September 17, 2007
James Carroll

Don’t know where I’ve been all these years, but I’ve just made the (online) acquaintance of James Carroll, former Catholic priest, novelist, historian, and Boston Globe columnist. My first impression, from an interview on Tom Dispatch, is that he is a national treasure. I’ve just ordered a couple of his books to explore further.

Meanwhile, here’s a sample from one of his columns:

Coming into power as the world’s relationship to military force was being fundamentally altered by such figures as Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, Óscar Arias, Lech Walesa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Václav Havel, Nelson Mandela, John Hume, Corazon Aquino, and Pope John Paul II, Clinton was unable to claim what should have been his natural place among them.

Instead, he squandered a golden opportunity to reshape his nation’s relationship to war and peace, preserving a Cold War military ethos — and budget — and handing it on to George W. Bush, fully intact. Whether or not Clinton was tough enough to take on America’s enemies, he turned out not to be tough enough to take on America’s defenders. The great contest given him by history was with the Pentagon — a contest for which he did not show up…

Nuclear Weapons. Bill Clinton’s most fateful decision was made in 1994, in response to the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review — a call for maintaining the nuclear status quo as a “hedge” against the possibility that Moscow would go fascist. When Clinton accepted the review, the nuclear arms reduction process died, the universally accepted goal of an ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons was abandoned, and the next round of proliferation began. The review, as one wag put it, was the insurance policy that started the fire.

NATO. The Cold War ended nonviolently only because Moscow accepted the admission of a reunited Germany into NATO. Moscow believed American assurances that NATO would move no farther east, but Clinton aggressively sponsored NATO expansion into the former Soviet sphere, dangerously isolating Russia. Today’s tensions between Russia and the United States began with Clinton’s NATO expansion.

Missile Defense. Despite knowing the science that debunked the assertions of missile defense advocates, and that missile defense was prohibited by the ABM Treaty, Clinton kept the program alive, laying the groundwork for President Bush’s deployment last year. The weaponizing of space has begun, as have arms-race responses in Russia and China. All for an unworkable fantasy.

Hillary Clinton’s Senate record (as on missile defense) is ambiguous. Her experience of the 1990s could be a greater asset, but she owes voters a more forthright accounting. What did she think of her husband’s fateful decisions then? What does she think of them now?



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at September 17, 2007 11:58 AM
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Let me get this straight. Clinton had feet of clay?

No one hung the moon. Well, I did, but I'm being very quiet about it.

Did Clinton fuck up from time to time? Yeah, he sure did. NAFTA? And we pay the price.

In all, I agree with you. James Carroll is extremely good. I'll have to blogroll him and check out his subsequent opinions.


Posted by: SPIIDERWEB™ on September 17, 2007 7:16 PM

Interesting guy who I mostly agree with. He's got a much higher opinion of Catholicism than I do though.

Posted by: Buck on September 17, 2007 7:55 PM

Please don't forget it was also the Clinton Administration that destroyed public benefit entitlements and began the domestic national-security obsession, which was already getting excessive before 2001.

I've recently finished Joan Didion's *Political Fictions*, a collection of presidential election coverage 1988-2000. She's good at explaining how the Democratic Party used to be around to co-opt liberal dissenters, but somewhere around the first Clinton candidacy it stopped even doing that.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on September 19, 2007 2:09 AM
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