Regarding somalia, Hawks and Doves Flock Differently


Washington. -- Since 1967, there's been a restaurant on Capitol Hill known as the "Hawk and Dove" whose name has suddenly become passe in the post-Cold War world.

When conservative Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona line up with liberal Democrats such as Rep. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado to urge a speedy withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia, and when former Navy Secretary John Warner offers the same cautions about America's "credibility" as one-time Berkeley anti-war activist Ronald V. Dellums, it's clear a dramatic realignment on questions of war and peace is under way in Congress.

Neither party labels nor philosophical bent seem to have much to do with the new alliances. On questions surrounding the U.S. role in Somalia, and the equally troublesome conflict in Bosnia, Congress is dividing into camps that might be called "idealists" and "pragmatists."

"It's multi-lateralism versus prudence; the tar-babies versus the cut-and-runs; those who believe the U.S. can cure the evils of the world versus those who believe U.S. military should be involved only when vital national security interests are at stake," said Mr. McCain, a former POW in Vietnam.

"Idealists" argue the United States has a responsibility as the lone remaining superpower to intervene where it can to end chaos and suffering. While this position has strong moral overtones, it is also driven by the view that instability anywhere in the world runs counter to U.S. interests. Much of the State Department -- in Republican as well as Democratic administrations -- would fall into this camp.

"Pragmatists" tend to worry more about the consequences of military action. They believe the United States should never put its soldiers at risk at less unless the security of the nation is directly threatened, and then only in circumstances where success of the mission is all but guaranteed. Most in the Pentagon subscribe to this view.

Mr. Dellums, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, agrees with the vast majority of his colleagues who say the United States made a mistake when it became a "partisan" by going on the offensive against Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid.

But he was just as appalled as Mr. Warner, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, at the highly emotional "stampede" of lawmakers responding to constituent outrage at the recent capture and deaths of U.S. servicemen in Somalia.

As a black American particularly sensitive to the prospect of allowing Somalia to return to the suffering and starvation from which the U.S. troops rescued most of the country, Mr. Dellums told President Clinton in a letter two weeks ago, "an argument can be made on moral grounds for a continued and sincere attempt on our part to bring some semblance of normalcy back to Somalia."

That's bighearted, but not practical, says Mrs. Schroeder, the other leading liberal on the House Armed Services Committee, who opposed the Somalia venture from the outset because she feared the United States would get caught in just such a quagmire.

"I hope we learned a tremendous lesson: that we do not get called into the former Yugoslavia or other places, under the idea that we can just run in and run out," she told the House.

It's quite a different line-up from the Vietnam War era when hawks thoughtU.S. military power should be used to fight the advance of communism and doves thought the United States should let people in other countries make their own choices.

This new political climate also raises serious questions about the grit with which America will be able to intervene overseas in the future.

The loss of the Soviet threat has probably had its great impact on Republicans, "who were held together for 50 years by fierce anti-communism," said Stephen Hess, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution.

Now, many Republicans seem to be drifting back to the isolationism of the period that prompted their party to oppose the U.S. entry into World War II.

One House GOP clique, which includes Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, even tried to make the Somalia debacle a partisan political issue.

But other Republicans, such as Mr. Warner, have converted their Red-fighting urges into the internationalism favored by Wall Street. Such Eastern Establishment types embrace former President George Bush's vision of U.S.-led coalitions that would take on bullies like Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

"The United States must be viewed after this disengagement as a credible working partner in peacekeeping and, if necessary, peacemaking actions in future contingencies that most certainly will occur," Mr. Warner told his colleagues. "Our credibility is on the line."

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, who is flirting with another bid for the presidency, also belongs to the internationalist wing of his party, though he has been critical of the United Nations' influence over the Somalia operation.

Some Democrats are returning to their party's interventionist tradition under Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"Somalia is not Vietnam," argued Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who first won fame as leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. "We are not in Somalia to fight an ideology or an enemy nation. . . . We have joined with other nations in a bold and noble effort. . . . We should not panic and flee when the going gets rough."

The dynamics in the Democratic party are influenced by the fact that a Democrat is now commander-in-chief. Party leaders in both houses of Congress strongly supported Mr. Clinton. Had Mr. Bush still been in office when last weekend's ill-fated raid occurred, there might have been greater outcry in the Democratic ranks.

Even so, the first alarm in the Senate was sounded more than a month ago by Democratic stalwart Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. Like Mr. Kerry, he was remembering Vietnam -- but from the other side of the debate.

"I was the last one that ran out of Vietnam," Mr. Byrd said last week. "I supported President Johnson to the end. And that is what we are going to see again, I am afraid if we continue down this slippery slope."

Other Democrats, like Sen. John B. Breaux of Louisiana, say they are already feeling enough heat back home to support some kind of limit on President Clinton's plan for a withdrawal from Somalia within six months.

"I'm a hawk," Mr. Breaux proclaimed, as if to make sure nobody would mistake him for a peacenik. "But I think that when people you feed starting shooting at you, something is wrong."

Karen Hosler covers Congress for The Baltimore Sun.

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