Draft Sam Nunn. There’s Still Time.
By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 8/14/08
The Russians planting of the flag at the North Pole last autumn was a Sputnik moment but underwater. Its purpose was to territorialize our northern regions and turn our gaze north as surely as if it was a war dog peeing on the frozen tundra property line to warn off Canadian coyotes. Just as the U.S. intended to territorialize - by which we mean to dominate psychologically [see Sun Tzu] - Russia by planting missiles on its borders.
Yet it went unnoticed by a Democratic Party still laughing and dancing through the night with a flower in its mouth, as Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright did when the wisest voices in American foreign policy declared our intentions in Orthodox Europe to be, “ . . . policy error of historic proportions.”
The Republicans are worse as Georgia, preparing for its invasion of South Ossetia this past Sunday, facilitated the attack with bribes of hundreds of thousands of dollars to McCain’s highest-level staff.
Foreign policy of both teams and certainly in the still Clinton-dominated Democratic Party is virtually identical and seems unevolved since the 1950s when the Dulles brothers pressed to nuke the Russians before they got nuclear weapons themselves. In the secret histories told here in the hollows of the White Mountains, it is said that our Governor urged Eisenhower to run before we were either Red or Dead. We might be at such a moment again.
We have been 16 years without adults in the White House. Obama showed promise and maturity in selecting Sam Nunn as a foreign policy adviser. But the Dulles element still dominates the party and from public expression by his key supporters since Sunday, quite possibly still dominates Obama. His commentators are entrenched Clinton-era people and on the talk shows, Clinton-era voices bringing outright lies.
Planting the flag in the North Pole began the drive to new action and passion in the new century. It began a new era of growing things and creating things and killing things and thinking things up and making them on a vital and brand new, snow white and pristine Canadian canvas.
The fight, when it comes, is only the result of forces and efforts which have been working unnoticed or willfully overlooked in political delusion or hubris over long periods. Over decades perhaps and possibly interlinked to the beginning of human history itself. Countervailing and struggling possibly even to the Creation. It comes maybe - as Walt Whitman said in the greatest ever observation on American karma - from our “unsatisfied Soul” seeking passage to the sun and moon and all the stars and Sirius and Jupiter.
When moral purpose is set the spirit flares and a dissident individual or a minority oppressed by the opposition must be found to team up with. Then organically, that interior minority or individual falls into the alliance with the side which opposes its master. But that individual may only be an abstraction. That is Georgia President’s Mikheil Saakashvili’s problem. He thought they really meant it. He thought that simply bribing a few Senators would do the trick.
Bush in 2005 wanted to ally his cause with every dissident group he could find on the planet, in effect seeking a global struggle to “democracy” by direct military invasion and intervention not proposed since Christendom’s twilight. Party touchstones fled in utter confusion and from there he lost his thoughtful middle and had only the edges to hold on to: Those out there where the buses don’t run like Religious Right columnist Cal Thomas, who proposed within weeks after the tragic day of 9/11 that we use nuclear weapons in the war against terror.
War changes a country’s collective personality and psychology: The Mexican War prepared the South psychologically to fight in a greater war shortly after, and World War I awakened a barbaric sensibility in Germany – a primal spirit of the earth god Woden depth psychologists have called it – that would shock the world as it had never been shocked before 25 years later.
The Iraq war has changed America as well. Several of the Democratic candidates running for President last summer, desiring to show that they have the manlies of Khrushchev or Stalin, virtually swaggered and bragged about their willingness to use “First Strike” in the war against terror, adopting Thomas’s position and the Religious Right position of five years ago.
This (“never take any of your tools off the table”) became a standard Best Practices consideration adopted by Presidential candidates who Mitt Romney said correctly, “have never managed even a corner store.” One claimed experience in this end-of-the-world-nuclear-winter scenario simply because one of her relatives was President and she watched for eight years. Not unlike the way one of the family, possibly one sweetly but sadly Touched by the Lord, would learn to milk cows up here in New Hampshire. To his credit, Obama said he would not use nuclear weapons in the fight against terror under any circumstances.
This systemic incompetence started to become apparent when President Clinton, with Eli Wiesel two feet behind him shaking his head in dismay, uttered the phrase, “I don’t know what to do,” regarding Bosnia in 1993. It continued in stark outline last summer when Bush, asked why the Iraqi Army was disbanded two months after the invasion, predictably advancing chaos in the region to catastrophic levels and costing thousands of lives and endless broken spirits in families and neighborhoods, used this phrase: “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said ‘This is the policy, what happened? . . . Again, Hadley’s got notes on all this stuff.”
The chaos and incompetence afflicted both parties. But on the Republican side, the adults stepped in. The well-needed Baker-Hamilton report was simply an action by the well-regarded Bush family-fixer, James A. Baker, to stem a disaster wrought by a son randomly cast into the Presidency and fully unprepared for his responsibilities.
Then last summer Unity 08, with prominent Libertarian, Democrat and Republican features and clever supporters like New York’s William Weld, proposed that it was time for a new approach and possibly a third-party candidate. Sam Nunn, the highly respected former Democratic Senator from Georgia, also announced that he had held talks with both Unity 08 and with New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg about running for President as a third-party candidate.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Nunn, who retired from the Senate more than ten years ago, “ . . . has watched what's happened to the country, and he's more than a bit ticked — at the "fiasco" in Iraq, a federal budget spinning out of control, the lack of an honest energy policy, and a presidential contest that, he says, seems designed to thwart serious discussion of the looming crises.”
In the Journal-Constitution interview, Nunn admitted he was also tempted by the fact that a presidential run would offer him a world stage to press for a revolutionary shift in U.S. defense and foreign policy.
Perhaps more than any living American politician, Nunn has brought sense and sanity to a world hell-bent on mutually-insured-destruction. Last summer he traveled to Russia with Senator Richard Lugar to mark the 15th anniversary of the start of the Nunn-Lugar program, which is intended to help rid Russia of fissile materials left over from the Cold War.
Ultimately, he told the Journal-Constitution, if there's to be any chance of persuading smaller countries to give up nuclear weapons technology — and keep it out of the hands of increasingly sophisticated terrorists — world powers will have to put themselves on a gradual, verifiable path toward total nuclear disarmament. That includes the United States.
Political debate has been captured by the extreme wings of both parties, he said, ignoring solutions that can only be found in the middle.
"I do not see tough calls willing to be made by the body politic," he said.
Nunn is a conservative and a hawk on defense. He is also CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private charitable organization originally bankrolled by Ted Turner. Like colleagues Kissinger and George Schultz who he consulted with last summer in private talks in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin on how to improve U.S.-Russian relations, he brings to the table a maturity that the neither party has not shown in recent years.
This week the Russians raised the stakes. In truth, neither candidate has reacted well to the Russia/Georgia conflict. But there is still time. In the few days left before the Democratic convention, the Democrats might think again about Sam Nunn.