Thursday, April 06, 2006

First look 2008: Karen Kwiatkowski

[Note: This is intended as the first in a series of articles about likely or prospective 2008 Libertarian Party presidential candidates]

Since at least as far back as 2004, when she spoke at the Libertarian Party's national convention, Karen Kwiatkowski (Lt. Colonel, USAF, Ret.), has been frequently mentioned as a prospective 2008 LP presidential candidate. By virtue of the lack of binding primaries and caucuses that get other parties' candidates out on the stump and under the microscope early, it becomes especially necessary for Libertarians to do a little digging. I've been doing "the basic look-see" on Kwiatkowski. Time to share my findings and conclusions:

Assuming she enters the race, and barring the entry of a former US Representative, US Senator, governor or senior executive branch or military official in the race, the LP is unlikely to see a more qualified prospective nominee than Karen Kwiatkowsi. This is not an endorsement (yet) -- just a statement of things as I see them.

Kwiatkowski has three degrees, two of them in public policy areas: An MA in Government from Harvard and a Ph.D. in World Politics from Catholic University. Her third degree is an MS in Science Management from the University of Alaska. She authored two books on foreign policy before she became a public figure, both of them published by institutional military presses.

Kwiatkowski was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Air Force in 1978 and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with 25 years of military service. During her career, she served in Alaska providing "logistical support for missions along the Russian and Chinese coasts;" did tours of duty in Spain and Italy; worked at the National Security Agency where she apparently did public affairs work (including speechwriting for the director of NSA); then served at the Pentagon, first in sub-Saharan African policy and at the end of her career at the Near East/Central Asia desk.

I won't go over Kwiatkowski's libertarian media credentials (most libertarians probably know her from LewRockwell.Com, but there are others). What's more important for a prospective presidential nominee is how much exposure she's had to the non-LP public. From various sources, including Wikipedia, I've tried to get a picture of her media profile and split it into two components:

Material Kwiatkowski has authored: Anonymous columns for David Hackworth's site prior to retirement; weekly columnist at Military Week since 2004; articles published in Ohio Beacon Journal, Salon, The American Conservative, Huffington Post; various radio appearances including PRI's "Democracy Now;" and appearances as commentator in at least two documentaries on terrorism. Her two aforementioned books are African Crisis Response Initiative: Past Present and Future, US Army Peacekeeping Institute, 2000 and Expeditionary Air Operations in Africa: Challenges and Solutions Air University Press, 2001.

Material about Kwiatkowski, including interviews: National Review, Fox News (John Gibson), Front Page Magazine, History News Network, Mother Jones, In These Times, Daily Kos, LA Weekly, Common Dreams, McSweeney's, Truthout, C-SPAN, Guerilla News Network, Asia Times, al-Jazeera and others.

The above list is certainly not exhaustive. It's not all positive, either -- the "conservative" (or, more specifically, neoconservative) media have not been friendly. However, even unfriendly coverage raises a person's profile and being attacked can be as good as being supported, depending on who's doing the attacking. Kwiatkowski's attackers have almost uniformly been supporters of the war on Iraq and of the Bush administration's foreign policy in general. If the LP wants to nominate an anti-war candidate (and I think we should), Kwiatkowski is one who has already walked the War Party's gauntlet several times without apparent injury, and who indisputably has better credentials than most American politicians to discuss US foreign policy.

Let's go over the two main lines of attack that Kwiatkowski's antagonists have pursued:

- She's been accused of being anti-Israel or even anti-semitic. I've been unable to find so much as one iota of evidence to sustain either of these charges. While she has been critical of what she considers to be undue Israeli influence over US foreign policy, she has also described Israel as a US friend and ally. I've yet to find any claim that Kwiatkowski has ever attacked, or made derogatory remarks about, Jews (or blacks, or Mexicans, or gay men, or lesbians, or any other racial, sexual, religious or social group). Naturally, if anyone knows differently, I hope they'll share ... but so far these attacks look like 100% hot air.

- She's also been accused of associations with the Lyndon LaRouche cult. She unequivocally denies any such associations. So far as I can tell, the accusations rest on a single piece of "evidence" -- that she gave an interview to Executive Intelligence Review, a LaRouche publication. I've been unable to find any other indication of any connection between Kwiatkowski and the LaRouchies -- and the interview doesn't seem to constitute a connection, either. For one thing, after a summary of it was distributed via email by an EIR editor, Kwiatkowski rebutted a number of that editor's assertions as to what she had said and meant. For another, EIR has interviewed any number of public figures who could not plausibly be described as LaRouchies. From the Washington Post:

In Reagan's first term, Executive Intelligence Review, a LaRouche-tied magazine, ran interviews with such officials as Agriculture Secretary John Block, Defense Undersecretary Richard DeLauer, Associate Attorney General Lowell Jensen, Commerce Undersecretary Lionel Olmer and then-Sen. John Tower (R-Texas), at the time chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, The New Republic reported.

One can never be entirely certain -- and we should always keep our eyes open -- but so far the attacks on Kwiatkowski look like a load of chaff thrown out in lieu of facts, for the purpose of smearing her and minimizing the impact of her statements.

Kwiatkowski is not a "perfect" candidate. It would be nice if she'd made full colonel or even picked up a general's star, or served on the National Security Council, or held elected or appointed office; and if she plans to seek the LP's 2008 presidential nomination, I hope she'll start hitting on domestic policy issues (without, of course, slacking off on foreign policy).

However, her credentials in the public policy -- especially the foreign policy -- realm far outstrip those of any prior LP presidential candidate with the possible exception of US Representative Ron Paul, and she's a bona fide public figure with three years of intensive experience in the public eye. She also states that she has been a member of the Libertarian Party since 1994, and an ideological libertarian since adolescence, which makes it seem unlikely that she's interested in using the party's nomination for purposes which would be detrimental to the party's interests.

Unless I'm missing something -- and it's certainly possible that I am, so let me know if you know what it is -- Kwiatkowski is so far the LP's best prospect. Unless a former governor or congresscritter actually takes the leap and seeks the nomination, I suspect she'll remain so.

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