Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 1, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

LIBERAL WORDS, ILLIBERAL ENDS....I have a few more things I want to say about Peter Beinart's The Good Fight, and now's as good a time as any.

First: it's a pretty good book. Most of it is an intellectual history of the "anti-imperialist" left in America, a subject that dominates the first half of the book and then continues to weave its way through the second half even when the main focus of the narrative changes. I'll leave it to others to judge whether Beinart summarizes this history fairly, but he does a snappy and readable job of telling his story. It's a quick read.

Second: it's a book that can provoke a lot of questions and start a lot of arguments. Here's an example. One of Beinart's biggest concerns is that liberals are throwing out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to the war on terror:

A November 2005 M.I.T. study...found that only 59 percent of Democrats as opposed to 94 percent of Republicans still approved of America's decision to invade Afghanistan. And only 57 percent of Democrats as opposed to 95 percent of Republicans supported using U.S. troops to "destroy a terrorist camp." George W. Bush, in other words, has used the war on terror to cover such a multitude of sins that for many liberals the whole idea of focusing the nation's energies on defeating global jihad (whether you call that effort the "war on terror" or something else) has fallen into disrepute. Just as Vietnam turned liberals against the cold war, Iraq has now turned them against the war on terror.

Now, maybe he's right about this. I don't think the evidence is quite as damning as Beinart makes it out to be, but poll after poll makes it clear that at the very least the war on terror doesn't rank very high on the list of things liberals care about these days.

But Beinart also makes it abundantly clear that he recognizes just how badly George Bush has politicized the war on terror, misused the military, and made fundamental strategic mistakes of a catastrophic nature. And as I mentioned a few days ago, his prescription for how liberals should conduct the war on terror going forward is decidedly non-martial. It is, frankly, not much different from what John Kerry said during the 2004 campaign, and not something that most liberals would find much fault with.

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.

So what to do? For the most part, I end up saying very little. And Beinart is right: there's a sense in which that betrays my own liberal ideals. But he's also wrong, because like it or not, my words and those of other liberals would end up being used to advance George Bush's distinctly illiberal ends. And I'm simply not willing to be a pawn in the Bush administration's latest marketing campaign.

I don't have a very good answer for this dilemma. And I'm not very happy about it. Feel free to whack away in comments.

Kevin Drum 1:24 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (147)

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Comments

you know, that was extremely well said, Kevin.

Posted by: mencken on June 1, 2006 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

"But he's also wrong, because like it or not, my words and those of other liberals would end up being used to advance George Bush's distinctly illiberal ends."

No doubt. But talking about the details of Bush's incredibly lame pursuit of democracy is fair game. For instance, it would be helpful if America didn't support illiberal regimes such as Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan, Equatorial Guinea, Singapore, and others that I've forgotten. America's ability to lecture other countries effectively on democracy undermined just a wee little bit by the Bush administration's blatent hypocrisy.

Posted by: Tom DC/VA on June 1, 2006 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

You should probably clarify exactly what it is about how the Bush Administration would use your (and other liberals') words. Is it that Bush would screw it up? Is it that Bush has nefarious reasons (oil, natural gas, Likud policy, etc.) for supporting war against Iran and you want nothing of the sort? Is it that you disagree with Bush's approach to Iran up to now and you don't want to encourage him to continue? Is it that you actually agree with Bush on Iran, but you disagree with him on so many other issues that you fear he will gain politically by a confrontation with Iran and thus other issues that you care about will suffer (think Election 2002). A variation of the last point: Is it that his rhetoric on Iran so mirrors his rhetoric on Iraq that you fear all of the consequences of the Iraq disaster repeating itself, including, among other things, Republican electoral triumph in 2006? It's probably worthwhile to think through why your reticence about Bush's misuse of your rhetorical hatred of Iran is more important than your genuine outrage at Iran itself.

Posted by: Elrod on June 1, 2006 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin ponders the question: So what is it that Beinart really wants from antiwar liberals?

One obvious answer: Beinart wants us to forget all he did to enable this country getting Bushwhacked, without his having to acknowledge his errors.

Posted by: Amit Joshi on June 1, 2006 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

Elrod asks whether Kevin "...fear[s] all of the consequences of the Iraq disaster repeating itself, including, among other things, Republican electoral triumph in 2006?"

This comment, and even Kevin's original post, assumes that Bush's approach to Iran has merits. It doesn't. Which sane person believes that not negotiating makes sense? Why do we think we pose a credible threat to Ahmadinejad or the Ayatollahs? Any attempt to sanction or invade Iran would only rally the Iranians behind these assholes.

So the real answer is: we don't trust Bush to do anything right. He'll make a bad situation worse, and embroil us directly in a quagmire like Iraq.

Why is it necessary to look for deeper reasons? Isn't this more than enough?

Posted by: Amit Joshi on June 1, 2006 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

My recommendation is that you find the courage to climb out of your arrogant, liberal mindset and walk in a few truths. Do something incredibly constructive for a change.

Most Republicans are not the imperialist idiots you paint them as. Demonization of your political opponents does no good. If the far right wing hawks win the day and an ill-advised invasion of Iran happens, part of the blame will be on the heads of the moderate left who let the loud-mouthed, profanity-wielding Kos kids and their counterparts in the despicable, flame-throwing Michael Savage right steal the dialogue so that the only two options were lying down appeasement or full scale invasion.

Don't think that your political opponents can not be trusted with a well reasoned argument. Crawl out from the hatred which labels Bush as some puppet of the far right, and see that he really wants to be the administrator of a sound strategy.

