Hawkish Doves, Dovish Hawks

Politics and policy.
April 17 1999 3:30 AM

Hawkish Doves, Dovish Hawks

The confusing taxonomy of Kosovo.

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(Continued from Page 2)

Many Republican senators belong in this category, including Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and Deputy Majority Leader Don Nickles of Oklahoma. During the Cold War, these conservatives were hawks, believing the United States should intervene promiscuously to reverse communism (Krauthammer's "Reagan Doctrine"). Now that there's no Evil Empire, they believe the United States shouldn't intervene militarily unless national security is really at stake.

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The Neos cite three reasons for their Kosovo dovishness. First, Kosovo is not a vital American interest: It has no commercial or strategic value. Second, unlike Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the Serbian rout of Kosovo is a civil war, and the United States should not involve itself in civil wars. We leave sovereign nations alone. Third, and more preposterously, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma claims that interceding on behalf of Kosovars demonstrates a "European-American" bias in American foreign policy. Why don't we help the Rwandans and the Sudanese? (Krauthammer fits in the neo-isolationist category, but not perfectly. Click for why.)

The Neo-Isolationists are not entirely insincere: They really do believe Kosovo is too irrelevant to national security to risk American lives. But there's also another major reason they have turned dovish: Democrat Bill Clinton is president, and they side against him reflexively.

2. The Paleo-Isolationists (a k a Turtledoves)

They are the mirror image of the Liberal Humanitarians. Pat Buchanan is their champion. Like the Neos, they are Cold War burnouts. They were ferocious Cold Warriors, but they favored military action only to defeat the communist menace, not for any greater moral purpose. Now that there is no menace, they have withdrawn into their shells. The Paleos believe almost nothing justifies intervention these days. Buchanan opposed the Gulf War on the grounds that it was irrelevant to America's vital interests. (Any oil price increase caused by Iraq's takeover, he claimed, would help the United States by hurting Europe and Japan.) If the invasion of Kuwait didn't qualify as a vital interest, then a civil war in Kosovo certainly doesn't. Unlike the Neos, the Paleos are not against the Kosovo bombing for partisan reasons: They would oppose U.S. involvement even if a Republican were president.

3. The Israel Analogists

This is less a group than an undercurrent. No one has explicitly adopted this position: The closest there is to an advocate is New YorkTimes columnist A.M. Rosenthal. Palestinian advocates have exploited the Kosovo war by likening Serbian viciousness against Kosovars to Israeli cruelty toward Palestinians. The Israel Analogists would turn that comparison around. Rosenthal, for instance, opposes the Kosovo bombing partly because the Serbian army and the Kosovo Liberation Army are morally equivalent in their brutishness. Just as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is more complicated than the Palestinian cartoon of it, so too the Serbian-Kosovar war is subtler than it seems. Rosenthal even tacitly compares Serbs to Israelis: "Serbs are as likely to give up Kosovo willingly because the Albanians want it as Israelis are to give up Jerusalem because the Arabs want it." (The subtext: Serbia has as much right to Kosovo as Israel does to Jerusalem--namely, a lot.)

Not all hawks and doves have changed places. Consider:

1. The Conservative Moralists

This group includes Bill Kristol and his Weekly Standard, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and other neoconservatives. These folks are Reaganites who did not give up Reagan's imperial, moralistic vision when the Cold War ended. They don't believe communism's defeat ended America's global obligations: The United States should still strike boldly against authoritarian oppressors. The Conservative Moralists are less concerned with the national interest than with what's right. The Standard, for example, editorializes that Republicans should support Kosovo action unless they want to become "the party of callous indifference to human suffering."

2. The Old-School Lefties

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