Commentary Magazine


Topic: weapons systems

The Irresponsible Left’s Deficit-Cutting Plan

We learn from this report:

One of the most liberal members of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission unveiled her own plan Tuesday to balance the budget: Keep Social Security benefits intact, make deep reductions at the Pentagon and raise corporate taxes to target profits and excessive pay for chief executives.

This is important for several reasons. First, it comes from not only one of  the most liberal but also one of the  least influential members of Congress, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Second, it bears little resemblance to what came out of the president’s debt commission. Third, it reflects a total unawareness that we are in the midst of a war (“she proposes to take virtually all of the cuts from the military, slicing $110 billion from the defense budget in 2015 by reducing troop levels, cutting weapons systems, and scaling back wartime spending”). In sum, it is the perfect distillation of the irresponsible left, which imagines that we can simply decide not to defend ourselves, savage the “rich,” and — presto — become a more secure and prosperous country.

It’s good to know that this is not the starting point for deficit debate (that was the debt-commission plan). It is also a helpful reminder of what the Pelosi Democrats would do if they had their druthers.

We learn from this report:

One of the most liberal members of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission unveiled her own plan Tuesday to balance the budget: Keep Social Security benefits intact, make deep reductions at the Pentagon and raise corporate taxes to target profits and excessive pay for chief executives.

This is important for several reasons. First, it comes from not only one of  the most liberal but also one of the  least influential members of Congress, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Second, it bears little resemblance to what came out of the president’s debt commission. Third, it reflects a total unawareness that we are in the midst of a war (“she proposes to take virtually all of the cuts from the military, slicing $110 billion from the defense budget in 2015 by reducing troop levels, cutting weapons systems, and scaling back wartime spending”). In sum, it is the perfect distillation of the irresponsible left, which imagines that we can simply decide not to defend ourselves, savage the “rich,” and — presto — become a more secure and prosperous country.

It’s good to know that this is not the starting point for deficit debate (that was the debt-commission plan). It is also a helpful reminder of what the Pelosi Democrats would do if they had their druthers.

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Britain’s Dwindling Defense Budget

American officials are right to be concerned about the further evisceration of British defense capabilities that is apparently planned by the Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition government. Britain has already seen the size of its armed forces shrivel since the end of the Cold War, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Defense Minister Liam Fox apparently have more cuts in the works, expected to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP, already far below the U.S. level, is likely to fall under 2 percent, putting Britain in the same league as Italy, Spain, and other countries with little in the way of significant and deployable military resources.

The Telegraph reports that “the cuts…. will lead to a substantial reduction in the size of the Army, which will also have to give up many of its tanks and armoured vehicles.” Also on the chopping block are the frigates that are needed to fight pirates and other valuable weapons systems that allow Britain to punch far above its weight in the international system. For all of Cameron’s and Fox’s empty and unconvincing rhetoric about maintaining British capabilities while slashing the defense budget, the reality is that their planned budget will continue the sad undoing of Britain’s global leadership role, which traces back to the 16th century.

The Financial Times, hardly a bastion of right-wingery, denounces the cuts in an editorial that warns “there is little sign of coherent geopolitical thinking behind Britain’s planned defence cuts. Instead, this has turned into a money-driven rather than a threat-driven process.” The FT notes that it is particularly striking that at the same time that Cameron is chopping defense, he “is sticking stubbornly to his promise simultaneously to raise Britain’s spending on overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. This is a bizarre choice of priorities, especially for a Conservative prime minister and particularly when the country is still at war in Afghanistan.”

I would emphasize how bizarre this is for a Tory prime minister. If the Conservatives are not the strong-on-defense party, what identity do they have left? There is a lesson here for those Republicans who might be tempted to adopt a green-eyeshade approach to our own defense policy. As Danielle Pletka and Tom Donnelly eloquently warn in today’s Washington Post:

Conservatives, and the party that putatively represents them, need to decide whether they wish to continue to warrant that trust. They can continue to be the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, supporting and resourcing a robust American role in the world. Or they can reinvent themselves as a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.

The need to maintain American strength — which won’t be cheap — is all the more imperative when one of our few reliable allies is slashing its own defense budget. That means, like it or not, that we will have to do more than ever to maintain global security, or else the entire world will pay a staggering price as terrorists, pirates, weapons proliferators, and other international menaces run free.

