Back to the future?

In this puff-piece, Joshua Micah Marshall predicts that, whatever his radical roots, John Kerry’s foreign policy would look a lot like that of the first President Bush with a healthy dose of President Clinton thrown in. It’s not clear what the foreign policies of these two presidents had in common, except that both failed to respond in any meaningful way to the growing threat of Islamofascism. To Marshall, though, the commonality appears to be that neither president was “ideological.” But, labels (e.g., neoconservatism) aside, what ideologically driven position of the current President Bush will Kerry jettison? Will Kerry be less inclined to take the fight to the terrorists and the states that assist them? Will he be less inclined to try to foster democracy in the Islamic nations (if any) where we intervene? I doubt that Kerry will tell us, but Marshall should move beyond his platitudes and do so. Instead, he promises foreign policy advisors whose strength will lie in their technocratic expertise and procedural competence. This sounds like the form-over-substance crew that failed to come to grips with bin Laden but sure turned things around in Haiti, and no doubt would have handled an Iraqi intervention flawlessly had Clinton been up to intervening. If this bunch is installed, we should at least see a return to elegant agreements such as the one in which North Korea promised not to go nuclear And who will preside over Kerry’s technically proficient cadre of old national security hands? Marshall thinks Kerry’s Secretary of State might well be Joe Biden, the biggest fool in Christendom.
The question of what Kerry’s foreign policy will look like is actually a fascinating, open, and potentially vital one. On the one hand, Kerry has spent his entire career as a dove, waging political war against our military and intelligence services and belittling national security concerns. On the other hand, 9/11 changed everything. Surely even Kerry understands this, or at least understands that the political imperatives have changed. So how will these competing tendencies play out?
Marshall himself unwittingly provides one plausible answer when he describes how the traditional tension between Democratic hawks and doves played out in the post-McGovern years: like his party in those years (and, come to think of it, like Clinton), perhaps Kerry will “approach national-security policy less in substantive than in tactical terms


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