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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Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, you may remember, opposed the Gulf War on the grounds that Iraq's conquest of Kuwait was just one "nasty little country invad[ing] a littler, but just as nasty, country." So what does Sen. Moynihan think of American intervention to stop nasty little Yugoslavia's invasion of littler, but almost as nasty, Kosovo? He's a hawk.

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Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer declared before the Gulf War, "If a small, heavily militarized regime can stand up to a global blockade [and] the opprobrium of the entire world ... and still emerge intact and in possession of the fruits of its aggression, the message to every other potential aggressor and victim will be clear: There are no rules in the post-Cold War world."

So what's Krauthammer's view of the small, heavily militarized Yugoslav regime that is standing up to a global blockade and the opprobrium of the entire world? He would leave Yugoslavia intact and in possession of the fruits of its aggression. He's a Kosovo dove.

Kosovo is performing a zoological alchemy on America's foreign policy leaders. Hawks have mysteriously become doves, doves have inexplicably become hawks. Kosovo has upset the traditional taxonomy and replaced it with what appears to be chaos.

But it's not chaos. Here's who is where on Kosovo, and how they got there.

David Plotz David Plotz

David Plotz is the editor of Slate. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.

Doves Into Hawks

1. The Europeanists

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., is the stellar example of this category, which includes other Democratic legislators who opposed the Gulf War. The Europeanists are pragmatic rather than moralistic about Kosovo. Biden opposed intervention in Somalia, Haiti, Lebanon, and Kuwait. But he's hawkish on Kosovo because it's in Europe, and Europe, unlike the Persian Gulf and East Africa, is a vital American interest. America, Biden likes to say, is a "European power." (The Europeanists are also NATOists. They say NATO will be ruined if it doesn't stop Milosevic, so the United States must support the alliance.)

The Europeanists' claims are somewhat disingenuous: It's hard to argue that benighted, bankrupt Kosovo is a more vital American interest than oil-rich, centrally located Kuwait. So there is another, unspoken, reason why the Europeanists favor intervention: a Democratic president.

2. The Liberal Humanitarians (a k a Red-Tailed Hawks)