From firstname.lastname@example.org Sun Oct 22 12:51:09 2000
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 22:53:53 -0500 (CDT)
From: MichaelP <email@example.com>
Subject: Foreign Policy: Gore & Lieberman Quick on the Trigger
Quick on the Trigger On Foreign Policy, It's No Easy Matter To Make
A "Lesser Of Two Evils" Argument For The Gore-Lieberman Ticket
By William D. Hartung, in The Progressive,
21 October 2000
Liberal columnists such as Anthony Lewis of The New York Times,
E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, and Hendrik Hertzberg of The
New Yorker have done contortions to demonstrate that yes, Virginia,
there are significant differences between the Democratic and
Republican Parties. They then argue that Ralph Nader, honorable
man though he may be, should put aside his quixotic quest for the
Presidency before he risks throwing the election to George W. Bush.
But in the field that I know best--U.S. foreign and military
policy--it's no easy matter to make a "lesser of two evils" argument
for the Gore-Lieberman ticket.
On many of the issues that progressives care about most--curbing
pro-corporate trade agreements, stopping the flow of U.S. arms and
training to corrupt and abusive regimes in Colombia and Indonesia,
ending the deadly civilian sanctions against Iraq, reducing the
nation's grotesque $311 billion military budget--the differences
between the standard-bearers of the two major parties range from
subtle to nonexistent.
Peace Action, the nation's largest grassroots peace group, highlights
six issues in its latest Presidential voter guide. On five of these,
Gore and Bush agree: "Increase Pentagon spending" (Yes), "Spend
$60 billion or more on 'Star Wars' anti-missile system" (Yes),
"Give aid to Colombian army guilty of human rights violations"
(Yes), "End sanctions on food and medicine to civilians in Iraq"
(No), and "Require labor rights and environmental protections in
all trade agreements" (No). Gore's stances are decidedly against
the positions of most progressive organizations and activists. On
only one issue, "Support treaty to ban nuclear testing," is Gore
in favor and Bush opposed. By contrast, Green Party candidate Ralph
Nader supports the progressive position on all six of the issues
identified by Peace Action.
On missile defense, there may be another important difference
emerging. The Clinton-Gore Administration's recent decision to
put its provocative National Missile Defense program on hold--enunciated
by the President in a September 1 address to incoming students at
Georgetown University and heartily seconded by Vice President
Gore--opens at least the possibility that a Gore-Lieberman
Administration could get back on track toward implementing additional
post-Cold War nuclear arms reductions. Compared with George W.
Bush's pledge to move full speed ahead with a multitiered, open-ended
missile defense plan that could be even more costly and provocative
than Ronald Reagan's original Star Wars vision, Gore's position
looks pretty damned good.
For some, this may be enough to cast their lot with the Democratic
ticket. But the rest of us may want to take a closer look at the
records of Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman before we make up our minds.
The Presidential ticket of Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman represents
the ascendancy of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a
conservative current within the Democratic Party that helped catapult
Bill Clinton and Al Gore onto the national scene with a
corporate-friendly, pro-military, fiscally conservative agenda that
was designed to put the party's allegedly ultra-liberal, "McGovernite"
past behind it (see John Nichols's story, "Behind the DLC Takeover,"
in the October issue of The Progressive). While the DLC virtually
gave birth to Al Gore as a Presidential candidate, it has also been
central to the rise of Lieberman, who has served as the organization's
chairman for the past five years.
It was Al Gore who first tested the DLC's pro-military themes in
his hapless Presidential campaign of 1988, when he was one of a
cast of relatively unknown and inexperienced Democratic Presidential
contenders referred to derisively by some commentators as the "seven
dwarfs." I remember scratching my head when I attended the Presidential
debate held at Manhattan's Javits Convention Center in the spring
of that year and learned that one of Gore's distinguishing
characteristics was that he was the only Democratic candidate who
had endorsed Ronald Reagan's 1983 invasion of Grenada--that great
and glorious victory in which it was decisively proven that U.S.
Marines in helicopter gunships are mightier than Cuban construction
workers armed with shovels.
