July 20, 2006

Senator Chafee's Foreign Policy Ideology

Marc Comtois

Once again, Senator Chafee has exhibited his prediliction to blame President Bush. (But thanks for the support Mrs. Bush!). I heard this on Rush Limbaugh yesterday, and now the transcript is up. Sen. Chafee was interviewed by NBC's David Gregory about the conflict going on in Lebanon and Israel.

Gregory says, "In effect the United States wants to allow Israel to have more time to complete what they see as a vital operation. Is that how you see it, Senator Chafee? Is that an important way and the right way to proceed?"

CHAFEE: I disagree with the president on the root cause of what's occurring here. I see the root cause of what's occurring in the failure of the road map. And the president talked the last four years about "a viable, contiguous Palestinian state living side by side with Israel," and the road map was supposed to lead in that direction. And so many missed opportunities I see. The summer of 2003 when we had a great opportunity to push the ceasefire that occurred then, in the summer of 2001. Then with the death of Yasser Arafat and the election, overwhelming majority of Palestinians voting for Abu Mazen on a platform of peace. These were opportunities that we didn't take advantage of.

RUSH: And the next question is: "Do you think that the US is wrong at this pointed to allow Israel to steno?"

CHAFEE: I think there should be a ceasefire and I disagree with the administration on that. I think immediate ceasefire and as this spreads, has the danger of going throughout the Muslim world, uh -- and that's from Morocco to Indonesia, having this unrest spread in the Muslim world...

RUSH: Where's this guy been? We need a ceasefire? All this is Bush's fault? He needs to be defeated. It's about time we get rid of these -- whatever you want to characterize Linc Chafee as being -- out of the Senate. This is absurd. It's Bush's fault! Bush missed the opportunities? There needs to be a ceasefire? All a ceasefire is is a period of time for the bad guys to arm up again and come back with even bigger and stronger and more weapons than they were using before the first time. It's like Bolton said: Ceasefire with terrorists? How in the world do you negotiate that? You don't! All the while, by the way, George Bush is helping Linc Chafee in his reelection effort just as he helped Arlen Specter. But Chafee's fallen five points behind in Rhode Island, and feels he has to come out and bite the hand that feeds him in order to boost his poll numbers up. This is not exactly the display of the execution of core principles.

Actually, I'd disagree with Rush on that last bit. This is exactly "the display of the execution of core principles" on the part of Senator Chafee (to be fair, I believe Rush was referring to the national GOP). Senator Chafee apparently believes that terrorist organizations can be counted on to engage in good faith diplomacy and lumps them in with regular nation-states to boot (something that is becoming all too common). One of Senator Chafee's core principles is a belief in the power of the peace process even when it is shown to be worthless thanks to the intransigence of some of its participants (the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah....Syria). To Senator Chafee, such faithlessness on the part of Hamas or Hezbolla is not to be blamed: the real culprit is the foreign policy failure of the Bush Administration. Thus, Senator Chafee's first inclination is to always blame--or doubt (Afghanistan)--American actions. Yes, sometimes he can be convinced to change his mind (like after a trip to Iraq), but he usually ends up reverting to his first inclination.

The dark spectre of Vietnam lays at the heart of Senator Chafee's foreign policy ideology. He has compared Iraq to Vietnam, telling Dan Yorke that we're in "another Vietnam" and that Iraq is a "quagmire." During a budget debate, he stated: "There are a lot of similarities between the Great Society and war in Vietnam, and the tax cuts and war in Iraq....We are doing it all over again."

These are only a couple anecdotal clues, but I think that they indicate that Senator Chafee has not, in fact, gotten over Vietnam. His entire frame of reference for the contemporary intersection of foreign policy and international conflict has been forever shaped by his personal experiences--and the opinions they helped to form--35 years ago during the Vietnam War. He seems unable to come to grips with the fact that not every war is "another Vietnam," nor, for that matter, is every war time administration "just like LBJ's."

