Correspondence (February 7, 2005)

by | February 7, 2005

EURO TRASHED

There is one subject that I wish John B. Judis had dealt with in greater depth ("Unreconciled," December 20, 2004). He quotes Spanish Prime Minister Jos Luis Rodriguez Zapatero telling Der Spiegel that "Europe must believe that, in 20 years, it can become the most important world power," but Judis makes this sound like a reaction to George W. Bush's reelection. Having watched the European Union take shape while working in Europe over the last decade, this "world power" attitude was as present in Europe during the early '90s as Judis says it is today. Why has this thinking gained root? It is more about the American cultural influence in Europe and less about Bush; more about McDonald's than the Middle East; more about creating a world currency than building relations. I agree with former American Ambassador to Germany John Kornblum that we must begin to repair the rift. But let's not come to the table with rose-colored glasses.

David Brugh
Centerville, Ohio

HARD LINE

Peter Beinart's attack on Democrats and liberals who oppose Bush's radical militarism is both deeply insulting and fundamentally wrong ("A Fighting Faith, " December 13, 2004). From his point of view, Democrats are divided into "hards" and "softs"—hards, of course, being good, and softs bad. These contemptuous terms do nothing to contribute to a serious discussion of liberalism, the Democratic Party, or U.S. national security needs; foreign policy is not a Viagra commercial. The Bush reliance on military might may be "hard," but tragically it is also dangerous, ineffective, and wrong. If Beinart really believes that totalitarian Islam is "an external enemy more grave, and more illiberal, than George W. Bush," he would do well to side with the liberal Democrats he denounces. It is precisely Bush's recklessness that is helping to recruit new adherents to fundamentalist Islam. Liberal Democrats are not—and were never—reluctant to fight the real perpetrators of terrorism. After September 11, Democrats voted nearly unanimously to confront Al Qaeda and the Taliban with devastating force, a battle the administration abandoned in order to go after Saddam Hussein—the same man who is now certified by the United States to have had no weapons of mass destruction at the time of the invasion; the same man who, after gassing his own people and invading Kuwait, did business with Dick Cheney and Halliburton.

If John Kerry had voted against the war in Iraq, he would have won the election. He would have been true to his principles, immune from "flip-flopper" charges, and capable of focusing on Bush's failed war in Iraq and his bungling of the war on terrorism. The truth is that Democrats and liberals are more consistently anti-totalitarian than Bush, the Republicans, or the neoconservatives, who actually embrace dictators as long as they are their dictators. Dwight Eisenhower's CIA was largely responsible for the overthrow of the democratically chosen leader of Iran and the installation of the anti- democratic shah. Richard Nixon was president and Henry Kissinger national security adviser when the democratically elected leader of Chile was assassinated with the support of the CIA.

Liberal Democrats have consistently supported military action in the name of preserving democracy and human life abroad or of protecting U.S. interests, but only as the very last resort. It is essential to be strong militarily, but it is even more necessary to recognize war as a failure, as something to be aggressively avoided. The United States can, and must, use its superpower status to find diplomatic solutions to political conflicts, work with our allies, strengthen and support international institutions like the United Nations, set an example for aspiring and emerging democracies, and win hearts and minds. That is not being soft. Diplomatic efforts are not easy, but they obviate the need for our brave military men and women to go, too often ill- equipped, into battle. To be perceived as strong, Democrats do not need to emulate the faux machismo of neocons, most of whom scrupulously avoided any personal contact with the battlefields of war. Quite the opposite. Our only failing has been one of confidence, the confidence to stand up unapologetically for our vision of a twenty-first century in which the United States is the leader for peace. As Bill Clinton recently said, "Strength and wisdom are not opposing values."

Jan Schakowsky
U.S. Representative
Washington, D.C.

ALTERED STATE

Lawrence F. Kaplan has it wrong in his intemperate attack on the Department of State and on the professionals of the Foreign Service ("State's Rights," December 2, 2004). He dredges up episodes from 1948, 1966, and 1979; vilifies loyal and courageous public servants; and piles on epithets like "inbred club" and "defiance." Beyond his rhetoric, he fails to recognize the difference between constructive dissent (which we encourage) and insubordination (which we do not). Does Kaplan prefer a Foreign Service of cheerleaders who never offer advice, never ask questions, and never suggest alternative courses of action? All of us who serve the U.S. government and the American people understand the importance of supporting established policy as made by the president. As an administration debates policy, however, we also have the responsibility to point out, through long-established channels in the State Department, the unintended effects or hidden opportunities in a course of action. Anything less is abandoning our professional responsibility to offer the president and his counselors the best possible advice. Kaplan urges Condoleezza Rice to "tame" the Foreign Service and to "crack the whip." She knows better. She knows that, in the Foreign Service, she has the complete support of a unique group of highly qualified, dedicated professionals who have repeatedly shown themselves willing to serve their country in the most difficult and dangerous places, often at great personal cost and sacrifice.

Ambassador John W. Limbert
President American Foreign Service Association
Washington, D.C.

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