Thursday, August 09, 2007
A Question of Affiliations
But by listing those affiliations, the implication was that, even if the candidates they represent may not endorse every point they made in the piece as gospel, they are somehow nonetheless reflecting a general position. After all, the two gentlemen--already well known in the foreign policy community--hardly needed the imprimatur of belonging to a campaign in order to have their ideas taken seriously. And other op-ed writers appearing in papers across the country are also connected to campaigns without that fact being trumpeted.
In the case of Senator McCain, who earlier this year called for a League of Democracies, it is clear that he would identify strongly with the positions taken. But what about Senator Obama? It used to be said that Obama was looking to the pragmatic stance of a Republican Senator like Lugar in terms of how he saw the components of a bi-partisan foreign policy.
Re-reading his speech on foreign policy in Chicago in April, I would think that he shares more in common with the perspective outlined by another "pairing" -- in this case, David Rieff and Chris Preble -- who argue against A Troubling Interventionist Consensus . Their points about dealing with terrorism, WMD proliferation and human rights seem somewhat more in line with Obama's views.
And even in his Wilson Center speech, which got the most attention because of his remarks about intervention in Pakistan, the bulk of that address focused on these earlier themes. Overlooked in the Wilson Center remarks is his citing his co-sponsorship of legislation produced by Senator Lugar and Senator Hagel for dealing with security threats to the U.S. which owe much more to Amitai Etzioni's "Security First" agenda then to the sentiments expressed in the Kagan/Daalder op-ed.
So is the Obama tent a "big tent" but with competing and different foreign policy visions, of which the one laid out by Kagan and Daalder is but one? Does Obama share a Clintonian view that different and opposing views can be reconciled together (we can get effective cooperation from all governments, we can have a League of Democracies that won't create a counter "World Without the West" (I like Weber, Ratner and Barma's formulation better than a League of Non-Democracies)? Beyond the ritualistic statement of "I am speaking for myself and not the campaign," how much of what appeared reflects what the Senator is actually thinking--and a related question, if one makes the explicit identification that one is part of the campaign, even in an advisory capacity, does one clear things with the candidate?
There is a difference, of course, between being an advisor and being a spokesman. But there is a way to make it clear when one speaks absolutely for one's self--by not being identified with the campaign. So if the Post piece is set up essentially to lead a reader to conclude he or she is seeing something where the two advisors are speaking in place of the candidates, then it needs to be asked, how much does what appeared reflect what the candidate is thinking?
Sure, Kagan et al. don't need additional exposure. But, the next Kissinger ain't gonna fall out of a tree.