News flash from E.J. Dionne

President Bush has lost the support of many hawks on Iraq. Does this mean that Victor Davis Hanson and Cliff May have jumped ship? Well, not exactly. It’s those hawks over at the Progressive Policy Institute and the Democratic Leadership Council whose support, such as it might have been, the president has squandered. Under the auspices of these groups, a panel of Democratic foreign policy specialists has issued a policy manifesto which argues that the threat posed by Saddam was “less imminent” than the administration claimed and that the United States should have done much more to win international backing for the war. The manifesto calls for a “robust” ongoing presence in Iraq, but for greater efforts to gain international backing through a policy of “progressive internationalism.”
Dionne’s Washington Post column of today touts this manifesto as the “first draft” of a sensible answer to the question, what is the Democratic alternative. But, if Dionne’s summary is reliable, then that alternative is neither sensible nor Democratic. Indeed, it is not even coherent. For example, the charge that the Iraqi threat was “less imminent” than the administration claimed is either false or nonsense. If the Demcratic hawks mean that Bush claimed the threat was imminent when it wasn’t, then they are just making it up. If they mean that Bush didn’t say the threat was imminent but made it seem more imminent than it was, then they are coming perilously close to talking gibberish. But let’s assume that Bush did exaggerate the threat. In that case, what is the “more” he should have done to obtain European support. If he couldn’t get that support when he was overstating the threat, it’s hard to see how he could ever have obtained it. What was he supposed to do, overstate the threat even more?
What about the call for international cooperation today, as we fulfill our commitment to build a secure and stable Iraq? With Europe more convinced than ever that the war was a mistake, and given the current level of bloodshed, I have no idea how the Democratic hawks expect to obtain meaningful international cooperation. “Progressive internationalism” might sound good to Dionne, but what we regard as progressive — encouraging democracy in the Middle East — the Europeans regard as either unattainable or perhaps even a bad idea.
Finally, Dionne is fooling himself if he thinks that the manifesto is a Democratic document in any meaningful sense. The Democratic position is not what the Progressive Policy Institute or the Democratic Leadership Council says it is. The Democratic position is defined by the party’s key politicians and, above all, its candidate for president. Those politicians and that candidate will not support “a robust military presence in Iraq for as long as it takes to help that country achieve security and stability.” Thus, Dionne’s news flash is a non-story, except insofar as it illustrates how delusional even the “centrist” side of the Democratic party has become.


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