Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Central Front in the War on Terrorism


Indeed they do. But here's the funny thing about that. I read The Good Fight a couple of weeks ago, and Beinart is pretty clear that he now believes he was wrong about a whole host of things back in 2003. He was wrong about WMD, wrong about containment, wrong about the need for international legitimacy, etc. etc. If he had it to do over again, he wouldn't have supported the war.

What's more, his prescription for how liberals should approach foreign policy going forward is distinctly non-martial. He believes we need a sort of modern-day Marshall plan for the Middle East; a willingness to work with international institutions even if that sometimes restrains our actions; an acceptance that we should abide by the same restrictions that we demand of others; greater patience in foreign affairs; and a rededication to social justice both at home and abroad.

In other words, I think he could give the keynote address at YearlyKos and not really say much of anything the audience would disagree with. If Beinart really is the standard bearer for a new incarnation of liberal hawkishness, then we're almost all liberal hawks now.

There's a little more to it, of course, and Beinart remains critical of liberals who have gotten so disgusted with George Bush's approach to terrorism that they've decided the whole war on terror is just a sham. Still, it's an interesting transformation, and many of the differences that remain within liberal circles strike me as more rhetorical than substantive.

"The war on terror" was always a sham, in the sense that it was a hideously inappropriate metaphor which provided cover for a bunch of hideously inappropriate policies. As for these magical straw liberals who think terrorism isn't an issue, I imagine they're hiding out in Beinart's barn along with the rest of his straw monsters. As for the real issue, which is "George Bush's approach to terrorism," well, yes, that's a sham as I imagine even Beinart would acknowledge.

Perhaps someone just needs to sit Beinart down and tell him that a tendency to argue with invisible adversaries is not a sign of a deep and important thinker, something he so desperately wants to be.

P.S. According to Bush, it's Iraq. And we're not supposed to think it's all a sham?