While the Grenada case was an extreme example of Gore's eagerness
to endorse the use of military force as a way of demonstrating that
he was a "different kind of Democrat," it is consistent with many
of the positions he has taken since that time. In an April 1988
speech to the New York Democratic Committee, Gore suggested that
"because of their dovish foreign policy views, the nomination of
Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis or the Reverend Jesse
Jackson would gravely jeopardize Democratic chances of regaining
the White House," according to Robert Shogan of the Los Angeles
Times. Among the issues Gore chastised his Democratic rivals for
were their failure to endorse Jimmy Carter's decision to put
nuclear-armed Pershing missiles in Germany to reduce our mythical
"window of vulnerability" to nuclear attack by Moscow and their
unwillingness to support Ronald Reagan's decision to provide U.S.
military escorts to Kuwaiti tankers moving through the Persian
Gore was an early and consistent supporter of using force in the
Persian Gulf. In 1991, he and Lieberman were two of only ten
Democrats in the Senate to vote for the resolution authorizing the
air war against Iraq. Lieberman also called for the use of U.S.
ground troops to drive Saddam Hussein from power, despite the fact
that such a move would have violated the U.N. resolution that had
authorized U.S. intervention in the conflict.
Lest we think his views have mellowed with age and experience, Gore
has a section on his campaign web site entitled "Gore Backed Use
of Military Force When Necessary to Protect U.S. Interests and
Values," in which he proudly proclaims that he "argued strongly
for punitive air strikes against the Serbs," "supported air strikes
and continuous patrolling of the no-fly zone to contain Saddam
Hussein," and "supported military retaliation against Osama Bin
Laden for terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies in East Africa."
(This retaliation included the bombing of a building in the Sudan
that was later determined to be a pharmaceutical factory with no
documented connection to Bin Laden.)
Look for a Gore and Lieberman Administration to be quick on the
trigger when it comes to launching air strikes on Washington's
designated enemies of the moment. In this, they would continue the
tradition of William Jefferson Clinton, who has used force overseas
more often than any U.S. President of the past two decades,
including Ronald Reagan.
And if you are hoping that Gore and Lieberman might deliver a peace
dividend, think again. During the Presidential debate in Boston on
October 3, Gore proudly proclaimed that his ten-year Pentagon budget
has "set aside more than twice as much" as George W.'s for upgrading
the military. Sadly for progressives, Gore's boast is true: He
proposes to add $10 billion per year to the Pentagon budget over
the next decade, while Bush plans an increase of "only" $4.5 billion
per year. Gore also went out of his way to criticize Bush for
"skipping the next generation of weapons," he said. "I think that's
a big mistake because I think we have to stay at the cutting edge."
That means Gore is in favor of funding costly, multibillion dollar
weapons systems (for example, the F-22 or the Joint Strike Fighter)
to replace current systems that are already perfectly capable of
defending the United States under all imaginable circumstances. It
looks like the Pentagon and the weapons makers can break out the
champagne regardless of who wins in November.
The people of Iraq, however, would have nothing to celebrate. Gore
and Lieberman are not likely to have much sympathy for calls to
end civilian sanctions on Iraq, despite strong evidence that ten
years of sanctions have contributed to the unnecessary deaths of
one million Iraqi civilians, including the deaths of 4,500 children
per month. Apparently, Gore and Lieberman's concern about the
negative impact of the violent words and images visited upon American
children by the entertainment industry does not translate into
sympathy for the deadly impact U.S.-led sanctions have had on Iraqi
children. In Al and Joe's moral universe, all children are decidedly
not created equal.
The Clinton-Gore policy "does not aim to find an alternative to
Hussein or to arouse a democratic fervor in the people, but rather
to continue the status quo, and in the process, test a few weapons
to see how well they work, so they can be marketed to other
countries," says Representative Cynthia McKinney, Democrat of
Georgia. "Unfortunately, innocent women and children are being
killed along the way."
On the issue of U.S.-Israeli relations, Al Gore is likely to be
extremely reluctant to press Tel Aviv to rein in its military and
police forces or to compromise on sensitive issues such as the
status of Jerusalem. Gore's longtime foreign policy adviser, Leon
Fuerth, is the ultimate hardliner on Mideast affairs. When Gore
ran for President in 1988, it was Fuerth who convinced him to
criticize Ronald Reagan from the right, slamming the Republican
Administration for pressing then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir to trade land for peace. To make matters worse, one of Gore's
current confidants on Mideast policy is New Republic editor-in-chief
Martin Peretz. As Edward W. Said has aptly noted of Peretz, "No
one in American journalism is a more unabashed hater and despiser
of Arabs and Muslims, none more insulting, none more disparaging,
none more reckless and ignorant."
