Could the next President be even scarier?
Think the world will be safer with George Bush gone? Think again.
LUIZA CH. SAVAGE | October 31, 2007 |
Also at Macleans.ca:
Talkin' Tough: A history of hawkish quotes from Rudolph Giuliani and Hillary Clinton
Luiza Ch. Savage follows up on her blog
As part of her job at an influential national security think tank, Julianne Smith brings politicians and senior policy-makers from all over Europe to Washington for candid closed-door meetings with the policy advisers to the candidates vying to replace President George W. Bush. The Europeans usually arrive eager to discuss the coming era that some are dubbing "AB" — "After Bush." That is the highly anticipated period beginning on Jan. 20, 2009, in which a newly sworn-in American president, chastened by the troubles in Iraq and by the scorn of allies who say the Bush White House flouted international law, will turn his or her back on the militaristic and unilateralist ways of the preceding seven years, contritely embrace multilateral institutions and international treaties, bring home U.S. troops, and perhaps even rename the "war on terror" as something other than a "war."
But by the time the meetings end — be they with advisers to Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, or Republicans such as Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney — the visitors usually have the same reaction, says Smith, the director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The response is usually a little bit of shock and awe and disappointment. They say, 'What do you mean? We thought this would be a new era!' "
Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans are sick of the Iraq war, while many worry that through its counter-terrorism policies, the U.S. has squandered the goodwill it once enjoyed abroad. When the current presidential season began in earnest a year ago, it was widely expected that the aspirants to the White House would be campaigning against the swaggering foreign policy associated with Bush. But precisely the opposite has happened. To the great surprise of the Europeans, and to many Americans, the leading presidential candidates are talking just as tough as the current occupant of the White House — and some even tougher.
The candidates who have risen to the top in the presidential race happen to be the biggest hawks in each party. Both former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who leads the Republican field nationally, and New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who dominates the Democratic primary contest, have a vision of muscular American diplomacy, are actively raising the stakes in the confrontation with Iran, surround themselves with advisers who believe that unilateral American military might can be right, and have no intention of allowing the United Nations or some judge sitting in The Hague to tell them otherwise.
"There is this expectation that the U.S. will retreat entirely from the posture that we've had for the last years," says Smith. "But we're not going to roll back the clock. I try to drill home the message that yes, things will change, but probably not the way you hope they will." Smith finds she can't deflate international expectations enough. "I had someone from the Netherlands say, 'I can't wait until 2009 when you join the International Criminal Court,' " she recalls. "I thought, are you on crack? There is no way that is going to be a top priority for anyone."
The most hawkish and heated candidate as far as foreign policy rhetoric goes is Giuliani, who sounds more and more like Bush the longer he campaigns. "We have learned that evil must be confronted — not appeased," he wrote last month in the journal Foreign Affairs. Like Bush, Giuliani envisions a long-term presence in Iraq. "The commitment is to Iraq and to the region and to policies and strategies that are very long-lasting and have a long-term horizon," his chief foreign policy adviser, Charlie Hill, told Maclean's. "Iraq has been portrayed in the media as a stand-alone question. But it has got to be seen as part of the larger war on terror, and is essential to the health of the international system overall."
Hill is a former diplomat and speech writer for Henry Kissinger who now teaches a cultish course at Yale on the finer points of wielding power, unapologetically entitled "Grand Strategy." In her biography of Hill, The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost, author Molly Worthen tracks his evolution, from a critic of the Vietnam War, to a hawk, to one of the most hardline pro-Israel officials in the State Department. He was against the Vietnam War until he was sent to Saigon in the early 1970s, where he concluded that the U.S. could have won if only Congress had had the stomach to stay and fight. Ditto Iraq. Asked if he is optimistic that the U.S. will win this conflict, Hill says simply, "Yes."