Senator Chafee’s Foreign Policy Ideology
Once again, Senator Chafee has exhibited his prediliction to blame President Bush. (But thanks for the support Mrs. Bush!). I heard this on Rush Limbaugh yesterday, and now the transcript is up. Sen. Chafee was interviewed by NBC’s David Gregory about the conflict going on in Lebanon and Israel.
Gregory says, “In effect the United States wants to allow Israel to have more time to complete what they see as a vital operation. Is that how you see it, Senator Chafee? Is that an important way and the right way to proceed?”
CHAFEE: I disagree with the president on the root cause of what’s occurring here. I see the root cause of what’s occurring in the failure of the road map. And the president talked the last four years about “a viable, contiguous Palestinian state living side by side with Israel,” and the road map was supposed to lead in that direction. And so many missed opportunities I see. The summer of 2003 when we had a great opportunity to push the ceasefire that occurred then, in the summer of 2001. Then with the death of Yasser Arafat and the election, overwhelming majority of Palestinians voting for Abu Mazen on a platform of peace. These were opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of.
RUSH: And the next question is: “Do you think that the US is wrong at this pointed to allow Israel to steno?”
CHAFEE: I think there should be a ceasefire and I disagree with the administration on that. I think immediate ceasefire and as this spreads, has the danger of going throughout the Muslim world, uh — and that’s from Morocco to Indonesia, having this unrest spread in the Muslim world…
RUSH: Where’s this guy been? We need a ceasefire? All this is Bush’s fault? He needs to be defeated. It’s about time we get rid of these — whatever you want to characterize Linc Chafee as being — out of the Senate. This is absurd. It’s Bush’s fault! Bush missed the opportunities? There needs to be a ceasefire? All a ceasefire is is a period of time for the bad guys to arm up again and come back with even bigger and stronger and more weapons than they were using before the first time. It’s like Bolton said: Ceasefire with terrorists? How in the world do you negotiate that? You don’t! All the while, by the way, George Bush is helping Linc Chafee in his reelection effort just as he helped Arlen Specter. But Chafee’s fallen five points behind in Rhode Island, and feels he has to come out and bite the hand that feeds him in order to boost his poll numbers up. This is not exactly the display of the execution of core principles.
Actually, I’d disagree with Rush on that last bit. This is exactly “the display of the execution of core principles” on the part of Senator Chafee (to be fair, I believe Rush was referring to the national GOP). Senator Chafee apparently believes that terrorist organizations can be counted on to engage in good faith diplomacy and lumps them in with regular nation-states to boot (something that is becoming all too common). One of Senator Chafee’s core principles is a belief in the power of the peace process even when it is shown to be worthless thanks to the intransigence of some of its participants (the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah….Syria). To Senator Chafee, such faithlessness on the part of Hamas or Hezbolla is not to be blamed: the real culprit is the foreign policy failure of the Bush Administration. Thus, Senator Chafee’s first inclination is to always blame–or doubt (Afghanistan)–American actions. Yes, sometimes he can be convinced to change his mind (like after a trip to Iraq), but he usually ends up reverting to his first inclination.
The dark spectre of Vietnam lays at the heart of Senator Chafee’s foreign policy ideology. He has compared Iraq to Vietnam, telling Dan Yorke that we’re in “another Vietnam” and that Iraq is a “quagmire.” During a budget debate, he stated: “There are a lot of similarities between the Great Society and war in Vietnam, and the tax cuts and war in Iraq….We are doing it all over again.”
These are only a couple anecdotal clues, but I think that they indicate that Senator Chafee has not, in fact, gotten over Vietnam. His entire frame of reference for the contemporary intersection of foreign policy and international conflict has been forever shaped by his personal experiences–and the opinions they helped to form–35 years ago during the Vietnam War. He seems unable to come to grips with the fact that not every war is “another Vietnam,” nor, for that matter, is every war time administration “just like LBJ’s.”
Senator Chafee’s foreign policy ideology is a combination of a Vietnam-shaped predisposition to blame America first and an internationalist belief in a peace process that boils down to “process for process’ sake.” The result is that Senator Chafee never seems to blame those who are truly at fault for a breakdown in peace.