"I knew we were in for a long season when we lined up for the national anthem on opening day and one of my players said, 'Every time I hear that song I have a bad game." -- Jim Leyland, Manager, Pittsburgh PiratesMy blog-mates Armed Liberal and Trent Telenko have been carrying on a running debate here at Winds of Change.NET about the future of the Democratic Party, issues of leadership and foreign policy, and more. Just zip over to our GEO: U.S. of A category archives for a look. For the most part, I've left it alone and covered the rest of the world. Still, there is one angle I'd like to cover. It's about the centrist Democrats who see the importance of the national defence issue, but can't seem to shake some crippling beliefs and behaviours. Untill and unless these habits are examined and corrected, initiatives to reform the Democratic Party and offer a credible voice on national security issues will remain stillborn. Let's begin with yet another demonstration of Jane's Law, on July 4th no less. Democrats for National Security (DfNS) emailed to say:
bq. "But this is different. This time the President of the United States has invited attacks on American troops. At a time when American civilian and military leaders on the ground in Iraq are desperately trying to stabilize the situation, the Commader-in-Chief has challenged Saddam's supporters and others opposed to our presence to a fight. The President's remark shows an appalling and reckless disregard for the lives of our troops on the ground. How utterly stupid and thoughtless - how emblematic of why this man is so thoroughy unfit to lead this nation." This is where people like myself look askance and say, in order: Buy A Clue. Get a grip. Lose the attitude. And know what's going on. Right now, even this supposedly defence-minded Democrat organization is projecting none of these things. Let's review. First, what in Sam Hill was DfNS thinking sending this out July 4th? What's next, a press release on December 25th slamming the capitalist element in Christmas? Waiting 24 more hours wouldn't have killed them, but it seems they just couldn't help themselves. Clueless? Absolutely. Alas, the same kind of frothing disease the Republicans displayed over President Clinton seems too contagious to resist. Jane's Law wins again. Memo to Democrats: kindly get a grip. America was attacked. The public remembers that. Which means DfNS et. al. need to be all about the wider strategy, not all about the President. As Bill Clinton might have put it: "it's the war, stupid!" Second, a bit of toughness from DfNS could have done a world of good, and worked to counter an image that the Democrats have built up the hard way. Armed Liberal has discussed this image and the attitudes that spawned it (Veteran's Day | Patriotism Branding | Patriotism Reconsidered). The U.S. Democratic Party needs more of that like they need a hole in the head. Deserves it, mind - but doesn't need it. Especially with the rest of the party trying to live down to James Taranto's characterization: bq. "Democrats seem to be just as out of touch today. Rather than celebrate the overthrow of a tyrant and enemy of America, they are trying to discredit it by retrospectively niggling over the nuances of the argument for war. It's as if they were defense lawyers arguing an appeal on behalf of Saddam, trying to get him off on a technicality." So that's #2: Lose the 'tude, dudes. Issue #3: Dems for National Security also have to display serious military expertise and background... and here they failed again on July 4th. Let's get real. The attacks are coming regardless of what Bush says. As for "bring it on...", one wonders if DfNS are aware that U.S. troops used exactly this tactic during the war, via loudspeakers on Humvees, to great effect? That's why we heard about pickup trucks attacking M1A1 tanks - the fedayeen just couldn't stand to have ther manhood challenged in stereo. I believe one U.S. soldier's quote was "we shoot them down like the morons they are." One expects an organization called "Democrats for National Security" to know this, and perhaps to apply it. In a guerilla war, you WANT people to come after your soldiers. That's the ideal tactical scenario, and with the shallowness of the Ba'ath infrastructure and limited recruiting capability they cannot sustain an attrition-based campaign for long. That might change if they adopted a longer-term strategy, and Bush has now challenged them not to. Smart move - the fedayeen loudspeaker tactic writ large. The faster and harder al-Awda attack, the sooner they're taken out, the faster the reconstruction is done, and the more U.S. troops come home. Sounds like a plan to me. Which brings me back to my earlier point about toughness. In the short term, yes, the above strategy does mean more body bags. That's the cost of policy in a war environment. Defense-minded Dems can't be going all wobbly about each casualty and screaming over non-issues like this, rather than looking at the total mission. Otherwise they'll sound like Clinton over Mogadishu: worrying, gun-shy, willing to get involved but equally quick to leave when the going gets tough. That wasn't exactly a high point of Clinton's terms, and it will happily be used against the Democrats today if they give off the same vibes (Hat Tip: Jen Martinez). Especially given al-Qaeda statements since the "Blackhawk Down" incident that the Somalia pull-out encouraged them in their jihad against America. DfNS as the "Mogadishu Democrats" - oy! Yet that seems to be the tag they're courting. Finally, DfNS needs to show awareness of what's going on beyond U.S. borders. On July 9th, DfNS sent around another circular... this time, about the 9/11 commission. Unlike their July 4th release, it made some excellent points. It did so, however, precisely as non-violent action to pressure one of the "Axis of Evil" countries into allowing more liberty for its citizens was coming to a head. Shouldn't a group called Democrats for National Security be backing something like that all the way? Couldn't the 9/11 press release have waited a day or two? Of course it could. On July 9th, they should have been leading the charge on Iran - or at least noticing such goings-on beyond America's shores. Clue: Stuff happens in the world beyond President Bush. Kindly pay attention. In this month's Policy Review, military historian Frederick W. Kagan offers "War and Aftermath," a thoughtful, well-grounded critique of current U.S. military doctrine (Hat Tip: reader Mike Daley). Well argued and even devastating in places, it offers a point of view that would represent a real contribution to the debate and dovetail well with the Democrats' traditional orientation, if only a serious Democratic Party could ever understand and champion it. If only. If. Piecing together a new view of the challenges facing America, and the serious responses to that challenge, is hard work. It isn't glamorous, and it doesn't offer instant political payoffs. As the Wall Street Journal article that launched DfNS into the public eye recognizes, however, the redemption of the U.S. Democratic Party depends on it. DfNS is carrying a heavy burden, and it's important for them to think their positions through before they go out to the public. The image they project is still being shaped, but it will start to harden pretty soon. If it "sets" the wrong way, the Democratic Party as a whole could find itself in the national security wilderness for a long, long time. UPDATES: * As Fredrik Nyman notes, Overpressure.com nails this whole issue in 2 short paragraphs. * Dean Esmay has some depressing thoughts. * Michael Totten has a view from the center-left. * Grim's Hall agrees with this analysis, and as a Southern Democrat he offers a course forward for the DNC. * Fortunately, people like Sean LaFreniere still live on the Left. Dude, that was SOME dream of justice!