Actually showing that you respect the use of force when done judiciously, and are not ready to hand all U.S. sovereignity over to an ineffectual UN will do wonders for creating enlightening discussion. Who knows, such an effort may lead to a triumph of the Bush administration in preserving peace with Iran, while getting rid of the danger of Iranian nukes.

Would GWB getting the credit for this be such a disaster? I hope you do not put politics above the well being of the human race.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 1, 2006 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

...and John Hansen manages to completely ignore the evidence of the last five years, which is that said Republicans are in fact evil idiots. Someone of us don't have memory holes in our head in which we can disappear all the lies and fuckery of the reign of the morons. Some of us remember being right. On Bush, on Iraq, on every fucking thing.

Posted by: tavella on June 1, 2006 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

"Most Republicans are not the imperialist idiots you paint them as."

But they vote for imperialist idiots. Close enough.

"Actually showing that you respect the use of force when done judiciously, and are not ready to hand all U.S. sovereignity over to an ineffectual UN will do wonders for creating enlightening discussion."

Not including two wildly inaccurate slurs of liberals in your argument will do wonders for creating enlightening discussion.

Posted by: Tom DC/VA on June 1, 2006 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think it's just that liberals are quieter or warier after 9/11 and Iraq. I think there's been a real temperamental shift on both sides of the foreign policy argument. The right-wing realists became right-wing idealists, and the left-wing idealists became left-wing realists. It's not that I as a liberal am frightened that my words would be used against me if I condemned illiberal regimes, although perhaps I should be. It's that those words wouldn't feel true as a guide to action; I'm genuinely more skeptical of being led by grandiose ideals rather than nitty-gritty practicalities.

Posted by: Wagster on June 1, 2006 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

John/Elrod: Bush has provided mountains of evidence to demonstrate how he approaches international affairs. He whipped up a war frenzy against Iraq using innuendo and fakery, and I don't doubt that he plans to do the same against Iran at some point.

Maybe I'm wrong. But that's the way it seems to me. And since I think that military action against Iran is a bad idea, I'm loathe to do anything that will help him whip up public opinion.

Is it possible that the day might come when I'd support military action against Iran? Sure. But I don't support it right now, and I think it can be avoided. Unfortunately, I don't think Bush wants to avoid it. In fact, I think he's doing everything he can to leave us with no other option. I won't do anything to help him with that.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on June 1, 2006 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

John Hansen:

Don't think that your political opponents can not be trusted with a well reasoned argument. Crawl out from the hatred which labels Bush as some puppet of the far right, and see that he really wants to be the administrator of a sound strategy.

I see that recent technological breakthroughs have enabled people like Mr. Hansen to check in from alternate universes.

Posted by: grh on June 1, 2006 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

Modern Iran appears to be as much a creation of the West as anything else. 1953 saw the CIA and pig Oil overthrow democracy. 1979 saw the overthrow of the CIA SAVAC torture regime and so on through plans for nukes being offered and actual plants being supplied to the other ' axis' member , the DPRK.
This doofus Beinhart sounds like a right prat - so when are you going to read Chalmers Johnson's , ' Blowback', Drum?
If you wanted to make yrself useful you could call for intervention in Burma but that might involve being less a political mineral and more of a political animal.
If you really are a political animal I imagine you as a small lapdog that has been deballed, debarked, is toothless and has mange. Please get some help.

Posted by: professor rat on June 1, 2006 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

I myself would be just a little more comfortable about the war on "global jihad" as Beinart puts it, if we were actually fighting the people who actually are jihading us. Anybody remember Al Qaeda? Osama Bin Laden? It's kind of hard to have much confidence in any "war" if the people executing the war don't even know who the enemy is.

I know there is a certain subset of neocon types who are not worried about AQ. I think they are insane. If AQ can pull off an attack like 9/11 once they can do it again. And they can probably do it "better".

So here you are Peter. Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are evil people who should be wiped off the planet. That tough enough for you? So why don't we quit enabling the people that refuse to do it. Like the Bush administration.

Posted by: AnotherBruce on June 1, 2006 at 2:10 AM | PERMALINK

It all seems to be about domestic political positioning doesn't it?

If Beinart had seriously had a hard look at the case for and against the invasion of Iraq, instead of looking for a position that was politically expedient for Democrats, I suspect he may have come to a different conclusion.

Surely it's as simple as deciding what course is in the US's best interests and then articulating the arguments for it, even if there's a political cost in the short term.

Posted by: Renwick on June 1, 2006 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

"So Jews are forced to wear badges just like they had to under Nazi Germany. But are liberals like Kevin Drum willing to critize Iran for being Nazis?"

Here we have a textbook case of how the RWNM works. Right-wing operative creates a fake story. A right-leaning mainstream media operation runs it. The story is debunked and the media operation retracts it. Yet (paid) twits like Al repeat it as if it were true.

This is why Republicans can't be trusted: they knowingly lie.

Go figure.

Posted by: Tom DC/VA on June 1, 2006 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

"Demonization of your political opponents does no good."

Sure it does. Making "liberal" a dirty word has done the riht tons of good, mostly be putting money, including blood money, in their pockets.

"an ill-advised invasion of Iran happens, part of the blame will be on the heads of the moderate left"

Good grief, Markos is dangling Bush like a puppet, forcing Bush to prove his manhood by killing bunches of wimmins and chilluns. Again. Poor George.

