Lawrence Korb: Return of the Neocons

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Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

In the 1976 presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter criticized the Nixon-Ford administration on several foreign policy issues. One was Ford’s decision to sign the Helsinki Accords, which in his view legitimized Soviet control of Eastern Europe.
But what if Democratic candidate Carter had called on national-security veterans of the Democratic administrations of presidents Kennedy and Johnson—such as Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and National Security Advisor Walt Rostow—to criticize the Nixon-Ford administration on issues such as Vietnam, Cambodia, the Soviet Union, China or the defense budget?
These veterans of the Kennedy and Johnson years could have blasted Nixon and Ford for “losing” Vietnam by signing the Paris Treaty, which set a date for American withdrawal from South Vietnam; or for not doing more to save Saigon in 1975 when the North Vietnamese overran the country. They could have scored Republicans for not even “leading from behind” when Pol Pot murdered millions of his fellow citizens in Cambodia’s hellish killing fields and for not retaliating against Cambodia when its military seized the U.S. merchant ship Mayaguez.
These Kennedy-Johnson hawks could have asked why the Republicans had not only signed the Helsinki Accords but had agreed to an arms treaty with the Soviets that allowed them to have more strategic nuclear missiles than the United States and limited America’s ability to deploy missile defenses. In effect, Rusk, McNamara and Rostow could have argued that these “weak” Republicans had failed to capitalize on the “strategic victory” won by hard-line Democrats in the Cuban Missile Crisis to put the Soviets in their place.
And how could America throw our ally Taiwan under the bus, go hat in hand to “red China” and sign the Shanghai Accord with a country that had helped our North Vietnamese enemy?..

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