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Whatever He Was, Campbell Is A Reliable Hawk Now

Jim Antle thinks my characterization of Tom Campbell as a reliable hawk goes too far. Jim mentions Campbell’s role during the Kosovo debate. In fact, I remember quite clearly Campbell’s speech on the floor of the House during the bombing of Serbia in which he pleaded with members to either pass a formal declaration of war or vote to end the campaign. Of course, neither measure passed, but it was at least an effort to make Congress more relevant in the formation of policy. He deserves some credit for demanding that Congress should have a major role in making war policy back then, but there were a lot of Republicans in the ’90s who used to talk a good game about war powers only to forget all of that in the last ten years. Campbell’s opposition to Kosovo is typical of Republicans in the ’90s who had no problem arbitrarily bombing other countries so long as the operation was deemed to be in the “national interest,” which they tend to interpret very, very broadly.

If he remains serious about Congressional war powers, as he claims he does, all that this means is that he does not accept untrammeled executive power. That is a start, but it doesn’t prove that he isn’t otherwise as hawkish as he seems to be. In the end, opposition to presidential wars doesn’t really make him that much less likely to favor confrontational and hawkish policies. He simply requests that members of Congress be permitted to vote on those policies. While this is more than most Republican members demand, it doesn’t mean very much. Had Campbell been in the House at the time, he would have voted for the war authorization resolution on Iraq. Of course, this resolution was little more than providing domestic political cover for the administration as it launched its illegal war. With respect to U.S. policy in the Near East during the last nine years, Campbell apparently has reliably come down on the hawkish side of pretty much every important question. Whether or not he believes that “crippling” sanctions will avoid war, support for such measures makes conflict with Iran more likely. What is harder to understand is how he could have been a critic of the destructive effects of Iraq sanctions and then endorse a policy now that will have similar effects on the Iranian people. Campbell is far from the worst of Iran hawks, but he certainly has been a reliable one so far.

P.S. Jim also writes, “Nowhere does he mention Iraq or Afghanistan today.” The same was true of Scott Brown’s campaign website statements. Like Campbell, Brown was running a statewide race in a blue state in which explicit pro-war statements would have been liabilities. Campbell will naturally de-emphasize his hawkishness for electoral reasons just as Rand Paul de-emphasizes his antiwar views.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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