Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 5, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

DEMOCRATIC FOREIGN POLICY, PART 2....Following up on my post last night about Democratic foreign policy, I have a thought experiment. If Al Gore had become president, how would he have handled national security after 9/11? In other words, what would a Democratic foreign policy have looked like?

There are, of course, hundreds of small things that have been done in the past two years to improve airline security, bulk up port security, rebuild New York, etc. Most of these routine measures would probably have been handled roughly the same under any president, and it's impossible to say who would have done a better job on these kinds of things.

But in the end it's not the little things that really matter, it's the big things, and here I would credit the Bush administration with four major post-9/11 national security initiatives. So what would Gore have done if he had been in charge?

  • Invasion of Afghanistan. There's no question that Gore would have invaded Afghanistan. There are probably no more than a handful of congressmen of either party who wouldn't have.

  • PATRIOT Act. As much as I hate to say it, the record of the Clinton/Gore administration leads me to believe that Gore would have enacted something pretty similar.

  • Homeland Security Department. This was a Democratic idea in the first place, so Gore certainly would have backed it (although he would have skipped the union busting part).

  • Invasion of Iraq. Gore probably wouldn't have done this.

Other significant foreign policy problems include North Korea and the Mideast road map, but I don't think there's any way of knowing what Gore would have done about these situations. In any case, Bush has been pretty ineffective in both of them, so it's hard to see how Gore's policies would have been any worse than Bush's. (And I'm not even bothering to speculate on areas where Gore might have proposed positive national security initiatives that Bush didn't.)

In the end the only substantial difference between the two is that in 2003, anyway Gore probably would not have invaded Iraq, a country that posed no immediate threat to us and had little connection to terrorism outside the Middle East itself. But unless you're a neocon true believer who genuinely thinks that the invasion of Iraq is the initial domino that's going to bring peace and contentment to the Middle East, it's hard to see how Iraq is a make-or-break issue for judging seriousness on national security.

So is this really what the endless incantations of Democratic fecklessness come down to? That we would have done pretty much everything Bush did except for invading Iraq? And because of that Democrats can't be trusted with national security?

Color me unconvinced.

Kevin Drum 3:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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