Thursday, June 01, 2006


Drum writes:

So what is it that Beinart really wants from antiwar liberals? The obvious answer is found less in policy than in rhetoric: we need to engage more energetically with the war on terror and criticize illiberal regimes more harshly.

Maybe so. But this is something that's nagged at me for some time. On the one hand, I think Beinart is exactly right. For example, should I be more vocal in denouncing Iran? Sure. It's a repressive, misogynistic, theocratic, terrorist-sponsoring state that stands for everything I stand against. Of course I should speak out against them.

And yet, I know perfectly well that criticism of Iran is not just criticism of Iran. Whether I want it to or not, it also provides support for the Bush administration's determined and deliberate effort to whip up enthusiasm for a military strike. Only a naif would view criticism of Iran in a vacuum, without also seeing the way it will be used by an administration that has demonstrated time and again that it can't be trusted to act wisely.

And this is precisely why when Pete says this he misses the point entirely:

PB: Anything one writes deserves to be judged by itself. The Democratic Party nominated someone in 2004 who had been flat wrong in his opposition to the Gulf War in 1991, I think most people would acknowledge that. Many people who were very prominent figures in the Democratic foreign policy debate and the Democratic Party in general--most of the people who were there at that time in 1991 were wrong about that. The vast majority of the party was wrong, and yet it still seems to me that we have things to learn from people like Sam Nunn or John Kerry. If you were to go from the Gulf War through Kosovo and Iraq, you would find that a large number of people in every facet of the liberal Democratic universe were wrong, on at least one of those wars. Very, very few people were right about all three of them. The people who were--and I think Al Gore is in this category--deserve a significant amount of credit, but the truth of the matter is, if you were looking for an untainted record, you would find very few people.

Supporting or opposing the Iraq war wasn't simply about supporting or opposing a policy, or even supporting or opposing a particular war. Climbing on the Bush train to disaster involved endorsing a completely disastrous foreign policy "doctrine," endorsing a completely dishonest sales job for the war, endorsing a polical climate which branded opponents of that war traitors, etc... etc... Even the more sober supporters of the war like Ken Pollack, who won't get off my television for some reason, knew there was no urgency for whatever reasons they imagined the war would be necessary, but they all decided that supporting this misguided war RIGHT THEN was more important than having any understanding of what Bush and the gang was doing with it.

Supporting the Iraq war wasn't some abstract policy mistake. Supporting it involved endorsing a whole menu of horrible things. I remember at the time all these people thought, Friedman-like, that they'd get their fantasy war. But any sensible person knew they were going to get George Bush's war.