American officials are right to be concerned about the further evisceration of British defense capabilities that is apparently planned by the Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition government. Britain has already seen the size of its armed forces shrivel since the end of the Cold War, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Defense Minister Liam Fox apparently have more cuts in the works, expected to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP, already far below the U.S. level, is likely to fall under 2 percent, putting Britain in the same league as Italy, Spain, and other countries with little in the way of significant and deployable military resources.

The Telegraph reports that “the cuts…. will lead to a substantial reduction in the size of the Army, which will also have to give up many of its tanks and armoured vehicles.” Also on the chopping block are the frigates that are needed to fight pirates and other valuable weapons systems that allow Britain to punch far above its weight in the international system. For all of Cameron’s and Fox’s empty and unconvincing rhetoric about maintaining British capabilities while slashing the defense budget, the reality is that their planned budget will continue the sad undoing of Britain’s global leadership role, which traces back to the 16th century.

The Financial Times, hardly a bastion of right-wingery, denounces the cuts in an editorial that warns “there is little sign of coherent geopolitical thinking behind Britain’s planned defence cuts. Instead, this has turned into a money-driven rather than a threat-driven process.” The FT notes that it is particularly striking that at the same time that Cameron is chopping defense, he “is sticking stubbornly to his promise simultaneously to raise Britain’s spending on overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. This is a bizarre choice of priorities, especially for a Conservative prime minister and particularly when the country is still at war in Afghanistan.”

I would emphasize how bizarre this is for a Tory prime minister. If the Conservatives are not the strong-on-defense party, what identity do they have left? There is a lesson here for those Republicans who might be tempted to adopt a green-eyeshade approach to our own defense policy. As Danielle Pletka and Tom Donnelly eloquently warn in today’s Washington Post:

Conservatives, and the party that putatively represents them, need to decide whether they wish to continue to warrant that trust. They can continue to be the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, supporting and resourcing a robust American role in the world. Or they can reinvent themselves as a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.

The need to maintain American strength — which won’t be cheap — is all the more imperative when one of our few reliable allies is slashing its own defense budget. That means, like it or not, that we will have to do more than ever to maintain global security, or else the entire world will pay a staggering price as terrorists, pirates, weapons proliferators, and other international menaces run free.

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Bibi’s Real Mistake

The Israelis’ error was not in announcing a housing-complex addition, writes John Bolton. It was in trying to play ball with an American administration that seeks to dictate negotiations with intransigent Palestinians and has little interest in stopping the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons. Bolton explains:

Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to avoid open disputes with Washington have not won him White House plaudits. Mr. Obama almost certainly believes the real obstacle to peace is not new housing or unfortunate timing but so-called Israeli intransigence.

On Iran, Mr. Netanyahu has faithfully supported Mr. Obama’s diplomacy, hoping to build credibility with the president against the day when Israel might have to strike Iran’s weapons program preemptively. . . As time passes, Israel’s military option grows more difficult and the chances for success shrink as Iran seeks new air-defense systems and further buries and hardens nuclear facilities.

Mr. Netanyahu’s mistake has been to assume that Mr. Obama basically agrees that we must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the White House likely believes that a nuclear Iran, though undesirable, can be contained and will therefore not support using military force to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The rub will come, as Bolton notes, when Israel determines that it must take military action and when the Obami do all they can to prevent the Jewish state’s preemptive strike, or to punish it after the fact (“if Israel bombs Iranian nuclear facilities, the president will likely withhold critical replenishments of destroyed Israeli aircraft and other weapons systems”). Bolton’s advice to Bibi is to stop trying to gain chits with Obama and strike while it is still possible. He argues:

The prime minister should recalibrate his approach, and soon. Israel’s deference on Palestinian issues will not help it with Mr. Obama after a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program. It would be a mistake to think that further delays in such a strike will materially change the toxic political response Israel can expect from the White House. Israel’s support will come from Congress and the American people, as opinion polls show, not from the president.

It is quite a dilemma, unlike nearly any an Israeli prime minister has faced so far. But that is because we have never had a president quite so openly dismissive of Israel’s interests. The Obami keep repeating mantras that sound increasingly insincere. There is no space between us on national security. The Americans understand the existential threat to Israel. Our bond with Israel is unshakable. But none of it rings true judging by the behavior and tactics of the Obami. Bully-boy tactics on peace talks and foot-dragging on the Iranian nuclear threat say just the opposite.

