reasonably required to provide for the security of the United States against terrorism and that this needs to be revisited and rebalanced. I think that is ten or fifteen minutes so I’d stop right there. Thanks very much.
Oh yeah, and one more point. I almost admitted it and that is if any one of these guys is elected president Israel will not find a better friend in the White House.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN - Thank you, Leon for that very cogent defense of the commonalities amongst the Democratic candidates, which actually leads me to my first question. Rand, before I feed you to hounds on the panel, I wonder if either in your capacity as Kerry spokesman or as just Rand Beers vs. Leon Fuerth, if you could let us know are there any distinctions that we should know about on foreign policy when it comes to Dean’s critiques of the Bush team versus Kerry’s critique? Or has the Dean critique really metastasized to the point where it is indistinguishable from Kerry’s critique of the Bush team’s foreign policy? Are there no significant distinctions among the candidates as Leon asserted? Briefly.
RAND BEERS- I think that is a fair summary. Clearly there is the distinction which Leon laid out at the beginning between Dean, Lieberman, and others falling somewhere in between. I think the rest of it was an excellent summary of the general views of the Democratic Party with which I would have little or no difference. The only thing that I made a note to myself to mention is, I’m not entirely sure that I would have described the issue of defense policy and defense expenditures in quite the same way. But, I think that it is fair to say, one, that the defense budget that currently exists is pretty much an extension of the Clinton budget. That the transformation process hasn’t occurred and that it needs to occur and the form in which occurs is going to be one of the issues that a Democratic president would certainly want to look very carefully at. But, I think that all of the candidates, and certainly my candidate, are committed to the transformation process. The size of the defense budget would be an issue that at least a President Kerry would look at very carefully to one, make sure that they were expenditures that were desirable but would not automatically say that the defense budget would be smaller. It might be different, in fact it would be different, but it might not necessarily be smaller.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN - You mentioned the positions of Lieberman on one hand and Dean on the other, if I could draw you out a little further. Would you put Kerry squarely in the middle of the two -- or a little more toward Lieberman? Or a little more toward Dean?
LEON FUERTH - Kerry’s concern on the first vote is that while he thought that Saddam Hussein should go and that the information that he had in hand was further indication that he should go, that the President of the United States, in the way in which he went to war got it completely wrong. The President and Colin Powell had promised that there would be war as a last result and that we would seek to have the broadest possible coalition. That we had time to do that. Those assumptions or offers or suggestions or promises simply weren’t held to. And that’s his concern. You can place him between Dean and Lieberman on that issue.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN - I think that I will start from right too left literally and philosophically and ask Josh where exactly he puts Kerry on the spectrum. It occurs to me other than his Vietnam biography, but we’ve heard very little in way of a coherent summary of Kerry’s foreign policy views even in the newspapers lately. There has been very little mentioned of his foreign policy views in the Senate. I wonder if you could briefly start with that Josh.
JOSHUA MURAVCHIK – Yes, I believe that Kerry was a very liberal (unclear) Senator who started out with his Vietnam views which were very extreme. That is, he was as a leader of Vietnam Veterans against the War, he was what Jeane Kirkpatrick called the “Blame America First” crowd. He was really a part of the “Hate America First” crowd that accused American soldiers of systematic war crimes. In which he said murders and rapes of civilians, which he said were not isolated incidences but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with full awareness of officers at all levels of command. Now this was his starting point. Then he got to the Senate in the eighties as an advocate of nuclear freeze and consistent opposition to all kinds of US military expenditures and weapons systems. The Boston Globe recently summarized that Kerry would have voted to cancel the B-1 bomb or the B-2, the Apache helicopter, the Patriot missile, the F-15, the F-14A, the F-14D, the AV Harrier Jet, the Aegis Air Defense, Cruise, the Trident Missile. He also voted to [cut] expenditures for a series of other weapons systems that he didn’t vote to abolish entirely. Then he’s made his mark in foreign policy in the debates over Central America in which he not only says he’s opposed to the policy of the Reagan Administration -- but, in which he was himself played games with the Nicaraguans Sandinistas in order to foil the U.S. policy in Central America. He visited there for his own private diplomacy with Daniel Ortega and he came back that he explained that quote, “I believe Nicaragua understands beyond any doubt that United States will never tolerate a Soviet or Cuban base here.” This was six years after the Sandinistas have ceased [being in] power. “But, we’ve got to create a climate of trust.” Then he carried back a ceased fire offer that Ortega had offered. Then when we got beyond the Cold War there was not much change. He spoke out in opposition to the Gulf War in 1991 and voted against it, even, when later in the nineties, after the embarrassment episode, when we faced the next major challenge in which there was an issue of some kind of use of American force -- mainly in Bosnia, once again Kerry was among the small minority of doves in the Senate who opposed the Dole-Lieberman efforts to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnians who were being slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands. In short, what we have here is a picture of someone who’s just been consistently on the side of those Democrats who see no evil in the world. With the embarrassment of having been on the wrong side of Gulf War I, we have the much more complicated and impossible to decipher position on Gulf War II.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN - Rand I think that merits a response but before I come to you, I’m just going to run up and down the line. Mort if I could ...
