What Would Harry Truman Do?


Madeleine Albright just walked right in to one of my pet peeves, calling for the United States to adhere to a moderate (i.e., neither isolationist nor imperial) foreign policy, and then sets it up with the old "consider Harry Truman." Frankly, I think people should consider spending less time considering Harry Truman.

If there's some very specific thing Truman did that you want to do again, that's great, but overwhelmingly the only point Truman-invokers are making is that they want a foreign policy that's not too hot and also not too cold. This is nice, of course, and Goldilocks agrees, but it's really not an especially deep point or one that carries a ton of analytic bite.

It's telling, for example, that Peter Beinart was able to maintain his "liberals should emulate Truman" message in both his pro- and anti- phases on the Iraq War. Realistically, all we're seeing there is that "position yourself somewhere between two extremes" covers an extremely broad range of positions. I'm sure that Charles Krauthammer believes he, too, is inhabiting a wise middle ground in some sense. After all, he's not like Ann Coulter who wants to convert all Muslims to Christianity.