Howard Dean, a Hawk in a Dove’s Cloak


"Soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionary, I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries."

­ Bob Marley

Howard Dean wants the peace movement to believe that he is its best hope for bringing change in Washington.

In television ads and presidential debates, Dean has emphasized his opposition to Bush’s decision to launch a unilateral invasion of Iraq–and downplaying his support for the continued U.S. military occupation of Iraq, and his earlier waffling over whether he might have supported a war in Iraq under slightly different conditions. Dean’s emphasis on his opposition to the war in Iraq also obscures his earlier support for the first Gulf War, the war in Kosovo, and the war in Afghanistan.

Indeed, Dean’s earliest statements on foreign policy in the presidential campaign were written with the help of one of the architects of the war in Afghanistan, Danny Sebright, who held the Orwellian title of Director of the Executive Secretariat for Enduring Freedom at the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld. Sebright oversaw military operations that claimed the lives of over 3,000 civilians without achieving the stated objective of finding and arresting Ossama bin Laden. Under the Clinton administration, Sebright worked at the Pentagon helping to oversee weapons sales to the Middle East during the period in which the U.S. became the largest weapons exporter in the world.

When Sebright left the Pentagon in February of 2002 he went to work for his old boss, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, at the Cohen Group, a Washingon-based consulting company. The firm uses its political connections to help companies obtain contracts with the Pentagon and with foreign governments. While it is discreet about its clientele, the Cohen Group does list some of its successes on its website–a list that includes helping to negotiate arms sales to Latin American and Eastern European countries, and "Advis[ing] and assist[ing] [a] U.S. company in working with U.S. Government officials and the Coalition Provisional Authority in securing major contract related to Iraq reconstruction" The fact that a close Dean advisor works for a consulting firm involved in pitching contracts for reconstruction projects in Iraq raises questions about the true motives of Dean’s support for the President’s $87 billion Iraqi reconstruction program.

More recently, Dean has been getting foreign policy advice from President Clinton’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, Maria Echaveste. Echaveste’s record is mixed. To her credit, Echaveste led the Department of Labor’s campaign against sweatshops in the mid-1990’s and has worked for the United Farm Workers union. But Echaveste also played a key role in shaping the legislative and public relations strategies that helped the Clinton administration get Congress to approve Plan Colombia. Echaveste traveled to Colombia with President Clinton to help promote a policy that included aerial herbicide fumigations of vast areas of farmland and rainforests in southern Colombia and more U.S. funding, weapons, and advisors for the Colombian military. Over the past three years she has done nothing to distance herself from a policy that contributed to the escalation of Colombia’s civil war, the destruction of forests and farms, massive displacement, and dramatic increases in assassinations and disappearances. For his part, Dean has been vague about his position on U.S. military aid to Colombia. (Incidentally, Sen. John Kerry has chosen Rand Beers, who oversaw Colombia policy at the State Department for both the Clinton and Bush administrations, to head up his foreign policy team.)

Dean comes from the centrist wing of the Democratic Party, and draws his advisors from the party’s establishment, even though he tries to portray himself as a progressive and an outsider. His opposition to the war in Iraq isn’t rooted in the moral vision or poltical analyis of the peace movement, but rather in the foreign policy establishment’s skepticism about the rash and impulsive nature of the Bush administration’s military actions in Iraq. In remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations last June, Dean said that: "America must not shy away from its role as the remaining superpower in the world. We are, as Madeleine Albright once put it, the "indispensable power" for so many challenges around the world. Inevitably, some will resent us for what we have, and some will hate us for what we believe. But there is much in the world that we cannot achieve on our own. So we must lead toward clearly articulated and shared goals and with the cooperation and respect of friends and allies."

In other words, Dean doesn’t object so much to Bush’s willingness to use military force, which he sees as indispensable to maintaining the U.S.’s political and economic position in the world, but rather he objects to Bush’s refusal to play by the rules of the game and recruit a coalition of allies to support U.S. goals. Dean went on in the same speech to hold up Harry Truman’s role in articulating the U.S. vision for the world and creating the NATO alliance and the World Bank as examples of the kind of foreign policy he would like to pursue.

Howard Dean admits that the war in Iraq was a mistake but he supports the underlying policy positions that led to the war. As much as we might want to believe that changing presidents will change the U.S. role in the world, replacing George Bush with Howard Dean would do little or nothing to advance the peace movement’s goals.

SEAN DONAHUE is Project Director of the Corporations and Militarism Project of the Massachusetts Anti-Corporate Clearinghouse. He is available for interviews and talks and can be reached at info@stopcorporatecontrol.org.

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