Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Hawk 'n' Dove (Democratic Party, Not The Capitol Hill Bar)




















The dove became a symbol of pacifism when Picasso's lithograph La Colombe was used for the poster of the World Peace Congress in Paris, April 1949.

If you are under the age of 50, it might come as news that there was once a time when the Democratic Party was not to the left of the Republicans on defense and foreign affairs. Foreign Policy's Passport blog has a piece today about how and when Democrats became doves:

Forty-four years ago this week, the senior senator from the state of Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy, stepped to a podium in the Senate Caucus Room and transformed the Democratic Party. Angered by the war in Vietnam and his belief that President Lyndon Johnson would "set no limit to the price" he was "willing to pay for a military victory," there McCarthy announced his intention to challenge the incumbent president of his own party in four presidential primaries.

McCarthy didn't even bother to declare he was seeking his party's nomination -- after all, in the fall of 1967 everyone knew that Johnson was practically a shoo-in to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 1968.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Democratic Convention in Chicago. McCarthy didn't end the war, but he ended Johnson's political career and in the process heralded the shift of the Democratic Party from Cold War hawks to anti-war doves. By creating a political opportunity for Democrats, opposed to the war in Vietnam, to directly engage in the electoral process McCarthy helped change the way that all political leaders -- Democrats and Republicans -- talk about national security policy. No longer could national Democrats ignore liberals skeptical of American power; and Republicans were given a renewed opportunity to cast Democrats as a party beholden to their anti-war base. Quite simply, McCarthy's quixotic presidential bid is the gift that keeps on giving.

-- snip --

Two events would ensure that McCarthy's run would be far more than that. First the Tet Offensive on Jan. 30, 1968 ... the surprise Tet attack, which struck at every provincial capital in the country as well as the U.S. embassy in Saigon, shattered the illusion of progress. In the process it exposed Johnson and the members of his administration as serial liars about the war.

Tet set the stage, but it was the "Clean for Gene," anti-war activists that sealed the deal. Trudging through the snows of New Hampshire for the country's first presidential primary, McCarthy's army of well-scrubbed volunteers (no beards or long hair for this crew) spoke to two-thirds of all New Hampshire Democrats in just a six-week period.

[Robert] Kennedy attacked the war in Vietnam with great and laudable venom; but McCarthy became the first presidential candidate to take on the very conceits of American foreign policy. In perhaps his best speech of the campaign, at San Francisco's Cow Palace in May 1968, McCarthy aimed his verbal assaults at the assumptions underpinning the bipartisan consensus that had shaped America's view of the world since the dawn of the Cold War.

"Involvement in Vietnam," McCarthy said, "was no accident. It did not happen overnight. It was a direct result of America's conception of itself as the world's judge and the world's policeman." He ridiculed the beliefs held dear by both Humphrey and Kennedy: "America's moral mission in the world; the great threat from China; the theory of monolithic Communist conspiracy; the susceptibility of political problems to military solutions; the duty to impose American idealism upon foreign cultures" calling them "myths and misconceptions, so damaging in their consequences."

-- snip --

Although the hawks won the battle in 1968, they would in short order lose the war, as a new generation of Democrats inspired by the campaign -- and its model of grass-roots anti-war activism -- would re-shape the party's views on foreign policy. In 1972, they nominated the dovish McGovern, who was as suspicious of American power as McCarthy. In 1977, a Democratic president -- Jimmy Carter -- focused on human rights as an overarching national security priority would take office; in the nearly two decades that followed the doves would maintain a tight hold on the foreign policy direction of the party, opposing the arms build up of the 1980s and the proxy wars fought by the Reagan administration in Central America. Their influence was so pervasive that the party's remaining hawkish wing would abandon the Democrats for Reagan's GOP.

-- snip --

The liberal wing of the party still views Democratic elites and party leaders who supported the war in Iraq with contempt and suspicion (not unrightfully so). For many, it was the ultimate betrayal of the movement that emerged out of the tumult of 1968 and re-opened a wound first gashed by McCarthy in that Senate Caucus Room, 44 years ago. To this day, Democrats continue to be a party defined at its grassroots by reluctance to use military force, support for multilateral institutions, and opposition to the more aggressive elements of the war on terror. There is perhaps no policy issue where the divide between party and president is more acute -- from civil liberties to the war in Afghanistan.

-- snip --

[T]he foreign policy shift that began in 1968 has consistently provided a political opening of its own for Republicans. It became an opportunity to tar Democrats with the broad brush of weakness and fecklessness on national security (a recurrent GOP political attack since the "Who Lost China" debate of the 1950s). This week came word that the Obama administration is reluctant to apologize for a recent cross-border raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, for fear of being portrayed by Republican presidential contenders as soft.

Even today, when Democrats debate national security -- torn between anti-war liberals and hawkish centrists, and reluctant to be cast as wimps and weaklings by Republicans -- they are arguing on a battlefield seeded by Gene McCarthy.


Ten years before Gene, that other Senator McCarthy, the one from Wisconsin, had already caused a shift in public perception about the Democrats and foreign policy. Historian Arthur Herman, my former professor, showed in his re-examination of Joseph McCarthy how the McCarthy era realigned working class, Catholic, and ‘ethnic’ (which in the 1950s meant southern or eastern European) voters from the Democrats to the Republicans over the issue of communism.

