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.

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)

Unlike the Europeanists, the Liberal Humanitarians have turned hawk for moral reasons. These folks have opposed every American military operation from Grenada to the Gulf War. Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota is a pre-eminent Liberal Humanitarian. The Democratic senator opposed the Gulf War because Saddam Hussein is no Hitler, and the control of Kuwaiti oil was not a cause worth dying for. But Wellstone favors Kosovo intervention to stop the "Holocaust-like atrocities" occurring there.

The Liberal Humanitarians are a product of the post-Cold War peace. During the Cold War, liberals shunned military intervention--even humanitarian military intervention--because such adventurism could provoke conflict with the Soviets and tended to buttress thuggish right-wingers. The end of the Cold War has freed them to pursue humanitarian ends: The United States now can be the world's policeman, so it should be.

(A special place in the Liberal Humanitarian pantheon belongs to New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis. Click to read why.)

3. The Third Worlders

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is the principal of this small group. Jackson opposed the Gulf War but has since favored U.S. intervention in Haiti, Somalia, and Bosnia. The Third Worlders share most of the concerns of the Liberal Humanitarians but are particularly hawkish about helping groups traditionally shunned by the West, notably Africans and Muslims. In this case, Jackson avidly sides with the underdog Muslim Kosovars.

4. The Credibility Fanatics

Henry Kissinger is the intellectual leader of the Credibility Fanatics. They are conservatives who fundamentally detest U.S. involvement in Kosovo and have little interest in the morality of the issue. They don't believe Kosovo is important enough to fight for, they wish we had never gone to Rambouillet, and they think it will be a horrible, ugly conflict. But while their Kosovo instincts are dovish, they are Realhawks (pronounced "ray-all"): Now that the president has committed U.S. forces, we must win. If we don't, the credibility of NATO and the United States will be shattered. Unsurprisingly, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the Senate's leading veterans, are Credibility Fanatics.

5. Caspar Weinberger

Weinberger, a kind of conservative counterpart to the Europeanists, deserves his own category. His Weinberger Doctrine, which precludes U.S. military action except in absolutely vital cases of national security, would seem to bar any Kosovo intervention. But Weinberger has declared that the Balkans are a vital national interest because they "were at the heart of two world wars." Hence the United States should intervene--and with overwhelming force.

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Hawks Into Doves

1. The Neo-Isolationists

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.

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

The rest of the left may have turned hawk on Kosovo, but a few die-hard doves remain. TheNation, for example, has written extensively against the war. A recent cover story argued that the bombing was dubious because a) the United States was just as brutal in Vietnam as the Serbs are now; b) the United States ignores similarly horrific ethnic cleansings in Turkey, Rwanda, etc.; and c) U.S. policy is being driven by corporate interests. It's reassuring to know that some things, indeed, never change.