Lieberman rips Democrats on appeasement

Joseph Lieberman

“How did the Democratic Party get here?” This is how Joe Lieberman’s op-ed piece in today’s Wall Street Journal begins. The former Democratic (now Independent) Senator pulls no punches as he takes his former party to task for their disconnect on national security issues. He laments what he sees as a drifting away from the values of the Democratic party he remembered growing up — in particular the firm stance they once took against America’s enemies. Even going so far as to mention Obama by name, this is guaranteed to ruffle a few feathers. Here are some excerpts:

Beginning in the 1940s, the Democratic Party was forced to confront two of the most dangerous enemies our nation has ever faced: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In response, Democrats under Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy forged and conducted a foreign policy that was principled, internationalist, strong and successful.

This was the Democratic Party that I grew up in – a party that was unhesitatingly and proudly pro-American, a party that was unafraid to make moral judgments about the world beyond our borders. It was a party that understood that either the American people stood united with free nations and freedom fighters against the forces of totalitarianism, or that we would fall divided.

Lieberman then very accurately pinpoints where the problems began:

This worldview began to come apart in the late 1960s, around the war in Vietnam. In its place, a very different view of the world took root in the Democratic Party. Rather than seeing the Cold War as an ideological contest between the free nations of the West and the repressive regimes of the communist world, this rival political philosophy saw America as the aggressor – a morally bankrupt, imperialist power whose militarism and “inordinate fear of communism” represented the real threat to world peace.

And let’s not forget the McCarthy hearings from a few years previous which enabled the media to paint any future crusader against communism as a paranoid buffoon who was not to be taken seriously. Lieberman then goes on to nail the birth of what has become the current liberal mindset. See if this sounds familiar:

It argued that the Soviets and their allies were our enemies not because they were inspired by a totalitarian ideology fundamentally hostile to our way of life, or because they nursed ambitions of global conquest. Rather, the Soviets were our enemy because we had provoked them, because we threatened them, and because we failed to sit down and accord them the respect they deserved. In other words, the Cold War was mostly America’s fault.

Sound like anything that’s going on today? The piece then takes a turn I don’t completely agree with. He describes what he saw as a ray of hope with the rise of the “New Democrat” in the 1980’s culminating in the election of Bill Clinton.

Then, beginning in the 1980s, a new effort began on the part of some of us in the Democratic Party to reverse these developments, and reclaim our party’s lost tradition of principle and strength in the world. Our band of so-called New Democrats was successful sooner than we imagined possible when, in 1992, Bill Clinton and Al Gore were elected. In the Balkans, for example, as President Clinton and his advisers slowly but surely came to recognize that American intervention, and only American intervention, could stop Slobodan Milosevic and his campaign of ethnic slaughter, Democratic attitudes about the use of military force in pursuit of our values and our security began to change.

I’m sorry, but three months of NATO air-raids and tomahawk missiles lobbed from ships several miles away while the KLA does your dirty work on the ground is not my idea of a tough President. This same “brave” President — when we got a direct slap in the face from al-Qaeda in the bombing of the USS Cole — did nothing in retaliation. He was a complete wimp in handling the first WTC bombing as well. But I’ll forgive Lieberman for wanting to see something in Clinton that wasn’t really there in a desperate attempt to find a hopeful trend in the party he once loved.

Liberman also feels that Al Gore, like Clinton, was a strong proponent of defending our nation, and that George Bush was more soft in his foreign policy –at least at first. But then came what he saw as the big shift:

Today, less than a decade later, the parties have completely switched positions. The reversal began, like so much else in our time, on September 11, 2001. The attack on America by Islamist terrorists shook President Bush from the foreign policy course he was on. He saw September 11 for what it was: a direct ideological and military attack on us and our way of life. If the Democratic Party had stayed where it was in 2000, America could have confronted the terrorists with unity and strength in the years after 9/11.

Instead a debate soon began within the Democratic Party about how to respond to Mr. Bush. I felt strongly that Democrats should embrace the basic framework the president had advanced for the war on terror as our own, because it was our own. But that was not the choice most Democratic leaders made. When total victory did not come quickly in Iraq, the old voices of partisanship and peace at any price saw an opportunity to reassert themselves. By considering centrism to be collaboration with the enemy – not bin Laden, but Mr. Bush – activists have successfully pulled the Democratic Party further to the left than it has been at any point in the last 20 years.

I have emphasized in bold the statements which illustrate the stark contrast between the conservative and liberal mindset when approaching the war on terror. We see an enemy overseas. They see an enemy in the Oval Office. We blame terror attacks on the twisted ideology of religious zealots. They blame terror attacks on our constant “meddling” in the Middle East.

Next Lieberman aims his darts at the leading Democrat Presidential candidate (yes Barack, he IS really talking about you this time):

Far too many Democratic leaders have kowtowed to these opinions rather than challenging them. That unfortunately includes Barack Obama, who, contrary to his rhetorical invocations of bipartisan change, has not been willing to stand up to his party’s left wing on a single significant national security or international economic issue in this campaign.

Ouch! Hopefully Obama will step into it again and fire off another press release which will in turn give this excellent article the exposure it deserves.

After throwing a little praise John McCain’s way for his tough stance on foreign policy, Liberman fires a couple more rounds at Obama:

There are of course times when it makes sense to engage in tough diplomacy with hostile governments. Yet what Mr. Obama has proposed is not selective engagement, but a blanket policy of meeting personally as president, without preconditions, in his first year in office, with the leaders of the most vicious, anti-American regimes on the planet.

Mr. Obama has said that in proposing this, he is following in the footsteps of Reagan and JFK. But Kennedy never met with Castro, and Reagan never met with Khomeini. And can anyone imagine Presidents Kennedy or Reagan sitting down unconditionally with Ahmadinejad or Chavez? I certainly cannot.

Neither can I. He is right on the money here.

The Senator then concludes his game with nothing less than a slam dunk:

A great Democratic secretary of state, Dean Acheson, once warned “no people in history have ever survived, who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies.” This is a lesson that today’s Democratic Party leaders need to relearn.

“Making themselves inoffensive”. That gets right to the heart of Liberal thinking. For them, offense is something to be avoided at all costs. Domestically, whole laws are now crafted around offense. It is now a crime in certain western countries to offend certain people. Internationally, libs believe that if America is not universally liked, then we must be failing somehow in our foreign policy.

No, if we are failing at anything it is PR — we haven’t done an adequate job explaining what we are trying to accomplish. What we are doing overseas is simply what we have done in countless wars past… defending our freedom. Trying to snuff out those who hold a warped ideology that considers the liberty we enjoy to be a great sin that must be crushed — and who has potential access to weapons that can do tremendous damage and further their cause. Most Democrats refuse to see this danger. Joe Lieberman sees it with 20/20 vision.

Great piece, Senator.