Bolton is right that Israel’s greatest aid in this remains Congress and the American public. But let’s not kid ourselves. The president matters and is indispensible both in his prerogative to cooperate or not with an Israeli strike and to react rhetorically and otherwise after the fact. Counting on Congress to check the poor instincts of a commander in chief who lacks any visceral connection to the Jewish state (and, indeed, sees it as a provocateur) is dicey at best. There simply isn’t any substitute for a president who sees American interests aligned with Israel’s and correctly perceives which parties are the problem. Unfortunately, we don’t have such a president right now.

The Israelis’ error was not in announcing a housing-complex addition, writes John Bolton. It was in trying to play ball with an American administration that seeks to dictate negotiations with intransigent Palestinians and has little interest in stopping the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons. Bolton explains:

Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to avoid open disputes with Washington have not won him White House plaudits. Mr. Obama almost certainly believes the real obstacle to peace is not new housing or unfortunate timing but so-called Israeli intransigence.

On Iran, Mr. Netanyahu has faithfully supported Mr. Obama’s diplomacy, hoping to build credibility with the president against the day when Israel might have to strike Iran’s weapons program preemptively. . . As time passes, Israel’s military option grows more difficult and the chances for success shrink as Iran seeks new air-defense systems and further buries and hardens nuclear facilities.

Mr. Netanyahu’s mistake has been to assume that Mr. Obama basically agrees that we must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the White House likely believes that a nuclear Iran, though undesirable, can be contained and will therefore not support using military force to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The rub will come, as Bolton notes, when Israel determines that it must take military action and when the Obami do all they can to prevent the Jewish state’s preemptive strike, or to punish it after the fact (“if Israel bombs Iranian nuclear facilities, the president will likely withhold critical replenishments of destroyed Israeli aircraft and other weapons systems”). Bolton’s advice to Bibi is to stop trying to gain chits with Obama and strike while it is still possible. He argues:

The prime minister should recalibrate his approach, and soon. Israel’s deference on Palestinian issues will not help it with Mr. Obama after a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program. It would be a mistake to think that further delays in such a strike will materially change the toxic political response Israel can expect from the White House. Israel’s support will come from Congress and the American people, as opinion polls show, not from the president.

It is quite a dilemma, unlike nearly any an Israeli prime minister has faced so far. But that is because we have never had a president quite so openly dismissive of Israel’s interests. The Obami keep repeating mantras that sound increasingly insincere. There is no space between us on national security. The Americans understand the existential threat to Israel. Our bond with Israel is unshakable. But none of it rings true judging by the behavior and tactics of the Obami. Bully-boy tactics on peace talks and foot-dragging on the Iranian nuclear threat say just the opposite.

Bolton is right that Israel’s greatest aid in this remains Congress and the American public. But let’s not kid ourselves. The president matters and is indispensible both in his prerogative to cooperate or not with an Israeli strike and to react rhetorically and otherwise after the fact. Counting on Congress to check the poor instincts of a commander in chief who lacks any visceral connection to the Jewish state (and, indeed, sees it as a provocateur) is dicey at best. There simply isn’t any substitute for a president who sees American interests aligned with Israel’s and correctly perceives which parties are the problem. Unfortunately, we don’t have such a president right now.

Read Less

Defense Spending and Defense Needs: Not in Sync

The Conservative party in Britain has pledged to adopt the American practice of carrying out a “strategic review” every four years. Based on the latest Quadrennial Defense Review, which came out today, I’m not sure why they would bother. The QDR is not terrible or wrong-headed; in fact, I think it’s fairly sensible on the whole. But it’s also not particularly interesting or surprising — which is pretty much what you would expect from a report produced by a large committee and overseen by the same defense secretary who has put into place many of the policies under review. I agree with Robert Haddick’s take in the Small Wars Journal:

Rather than reading a document about strategies for the future, I had the sense that I was reading a business corporation’s annual report covering the past fiscal year. I stopped counting how many times the QDR said, “the Department will continue to …” or something similar.

Haddick goes on to note that the QDR “hints at, but leaves unsaid, many necessary and sometimes painful changes the Pentagon will need to make. In this sense the QDR seems incomplete; it kicks several important cans down the road, leaving important decisions that should have been in the QDR for future reports.”