Senator Chafee's foreign policy ideology is a combination of a Vietnam-shaped predisposition to blame America first and an internationalist belief in a peace process that boils down to "process for process' sake." The result is that Senator Chafee never seems to blame those who are truly at fault for a breakdown in peace.

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This is nothing new with Chafee. He has consistently been an obstructionist to holding accountable those who truly are to blame. His vote against the Syria Accountability Act a few years ago is indicative of this. The fact of the matter is, there are those who just don't have the backbone or the intellect to understand the true cause of these problems. Chafee is one of them. Allowing people like Chafee to decide these issues for us puts America at a great security risk. This, more than any other reason, is why Chafee must be replaced.

Posted by: Jim at July 20, 2006 10:13 AM

A quick cease-fires plays right into the terrorists' hands. Israel gets accused of civilian atrocities while not being able to fully accomplish its military objectives. Only one language holds sway with terrorists and guerillas: overwhelming military force. Civilian casualties are most regrettable; however, those who harbor and live amongst terrorists and guerillas do need to learn that consequences arise from these choices. The ultimate backlash against the terrorists and guerillas must come from the civilian population itself. Otherwise it is just tacit acquiescence.

Chafee and those of his ilk do not seem to realize or care that Hezbollah is a proxy army for the Iranians and Syrians. Should Israel (and the US) just stand still while these expansionist-minded Shiites not only move towards their stated goal of erasing Israel, but also move towards regional hegomony over much of the middle east.

Posted by: bountyhunter at July 20, 2006 5:37 PM

Chafee reminds me of my teenage daughter. She is never at fault for anything. Chafee is a pacifist extraordinaire. Do we really want to return such a person to the US Senate in these times?

Posted by: Phe Propterhoc at July 20, 2006 8:10 PM

Chafee must have his PR firm in fits. He's spending money like water blasting Laffey on TV ads and plush, new mail pieces, yet in a nanosecond he gives himself the worst possible press by revealing his rabid Chamberlainesque "peace in our time" philosophy of life, wherever there's a microphone.

Arghhh! Run, don't walk, from this man!

Posted by: Chuck Nevola at July 20, 2006 8:48 PM

The more Chafee talks the better. Every move he makes reveals more and more of his incompetence, and poor judgment.

Thank God Laffey is running. Without the crucible of a hard fought campaign and the high level of candidate visibility it generates RI may have put this sorry excuse for a US Senator back in office for six more years.

The Chafee Platform: Tax and spend, amnesty for illegal aliens, and tea with Bin Laden in Syria. Dooo!

The Laffey Platform: End pork and corporate welfare, secure the borders and enforce the law, and eliminate Bin Laden.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 20, 2006 9:35 PM

Anthony must be in Syria...getting the latest Chafee talking points...

Posted by: roadrunner at July 21, 2006 12:37 PM

Right on roadrunner!

You got that right.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 21, 2006 2:29 PM

You're criticizing Chafee because he'd like to see a ceasefire? Why do you think Bush is sending Rice to Rome? To negotiate the Israeli land invasion of Lebanon or to negotiate a ceasefire?

By the way, Chafee isn't saying anything that Tony Blair hasn't said before when Blair was trying to get Bush to reengage in the Arab-Israeli peace process. The Arab-Israeli issue has never been a top priority of the Bush Administration's Middle East policy, as Colin Powell has also admitted.

Politics aside, here are my thoughts on the matter-

Israel has every right to defend itself from terrorists such as Hezbollah, but much of the effect of this latest action is being felt by the Lebanese people. Up to this point, Lebanon had been held up as a triumph of American policy in the Middle East, showing how democracy can work in the region.

If the United States caused the collateral damage that Israel is causing, we would be condemned by everyone in the world. Keep in mind the precipitating factor was the kidnapping of 2 Israeli soliders and now hundreds of Lebanese civilians have died and seemingly few members of Hezbollah are among the casualties.

Is it worth it? It may be worth it if Israel can permanently take out Hezbollah, but this is a tough goal to accomplish. If Israel does go in on the ground, I hope they are able to entirely decapitate Hezbollah and maybe that will send a message to Iran as well.

