Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 23, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

HAWKS....My pal Hugh Hewitt now with permalinks! thinks I'm a nice but slightly dimwitted guy who probably shouldn't be trusted with the ability to express my opinions on grownup matters to the world. But he wishes me only the best anyway: "As with many Democrats, I wish him only good things provided they don't include the exercise of any power over my life or the defenses of the country."

Hugh doesn't trust squishy liberals like me with the defenses of the country. Hugh, you see, is a hawk. So let's talk about the recent history of hawkishness in America, shall we?

After World War II hawks thought we should invade the Soviet Union quickly before they got the bomb. That would have turned out well, wouldn't it? Luckily, Harry Truman, George Kennan, and other cooler heads prevailed.

In 1950 ber-hawk Douglas MacArthur insisted on moving aggressively into North Korea after his success at Inchon. As a result of this freelance hawkery, the Chinese entered the war in massive numbers and the United States was tied down in a quagmire for years. We're still living with the results.

Eisenhower mostly kept a rein on the hawks in his own party during the 50s and we came out the other end in good shape though not before those hawks bequeathed to history Joe McCarthy, blacklists, and the destruction of George Marshall, one of the great Americans of the 20th century.

Kennedy listened to the hawks in 1961 and the result was the Bay of Pigs. He sent them packing in 1962 and we came out of the Cuban Missile Crisis stronger than ever.

LBJ was afraid congressional hawks would think he was soft on communism, so he caved in to them in 1964 and 1965. The result was Vietnam.

Reagan listened to his administration's hawks about Central America and the result was Iran-Contra and the mining of Nicaraguan harbors. He overruled them a few years later and decided to deal with Mikhail Gorbachev. The result was glasnost, the 1987 missile treaty, and the eventual demise of communism in Eastern Europe.

After 9/11 hawks took control of George W. Bush's White House and the result was the godforsaken mess we now find ourselves in in Iraq.

Hawks aren't always wrong, of course. FDR and Churchill were surely right to face down the isolationists and appeasers in their respective countries, for example. But overall, their track record doesn't inspire much confidence.

So yes, let's talk about the defenses of this country. Let's talk about what kind of future our children face with hawks in charge of their safety today; let's talk about whether events would have turned out better or worse in 1949 and 1962 if hawks had gotten their way; and let's talk about whether terrorism is more or less of a threat now than it was before George Bush mortgaged his soul to hawkish neocon fantasies of national greatness.

Let's talk.

Kevin Drum 12:24 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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