Politics & Policy

Then & Now


Thought NRO readers might be interested in an open letter written by a Canadian diplomat – it’s noteworthy because he has been a foreign-policy adviser to one of the members of the governing Liberal Party who has been most critical of U.S. policy toward Iraq.

“Dear President Bush:

“I wish to express my strong support for the courage and leadership you have shown in launching the military effort in Iraq as part of your ongoing efforts to eradicate terrorism and make the world a safer place. My thoughts are with you, your colleagues and all those personnel from the allied forces who have made and will continue to make sacrifices so that we can live in peace.

”I am also deeply disappointed and distressed at the position adopted by my Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, in refusing to support our most trusted ally

and friend. This position is inconsistent with the long standing, important relationship that exists between our two countries. Please know that many

Canadians do not support the current position of the Canadian government.

“While I appreciate that Prime Minister Chretien’s policy will no doubt affect the relationship, I hope and trust that, in due course, fences can be mended upon new leaders assuming the governance of our country. We hope that new political leaders will soon be elected who understand and appreciate the importance of supporting friends and allies; and moreover, maintaining a foreign policy that is consistent with long held positions, and that supports the fundamental values that we share with our American friends.

“Yours sincerely,

“Mark S. Anshan”

11:30 AM

MAR. 27, 2003: THEN & NOW

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, RIP

One obituary won’t be enough for Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He was a brilliant political intellectual, a fine social scientist, a graceful writer, a distinguished official, and a surprisingly canny politician. But Moynihan will need multiple obituaries in another way – he was one of the very few (maybe the only) political figure of his time to convince both right and left that he was really one of theirs, and not just one of their followers, but one of their leaders.

How could this be? When it came time to say “aye” or “nay,” Moynihan was a loyal adherent of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. When Americans for Democratic Action and the American Conservative Union handed out their annual ratings, Moynihan regularly scored in the high 80s and low 90s on the liberal scale; under 10 on the conservative scale. I remember watching him from the Senate balcony during the impeachment fight, his mouth not merely closed, but his lips pressed together as tight as the two sides of a Ziploc bag, as if to prevent any stray syllable of condemnation from slipping out.

But off the Senate floor, at the typewriter and the rostrum, few writers of the century have more vividly and powerfully described the failure and collapse of the liberal project of the 1960s.

What conservative ever equalled this majestic condemnation of liberalism in government?

“Wishing so many things so, we all too readily come to think them not only possible, which likely they are, but also near at hand, which is seldom the case. We constantly underestimate difficulties, overpromise results, and avoid any evidence of incompatibility and conflict, thus repeatedly creating the conditions of failure out of a desperate desire for success. … I believe that this danger has been compounded by the increasing introduction into politics and government of ideas originating in the social sciences which promise to bring about social change through the manipulation of what might be termed the hidden processes of society.” – This from Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding, Moynihan’s 1969 attack on Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Or listen to this mocking summary of the evolution of government programs, which he published in the now-vanished New Leader in 1967: “[T]he pattern persists: the bright idea, the new agency, the White House swearing in of the first agency head, the shaky beginning, the departure 18 months later of the first head, replacement by his deputy, the gradual slipping out of sight, a Budget Bureau reorganization, a name change, a new head, this time from the civil service, and slowly obscurity covers all. Who among us today could state with certainty exactly what did become of the Area Redevelopment Administration, the early, shining creation of the New Frontier?”

So – while we of the Right cannot claim him as one of our own, we can claim his the benefit of his wit, his learning, and his eloquence. He gave the Left his votes; he gave the Right his words. We shall see which legacy lasts longer. In the meantime – let us all, Left and Right, together mourn the passing of a truly great intellect and an even greater spirit.

Day Seven

The more commentary I hear on the course of the war, the more doubtful I become of any assessment given before the final victory or defeat. I remember Gulf War I vividly – the Patriots knocking the Iraqi Scuds out of the sky, the seeming destruction of Saddam’s army, the uncontested American advance. It was only later that we learned none of it was as it had seemed: the Patriots had not worked as advertised, the Guard got away, and the Americans advance stopped just where it ought to have speeded up: at the Iraqi border. The last war looked easy because the U.S. let Saddam slip away. This war looks hard because the U.S. won’t repeat that mistake of a decade ago.

06:37 AM


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