08/17/2004: Coward or hypocrite? Or does it really matter.
Tom Harken says Cheney's a hypocrite. I'm not disposed to argue with him there, but I'm not disposed to argue with Juan Cole, who says that Cheney may just be a hypocrite. However, Cole does address the whole "sensitivity" flap, and shows that Cheney is (as usual) full of shit:
Now that we are on Cheney, I wanted to respond to his recent sarcastic criticism of John Kerry for saying that we need to fight the war on terror sensitively.Cole didn't cite Eisenhower, but I'll bet that he's another leader who was sensitive to the feelings of our allies; he couldn't have held that alliance together if he wasn't.' "America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive," Cheney told an audience of veterans in Dayton, Ohio. 'Many pundits pointed out that George W. Bush had used exactly the same language about a sensitive approach to the war on terror, so that Cheney was implicitly criticizing his own superior.
But as a historian, I have to say that Cheney's statement is bizarre and uninformed. Let me just give one example. The practice round for World War II was fought in North Africa, then controlled by the Vichy French. Dwight Eisenhower developed Project Torch, involving the landing of US troops in Morocco and Algeria.
It was essential to the US effort that the French colonial soldiers be quickly won over and convinced not to put up stiff resistance to the invasion. The original plan would have explicitly used British naval power. But the Free French objected loudly to this plan, since they did not want the British Empire's ships anywhere near their North African possessions. The French and the British had old rivalries in this regard.
So Roosevelt and Eisenhower asked Churchill to keep the British navy in the background off Gibraltar and out of sight of the Moroccan coast. Churchill agreed.
That is, Roosevelt and Eisenhower had their successful landing in North Africa precisely because they were entirely willing to bend over backward to be sensitive to French feelings.
And that is the big difference between Cheney and Bush as wartime leaders on the one hand, and on the other Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Cheney and Bush are diplomatically tone deaf, projecting nothing but arrogance and being all too willing to humiliate traditional allies. They have no sensitivity. And it is for that reason that they have the U.S. stuck in Iraq with only one really significant military ally, the U.K. (the Italians only have 3,000 troops there, and most countries just a few hundred, which makes their presence a token one). They have perhaps permanently alienated all the countries that might have lent the U.S. a hand.
And that pattern of arrogant, unilateral war-mongering worries me more than Cheney being a coward.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler has caught Cheney flip flopping on this very issue, when Cheney noted that U.S. troops haven't taken Najaf yet owing to "sensitivity" issues:
Shocking, isn’t it? According to Cheney, Kerry thinks the problem is us, not the terrorists. They won’t be impressed by sensitivity, he said, implying that Kerry had said something different. What a truly remarkable slander—a slander acceded to by your "press corps," who cower and hide behind their chairs when Cheney plays games like this with the rubes. And by the way, is the following statement accurate? "America has been in many wars, but not a one of them was ever won by being 'sensitive.'" Readers, did we learn nothing from watching Patton? Every American war has involved diplomacy--sensitivity" to allies' interests. But those voters--laughing, applauding--didn’t know Cheney had played them for fools. And pundits were simply too afraid to notice the plain and the obvious.
And that’s where Cheney's flip-flop comes in! On Thursday, the VP spoke with conservative talk host Hugh Hewitt (click here, then scroll down for transcript). He started with the week's prescribed drivel about how "the two words don't really go together, sensitive and war." But moments later, Hewitt asked about the current stand-off in Najaf. And wouldn't you know it? Surprise of surprises! Accidentally telling the truth, Dick Cheney flip-flopped—big-time:HEWITT (8/12/04): Will the Najaf offensive continue until that city is subdued even if that means a siege of the Imam Ali shrine?Good God! As Cheney dumbly but honestly noted, the army hasn't taken that mosque due to "sensitivity" about cultural issues. Dumbly, Cheney used the very word he had just trashed Kerry for using. Dumbly but honestly, Cheney showed how utterly fake his week-long assault has really been.
CHENEY: Well, from the standpoint of the shrine, obviously it is a sensitive area, and we are very much aware of its sensitivity. On the other hand, a lot of people who worship there feel like Moqtada Sadr is the one who has defiled the shrine, if you will, and I would expect folks on the scene there, including U.S. commanders, will work very carefully with the Iraqis so that we minimize the extent to which the U.S. is involved in any operation that might involve the shrine itself.
But then, the U.S. army has been "sensitive" to allies and potential allies in every war it ever has fought. And Bush and Cheney have pursued the same sort of "sensitive war" for which they’ve assaulted Feckless Kerry. Yes, Cheney has played the voters for fools in his ugly trashing of Kerry. But now, this fake man has flip-flopped—big-time. We know how our pundits just hate those big flips. Will they dare mention this one from Cheney?
Len on 08.17.04 @ 12:35 PM CST