MORTON KONDRACKE - I would like to hear Rand respond to that because Josh’s run down of the record seems to me to be dead accurate and I would like to hear what Rand has to say about it. I think that it’s dynamite for the candidates and will be killing in the general election.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN - Actually, before I get to Rand it leads me to a political question and this is why I’m coming to you ... Is I think that regardless of the accuracy or of the depiction and I agree those are all certainly positions and statements that Kerry has taken. Is any of that going to really resonate with the public? Particularly, with the Kerry campaign every time these issues come up and they’ve only started coming up in the past few weeks. Instantly, it’s Vietnam and my impression at least is that actually persuades the public that is sufficient to meet sort of the national security threshold. Is that not true?
MORTON KONDRACKE - No, it’s not true. The one word that Leon Fuerth never mentioned in his presentation, and which not one single, save one, Democratic candidate mentioned on Tuesday night -- Lieberman was the exception -- was the word war. War on Terrorism. Remember September 11th we were attacked. We are in a State of War. When you are in a State of War and when you can be attacked at anytime I think the public naturally looks to what President is most likely to be the most effectively in dealing with the enemy. If someone’s record is so consistently against the creation of the weapons that we may need to fight the war, Apache helicopters, Tomahawk missiles, the intelligence service ... No,w Kerry will say that oh, no I was in favor of human intelligence. Not, technical intelligence. Hello, we find where ... we used to find where terrorists are by means of technical intelligence. By means of, you know, SIGINT to some extend reconnaissance aircraft and satellites and stuff like that. That is the stuff that he voted against. I think what the statement that Ed Gillespie made the other day is the way the debate will be framed. We honor John Kerry for his service in Vietnam but his entire record as a Senator has been one which is a danger to American national security. I think that the battle will be waged on his record. As I’ve said, a number of times and written a number of times, he was a wonderful and courageous swift boat commander, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a good command and chief. I think that is the way the battle will be fought. I think that record will be played over and over and over again in the context on a war on terrorism and it will hurt Kerry badly.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN - And you don’t just briefly to follow up ... You don’t think that the biography alone is enough to obscure the voting record?
MORTON KONDRACKE - Absolutely not.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN – John, how about you? First, what do you make of Josh’s depiction and (b) what does your make of Mort’s contention that Kerry’s record will penetrate the public imagination?