"Don't think that your political opponents can not be trusted with a well reasoned argument"

Intelligent design and WMD's. Nuff said

"Crawl out from the hatred which labels Bush as some puppet of the far right, and see that he really wants to be the administrator of a sound strategy."

Bush really "wants to be a war President" as he said in 1998. Doesn't where, who, or why, just so the idiot prince can strut on a carrier deck. Sound strategy, my ass.

"and are not ready to hand all U.S. sovereignity over to an ineffectual UN "

I am ready. Rather than the fools and madmen in charge now, I would prefer Kofi Anan and the Security Council take charge of the US. Then they can ship Bush, Cheney, and maybe you over to Brussels for War Crimes Trials. I am totally serious. None dare call it treason? Dare away. The US has been stolen by monsters, has no legitimacy or right to self-determination until the nutcases are out of power.

"Would GWB getting the credit for this be such a disaster? I hope you do not put politics above the well being of the human race."

Same thing. Considering the deficits, wars, arms buildup, indifference to global warming, the Republican Party is the greatest danger to humanity the world has ever known. Much more dangerous and destructive than Nazis or Stalin. The well being of the human race needs the destruction of that Party.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on June 1, 2006 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

I don't do that often. Was Fun. Felt good.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on June 1, 2006 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

Go Bob!

Posted by: Tom DC/VA on June 1, 2006 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

Your ability to criticize one of the Iranian regime-- which you ADMIT is horrible-- depends on partisan politics and who sits in the white house. Why should we take anything you say about the war on terror seriously?

Posted by: American Hawk on June 1, 2006 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

the greatest danger to humanity the world has ever known.

Please remind me again about how this is not the type of hyperbole which cuts off reasonable discussion of ideas based on their merits?

Posted by: John Hansen on June 1, 2006 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

Why should we take anything you say about the war on terror seriously?

Good question American Hawk. If Bill Clinton was President, Kevin would be one of the first ones defending any military attack ordered by him.

Posted by: Al on June 1, 2006 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

How about telling the truth as best we see it? That includes the dangers of a nuclear Iran as well as the dangers of an inadequate president. I suspect that connecting the inadequacy of this president to the Iranian situation would help the liberal side rather than hinder it.

Posted by: Bob G on June 1, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, I don't think Bush wants to avoid it.

Get over it Kevin. Its not true that GWB wants war. This is a sad excuse for a comment which if you really considered it carefully, you would know not to be true.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 1, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sick and tired of Democrats who criticize Democrats, saying we should walk and talk more like the Republicans, while acknowledging that the Republican walk-and-talk for the past six years has been a disaster. The complaint is so specious and ridiculous, I can't think of anything more to say, except:

Beinart is a horse's ass.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on June 1, 2006 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

Your ability to criticize one of the Iranian regime-- which you ADMIT is horrible-- depends on partisan politics and who sits in the white house.

Since the Iraq invasion was timed for the 2002 midterm elections, and was used as a club against political opponents in 2002. I would say that the Republican Party's decision to launch this war depended on partisan politics, so what the hell are you trying to say?

Posted by: AnotherBruce on June 1, 2006 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

This is why Republicans can't be trusted: they knowingly lie.

This is why people like Tom can't carry on rational discussion. They are quick to generalize about all Republicans. Do you really think what you said has any merit? Do you really think that half the nation likes to knowingly lie?

Posted by: John Hansen on June 1, 2006 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

"George Bush has politicized the war on terror"

The lack of self-awareness in this statement is jaw-dropping. You cannot seriously be trying to convince anyone but the most resolute cocoon-dweller that Bush has politicized the war more than the Left, surely?

Posted by: am on June 1, 2006 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Do you really think that half the nation likes to knowingly lie?"

Half the nation doesn't identify as Republican. Only about 1/3.

I do appreciate you being this thread's concern troll. Without you spewing stupidity like "[you] are not ready to hand all U.S. sovereignity over to an ineffectual UN" we'd be stuck making fun of Al and his sock puppet AH, and that's gotten old.

Posted by: Tom DC/VA on June 1, 2006 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

It's a repressive, misogynistic, theocratic, terrorist-sponsoring state that stands for everything I stand against

All true. But what has to be stressed, particularly in the case of Iran, is that there are large numbers of distinctly liberal elements who also detest the Ayatollah there. These (mostly younger generation) can be cultivated, encouraged and supported to the best our abilities (some innovation is really needed here! there are way too many of these a**hats in power worldwide...) to facilitate change from within- which will likely not happen overnight but should be pursued nonetheless. We need leaders who champion policies and objectives that do not necessarily see a "return on investment" within a single election cycle.

Even if the neocons had the best of intentions (I will give them the benefit of the doubt) in changing the regime in Iraq, their invasion method has been proven utterly disastrous. Most Americans agree on this now. This fact can preface any Iran discussion and should be repeated ad nauseum. Any military strike will unite many (most? all?) anti-mullah/pro-westerners against us and push liberalization goals back till who knows when. Only in the exceptional cases (Al Qaeda/Afghanistan) should liberals support the use of force.

Posted by: (a different) kevin on June 1, 2006 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

Why are we even discussing whether or not to attack a country that has done nothing illegal re. nuclear enrichment?

Why are non-Americans expected to accept a debate in which America, once again, muses and and ruminates whether or not to unilaterally attack a sovereign country?

I have plenty of American friends (including a few ex-members of the US military) and would pretty much classify myself as a regular poster here. I enjoy debating with you all a great deal - yet this idea of military action against Iran does not deserve to be 'reasonably' debated ina 'level-headed' manner.

It deserves to be ridiculed and scorned.

