The Clarke flap in retrospect

The curious hawk-dove reversal in the Clarke affair

Now that the Richard Clarke flap has died down for the moment, the colossal irony of the whole affair is starting to sink in. Clarke is substantially more aggressive-minded in his approach to terrorism than either of the two administrations he served in. Yet the doves love him and the hawks hate him.

Which suggests to me that, for most of the people involved in the shouting match, it was more about November than it was about al-Qaeda. What seems to me unfair is having that partisanship projected on to Clarke.

As a hawkish Democrat (not as hawkish as Clarke, but pretty hawkish) I was relatively unconflicted. It was fun to see him do some well-deserved damage to Team Bush, and I can always hope that my co-partisans, having arrayed themselves on Clarke’s side of the argument, will now be ready to listen to his advice.

If John Kerry is elected, and if Clarke doesn’t join the Kerry administration, I’d be surprised if Kerry’s policies turned out to be as aggressive as Clarke would like. In that case, I’d expect Clarke to be somewhat critical, and I’d expect the right wing to rediscover Clarke’s expertise and public spirit.

[Still no takers, as far as I can see, among Clarke’s blogospheric critics on the suggestion that they apologize for having relayed Bill Frist’s reckless and now discredited charge of perjury. Don’t make me start calling out names, now.]

Update Some liberal readers think the pro-Clarke/anti-Clarke camps are simply truth-lovers and those who would shoot the messenger. I doubt the love of truth follows such partisan lines (though it’s true that some in the pro-Bush, pro-war camp have defended Clarke). My point was that it’s odd to see people who regard Barbara Lee (who opposed invading Afghanistan after 9-11) as a heroine also regarding Richard Clarke (who wanted to go into Afghanistan before 9-11 to root out the al Qaeda base) as a hero. Similarly, though Clarke is a fundamentally a hawk — he opposed invading Iraq because he thought it the wrong war, not because he’s opposed to the aggressive use of military force — the hawks have read him out of meeting for dissing the Prez.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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