JONATHAN CHAIT - First of all, I think that Josh’s depiction is ... There is a lot of truth to it. Everything he says is true. I think as the full picture of Kerry’s foreign policy world view it leaves a little bit to be desired. I’ll let Rand provide his counterpoint and I think maybe he’ll be ... he may be just as slighted pro-Kerry as Josh was against because he is working for him and that’s his job. I do think that it is true that John Kerry ... his views of foreign policy were forged in the crucible of Vietnam and that seems to be the paradigm through which he kind of views all foreign policy questions that come up. However, there is the reality of September 11th and that has changed a lot of people’s thinking. I think that there is some evidence that changed John Kerry’s thinking too. John Kerry got to the right of the Bush Administration on an important point which was that the Bush Administration refused to use ground troops in Tora Bora at the end of the Afghanistan campaign when we knew that we had Osama Bin Laden and his top command surrounded. This wasn’t just hindsight. At the time, that this was happening a lot of us were saying, “what the heck are they doing? Why won’t they use ground troops? Why are they relying on these poorly paid, questionable loyalty Afghan proxies to do it?” And, of course, the Afghan proxies failed. Kerry spoke out quite forcibly on that. That is a very interesting data counterpoint there: where you think that John Kerry might be of the view, “Oh, we can’t risk our soldiers. We can’t send them off to die, when we can get proxies to do it for us.” That in fact was the view of Tommy Franks and that was the view the Bush Administration endorsed. It wasn’t John Kerry’s view. I think that is a very good counterpoint. The question of where Kerry is now after this kind of history I think was substantially portrayed by Josh ... substantially accurately portrayed but may have changed. A think that is a little bit more of an open question. Number two, what will the effect of it be? Can Kerry’s biography overcome all of this kind of damning votes in his record and his intellectual history? I somewhat disagree with Mort on this. I think that there is a lot of history that voters aren’t terribly sophisticated at looking at these questions. They don’t really look at policies. They tend to make snap judgments and look at the man. Look at what George W. Bush did in the 2000 debates. Every time he was accused of having a conservative position on domestic policy that was unpopular and there were a lot of them he said, “don’t judge my heart. Are you saying that I’m a bad person? Are you saying that I’m the kind of guy who would help the rich and hurt the poor? And transfer money?” No, of course I’m not. And people believed that and that worked. It was totally false, as it is, I think there would be a lot of falseness about Kerry saying that “how can you say that I’m a dove? I fought in the jungles of Vietnam.” I think there would be a lot of falseness to that too. But, that tends to work. So, I think that it’s ... it would be nice, it would be tempting. There is a temptation for a lot of us to say good policy is always good politics. But, I don’t think they are always the same thing.
LAWRENCE KAPLAN - Rand, now I’m going to have you now weigh in.
RAND BEERS - With respect to the notations of the various votes, I think that they are ... (unclear)… accurately portrayed for the individual votes that were involved. But, they don’t, in any way, suggest the entire record the campaign has laid out, the things that John Kerry has stood for and the things that he has voted for. Let me just indicate on the intel question, he voted for all the intel authorization bills. The questions that came up here were questions of a time of budget stringency when people were looking at things to cut. They were at the time that, as Arlen Specter had said the intelligence community having discovered forward funding in the reconnaissance satellite business had promised to fix that in 1992 and it still wasn’t fixed by the time that John Kerry looked at it. This was an open debate that was going on at the time. Those of you who recall the cost of the NRO facility out in Chantilly, and the huge scandal that this caused, this was all going on at the time the votes were cited. But, the records in terms of the votes on the bills both in the Senate and Committee indicate the John did support those with respect to the weapons systems. We can list as many weapons systems that he’s supported. I don’t find that particularly a useful way to define a candidate as opposed to what his general policies are.
So, let me come back and talk for a minute about the global war on terrorism. Because, I do think that is a critical issue that really needs to be discussed here. The global war on terrorism as portrayed and undertaken by this Administration is one that has focused almost entirely on an offensive of overseas missions despite the rhetorical devices that have been put forward to explain an overall and much more comprehensive foreign policy in the global war on terrorism. I think that is where John Kerry has come back at this Administration and says quite frankly that it’s an incomplete strategy. That one, there is no question that we have to go overseas, and do whatever is necessary working with friends and allies and not alone in order to take on this task. That it will involve the use of force. That it will involve the involvement of the American military -- preferably not alone. Preferably with a much broader coalition than currently exists. But, at the same time, it also involves another aspect which the Administration has only come to talk about recently. Which is dealing with the issue of what is happening in the broader Islamic world in terms of individuals view of terrorism and it’s legitimacy individual views of the United States, and opportunities for young men and women to have the prospect of a reasonable life that doesn’t necessarily have to retreat into Islamic fundamentalism or in particular into terrorism. In addition, John Kerry also says that we can’t simply treat homeland security as a slogan. It has to be a program. It has to have a serious budget. It has to be dealt with on a day-to-day basis and not just in the headlines. He would say the same thing about intelligence. There are a number of questions that have come up one that we are facing right now and the question of WMD in Iraq. But, it is a much broader issue in terms of ensuring that we have the best quality intelligence. That it is analyzed in the best possible fashion and that it is useful to policymakers in a way that allows them to make appropriate decisions and not to run off in directions that inimical in the long-term to the United States. I would say that Leon got it right -- which is that, Democrats as a whole and John Kerry in particular are not interested in walking away from America. Far from it, they are very much committed to the defense of th
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