Wes Clark on the Iraq War

October 2, 2003

Josh Marshall on the New York Sun article

Filed under: Project for a New American Century (PNAC) — faithinwes @ 4:31 pm

When I interviewed Clark that passage was the one that struck me most and the one that stood out in my mind. The analogy hadn’t occurred to me before. But it’s extremely apt. And the backroom politicking over Iraq is something I know a bit about.

Why it stuck in my mind was that it showed not only a deep grasp of foreign policy issues but an equally canny sense of the informal and extra-governmental ways policy gets hashed out in Washington. More than anything it signaled an understanding that what we’ve been seeing for the last two years is part of a much longer history stretching back into the late 1960s.

The point is that the CPD and PNAC advocacy were both cases in which outside pressure groups — groups of neoconservatives — basically B-teamed the given administration, getting around their flank by working congress and the media to force the administration’s hand or make certain policy options politically unviable.

With Iraq policy this involved getting the Clinton administration off its policy of “dual containment” and toward one which, on paper at least, embraced the principle of “regime change” as American policy. This in fact was what happened with the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in late 1998. The embryonic PNAC and other prominent neoconservatives worked the press, lobbied in congress, coordinated with the INC, and the then-weapons inspectors to push for a harder line against Iraq. And in significant ways they succeeded.

-snip

The details of all this are too complicated to go into at the moment. But Clark’s point isn’t “crackpot” or “bizarre.” He’s got it exactly right. The analogy to the late Carter administration is quite apt. And Kristol, Schhuenemann Stoll each know it. Indeed, they were each in their own way part of it.

There’s nothing untoward about this. This is what democracy’s about — organizing people, pressuring elected leaders, shaping opinion, and so forth.

But when you see these slashing words from the neocons against Clark, it’s not because he’s “confused” about anything. It’s because he’s got their number. And they know it.
Talking Points Memo October 2, 2003

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That bizarre, crackpot idea: PNAC

Filed under: Project for a New American Century (PNAC) — faithinwes @ 4:16 pm

CLARK EMERGING AS AN OPPONENT OF REAGANISM

General Wesley Clark, the late entry into the race for the Democratic nomination for president, is making what critics called a “bizarre,” “crackpot” attack on a small Washington policy organization and on a citizens group that helped America win the Cold War.

In a Tuesday interview with Joshua Micah Marshall posted yesterday on the Web site talkingpointsmemo.com, General Clark gave his evaluation of the Clinton presidency. He said that the Clinton administration,“in an odd replay of the Carter administration, found itself chained to the Iraqi policy — promoted by the Project for a New American Century — much the same way that in the Carter administration some of the same people formed the Committee on the Present Danger which cut out from the Carter administration the ability to move forward on SALT II.”

The Project for a New American Century is a Washington-based nonprofit organization whose chairman is William Kristol and that advocates a “Reaganite” foreign policy of “military strength and moral clarity.” The Committee on the Present Danger was a bipartisan group created to defeat the Salt II arms control agreement between America and the Soviet Union.

The comments are a departure from General Clark’s statements so far during his two-week-old presidential campaign, which have been for the most part been vague and carefully stagemanaged. He’s running strong in national polls, and a New York state poll released yesterday by Quinnipiac University showed General Clark leading the pack of declared Democratic candidates, with 18% support. The poll, of 454 registered Democratic voters, had a 4.6% margin of error.The poll showed General Clark beating President Bush in New York State, 48% to 41%. For that match-up, the poll included 1,201 New York State registered voters, with a 2.8% margin of error.

Relatively few American voters have even heard of the Project for a New American Century or remember the Committee on the Present Danger, so the flap is unlikely to sway many votes immediately. But if the interview contributes to a sense of General Clark as something of a loose cannon, that might have an effect on voters seeking a steady leader to guide the nation in the war against terrorism.

“It’s really a little bit crackpot. I don’t think Clinton was really following the PNAC script,” Mr. Kristol told The New York Sun. “We called for regime change. Last I looked, Saddam was still there when Clinton left.”

“Maybe he got confused,” Mr. Kristol said. He said he was further puzzled by the comments because after the war in Kosovo,he had a “very nice dinner”with General Clark in which the general thanked him for his support of the NATO bombing in Kosovo.

A director of the Project for a New American Century, Randy Scheunemann, called General Clark’s comments “bizarre.”
New York Sun October 2, 2003

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