Gore and Lieberman can also be expected to block efforts at lifting
the forty-year-old economic embargo against Cuba. As Vice President,
Al Gore has carefully distanced himself from the Clinton Administration's
modest steps toward relaxing economic and travel restrictions
between the United States and Cuba. On October 4, The New York
Times asked Gore, "Would you press for the lifting of sanctions?"
Gore answered: "No, no, I'm a hardliner on Castro." He made that
clear when he contradicted the U.S. Justice Department's position
that Elian Gonzalez's father--not the rightwing Cuban American
National Foundation and not the child's Miami-based cousins--should
decide where the boy would live. There is no rational explanation
for Gore's embarrassing views on Cuba other than his desire to
pander to conservative Cuban exiles in Miami in the hopes of stealing
a few critical votes from the Republicans in Florida come November.
Meanwhile, Gore's running mate has an unblemished record of support
for sustaining a tough embargo on Cuba. Lieberman's conservative
stance on this issue dates back to his decision to embrace the
Cuban American National Foundation and its late founder, Jorge Mas
Canosa, during his first run for the Senate against Republican
moderate Lowell Weicker in 1988. In fact, Republican Vice Presidential
candidate Dick Cheney has a far more progressive stance on the Cuba
embargo than Lieberman does. During an appearance on Meet the
Press earlier this year, Cheney criticized the Helms-Burton Act.
"Unilateral sanctions almost never work," Cheney said. "They are
usually politically motivated, responding to a domestic constituency."
Both Gore and Lieberman are major league practitioners of the art
of pork barrel politics, which they have pursued with special zeal
in order to protect the interests of major weapons contractors.
Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. companies have seized a dominant
position in the global arms market, controlling anywhere from
one-third to one-half of all international arms sales in any given
year. In 1999, the last year for which full statistics are available,
the Congressional Research Service estimates that the United States
accounted for 54 percent of global weapons deliveries, more than
all the other suppliers in the world combined. Clinton and Gore
have helped promote the U.S. weapons industry at every turn,
following the credo enunciated by the late Commerce Secretary Ron
Brown at the 1993 Paris Air Show that "not only will we help you
promote your products in the world market, but we will help you
close the deal."
Gore has actively involved himself in jawboning Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates to buy American weaponry. He has paid
special attention to helping Lockheed Martin "close the deal" on
multibillion dollar sales of eighty top-of-the-line F-16 fighter
planes to the United Arab Emirates that will contain more advanced
radar systems than those utilized on the U.S. Air Force's own
versions of the aircraft. Clinton and Gore's service to the arms
industry has not gone unrewarded: Bernard Schwartz, a former
Lockheed Martin board member and the head of Loral Space and
Communications, gave $601,000 in soft money to Democratic committees
in the run-up to the 1996 Presidential election, and he has nearly
doubled that sum this time around, with $1.1 million in contributions
to Democratic committees in the 1997-2000 time frame.
As for Lieberman, he has done what every Connecticut Senator worth
his salt has done for at least two generations: gone to bat for
the state's arms manufacturers at every opportunity. He has resisted
efforts by his Democratic colleagues to cut funds for Lockheed
Martin's F-22 combat aircraft, which at $200 million per copy is
the most expensive fighter plane ever built. The engines for the
aircraft are made in Hartford by the Pratt & Whitney division of
United Technologies. And he joined his home state colleague
Christopher Dodd in a shameless effort to get more Blackhawk
helicopters--built in Connecticut by United Technologies' Sikorsky
unit--included in the Clinton Administration's $1.3 billion aid
package for Colombia instead of the cheaper Huey II, built in Texas
by Textron Bell. In a June 21 speech on the floor of the Senate,
Lieberman openly shilled for Sikorsky, arguing that "the Blackhawks
are fast, they have tremendous capacity, and they are well suited
for long-range operations. . . . While the Huey II is an improvement
over the 1960s, it does not have the same performance capabilities,
including range, speed, lift, or survivability, at any altitude as
does the Blackhawk."
