Kurt M. Campbell and Michael E. O'Hanlon, Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security (New York: Basic Books, 2006), 224 pp., $26.00.
ONE ALMOST wonders if Kurt Campbell and Michael O'Hanlon wish that the Democrats had lost the congressional elections of 2006.
Before then, the Democratic Party had suffered a series of embarrassing electoral defeats and national security often proved its downfall. Bill Clinton explained the problem thusly: The electorate "would choose ‘strong and wrong' over ‘timid and right' every time."
But sensing that "Republican missteps [had] created a potential opening for intrepid Democrats and moderate Republicans", Campbell and O'Hanlon offered in the spring of 2006 Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security. The book, they explained, was a primer to help Democrats "think about the difficult decisions associated with military power and national security."
But a funny thing happened on the way to the voting booth-millions of Americans elected the very soft-power Dems who Campbell and O'Hanlon so roundly scorned. Particularly notable were a group of political neophytes who all rode to victory over GOP incumbents on a wave of anti-war sentiment-such as Dave Loebsack of Iowa, Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, New York's Kirsten Gillibrand, and Pennsylvania native and Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy.
The fact that this groundswell occurred-and the reason why Campbell and O'Hanlon failed to anticipate it-explains what is wrong with this book, what is wrong with the elite foreign-policy community the authors represent and ultimately what is wrong with the state of public discourse on matters that are crucial to the nation's future.