Where is the support for this? Hell - where's the justification for it?

Danger to Israel? The ludicrous lie about the wearing of yellow stars? Why not ask the Jewish members of the Iranian parliament what they would like to see happen. Do they support a strike against their country?

Sorry, but my sympathy is with Iran in this situation. If you attack then you deserve what you get, frankly.

If the US is stupid enough to attack then I worry a great deal about the economic fallout for all of us. You are seriously going to attack a large and united country which sits atop oil and gas reserves which the world economy needs to survive, and which your own Pentagon admits could shut down the Straits of Hormuz?

Madness.

BTW, can someone please tell me the last time Iran attacked another country? I seem to have forgotten.

Posted by: floopmeister on June 1, 2006 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

You cannot seriously be trying to convince anyone but the most resolute cocoon-dweller that Bush has politicized the war more than the Left, surely?

Are you saying the Left commands the war on terror as much as Bush does? That's jaw dropping news.

Posted by: Boronx on June 1, 2006 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

Other recent examples times for liberals to support use of force in intervention/regime change: Serbia, Rwanda, Sudan to name a few... namely genocide. Should be a litmus test. Not the case in Iran.

Posted by: (a different) kevin on June 1, 2006 at 3:02 AM | PERMALINK
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.

Well, sure, this is true. But if we aren't willing and able to dismantle our own regime that engages in aggressive war abroad and dismantling of the social contract at home, what credibility do we have in criticizing illiberal regimes abroad?

Some will say "The mullahs in Tehran are worse than the Republican in Washington", and I agree, at least in the terms of the immediate conditions under their rule in their respective home countries. But we are far more directly responsible for the government in Washington. It must be our priority to correct it, before we try to export the ideals of limited government by consent of the government, adherence to international norms, etc., around the globe -- especially before attempting to do that through the US government.

If nothing else, because until we have corrected it, we have no vehicle with which to export those ideals, whatever the rhetoric that our leaders may issue. This regime has repeatedly stomped on those values around the world, undermining constitutionalism in Bosnia and elsewhere in practice while supporting it in (e.g.) Iraq in rhetoric, ignoring international norms and institutions, and encouraging and tolerating others doing so where it serves the US regimes immediate interests, at the same time that it demands that certain others adhere absolutely to those some international regimes.

We can't use the US government to advance values globally without first getting the US government to commit to those values. And pretending that the present regime in Washington is at all interested in fighting "illiberal regimes" in any general sense is willful ignorance.


Posted by: cmdicely on June 1, 2006 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

Most of the above comments prove Beinart's point. But I'm sure that the next Dem president won't be following the Kos line so I'm not concerned. It's just sort of really weird that Bush hatred leads people to a blindess about the need to deal with repressive (I'll spell it out - very very non-liberal) regimes.

Kevin, if Bush so much wants war then why is Condi wanting negotiations and why has Bush gone along with the European efforts.

Posted by: neil on June 1, 2006 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, if Bush so much wants war then why is Condi wanting negotiations and why has Bush gone along with the European efforts.

It's called impotence.

The red meat base might not like it, or the neocon crazies, but maybe saner heads are starting to be listened it.

Posted by: floopmeister on June 1, 2006 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

FWIW, Floopmeister, Persia's been around for millenia, and nearly never gets around to invading anybody.

It seems weird to an American - hey, we attack people for breakfast! - but Iran seems to be content.

Posted by: bad Jim on June 1, 2006 at 3:59 AM | PERMALINK

Despite all the rhetoric, I still don't see any reason to believe that "fighting terrorism" is a high priority for Bush at all. I'm mystified as to how that perception seems to have taken hold.

Posted by: Really on June 1, 2006 at 3:59 AM | PERMALINK

Never mind.

My brother would like me to put the latest bumper sticker, "I'm already against the next war" on my car. I haven't, yet.

Better, I think, would be, "Bush, put your thumb back up your butt."

Posted by: bad Jim on June 1, 2006 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

George W. Bush, in other words, has used the war on terror to cover such a multitude of sins that for many liberals the whole idea of focusing the nation's energies on defeating global jihad (whether you call that effort the "war on terror" or something else) has fallen into disrepute.

You know why? Because "defeating global jihad" just isn't that important. It doesn't pose an existential threat to anyone and if the Gulf states were run as well as Indonesia and Malaysia (surely not a high bar) it wouldn't be attracting so many adherents. The US can just wait this one out. There are better uses of billions of dollars.

Posted by: william on June 1, 2006 at 4:11 AM | PERMALINK

You sound like Tom Friedman and Greg Djerejian, Kevin -- both of whom have also reluctantly announced that, if the choice comes down to letting Iran acquire the Bomb or letting our current bunch of governing fruitcakes run a war against it, they just might prefer the former. It is definitely Hobson's Choice, though.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on June 1, 2006 at 4:21 AM | PERMALINK

My solution to Kevin's problem - "How do I not betray my liberal values by not speaking up against Iran" is to speak up against another repressive regime somewhere. Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc.

Well, maybe not North Korea, cause I could see them being invaded. So Saudi Arabia it is.