Some of the challenges left unaddressed by the QDR are spelled out in this study by Mackenzie Eaglen at the Heritage Foundation. She notes a number of disturbing long-term trends, including the fact that  “core” defense spending (excluding contingencies such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) is already just 3.9 percent of GDP and set to decline under the Obama blueprint. Defense spending, even with a current budget of $690 billion, is less than 18 percent of federal spending and has been rapidly declining as a share of the federal budget over time, while entitlement spending (currently 35 percent of the budget) continues to grow.

Within the defense budget, an ever-growing share of the spending is being consumed by personnel expenditures and current operations, which leaves not enough money to recapitalize aging equipment (the U.S. Air Force continues to operate transport aircraft and tankers that are over 40 years old) and an ever-shrinking storehouse of advanced weapons systems (the U.S. Navy has the smallest number of ships since 1916). She might have mentioned, but didn’t, that the U.S. doesn’t have enough soldiers to meet all its commitments. The Army was 710,000 strong at the end of the Cold War in 1991; today it’s down 553,000 personnel.

In other words, there is a fundamental mismatch between ends and means — between what we’re willing to spend on defense and what we need to meet our global commitments. And that’s not even taking into account all the new challenges laid out in the QDR relating to areas such as cyberspace and “anti-access” threats (e.g., long-range cruise missiles that can pick off our naval ships in the Persian Gulf or the Taiwan Strait). This QDR, like the preceding QDRs, is better at laying out the challenges than it is at suggesting realistic ways they can be met. It might at least have sounded a warning about some of these looming problems. Instead, it is largely a ratification of the status quo.

The Conservative party in Britain has pledged to adopt the American practice of carrying out a “strategic review” every four years. Based on the latest Quadrennial Defense Review, which came out today, I’m not sure why they would bother. The QDR is not terrible or wrong-headed; in fact, I think it’s fairly sensible on the whole. But it’s also not particularly interesting or surprising — which is pretty much what you would expect from a report produced by a large committee and overseen by the same defense secretary who has put into place many of the policies under review. I agree with Robert Haddick’s take in the Small Wars Journal:

Rather than reading a document about strategies for the future, I had the sense that I was reading a business corporation’s annual report covering the past fiscal year. I stopped counting how many times the QDR said, “the Department will continue to …” or something similar.

Haddick goes on to note that the QDR “hints at, but leaves unsaid, many necessary and sometimes painful changes the Pentagon will need to make. In this sense the QDR seems incomplete; it kicks several important cans down the road, leaving important decisions that should have been in the QDR for future reports.”

Some of the challenges left unaddressed by the QDR are spelled out in this study by Mackenzie Eaglen at the Heritage Foundation. She notes a number of disturbing long-term trends, including the fact that  “core” defense spending (excluding contingencies such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) is already just 3.9 percent of GDP and set to decline under the Obama blueprint. Defense spending, even with a current budget of $690 billion, is less than 18 percent of federal spending and has been rapidly declining as a share of the federal budget over time, while entitlement spending (currently 35 percent of the budget) continues to grow.

Within the defense budget, an ever-growing share of the spending is being consumed by personnel expenditures and current operations, which leaves not enough money to recapitalize aging equipment (the U.S. Air Force continues to operate transport aircraft and tankers that are over 40 years old) and an ever-shrinking storehouse of advanced weapons systems (the U.S. Navy has the smallest number of ships since 1916). She might have mentioned, but didn’t, that the U.S. doesn’t have enough soldiers to meet all its commitments. The Army was 710,000 strong at the end of the Cold War in 1991; today it’s down 553,000 personnel.

In other words, there is a fundamental mismatch between ends and means — between what we’re willing to spend on defense and what we need to meet our global commitments. And that’s not even taking into account all the new challenges laid out in the QDR relating to areas such as cyberspace and “anti-access” threats (e.g., long-range cruise missiles that can pick off our naval ships in the Persian Gulf or the Taiwan Strait). This QDR, like the preceding QDRs, is better at laying out the challenges than it is at suggesting realistic ways they can be met. It might at least have sounded a warning about some of these looming problems. Instead, it is largely a ratification of the status quo.