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Lieberman received
$33,000 in campaign contributions from United Technologies and its
employees in the most recent election cycle.
The one area where the subtle rhetorical differences between Gore
and Bush could develop into strong, clear policy differences is in
nuclear arms control. In a statement supporting Clinton's decision
to put missile defense on hold, Gore asserted: "As President, I
would oppose the kinds of missile defenses that would unnecessarily
upset strategic stability and threaten to open the gates for a
renewed arms race with Russia and a new arms race with China,
including both offensive and defensive weapons." But in typical
Clinton fashion, Gore left open the prospect for deploying some
kind of system.
Still, Gore's recognition that pushing full speed ahead on National
Missile Defense could spark a new nuclear arms race indicates that
his thinking is light years ahead of Bush's on this issue (although
it must be noted that Lieberman was one of a handful of early
Democratic supporters of Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran's
"Defend America Act," a jingoistic, pro-National Missile Defense
proposal). To their credit, both Gore and Lieberman support the
Comprehensive Test Ban, an important next step in the global nuclear
arms control regime, while Bush is adamantly opposed to any such
The Clinton-Gore Administration is the only Administration since
the Eisenhower era that has not negotiated a single significant
nuclear arms control agreement. Indeed, virtually all of the progress
in nuclear arms reductions achieved during the 1990s was pursuant
to agreements reached under the Administrations of Ronald Reagan
and George Bush. Gore deserves some credit for working closely with
Russia to implement the reductions in nuclear arsenals that were
agreed to under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and more
importantly, for persuading Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to
abandon their holdings of nuclear weapons after the break-up of
the Soviet Union. And the Clinton-Gore Administration's on-again,
off-again negotiations with North Korea over capping its nuclear
weapons and ballistic missile programs are starting to bear fruit.
But before we get too carried away with the superiority of the
probable Gore-Lieberman positions on nuclear weapons issues, it
should be noted that the Clinton-Gore vision of a "limited" National
Missile Defense system is inherently flawed in its own right. Thanks
to intrepid investigative research by The Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists, we now know that Clinton's foreign policymakers tried
to reassure their Russian counterparts that a limited missile
defense system wouldn't threaten Moscow's nuclear deterrent by
telling the Russians simply to keep 1,000 or 2,000 nuclear warheads
operative and on high-alert status at all times. That shows how
far Clinton and Gore are from taking a step toward getting rid of
nuclear weapons once and for all. Their missile defense plan--which
is still a very real possibility, pending Russian approval--would
simply reinforce the notion that the two erstwhile Cold War
adversaries should maintain large arsenals of nuclear overkill
indefinitely. And by retaining hair-trigger alert status, Clinton
and Gore increase the risk of a rash decision that leads to nuclear
war or an accidental launch based on a computer foul-up or human
Whether Gore builds on the positive elements of his record on arms
control or falls back into playing politics with nuclear issues in
an effort to show he's "tougher" than Republicans will depend on
how much pressure a Gore-Lieberman Administration receives from
the public and arms control advocates in Congress.
At least as important as what happens in the voting booth in November
will be what progressives and liberals do in the event that Gore
and Lieberman get elected. Will the Democratic base give them the
benefit of the doubt, as happened for much of the Clinton-Gore
term, or will progressives join with sympathetic members of Congress
to vigorously and publicly oppose the most noxious elements of the
Gore-Lieberman foreign policy agenda?
Most important of all will be the question of whether independent
movements for peace and social justice, such as the growing coalition
against pro-corporate globalization schemes, can alter the political
climate of the country to the point where the two major parties
will have no choice but to address the deeper issues that are
largely being ignored in the current Presidential campaign.
As you may recall, Clinton and Gore's unofficial theme song was
Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." This time
around, a far better theme song for progressives would be The Who's
"Won't Get Fooled Again."
*William D. Hartung is the President's Fellow at the World Policy
Institute at the New School of Social Research and the military
affairs adviser to Foreign Policy in Focus, a joint project of the
Interhemispheric Resource Center and the Institute for Policy