The New Hawks
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The most astonishing feature of the latest Democratic debate, at least in our view, is the glimpse it provides of what might be called the new hawks. These would be the Democrats who are preening with outrage over President Trump’s betrayal of the gallant Kurds. And his ordering American GIs in northern Syria to stand aside for the Turks. Surely one of them, we thought, would declare for going on the offensive.
Feature, though, what happened when Anderson Cooper of CNN turned to foreign policy and asked Vice President Biden whether he would send troops back in “to prevent an ISIS resurgence and protect our Kurdish allies?” Mr. Biden averred that what Mr. Trump did was “the most shameful thing that any president has done in modern history — excuse me, in terms of foreign policy.”
Mr. Biden didn’t, though, say he’d send our troops back in — only that he’d be “making it real clear to Assad that, in fact, where he’s going to have a problem — because Turkey is the real problem here.” When pressed, he said he’d use air cover. No follow-up about his debate in 2008, when Mr. Biden was so dovish on Iraq that Governor Palin observed he was waving “the white flag of surrender.”
Then came Congresswoman Gabbard, an Army National Guard veteran of Iraq. She reckoned the “slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey” is not a consequence of our retreat but of the “regime change war that we’ve been waging in Syria.” The problem, in other words, is not, in her view, the doves but the hawks. So while President Trump may have “the blood of the Kurds on his hand,” so do many others.
Ms. Gabbard attacked the Times and CNN, then demanded of Senator Warren whether she would join “in calling for an end to this regime change war in Syria.” Mrs. Warren reacted by saying, “So, look, I think that we ought to get out of the Middle East. I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East.” She just wants to get out in “the smart way,” meaning, she suggested, through a “negotiated solution.”
Upon which, Mr. Cooper asked Senator Sanders whether Turkey is “still a U.S. ally?” Mr. Sanders practically tore up the North Atlantic Treaty right on the spot. “No, Turkey is not a U.S. ally when they invade another country and engage in mass slaughter,” said the Socialist of Vermont. He suggested that Mr. Trump has wrecked “our ability to do foreign policy, to do military policy.” No word about going back in.
Nor was that suggested by Mayor Buttigieg. He did offer that when we “abandon the international stage, when we think our only choices are between endless war or total isolation, the consequence is the disappearance of U.S. leadership.” So Mr. Cooper asked Senator Klobuchar whether Turkey should remain in NATO. “We need to work with our allies,” she said, adding: “Our president blew it, and now he’s too proud to say it.”
“What do we do now?” asked the Senator from the only state to vote against Reagan in 1984. “We continue that humanitarian aid, but then we work with our allies to say come back, Turkey, and stop this, because what Mayor Pete has just said is true.” So Anderson Cooper asked Senator Kamala Harris what she would do. She refused to answer the question, except to say, in a reference to Mr. Trump, “dude got to go.”
That was seconded, in so many words, by Secretary Julian Castro, though he called for stronger sanctions on Turkey than those Mr. Trump has unveiled. Senator Booker compared our Trump-era moral leadership to a “dumpster fire.” Upon which, Marc Lacey of the Times turned the floor back to Vice President Biden, who promised Americans that if Mr. Trump is re-elected “there will be no NATO.”
Brief, if vapid, flutters were given by Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who suggested the “power” of “inspiration,” and Tom Steyer, who said he would “absolutely” disclose what we know about the bank accounts of the Russ strongman, Vladimir Putin, and Andrew Yang, who complained we are decades behind on technology. To which Senator Klobuchar put in a plug for regulating ads on the social press.
It’s not our purpose here to defend President Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds or the retreat from Syria. It is, rather, simply to remark on the nature of the new hawks who are fluttering up on the Democratic hustings. They remind us of the famous line attributed to the Duke of Wellington. It may be apocryphal, but he is supposed to have said after reviewing a draft of new troops: “I don’t know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God, they terrify me.”