Michael Brendan Dougherty / The National Review & Jenna Amatulli / The Huffington Post – 2019-02-07 00:01:50
One Cheer for Tulsi
Perpetual war requires perpetual peace candidates
Michael Brendan Dougherty / The National Review
(February 5, 2019) — What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding? Elvis Costello’s bitter song by that name was on my mind while I listened to Tulsi Gabbard’s maiden campaign speech for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party over the weekend.
The social-democratic space on the left side of the Democratic field has been filling up with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And so it seemed prudent for Gabbard to distinguish herself as the peace candidate, the one woman of the anti-imperialist left. She promised to “end the regime-change wars that have taken far too many lives and undermined our security by strengthening terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda.” My first thought: good luck to her.
Close listeners of NR’s Editors podcast will note a developing running joke where Rich Lowry teases me for support of Gabbard. And in fact, I find I do have some reasons to cheer her candidacy.
First, she’s at least interesting. The rest of the Democrats will be accusing each other of deviationism over trivialities. Gabbard’s been accused of being a toady of Bashar al-Assad and a Hindu-nationalist fifth columnist. She also grew up in a socially conservative household and, as a very young woman, she participated in her activist father’s campaigns against the legal recognition of same-sex partnerships as marriage.
You can imagine how that’s going over among Democrats. But she’s also young and attractive. She’s a veteran of the Iraq war, and still serves in the Hawaii Army National Guard. And unlike Barack Obama, who basically appropriated his wife’s South-Side Chicago identity, Gabbard fully embraces her Hawaiian roots. If one made a word cloud of her first campaign speech, “Aloha” would outrank “love,” “sacrifice,” and even “neocon.”
In her campaign speech, Gabbard recalled the nuclear-weapons scare that sent her state into a panic last year, and she returned to the threat of nuclear annihilation several times. She denounced the emergence of a new Cold War.
This likely struck some as unbearably antique. But I happen to share her worry that we underestimate the chance of blundering into nuclear conflict. While I wouldn’t use the same language, I agree that the United States sometimes treats matters that are peripheral to its interests as urgent, solely because they are important to our rivals in Moscow.
Like Gabbard, Donald Trump campaigned with a promise to end “stupid wars” in order to spend at home. Such promises may strike most commentators as silly, but it reflects a very real small-r republican tradition in American life.
In one debate, Trump put it very bluntly. “We have done a tremendous disservice not only to the Middle East — we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity,” he said. “The people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away — and for what? It’s not like we had victory. It’s a mess.”
He was right. We helped install an Iran-friendly government that had so little purchase in the Sunni Triangle that ISIS radicals were able to run wild there. “Mess” is putting it lightly.
Has Trump followed through on his promise to end America’s wars in the Middle East? Not really. His drawdown in Syria is being re-jiggered and re-branded by the foreign-policy establishment as retrenchment in Iraq. The shameful US participation in Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemenâ€“a humanitarian disasterâ€“continues unabated. So there is room for a peace candidate.
She’s also willing to tilt against her party. She defended a generous vision of liberal religious pluralism and social respect when she went after a fellow Hawaii Democrat, Senator Mazie Hirono, for attacking federal-judiciary nominee Brian Buescher based solely on his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal Catholic charitable order.
Writing in The Hill, Gabbard said that while she opposed the nominee for other reasons, “I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers [his] Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus.”
This is good, and she seems to be paying a price for it as Hawaiian Democrats work up a primary challenger in her House district. It’s also not clear whether Democrats are angrier that Gabbard once had tea with Bashar al-Assad, or with Donald Trump when he was filling out his Cabinet picks.
As with her attitude toward Buescher, the usual differences between progressives and conservatives prevent me from ever supporting her for the office she seeks. And I’d caution that there are still differences between anti-interventionists on the Right and on the Left that are worth quarreling over.
Left and right anti-interventionists share a skepticism about America’s ability to change the behavior of our rivals. But for different reasons. Left-leaning anti-interventionists tend to be more suspicious of American power and intentions.
And they tend to exaggerate the virtues of America’s rivals, explaining away horrendous human-rights records as reactions to American imperialism. Or they engage in simple, morally inert whataboutism. Object to Putin’s actions in Ukraine, and they bring up theories of encirclement, or distract you with talk about US interventions in Haiti.
Right-wing anti-interventionists view the behavior of foreign regimes as the product of a set of geographic, historical, cultural, and political circumstances that US military power cannot alter. A conservative realist is more likely to despair of changing the Kremlin.
If we were similarly subjected to Russia’s geographic position, wedged between Germany, Turkey, China, and Japan, with the attendant history of invasions from the West and humiliations from the East, we’d be pretty awful too. If Putin were surrounded by two giant oceans, Canada, and Mexico, he could spend his time catching up on Fox News and Twitter, rather than organizing a rebellion in the Donbass.
These differences are meaningful. And they’ll lead to different judgments. Gabbard has denounced the State Department’s recognition of a new interim government in Venezuela.
I share her aversion to anything that could lead to another military conflict. But if the coordinated efforts of many governments can help Venezuelans throw out a socialist kleptocracy that long ago forfeited its democratic legitimacy, I’m all for it.
So on balance I give one, maybe one-and-half cheers to Tulsi Gabbard. Eisenhower ran as a peace candidate. Nixon ran to end the war. So long as the US is overstretched, it needs a candidate committed to peace. I’m glad someone stepped up on the other side.
Representative Tulsi Gabbard Says Syrian
Dictator Bashar Assad Isn’t Enemy Of US
The congresswoman and Democratic presidential contender
was engaged in a tense discussion on “Morning Joe”
Jenna Amatulli / The Huffington Post
(February 6, 2019) — When Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was pushed Wednesday about whether she thinks Bashar Assad is an enemy of the United States, she said the Syrian dictator is not.
On MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe,” she was asked outright if Assad is a foe of America.
“Assad is not the enemy of the United States,” Gabbard replied, “because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States.”
Correspondent Kasie Hunt pressed the congresswoman, who recently announced she’s running for president in 2020, about her January 2017 meeting with Assad during a trip to Syria shortly after Syrian government forces retook the rebel-held city of Aleppo. Gabbard had told CNN’s Jake Tapper last month that she doesn’t regret the controversial meeting. She reinforced that sentiment with Hunt.
While noting that the American mission in Syria is to defeat ISIS, Gabbard said, “Many troops I hear from express frustration at the fact that our country continues to wage senseless, costly regime-change wars followed by nation-building missions leading to situations like we see in Afghanistan.
So many examples of our troops being deployed, their lives put on the line, without understanding what the clear mission or objective is and how that mission actually serves the security of the American people and the United States.”
Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski then attempted to get Gabbard to clarify whether she thinks Assad is an “adversary” of the United States. The congresswoman evaded the question.
“We have to look to who poses a thread to the United States,” said Gabbard in one exchange with Scarborough, who argued that there are a lot of people who don’t pose a direct military threat to the US but are still adversaries.
Gabbard shot back that “you can describe it however you want to describe it.”
“My point is that whether it is Syria or any of these other countries, we need to look at how their interests are counter to or aligned with ours,” she said.
A puzzled Hunt then brought up that Assad seems interested in the “slaughter of his own people” and chemical weapons, asking Gabbard what she thinks about that.
“It’s important to talk about how our military is being used, what it is costing them, what it is costing the American people and whether or not those missions, those objectives, serve the security of the United States and the American people,” Gabbard said.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.