Huckabee and the Chattering Classes

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

I having been reading some of the reactions to the negative appraisal of NRO writers to Huckabee’s Foreign Affairs essay — the gist of it being he was unfairly ganged up on by supposed neo-cons and other purported East-Coast elites.

Maybe, but I wrote my worries over his piece from a farm in Selma, California without reading much of anything by anyone else. I don’t have anything against Huckabee and think he must be pretty savvy and sophisticated to have come so far without a lot of money, media connections, or endorsements — all admirable, as is his conservative little-guy approach. More power to him.

But his essay in Foreign Affairs is flawed, poorly written, terribly argued, and self-contradictory — and since we don’t know much about his ideas on foreign policy, it was a bad start. And I stand by the impression that some Beltway wonk tried to downhome it in condescending and often ridiculous fashion. Most of its “arrogant bunker mentality” criticisms of the Bush administration were bizarre: some were lifted right from the Left’s mantra that Bush is at war with the world; yet some turned around and took the President to task for apparently not being tough enough (e.g., not invading Pakistan or “The Bush administration has never adequately explained the theology and ideology behind Islamic terrorism or convinced us of its ruthless fanaticism.”), and some simply rehashed and reworded as its own what has been the Bush Doctrine’s support for a third way between theocracy and dictatorship (e.g. “Although we cannot export democracy as if it were Coca-Cola or KFC, we can nurture moderate forces in places where al Qaeda is seeking to replace modern evil with medieval evil. Such moderation may not look or function like our system — it may be a benevolent oligarchy or more tribal than individualistic — but both for us and for the peoples of those countries, it will be better than the dictatorships they have now or the theocracy they would have under radical Islamists.”) The entire jumpy piece is like that: Bush did too much here; Bush did not enough there; Bush did it right here but I won’t admit such. So the net effect comes off as an a priori desire to find distance anyway possible from the current administration of the same party.

Again, that might be a winning strategy in the general election, and perhaps even in the Iowa primary, but it will eventually only turn off the Republican base, especially now as the surge and change in tactics bear fruit. Finally, there was no distinction made between what foreign critics say about the United States and whether such attacks are either accurate or to be regretted. That Putin, Ahmadinejad, Assad, Chretien, Chirac, Schroeder, Chavez et al. had complaints means very little; more worrisome would have been their praise, given what they did and stand for-and where they are now.

©2007 Victor Davis Hanson

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