Posted by: Steve W. on June 1, 2006 at 4:28 AM | PERMALINK

I disagree with Kevin. By ceding to Bush and the Republicans the issue of Iran, Kevin and other reluctant Dems allow Republicans to argue that they're the only ones recognizing some of the basic facts, i.e., that, as Kevin says, Iran is a "repressive, misogynistic, theocratic, terrorsist-sponsoring state." So when we Dems are silent on this and other issues of security policy, it amounts to sticking our heads in the sand to avoid discussion of real-world problems. This makes for bad policy and bad politics. It's bad policy because it allows Bush, Cheney, Rummy and crew to craft inept policy, challenged only by Democrats who refuse to acknowledge basic facts, and who therefore lack credibility in putting forward alternatives. It's bad politics because the Dems then continue to shoulder the stigma of not taking security policy seriously. And no, by "taking security policy seriously", I do not mean acquiescing to Republicans and trying to outdo them in sounding tough. I mean entering the policy debate on terms that acknowledge the seriousness of the problem, instead of the too-common tendency to minimize the problem because we fear the Republican solution. Since Vietnam, the Democratic Party has been too prone to doing this, and I fear that the horrors of Iraq will reinforce this self-defeating tendency.

Instead of running scared from the Republicans on security issues, which is what this Democratic tendency amounts to, wouldn't it be better for Democrats to analyze the situation in Iran (and elsewhere), acknowledge the threat, do some hard thinking about solutions, and then put forward their own policy proposals? Why must we always wait for Republicans to take the initiative on security policy, then react in ways that are too often divorced from the basic problem at hand? If we want to lead, we should start by showing that we can.

Posted by: Eric on June 1, 2006 at 5:07 AM | PERMALINK

More than anything, the New Republic is aggressively middlebrow.

It may be that America today is more than anything else aggressively middlebrow.

I want to find some beautiful backwater with a government just functional enough to keep the lights on, but no so functional it won't leave me alone, and just corrupt enough so that if it ever decides not to leave me alone a small bribe will end the bother.

Posted by: Linus on June 1, 2006 at 5:21 AM | PERMALINK

And Beinart is right: there's a sense in which that betrays my own liberal ideals.

No, it's not. It's saying that you wouldn't trust George W. Bush to look after your cats, let alone command the foreign and military policy of the United States of America.

As others have said, Beinart was a Bush-enabler over Iraq. He should know a fuckload better, especially -- as has been noted -- he is making money out of being a crapulent 'liberal hawk' while people of his (prime fighting) age are having their limbs blown off.

The schizoid troll (American Shitehawk is obviously Al the Idiot, or they're posting from the same GOP branch office) misses the salient point, as usual: of course it's partisan.

Republicans plainly can't do war. They are a bunch of malevolent, incompetent venal cunts who, in a less rigged democratic system, would have been kicked out of office and locked in cages. If that's partisan, so be it. One party cannot be trusted, and while it cannot be driven from executive office, it cannot be given any solace.

Posted by: ahem on June 1, 2006 at 5:27 AM | PERMALINK

Congrats on today's David Broder column, Kevin. Recognition richly deserved.

Posted by: Scott Frew on June 1, 2006 at 5:33 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: adult personals on June 1, 2006 at 5:53 AM | PERMALINK

Well, for one, I don't care about the "war on terror" because i think that having a "War" on it is the worst, dumbest, and most despaerate way to fight terror. In fact, you could say that i don't support the "war on terror" because I am...against terrorism.

the only real point to pursuing the kinds of strategies that adhere to such a narrow, clumsy, brutal,and cynical strategic focus as this is that the idea that we're fighting a war could pull people together, rein in exploitive profiteering on the home front and abroad, generate the kind of unity and sacrifice that helped get the US through WW2. You'll notice, that this isn't what's happening. Instead, this rhetoric has been used cheaply and divisively to consolidate political power.

Fighting terrorism has always been much more complicated than making war on it. These people won't do the hard part, the complicated parts, the diplomatic part, the simple good governance and attentiveness parts of the equation, and they've blown whatever power the rhetoric had through an incrdible combination of arrogance and dishonesty. So, would i go on record supporting the bill of goods that they call the "war on terror" as a way to make the world safer and freer? Fuck no.

Posted by: URK on June 1, 2006 at 5:55 AM | PERMALINK

First, I'd like to say that the infantile bed-wetter who posted all of the spam before my post should "GET A LIFE, LOSER!"

And, in addressing Kevin's thread, liberals should be leading the charge in condemning arms sales and the militarization of Third World countries. It always comes back to bite us - We have done it in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.

You watch - Colombian narco-terrorists will set off a dirty bomb in Los Angeles and the right-wingers will say "Wha? Where did that come from? They hate us because of our freedom."

No, doorknob. They hurt us because we hurt them by arming their people and giving them the tools to harm us.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on June 1, 2006 at 6:00 AM | PERMALINK

But why does fighting terror have to be framed as a "war"? For years we have fought terror as a CRIMINAL activity, and many countries (such as Spain) continue to do so. Framing the whole thing as a "war" has been a big part of the problem. If I recall, Kevin's made the same point himself ...

Posted by: Kerim Friedman on June 1, 2006 at 6:05 AM | PERMALINK

"Unfortunately, I don't think Bush wants to avoid it.

Get over it Kevin. Its not true that GWB wants war. This is a sad excuse for a comment which if you really considered it carefully, you would know not to be true."

Neither Kevin nor John Hanson know what GWB wants. We can however learn from the recent past. What we all do know is that GWB did not do all he could to avoid war in Iraq. Is there any reason to think he has changed?

Posted by: morris on June 1, 2006 at 6:20 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, Kevin. You're a star! The recognition is well-deserved. Congratulations...

Posted by: pol on June 1, 2006 at 6:28 AM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin makes a good point about not contributing support to an adminsitration that will just exploit it for illiberal ends. But let's suppose the situation is revered, Democrats are in power & have reigning hegemony. How would Beinart's ideas relate?

