The rap on Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco liberal who is the new leader of House Democrats, is that she's too dovish to lead her party against President Bush during a time of war.
The rap is wrong. Pelosi, a bright and talented politician, is no peacenik. In fact, she's practically an imperialist.
She supports the United States attacking countries that represent no threat to it. She supports the United States imposing its will on smaller neighboring countries. She supports the United States cajoling France and other allies to bend them to its will. She supports bombing civilian targets to get recalcitrant regimes to do what the United States wants. She supports the United States tutoring backward parts of the world in "civilized behavior." Finally, she supports the long-term occupation of foreign lands after the United States has vanquished its enemies.
These were all things that Pelosi signed up for in endorsing President Clinton's military interventions in
Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. Nancy the Bellicose is quite muscular when a humanitarian cause is at stake -- it's only when a U.S. national interest is involved that she wimps out.
This makes her an almost perfect distillation of liberal foreign-policy thinking, which wants to make the U.S. military into the Red Cross with cruise missiles, and subcontract protecting the national interest to the nearest committee of the United Nations.
The crisis in Bosnia 1993 was a case study in the flaws of "multilateralism." If you wait for a consensus for action to develop among divergent countries, you will wait a long time.
While the Europeans dithered, Bosnian Muslims got shelled to shreds. The crisis cried for U.S. leadership, which Pelosi recognized at the time. "I don't know if the ancient animosities can ever be resolved," she said on CNN, "but some civilized behavior has to be thrust upon the region, and it's clear that that's not going to happen without the involvement of the United States."
How unilateralist of her. As it turned out, Clinton took her advice and threw some sharp elbows at U.S. allies to get them to agree to a military campaign.
Of course, there was no evidence that Bosnian Serbs represented a threat, imminent or otherwise, to the United States -- the standard that Pelosi now sets for going to war with Saddam Hussein. Nancy the Warrior still supported bombing the hell out of them.
Nor did Serbia represent any such threat to the United States years later during its fight with Kosovar Albanians. Pelosi still supported loosing the dogs of war. Nancy the Terrible justified her belligerence on the grounds that it would stop the creation of tens of thousands of refugees. Fair enough.
But Saddam has, after the Gulf War alone, nearly 2 million refugees to his credit. Pelosi's bleeding heart beats less loudly when an Arab dictator is doing the repressing. (Memo to Rep. Pelosi: Iraqi refugees suffer too.)
Clinton's Kosovo campaign didn't work until it shifted to bombing civilian targets in Belgrade, power stations, government buildings and the like. Not a peep of protest from Nancy the Conqueror. Both Bosnia and Kosovo have entailed the sort of long-term occupation that Pelosi now warns against in Iraq -- but, hey, it can take a while to bring "civilized behavior" to such places.
Whereas Bosnia and Kosovo were humanitarian crises, the intervention in Haiti had less urgency. It involved replacing one thug with another (Jean-Bertrand Aristide) in an exercise of imperial whim against a puny neighbor. Nancy the Fearsome endorsed it.
So where is Nancy the Cold-Eyed Gunslinger when it comes to Iraq? MIA. Bush's action there will have U.N. sanction in some form, a humanitarian dimension, a civilizing mission and a dose of nation-building -- in short, the hallmarks of the interventions that Pelosi loved in the 1990s.
The only difference is it will also be an aggressive attempt to protect, and advance, the U.S. national interest. And that, apparently, is just taking U.S. imperialism too far.