Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 24, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

HAWKS PART 2....A brief coda to my previous post.

Obviously I'm annoyed with conservatives who are (and have been thoughout history) convinced that they and only they are clear-eyed realists who spurn comforting illusions and understand the real dangers we face. I think history shows no such thing, and my post was intended to show that.

My point, though, was not to suggest that hawkishness is always wrong. In fact, I can get equally annoyed with the "War Is Not The Answer" crowd: the lessons of history may be murky and malleable, but they rather plainly show that sometimes war is the answer. In recent years, for example, I would argue that Gulf War I, Kosovo, and Afghanistan were all justified and reasonable responses to dangerous aggression.

The United States has generally been served best by toughminded leaders who steered a middle course. Truman, Ike, and JFK were no pushovers, and were certainly not unwilling to go to war, but at the same time they also kept extremist hawks (and extremist doves) at bay. The results were mostly pretty acceptable.

But when the hawks get the upper hand, as they did with LBJ in 1965 and with George Bush in 2002, the results can be messy indeed. As longtime readers know, I'm hardly insensitive to the genuine dangers of modern terrorism, but the blinkered singlemindedness of the Bush administration's response has been both ineffective and dangerous a toxic combination. Left to themselves, hawks simply don't have the perspective and good judgment to do the right thing and it's past time for us to steer back to a more centrist course.

POSTSCRIPT: If you want to see the argument for the defense, go read Tacitus. He's unwilling to accept a comparison between current day hawks and hawks of the past which is understandable since it's not a very pretty picture and then proposes a few counterexamples that I find fairly unconvincing. But you can decide for yourself.

In any case, he concludes by saying "there are times to make peace, there are times to fight, and there are times to chart a course somewhere between." So rhetorically, if not in practice, apparently we're of one mind.

Kevin Drum 12:08 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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