Posted by: Anthony at July 21, 2006 6:59 PM

I support Senator Chafee. I admire his reasoned, moderate approach to foreign policy and his belief in a need for open dialogue. I am not certain that I 100% agree with him in this case.

That said, Mr. Laffey never took a position that wasn't politically advantageous. Overnight he has transformed himself into Israel's staunchest advocate, despite never having travelled to the region. In fact, the only Mr. Laffey seems to offer is bromides. For example, on Iraq, he had this to say "we will stand down as the Iraqis stand up." WHAT? Great job cribbing from Bush, but what kind of response is that.

I really wish he would take the time to offer thoughtful responses in place of cliches.

Posted by: Cabot Lodge at July 21, 2006 8:44 PM

Cabot Lodge,
Laffey's positions are always predictable. All you have to do is look at where he can get votes and money and that determines his positions.

Posted by: Anthony at July 21, 2006 10:27 PM

Sure, Rice will go to Israel to talk ceasefire, but she surely didn't rush to Israel, did she? Nor did the Bush Administration make an immediate call for ceasefire like Sen. Chafee. It's not just the Bush Admin., either. The G8 (including Tony Blair) and other Arab leaders recognize the need for Israel to exact punishment on the terrorists who started this recent mess. Sen. Chafee just wants all of this unpleasantness to go away so that we can revert back to the faux peace of before...which obviously didn't work.

Here's my backup:

Washington Post:

For the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East, U.S. officials say. Whatever the outrage on the Arab streets, Washington believes it has strong behind-the-scenes support among key Arab leaders also nervous about the populist militants -- with a tacit agreement that the timing is right to strike. "What is out there is concern among conservative Arab allies that there is a hegemonic Persian threat [running] through Damascus, through the southern suburbs of Beirut and to the Palestinians in Hamas," said a senior U.S. official who requested anonymity because of sensitive diplomacy. "Regional leaders want to find a way to navigate unease on their streets and deal with the strategic threats to take down Hezbollah and Hamas, to come out of the crisis where they are not as ascendant."
And here's what Tony Blair is saying now....

We should be in no doubt about the immediate cause for this situation. It started with the kidnap of an Israeli soldier in Gaza and then action by Israel, targeting Hamas on the Palestinian side. Then, without provocation, Hezbollah crossed the blue line established by UN resolutions, killed eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two more. Israel then again retaliated in air strikes against targets in Beirut.

This situation therefore began with acts of extremism by militant groups that were, as the G8 said unanimously, without any justification and of course were designed to provoke the very response that followed...Hezbollah is supported by Iran and Syria, by the former in weapons, weapons incidentally very similar if not identical to those used against British troops in Basra; by the latter, in many different ways and by both financially.

What is at stake therefore could not be more stark. On the one side, there is Lebanon, a remarkable democratic achievement from the days when the Lebanon was a by-word for instability and conflict. I have once again given Prime Minister Siniora my solidarity and support in the immense difficulties he now faces. There are also those in Israel and in Palestine desperate to see progress towards the only solution that will ever work there, namely two states, Israel and Palestine, both democratic, both independent, both at peace.

But on the other side are those who want no compromise, who cannot see that terrorism is not the route to a solution but a malign, fundamental obstacle to it. They persist in terrorism, knowing that its impact there is the same the world over, to divide, to create hatred, to drive out negotiation. That is their purpose.

So what can be done? I know many wanted the G8 to call for an immediate ceasefire on the part of Israel. Of course we all want all violence to stop and stop immediately. But we recognise that the only realistic way to achieve such a ceasefire is to address the underlying reasons why this violence has broken out.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at July 22, 2006 10:52 AM

I don't think Chafee ever called for a unilateral ceasefire on the part of the Israelis.

As far as I know, only France and the United Nations have called for an immediate unilateral ceasefire on Israel's part. Big surprise there.

Germany has called for a ceasefire "as soon as possible" but has also recognized that it would not be "possible" until the 2 kidnapped Israelis soldiers are freed.