Fun fact: that other McCarthy was a great friend and political ally of the Kennedy family. Old Joe Kennedy contributed to McCarthy's campaigns, and frequently invited him to family gatherings at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. McCarthy was particularly close to Robert Kennedy, becoming godfather to his first child and hiring him as an assistant counsel for his Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (January 1953 to August 1953, after which Robert became chief counsel to the minority side until January 1955).


















Have you ever seen the two of them together in a photo before? Probably not. The fact that the Kennedy-McCarthy political alliance has dropped down the memory hole of American politics is itself an indicator of how completely Democrats have denied their hawkish past.

FYI, you can browse through the official records of the McCarthy Committee's 1953-54 hearings here, courtesy of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee. There is so much misconception and convenient mis-remembering about those hearings that going to original sources is necessary.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post TSB! gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Can you name the most powerful/feared "mafia"? It is the key to why nothing can be done to stop the drug cartels/human slavery
etc. and why all that money returns thru the big banks is perfectly legal! gwb here is clue

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/feds-york-mafia-russian-mob-joined-lure-women-strippers-arranged-sham-marriages-article-1.984503

TSB said...

This was my favorite part: "Asked why the clubs needed to bring strippers from overseas, Hayes said, “Based on what we’ve learned, they were particularly marketable.""

Having spent some time in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, I fully agree that young Slavic women are particularly marketable.

But this is old news. Tony Soprano had plenty of Russian strippers at the Bada-Bing.

Anonymous said...

As usual TSB, you are way ahead of me with your Tony Soprano stuff, but I have been reading an 11 yr old book to catch up!
http://www.amazon.com/Red-Mafiya-Russian-Invaded-America/dp/0316294748 Check out the book description to see what they had already accomplished! In 1997 they had a reg. wkly 767 flight (350) which carried up to $1 billion in fresh $100.00 bills to Russian banks. Nobody messes with these guys! They have those Cheetah's all over the US. Look how long it took make an arrest. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Unfortunately Robert I Friedman died 2 yrs after this great book came out. (natural causes though!) gwb

http://www.villagevoice.com/2002-07-09/news/inconvenient-truth/1/

Anonymous said...

TSB: I enjoyed reading about Herman Arthur and will look at the samples of his books on Ghandi, Decline and Scots. And were there any greater Dem Hawks than "Scoop"Jackson and "Maggi" Magnusen? gwb

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_RQ-170_Sentinel

Iran says they now have one of these. Same type used over Abbotabad, based in Kandahar. I wonder if they have figured out how to disable these puppies? They could probably pay Karzai off and truck it over to Pakistan.. or better just fly it to China! gwb

TSB said...

GWB, on Arthur Herman, his first book - The Idea of Decline in Western History - is one of the 4 or 5 core texts that make up my own worldview. He wrote it while teaching a seminar on political and literary Utopias in Western thought, which gave me a whole new way to think about culture.

Federale said...

I think it started alot sooner, like when the Alger Hiss wing of the Party decided that resisting Communism was an electorial issue, not an issue of principle.

Johnson's involvement in Vietnam was only because of his fears of accusations of losing Vietnam, as Truman lost China.

And remember that the Truman Admininstration deeped six the Amerasia criminal prosecution of State Department communists.

Anonymous said...

TSB, I found the Churchill-Ghandi sample to be a really good read and also it's the one they have at the library! Thanks! Did you read that one? gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: I hate to bring this up but it looks like we a new nominee for influence peddler of the year.. Newt,of course has the inside track but watch out for "THE COMEBACK KID! and his little buddy Tony Soprano! gwb
http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=47938

TSB said...

Federale,

I think almost all government agencies and senior officials tolerated or ignored both domestic communists and the USSR in the 1930s and 40s. They didn't think they could explain to the average voter why we ought to turn a blind eye to espionage by our "wartime allies," but that was the sophisticated attitude. That didn't change until 1949 (the first Soviet nuke) and 1950 (the Korean War).

The Truman Administration was massively embarrassed by how much had been ignored previously, and got politically defensive with McCarthyism. Truman had not been briefed on Venona even when he was President (!) and, if he had been, he might have decided differently about espionage investigations.

It was a different time. The depression and the 1930s left such a deep impact that many Americans in the 1940s were actually convinced communism was the wave of the future. Even Whittaker Chambers thought that he was leaving the winning side of history for the losing side when he left the party and informed on his GRU espionage ring.

TSB said...

GWB,

I haven't read that one, but I wonder if he goes into the strange relationship Nehru had with Mountbatten and Mountbatten's wife in the last days of the Empire?

Anonymous said...

I'm new to all of these characters TSB and he does a great job of developing their relationships to events. That Clive guy reminds me of the Red Mafya..lowly clerk tries to kill himself x2, discovers extortion by bullet=take what you want, then when totally rich succeeds in blowing his brains out! gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: German Intelligence is "shocked" to find Karzai wants to do away with elections til 2024: not a peep from Hague, Clinton or Obama. Putin and Mayor Bloomberg applaud the move! gwb

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/revealed-karzais-secret-plans-to-cling-on-to-power-in-afghanistan-6272835.html

TSB said...

I don't understand why Karzai wants to hang on as President of Afghanistan. What's the attraction? No matter how long he stays in power, he's still just the President of Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Cmon TSB! He's a "Pushtun Patriot"!
And when Ron Paul wins there will be probably be a state dinner for him to celebrate the end of the war and his Nobel Peace Prize! gwb