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway on June 1, 2006 at 7:22 AM | PERMALINK

There is no dilemma. As citizens of the US we should focus our critical energies on this country and its government. Iran's government - unless they choose to directly confront us - is none of our fucking business. Thinking that our ideals, liberal or otherwise, obligate us to try and order the world to our own specifications is one of the reasons we will soon be a debt ridden, former empirial power with an ugly recent history and much to regret.

Posted by: Doug on June 1, 2006 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

I don't have a very good answer for this dilemma. And I'm not very happy about it. Feel free to whack away in comments.

I think most Dems are not anti-war; they're anti-dumb wars. I don't see why being "serious" about national security means whole-heartedly supporting every damn war dreamed up by a politician.

Posted by: Moonlight on June 1, 2006 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

Demonization of your political opponents does no good.

Yeah, John Hansen, demonization of their political opponents has done no good at all for the GOP. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Posted by: Gregory on June 1, 2006 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

"As citizens of the US we should focus our critical energies on this country and its government. Iran's government - unless they choose to directly confront us - is none of our fucking business."

Pat Buchanan himself couldn't have said it any better. Pretending the rest of the world doesn't exist is always alluring in difficult times, but isolationism has always proven to be fool's gold. (Please note that I'm not at all arguing for the Bush variant of internationalism.)

Posted by: Eric on June 1, 2006 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

The usual TNR crap:

>the whole idea of focusing the nation's energies

A strawman on top of a smokescreen. Fucking idiot, Democrats have lost seats partially because they could be demonized as "sending our tax money on other countries".

The subset of people who actually identify themselves as "liberal" or "left" that are also isolationists is probably the smallest of any group. Real conservatives, most apolitical Americans, and people who call themselves conservatives are where the "I don't care what goes on outside our borders" mindset is strongest.

Sally Struthers is an American joke, particularly on The Right.

So that the Left doesn't want to change the world is a total strawman.

But it's also a smokescreen: By "energies" Beinart continually is found to mean military action, no matter how mcuh he's trying to plaster that over with the book. As somebody above said, it's a political calculation: Beinart has decided that Americans are fascinated by military action, have no patience for anything else, and he wants the glow of their attention.

Meanwhile Iraqis die like flies everyday and not one of them are named Saddam Hussein.

We haven't lost our stomach, at most we don't even know what to say about this fucked-up mess, it's like 3 and 48: no plays in the playbook for it.

Posted by: doesn't matter on June 1, 2006 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

Any post that incorporates the phrase 'war on terror' without at least the 'so-called' modifier is a non-starter.

Objectively speaking, there is no such thing as the 'war on terror', whether WOT, GWOT or any other moniker. It's a marketing phrase, designed to maintain a climate of fear in the U.S. - all war, all the time; and to lull the gullible public into giving up their consitutionally protected rights.

Any sane government that truly set out to rid the world of 'terror' would not be doing *any* of the things that the U.S. is doing.

Posted by: JB (not John Bolton) on June 1, 2006 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

neil wrote: Kevin, if Bush so much wants war then why is Condi wanting negotiations.

floopmeister retorted: It's called impotence.

Agreed, floop, but I'll go further: As Kevin pointed out, Rice's so-called offer of negotiations carried preconditions. There's little reason to believe -- especially from the incomeptent, mendacious and corrupt Bush Administration -- that her offer was made in good faith.

The bottom line: We successfully dealt with the freakin' Soviet Union -- which had actual nuclear weapons presumably targeted at the US -- with a policy of containment and deterrence. There is not one iota of evidence that these policies would not be effective against Iran. Nukes or no nukes, Iran is simply not much of a threat to the US, and I agree with floop that the cowards who claim that it is -- and then insist, like John Hansen, Peter Beinart and Condoleeza Rice, that anyone who wants to discuss must pre-concede the points they want -- deserve nothing but scorn and ridicule. It is they who are not serious about national security.

A further point: Recognition of Bush's mendacity, incompetence and corruption is essential for a serious discussion of America's security policy.

Posted by: Gregory on June 1, 2006 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, only one poster had mentioned this previously, but I couldn't resist re-highlighting this:

Crawl out from the hatred which labels Bush as some puppet of the far right, and see that he really wants to be the administrator of a sound strategy.

I can't tell if this is the funniest or most outrageous statement I've ever seen one of our resident conservatards make. Gracious!

Posted by: drjimcooper on June 1, 2006 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

What war on terror?

I think what Beinart wants from those he labels as "liberals" (whatever the label now means) is for them to embrace a war on Islam, such as have "conservatives." Though he doesn't have the gumption to say so explicitly. Perhaps he's engaging in the Straussian practice of writing esoterically so that only the "philosophers" really understand his point while we, of the dumb ass masses, are foolish enough to take him seriously.

A measure of just what an intellectual twit Beinart really is, is his need to place people and concepts into those tidy little liberal and conservative categories.

Posted by: Chris Brown on June 1, 2006 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: "In my heart, I want to criticize repressive foreign regimes like Iran. But if I do, somebody might twist my words and make it sound like I support Bush. That would be awful. So I won't criticize Iran, I'd rather blog about Plame/Rove."

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on June 1, 2006 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

The one commentator who got it exactly right was Kevin Drum, who runs the magazine's blog. "What do we have to look forward to if George W. Bush is elected to a second term?" he asked. "One word: scandal."

Good job Kevin!

