Authoritarian Democrats 5: The Foreign Policy Establishment
I hinted at the end of AD3 that the fact that Democrats have bought into the absurd right-wing fiction that Islamic fundamentalists are actually in a position to threaten the US is connected to their betrayal of the Constitution on the FISA vote. That needs some explanation, and by a weird co-incidence Glenn Greenwald wrote a post today that helps make it.
Glenn has been criticizing the foreign policy establishment lately for its unwavering determination to make wars legitimate policy options even when supporting them, never mind advocating for them, makes no sense. When Duncan Black (Atrios to you) criticized DLC stalwart and eager Iraq war supporter Will Marshall for calling himself a liberal and asked why Democratic hawks in general shouldn’t be “considered discredited and shunned”, the Brookings Institution’s Michael Cohen – also a putative liberal – leapt to Marshall’s defense.
In the course of defending the credibility of Democratic war proponents, Cohen says this:
Surely, a defensible case for war does not mean that we should have necessarily gone to war. It’s a view that I share. There is a good argument to be made for going to war against Iran and North Korea — that doesn’t mean we should do it.
Just marvel at that. Not only, according to this Democratic foreign policy expert, were there “good arguments” for attacking and invading Iraq (a country which neither attacked nor threatened to attack us), there are also now what Cohen calls “good arguments” for starting wars against two more countries (at least) that have also not attacked us (or anyone else for that matter). And this is not Bill Kristol talking — at least not here. Rather, it is the view of someone who not only works within the Democratic Party foreign policy establishment, but — like the Brookings Institution — is situated on the so-called “liberal” end of the spectrum (Cohen worked for Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, among others).
(emphasis in the original)
Greenwald’s point concerns the foreign policy establishment in general.
The Number One Rule of the bi-partisan Foreign Policy Community is that America has the right to invade and attack other countries at will because American power is inherently good and our role in the world is to rule it though the use of superior military force. Paying homage to that imperialistic orthodoxy is a non-negotiable pre-requisite to maintaining Good Standing and Seriousness Credentials within the Foreign Policy Community.
Conversely, one who denies that premise reveals oneself to be deeply unserious and unworthy of meaningful discourse. While differences on the “when” and “how” are permitted, there is virtually no debate within the foreign policy establishment about whether the U.S. has the right to continue to intervene and attack and invade and occupy other countries in the absence of those countries attacking us.
But in the process, he notes that the Democratic party establishment, through the DLC, is just as blindly tied into the neocon world view espoused by the FPE as the Republicans are. This makes sense for the Pubs since they are, after all, the ones who created the imperial bias which is the FPE’s foundational belief – that on which all else is built. It only makes sense for the Dems, though, if they’ve accepted – as an institution – the Pub vision of the US as an empire with the unquestioned and unquestionable right “to invade and attack other countries at will”. Evidence suggests that’s precisely what they’ve done.
In June, the Asia Times’ Jim Lobe reported that during the debate of the Foreign Operations bill, House Democrats approved by a voice vote a Republican amendment to insert the word “permanent” in a clause concerning the construction of permanent bases in Iraq.
During debate on the 2008 Foreign Operations bill, the House approved by voice vote an amendment submitted by Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King that inserted the word “permanent” before “basing rights agreement” in the following text:
“SEC. 685. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used by the Government of the United States to enter into a basing rights agreement between the United States and Iraq.”
As King has pointed out in the past, the United States has never had a “permanent” basing rights agreement with any country where, like Germany, Japan, and South Korea, Washington has based troops for decades. So the amendment, if it becomes law, means that the administration may now use funds to enter into any kind of basing rights agreement with the government of Iraq that it wishes – be it five, ten, 25 or even 50 years. Jim Fine of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) explained the effect of the amendment in a memo last month after King almost succeeded in getting the same amendment attached to the defense authorization bill.
So despite the fact that the clause rejects any funding for bases, the word change has the effect of planting in law the concept that the executive can, in fact, negotiate permanent basing agreements, something it’s never had before.
A mistake? A lack of understanding? How can it be when they were knowledgeable enough to reject King’s amendment the first time it was offered? Didn’t they recognize it the second time? Of course they did, so what happened between the first time King offered his amendment and the second?
The obvious answer – and the only credible one – is that the leadership twisted a bunch of arms between No 1 and No 2 to make sure the amendment passed, and the only reason they would do that is if they agree with the FPE’s insistence that the US maintain a military footprint in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Why? Well, to protect our access to the oil, of course, but there are disturbing signals that imperial Dems have more on their minds than the energy supply. Like, for instance, prosecuting a regional war.
Shortly after, Arthur Silber responded to the change this way:
This is quite a neat trick, when you consider it: by prohibiting “permanent” base agreements, you make possible a decades-long occupation, perhaps even for 50 years or more. It has a certain elegance.
