Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Myth Busting

This post over at The Plank caught my attention, though not really for the reasons John Judis intended. His argument is that two former Justice Department officials from the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations who argue that it is unconstitutional for the Democrats to introduce a resolution condemning the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq, David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, are hypocrites. Or at least that is one of Judis' crucial points.

But what stood out to me was a sentence that Judis intended to make another point:

In Oct. 1993, Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole and Republicans passed a "sense of the Senate" resolution against the Clinton administration using force in Haiti or Bosnia without Congressional approval.

To me this just serves as reenforcement for a significant point about the Clinton administration's foreign policy and the revisionist view that Clinton in particular (as opposed to America's leadership generally) failed us with regard to the growing terrorist threat that culminated on September 11, 2001. The reality is that from the minute he set foot in office isolationist and "realist" Republicans posed the biggest impediment to an activist foreign policy. Whenever Clinton engaged in any actions against Saddam Hussein his strongest critics came not from pacifist lefties, but rather from the leadership of the Republican Party and especially the "Republican revolutionaries" from the Class of 1994. Had Clinton tried to act strongly against Afghanistan only a revbisionist of the most naked partisan stripes would argue that the Republicans would have gone along with any plan he might have concocted. Had Clinton chosen to attack Afghanistan to crush al Qaeda strongholds in that country in, say, 1998, one reasonably imagines that further counts of impeachment would have gone forth.

This does not take Clinton off the hook by any means. He should have tried to have done more. But the myth that the GOP has consistently been an ardent advocate of a prescient foreign policy that would have kept us safe from terrorists is bunk. The reality is that the conditions that led to 9/11 are the result of failures, unhappy accidents, unintended consequences, and blowback stemming at least back to the late 1970s and arguably earlier. Neither side has an especially legitimate claim on virtue, but nor should leaders of either party suffer alone on charges of negligence.

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