Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Public Support?

Both Madeline Albright and Sandy Berger argued to the 9/11 commission that they wouldn't have gone into Afghanistan to go after Al queda and bin laden b/c they didn't have public and international support. Their statements and positions essentially sum up the poll-driven mindset that drove Clintonian politics during the 1990's. These attitudes were not just applied in foreign affiars, but in all affairs. The Clinton administration governed by polls. It was obvious then, but its been more apparent since 9/11/01 that this way of conducting politics was costly. Even after the first attacks on the WTC, terrorist attacks against us in Saudi Arabia and Afrrica, and finally, the USS Cole bombing, the reliance on polling prevented that administration from pursuing terrorists in meaningful ways. As it was pointed out at the hearings, President Clinton did convince people to intervene in Kosovo (after all, the Europeans weren't going to do something about it), so some credit is due. But more importantly, if Clinton was, as his supporters claim he was, a great president, one who could convince people of his positions, then certainly the administration could have made the case to invade Afghanistan to kill the terrorists. After all, bin laden did declare open war on us, and attacks were carried out. Unfortunately, as was the Clinton way, it wasn't his fault. Richard Clarke, who looks like just another Clinton apologist, and other ex-admin officials, have been insinuating that it was the Republicans and their impeachment crusade against sex that crippled the administration from pursuing unpopular pursuits. Perhaps if they would have shown some leadership on the most important issue of our time before it hit home, we could have prevented 9/11, and Republicans may have backed off the impeachment issue. But even without impeachment, it isn't obvious that the administration would have pursued something that, looking forward, reluctant allies and public opinion were the driving forces in what our leadership did.