But, c’mon, let’s stop kidding around. This was always the plan. No one hid it, or even tried to. For God’s sake, we have a global empire of military bases — close to 1,000 bases in over 130 countries around the world. Almost no one is talking about reducing any of that. No. One. The entire governing class, and virtually every national politician in both parties, believes in American world hegemony. Hegemony needs bases, baby! So about the Democratic leadership of the House: either they don’t understand what this language means and what its effect will be, in which case they are too stupid to be on the city council of Flat Ass, Alabama — or they know exactly what it means, in which case they belong in jail.
In July, only 3 weeks later, Silber was back to condemn the Democrats yet again, this time for passing “advance approval for the commencement of hostilities against Iran.”
This past week, the United States Senate passed unanimously — 97 to 0 — what amounted to a declaration of war against Iran. A few weeks ago, the House passed a resolution — 411 to 2 — that similarly provided an alleged rationale for war against Iran. In this manner, Congress, nominally controlled by the opposition party, has granted the Bush administration advance approval for the commencement of hostilities against Iran. Since the Senate has announced, with no dissenting votes at all, that Iran is itself responsible for acts of war against the United States, and the House has stated, with only two voices in opposition, that Iran is illegally and clandestinely developing nuclear weapons, no prominent Democrat will be able to offer any principled, significant policy objection when Bush announces that the bombs have already begun to fall.
These detestable actions by Congress represent the triumph of pure propaganda, and of warmongering fiction over reality. In fact, it has never been shown that Iran has violated even one provision of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory. Instead, the United States has deliberately engineered a situation whereby arbitrary, extra-legal demands are placed on Iran. Then, when Iran fails to comply with these nonbinding, illegitimate demands, Iran is declared to be the criminal — when the “crime” has been created out of nothing. (See Gordon Prather’s latest article on this subject, and read his many earlier articles, listed on the right side of that page, for a much fuller history.)
Taken together, these three actions (and there are others) belie any possibility of an “accidental” construction. They are too deeply part-and-parcel of the imperial neocon game plan and have been for the better part of a quarter-century. The inescapable conclusion is that the Dems are on board the neocon bus and perfectly willing to drive it when it’s their turn behind the wheel. More, that they fully intend to drive it and are laying the groundwork to do so, including a support for unConstitutional “anti-terrorism” devices like the FISA bill.
These of-a-piece votes can’t all be from fear of election consequences, particularly since the electorate is moving farther and farther from imperialism and toward a neo-isolationism that’s beginning to question any foreign entanglements whatever. Politically, it would make more sense to split the baby – cut back on support for foreign military adventurism to appease an untrusting public weary of pointless wars, and emphasize positive foreign involvements like peace treaties and shared international initiatives to, say, fight global warming. Instead, the Democratic leadership is doing exactly the opposite, approving even more militarism and ignoring negotiation on a variety of issues the public is demanding, from ending the damn war and occupation of Iraq to universal health care.
If we assume that imperialism is the core foreign policy of the Democrats as well as the Republicans, then Hillary Clinton’s refusal to commit to a total withdrawal of troops or an end to permanent base construction – as well as her vote for the Iraq war – makes sense. So does Obama’s recent Pakistan commentary and John Edwards’ tightrope dance whenever the question comes up of what he will do about the occupation. As Greenwald wrote, only the differences of “when” and “how” can be discussed, not “if”.
This truth is becoming more obvious and pissing off more and more of the left. In a white-heat rage, Matthew at Scary Shit wants the Dems punished, saying without frosting what a lot of us are thinking. (Link via Avedon Carol)
We have to act now. Extreme pressure must be brought to bear against the Democratic leadership at the DNC. We need Howard Dean and the boys to understand that by counting their chickens now, and by not trying to rock the boat, and by not holding on to their bird in their hand (and any other fucking cliches I can think of), and not taking advantage of having both houses of congress, and not holding this criminal administration accountable RIGHT NOW, that Democrats will stay home in droves in 2008. That we will not donate, we will not volunteer, and we will not vote for Democrats in 2008 unless they step up to the plate and do their fucking jobs right now and start functioning as an opposition party.
I am sick and tired of the hostage game that the Dems are playing. I am already well fucking aware of the terrifying nature of the Republican party. However, I refuse to accept their lesser of two evils act any fucking more. Their bullshit rationale that they can’t do anything, or they might not win any more elections is over. If they can’t win any more elections, ever again, by standing up for the Constitution, freedom and democracy, then fuck it. For real. Fuck it sideways. I would rather see them make the other side explicitly endorse fascism, at least. I’m just done with the Kabuki. No more.