I view Chafee's statements as a generic statement similar to what the Germans have said.

The differenting question not whether someone supports a ceasefirem but whether or not they support a UNILATERAL Israeli ceasefire.

I mentioned Blair because he shares Chafee's opinion on the overall Middle East roadmap.

Posted by: Anthony at July 22, 2006 12:11 PM

Laffey is, by no stretch of the imagination, well-informed on foreign policy questions. As I mentioned before, the only we ever get from him or rifes on Tony Snow/Dubya talking points. Oh sure, we know that he hates the terrorists, but he has not presented any coherent plans for dealing with North Korea, India, Pakistan and the like.

I think that Senator Chafee can sometimes be too nuanced in his approach to foreign policy, but this guy does his homework.

My major problem with Steve Laffey is that I don't feel he has any core principles. I think he flip flops on issues until he sees a poll or gets told what his position should be by special interest groups like the Club for Growth.

The most glaring example, by the way, is his immigration stance. It is completely incoherent. One day hes saying that every Mexican should have a chance to live the American dream and that Wal-Mart should use the border as a worker recruitment center and the next minute he's saying he wants to get tough with immigration. While you can't have it both ways.

Posted by: Cabot Lodge at July 22, 2006 2:42 PM


You are backtracking again.

When Chafee says ceasefire he means everyone.

This is nice. This is naiveté. This is Chafee.

The guy is soft on everything.

Why do I waste my time.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 22, 2006 11:59 PM

I'd guess you waste your time, because you are fed talking points from Laffey HQ. Your basic instructions probably go something along the lines of try to be all things to all people.

Posted by: Cabot Lodge at July 23, 2006 3:32 PM

Two points:
First, I saw Chafee again on Channel 6's political show this morning and he stated he thinks that the reason for the current "conflagration" was because of a breakdown in the so-called roadmap to peace. He again implied that the brunt of the blame should go to the Bush administration, but when asked directly by Arlene Violette if that was indeed what he meant, he backtracked and said he was still searching to see where the real fault lay.

His backtracking didn't bother me so much as his predisposition to blame American's--and others, btw...he also mentioned the EU, Russia and Israel--for the violence in the Middle East (by way of saying they didn't do enough to keep to the "roadmap"). Yes, he also mentioned the Palestinians, but his moral equivalency on this issue is plain maddening to me. 'Nuff said.

Second (and shorter), I know that any criticism of Chafee is understandably taken as an endorsement of Laffey, but in this case, it's not. I simply don't know--in fact, haven't heard--enough about what Laffey thinks on these issues. And that is all beside the point. My particular critique of Sen. Chafee on this issue is based on my disagreement with his policy position and not because of a political agenda on my part. Even before Mayor Laffey, I disagreed with Sen. Chafee's foreign policy stances. (That post was from 2003...I wasn't very kind to the Senator then and vowed I'd never vote for him again...of course, when the other option may be Sheldon Whitehouse....!).

Posted by: Marc Comtois at July 23, 2006 7:36 PM

Marc, here here!

Chafee lost me long before Laffey arrived on the scene. In fact, if Laffey didn't offer such a starkly better choice than Chafee = Whitehouse, I would write in somebody's name (maybe Caroll Andrew Morse) in "symbolic protest".

What is important to me on this issue is that Laffey blames the terrorists, and not America. Blaming Bush is just a convenient way for Chafee to coddle his left-wing base.

beep beep

Posted by: roadrunner at July 24, 2006 2:17 PM

Cabot Lodge:

Where these ideas come from is irrelevant to the issue of whether they are accurate or not.

They are accurate therefore they are relevant. You are wrong and are therefore irrelevant.

Need I remind you that relevance is in direct proportion to rightness.

Chafee is wrong for RI and he is therefore irrelevant as well.

One more thing. If you can’t argue the point or offer a substantive rebuttal you should just not make a comment. It makes you sound mean and ignorant, two attributes better kept to oneself.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 25, 2006 6:38 PM