Posted by: dilbert on June 1, 2006 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum feels the way most Democrats feel - "I won't criticize Iran because my words could be used to support Bush."

So instead of bashing repressive regimes (Iran, Iraq), Dems have spent the last 5-plus years bashing Bush. Instead of bashing the terrorists, Dems have focused their rage against Bush.

And where has all the Bush-bashing gotten the Dems? Totally out of power.

The Drum Strategy isn't working out too well at the polls!

Posted by: Down goes Frazier on June 1, 2006 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

There's just one thing that bothers liberals more than America losing a war --

America winning a war!

Posted by: Brad on June 1, 2006 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Instapundit today linked to an article suggesting we should support dissenters inside Iran.

Isn't it obvious that blogs which actually engage the Iran issue are more intersting and will generate more traffic?

Posted by: Paddy Whack on June 1, 2006 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

It's not really that hard to say--as Beinart is wont to do--that Iran sucks but Bush sucks, too.

This is a problem only if one paints with the broadest of possible brushes. Goes like this:

"Iran is an evil, tyrannical, illiberal regime that we must oppose. But Bush is a lying moron, and so this should not be taken as an endorsement of him or his policies."

Glad to see you're thinking about this, though, KD. It's not fashionable to agree with Beinart about *anything* these days.

Posted by: Winston Smith on June 1, 2006 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

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...also provides support for the Bush administration's determined and deliberate effort to whip up enthusiasm for a military strike....So what to do? For the most part, I end up saying very little. And Beinart is right: there's a sense in which that betrays my own liberal ideals.

No kidding. It makes you look like an opportunistic 'ho' who will do whatever it takes for a vote.

OK, so don't argue about Iran. Pick Egypt and similar. We give them huge bucks, and they are throwing people who believe in liberal principles everywhere a huge bone by acting like thugs. Force Bush's hand. Same thing with Darfur.

Posted by: Red State Mike on June 1, 2006 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

What does Peter Beinart want?

He wants us to listen to his advice despite the fact that he has been utterly wrong in the recent past.

He does not deserve what he wants.

Posted by: lib on June 1, 2006 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting post and thread. I would say that liberals need to articulate a vision for the world and then actively work towards that vision.

For myself I would like a safe and sane world. Being an old fashioned American I believe that everybody is endowed by their creator with certain rights. Among them are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I have noticed that my beliefs are not shared by a lot of fundamentalist Christians, Muslims and Jews. Fundamentally fundamentalists don't believe the creator endows anybody with rights. The creator might give gifts to special people (them) but not rights.

The question is what do I do about reconcilling my beliefs with their beliefs. Obviously they need to convert. They need to become enlightened.

How do we enlighten them? Well we can flop about fighting a global war on terror. In the short term that approach is ineffective. In the long term it is corrosive of the belief that everybody has rights. Notice that early in the War on Terror John Ashcroft, a good fundamentalist Christian, announced that the state could strip basic "rights" from terrorists because after all they were terrorists. Essentially John took the role of creator for himself, like a good fundamentalist. The Mullahs in Tehran would be proud. So would the leaders of Likud.

In the long term fighting a war on terror will be ineffective. The enlightenment that gave birth to Western Values in general and American Values in particular was a response to the outrageous and deadly wars promoted by religious excesses of a bunch of mad fundamentalist religious nuts who make Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson look down right liberal by comparison. "Fighting a war on terror" is like "destroying the village to save it"--nuts.

No, the answer is to be found in promoting peace and prosperity around the world. I am not a total nut. I know that we have to be able to defend ourselves, but we should defend ourselves intelligently. Our weapon of choice should be enlightenment culture. Ultimately that culture defeated both the soviet union and the Chinese (don't kid yourselves the pigs are walking up right--Western values are assendant in China.) Over the next few centuries those old enemies will fully absorb enlightenment beliefs and they will no longer be as much of a threat as they were.

The same is possible with Islam. Most Jews are already onboard. The toughest nut to crake might be the fundamentalist Christians. After all most of them have been exposed to Christ already but have chosen to ignore him.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 1, 2006 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

We should be aware that a policy of unconditional support for open--and democratic--political systems in the Middle East will result in the election of Islamic regimes that will most likely be hostile tot he United States and its interests. The one country where this might not happen is...Iran.

Democrats can run against the Republicans on security issues by stressing Competence, Pragmatism, and Accountability. These are attributes that the current administration distinctly lacks.

Posted by: Wombat on June 1, 2006 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers

Nice sentiments.

Perhaps your goals would be better achieved if you (and others) stop identifying people on the basis of their religious beliefs and relegate so called 'faith' to a personal matter.

Posted by: lib on June 1, 2006 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

lib

I don't have any problem with your request. It seems, however, that religious fundamentalists self identify.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 1, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

"Feel free to whack away in comments"

ok I will. The gist of this article by Drum is that the left would rather turn their head and not be outspoken against a segment of the Muslim society that is systematically killing innocent people worldwide and attempting to bomb their country back to the stoneage all for the sake of "not supporting" GW. I guess this is called enlightened.

Secondly, the outrage of Haditha, and rightfully so if allegations are proven true, expressed by the left seem a bit disengenous at best considering that it was the insuregents do on a daily basis and the left's response is to withdraw. So is it "life" you care about or only your own "life" that you care about? Again, this is called enlightened.

Finally, Ron suggests that it is the fundamentalist Christians who would be the "toughest nut to crack" ignoring the fact that Christians are not systematically killing innocent people or attempting to bomb societies back to the stoneage. This is called politically correct in that it is perfectly ok to take cheap shots at Christians but is not ok to address the radical Muslims in that fashion lest someone might be offended. This is called ignorance, prejudice, cowardice and enlightened.