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Learning to Love the Islamic Bomb

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has plunged Pakistan into what is likely to be a prolonged period of chaos. The United States has two vital interests at stake in the outcome: the future of the significant al-Qaeda presence in the country’s ungoverned borderlands, and the future of the approximately 70 to 115 nuclear weapons in the country’s arsenal. Should any of these Islamic bombs fall into the wrong hands, say, those of al-Qaeda or allied fanatics, neither the United States nor India would not be able to sit by complacently.

But could India locate and destroy the Pakistani weapons in a crisis? That is one of many fascinating questions addressed in an important study by Peter R. Lavoy that appears in Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Worries Beyond War, a highly informative collection edited by the non-proliferation expert, Henry Sokolski.

Lavoy, formerly a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, now the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia at the National Intelligence Council, examines the implications of the tightening India-U.S. alliance for the survivability of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal in the face of an Indian strike. Among other weapons systems that India has either recently purchased or is attempting to purchase are Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, weapon-locating radars, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, satellites, and a variety of guided-weapons systems. All told, writes Lavoy, as this collection comes on line, “India may be able to identify and target Pakistan’s strategic assets with its enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and it may be able to reach and destroy Pakistani strategic assets using its improved precision-strike aircraft and missile capabilities.”

In the face of the growing vulnerability of its nuclear force, Pakistan is unlikely to stand still. But how will it respond? Sokolski point out in his introduction that to deal with the array of challenges posed by the vulnerability of its nuclear arsenal, not only to a strike by India but to internal threats likes theft and sabotage, Pakistan “would need to have a fairly robust and active national government capable of mastering nuclear regulation, nuclear physical security, emergency preparedness, peacetime military strategic planning, energy research and development, and electrical system planning.” But Pakistan right now has anything but a robust national government.

There is no blinking the fact that the future of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal presents the U.S. and the world, as we have argued before, with a quietly developing strategic nightmare. What should be done about it? Let’s hope that someone somewhere in the U.S. government has better answers than Connecting the Dots currently does.

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has plunged Pakistan into what is likely to be a prolonged period of chaos. The United States has two vital interests at stake in the outcome: the future of the significant al-Qaeda presence in the country’s ungoverned borderlands, and the future of the approximately 70 to 115 nuclear weapons in the country’s arsenal. Should any of these Islamic bombs fall into the wrong hands, say, those of al-Qaeda or allied fanatics, neither the United States nor India would not be able to sit by complacently.

But could India locate and destroy the Pakistani weapons in a crisis? That is one of many fascinating questions addressed in an important study by Peter R. Lavoy that appears in Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Worries Beyond War, a highly informative collection edited by the non-proliferation expert, Henry Sokolski.

Lavoy, formerly a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, now the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia at the National Intelligence Council, examines the implications of the tightening India-U.S. alliance for the survivability of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal in the face of an Indian strike. Among other weapons systems that India has either recently purchased or is attempting to purchase are Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, weapon-locating radars, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, satellites, and a variety of guided-weapons systems. All told, writes Lavoy, as this collection comes on line, “India may be able to identify and target Pakistan’s strategic assets with its enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and it may be able to reach and destroy Pakistani strategic assets using its improved precision-strike aircraft and missile capabilities.”

In the face of the growing vulnerability of its nuclear force, Pakistan is unlikely to stand still. But how will it respond? Sokolski point out in his introduction that to deal with the array of challenges posed by the vulnerability of its nuclear arsenal, not only to a strike by India but to internal threats likes theft and sabotage, Pakistan “would need to have a fairly robust and active national government capable of mastering nuclear regulation, nuclear physical security, emergency preparedness, peacetime military strategic planning, energy research and development, and electrical system planning.” But Pakistan right now has anything but a robust national government.

There is no blinking the fact that the future of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal presents the U.S. and the world, as we have argued before, with a quietly developing strategic nightmare. What should be done about it? Let’s hope that someone somewhere in the U.S. government has better answers than Connecting the Dots currently does.

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“Churchillian” Statesmanship

The Washington, D.C.-based Churchill Centre has just awarded the first Winston Churchill Award for Statesmanship to James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton.

This is the same James A. Baker who, as Secretary of State, when asked what the U.S. would do about aggression, ethnic cleansing, and mass murder in Bosnia-Herzegovina, replied: “We have no dog in that fight.” It is hard to say which was more Churchillian, the sentiment or the eloquence.

