Peter Beinart, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is another (see the Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss) advocate for tying Obama to soft power. Beinart attacks those --as he puts it--driven by “fears of being called soft.” In Beinart’s opinion, Obama “won't lose because he looks weak. The greater danger is that he will change positions in a bid to look strong.”
Beinart, in the great tradition of Newsweek's Evan Thomas, seems to believe rewriting history is easy, because nobody knows it anymore. Here are some of Beinart’s questionable assertions:
Beinart says President Johnson mishandled Vietnam because he feared being “destroyed” as Democrats were in the early 1950s over the loss of China. He suggests Halberstam (Best and Brightest) believed “The mid-1960s were not the early 1950s. The Red Scare was over.” In fact, Johnson feared not McCarthyism (“the Red Scare”), but as Halberstam knew and wrote, the actual loss of Vietnam, which Johnson felt would ruin him politically as China’s loss ruined Truman. Johnson lost anyway, because the Vietnam effort in the end proved too costly, something not evident to Johnson or the American people at the beginning.
Beinart says “Democrats live in terror of being called soft” and “worry about the backlash that awaits Barack Obama if he defends civil liberties, or endorses withdrawal from Iraq, or proposes unconditional negotiations with Iran.” Beinart dismisses these worries because “the share of Americans citing terrorism as their primary concern hovers around 4%.” In fact, Beinart’s argument is embarrassing because it's hardly about a July poll; by November, people will want to know how an Obama limited to “soft” power can protect America from terrorism and from a nuclear Iran.
Beinart says McCain has stupidly “abandoned the foreign policy center,” since Republican election winners take care “not to appear too hawkish.” In fact, Beinart is playing games, since Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan--all three--won partly because thay didn’t have to sell a soul on their hawkishness, no matter what Ike said about Korea, Nixon Vietnam, or what “evil empire” Reagan did in Lebanon. Obama's folks should worry that if voters want toughness, they’ll back McCain.
Beinart says McCain makes a big political mistake by refusing to “liquidate an unpopular military intervention” in Iraq and instead working to increase U.S. forces there. In fact, Beinart is knocking a surge that brought us success that certainly helps McCain. Where’s Beinart’s head?
Beinart says Obama, instead of worrying about being “soft,” should “articulate a vision based on the principles of global cooperation and human dignity that animated Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt.” In fact, both these Democrats famously went to war to further American democracy, as McCain would in Iraq.