By this standard, Hamilton, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was even more Churchillian. His reaction to the Bosnia debacle was described thus by Congressional Quarterly:

Hamilton was a well-modulated voice for cautious diplomacy…. Early in the Clinton administration, he agreed to a strategy under which Bosnia’s factions would agree to a partition of the republic…. But when Bosnia’s militarily dominant Serbs resisted, putting pressure on Clinton for U.S. military action…Hamilton suggested more time was needed to allow diplomacy and economic sanctions to work. To Hamilton’s many admirers, his caution as a foreign policy-maker is an aid in deterring the nation from rushing into foreign policy mistakes.

Other equally Churchillian moments in Hamilton’s legislative career include leading the opposition to military action against Iraq when it occupied Kuwait in 1990; opposition to aid to the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980’s as well as to the besieged anti-Communist government in neighboring El Salvador; votes against a raft of weapons systems from the B-1 bomber to missile defense; and championing of the nuclear freeze.

Of course, the Churchill Centre was not honoring this pair for their past records but rather, as it explained, for their leadership of “the Iraq Study group, which resulted in critical policy recommendations.” The essence of those recommendations was to abandon hope of victory, begin to withdraw our soldiers, and cushion our defeat by appealing for help to the government of Iran (whose official slogan is “death to America”).

There’s a solution that would have done Churchill proud.

If you find the Baker-Hamilton legacy incongruent with that of Churchill, the Churchill Centre is out to reshape your memory of him, much as various academics lately have redefined Ronald Reagan as a liberal or moderate in noble contrast to the odious conservative, George W. Bush. The Centre explains: “The political precept that won Churchill respect from all sides was his belief that in difficult times the best results follow when people of differing beliefs and backgrounds come together, the greatest example of which was the ‘Grand Alliance’ of World War II.” In other words, Churchill’s great feat was not his resistance to Hitler but his embrace of Stalin.

Next, perhaps, the Centre will create a Churchill Award for Appeasement.

The Washington, D.C.-based Churchill Centre has just awarded the first Winston Churchill Award for Statesmanship to James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton.

This is the same James A. Baker who, as Secretary of State, when asked what the U.S. would do about aggression, ethnic cleansing, and mass murder in Bosnia-Herzegovina, replied: “We have no dog in that fight.” It is hard to say which was more Churchillian, the sentiment or the eloquence.

By this standard, Hamilton, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was even more Churchillian. His reaction to the Bosnia debacle was described thus by Congressional Quarterly:

Hamilton was a well-modulated voice for cautious diplomacy…. Early in the Clinton administration, he agreed to a strategy under which Bosnia’s factions would agree to a partition of the republic…. But when Bosnia’s militarily dominant Serbs resisted, putting pressure on Clinton for U.S. military action…Hamilton suggested more time was needed to allow diplomacy and economic sanctions to work. To Hamilton’s many admirers, his caution as a foreign policy-maker is an aid in deterring the nation from rushing into foreign policy mistakes.

Other equally Churchillian moments in Hamilton’s legislative career include leading the opposition to military action against Iraq when it occupied Kuwait in 1990; opposition to aid to the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980’s as well as to the besieged anti-Communist government in neighboring El Salvador; votes against a raft of weapons systems from the B-1 bomber to missile defense; and championing of the nuclear freeze.

Of course, the Churchill Centre was not honoring this pair for their past records but rather, as it explained, for their leadership of “the Iraq Study group, which resulted in critical policy recommendations.” The essence of those recommendations was to abandon hope of victory, begin to withdraw our soldiers, and cushion our defeat by appealing for help to the government of Iran (whose official slogan is “death to America”).

There’s a solution that would have done Churchill proud.

If you find the Baker-Hamilton legacy incongruent with that of Churchill, the Churchill Centre is out to reshape your memory of him, much as various academics lately have redefined Ronald Reagan as a liberal or moderate in noble contrast to the odious conservative, George W. Bush. The Centre explains: “The political precept that won Churchill respect from all sides was his belief that in difficult times the best results follow when people of differing beliefs and backgrounds come together, the greatest example of which was the ‘Grand Alliance’ of World War II.” In other words, Churchill’s great feat was not his resistance to Hitler but his embrace of Stalin.

Next, perhaps, the Centre will create a Churchill Award for Appeasement.

Read Less




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