Posted by: Jay on June 1, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, please explain how "the war on terrorism" has much at all to do with Iran.

I'm actually getting weary-- and I suspect the American people are too-- of this war with no end, no borders, no strategy. Terrorism is simply NOT the worst evil facing us today. Europe deal with terrorism (on several "fronts") for decades without invading unaffiliated nations. You might remember, long before Al Qaeda, bombs went off in London department stores and Italian airports. Terror wasn't a theoretical emotion for them as it is for us now-- they actually had to worry about it when they went shopping, though of course it didn't kill more than a tiny fraction of the number killed there in two world wars.

And they survived without deciding "the enemy" could be attacked by invading another nation.

For that matter, nations outside of ours and Europe deal with political strife every day, which has killed far, far more than any terrorist. Why are we so scared of what looks to be, in retrospect, a very minor threat? (Not to discount 9/11 as a tragedy one bit, but can we base the next generation's foreign policy on that one incident... or even worse, misusing that one incident?)

So when we're skeptical of a connection of Iran with terrorism and Al Qaeda, or of Bush's reasoning, we're doing the right thing. But I think we also ought to be questioning whether we really ought to be centering everything in our policy on some "war on terror" that no one can define.

Posted by: cous on June 1, 2006 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

"Crawl out from the hatred which labels Bush as some puppet of the far right, and see that he really wants to be the administrator of a sound strategy."

I can't tell if this is the funniest or most outrageous statement I've ever seen one of our resident conservatards make. Gracious!

No, it's the only thing they got left - tap into Americans' reserevoir of pity for any guy whose heart is in the right place yet fails - and fails because we didn't say "Tinker Bell I believe in you" enough times.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on June 1, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Unlike Iraq, Iran actually does provide logistical and financial support for terrorists that attack US interests.

Wars on terrorism--like jihads--can be fought in many ways, not all of them military. The Democrats can point to the comparative success of the Cold War as an example, and advocate policies on a broad array of fronts to take on the subculture from which Al Qaeda came.

Posted by: Wombat on June 1, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Jonah Lucianne just asserted on the Corner that the libs don't appreciate Beinart's 'heretical reasonableness'.

Now we know the audience that Peter seeks.

Jonah Lucianne's support for Peter should by itself qualify Mr. Beinart to be a pariah within the Democratic Party.

Posted by: lib on June 1, 2006 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

And where has all the Bush-bashing gotten the Dems? Totally out of power.
The Drum Strategy isn't working out too well at the polls!

Haven't read the polls - what is Bush's approval rating, still sub-40?

The problem is that the Democratic leadership in Congress are following Beinart's advice, not Kevin's, and haven't been more aggressive in Bush bashing. The American people respect fighters - and if our representatives believe that Bush is wrong, they need to be actively opposing him.

If the Democratic leadership don't show some guts, then the people - who think Bush is dead wrong - naturally assume that the Dems agree with Bush, and disagree with the view of the American people.

Say it loud, people: Bush was wrong on Iraq, he was incompentent in New Orleans, he didn't protect us on 9/11, and I don't trust him to do what's right for America.

Posted by: Wapiti on June 1, 2006 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

The government for last thirty years failed to protect us from 9/11. 9/11 was not planned and executed in 8 months moron. Radical muslims have been at war with the west since the 1972 Munich Olymipic Games (and probably earlier than that), we just failed to realize it. For the last thrity years they have been killing and bombing innocent people all over the world while our heads were firmly planted. I think yours still is.

Posted by: Jay on June 1, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Libby: No, it's the only thing they got left - tap into Americans' reserevoir of pity for any guy whose heart is in the right place yet fails - and fails because we didn't say "Tinker Bell I believe in you" enough times.

You're damned right it's the only thing they've got left. With the entire world and more than 70% of Americans agreed on Bush's unbroken record of incompetence, John Hansen abjectly humiliates himself with these "It's not about world-class fuckups; it's about how you lefties keep impolitely pointing them out" posts. He appears to be the only one who doesn't recognize just how foolish it makes him look.

Posted by: shortstop on June 1, 2006 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

I think you don't realize how foolish you look putting that much credence into the "polls". Didn't you learn that lesson in '04?

Posted by: Jay on June 1, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Jay again displays his profound ignorance. Fatah and PFLP (perpetrators of most of the attacks in the 1960s and 70s) were secular in their ends.

Using what passes for Jay's logic, we could say that PFLP attacks actually advocated Christian fundamentalism because George Habash was a Maronite Christian.

Posted by: Wombat on June 1, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Jay also omits the fact that the US government under the sainted Ronald Reagan made a policy decision to back the most Islamic fundamentalist factions of Afghan resistance to the Soviets, on the advice of Pakistan's fundamentalist leader Zia al-Haq. From this came Taliban, and indirectly, Bin Laden.

Posted by: Wombat on June 1, 2006 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Jay is an idiot!!

Posted by: GOD on June 1, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

I have to disagree with the whole premise about denouncing Iran and lining up for the War on Terror.

First, there are dozens of horribly oppressive regimes in the world (Zimbabewe, Congo, etc). Why is Iran so much worse? And also at this point the US doesn't have much standing about supporting democracy - no one really believes us. And also, let's not forget that when we chose to invade Iraq, the US abandoned any hope of supporting the students in Iran - we gave the oppressive regime a nationalist rallying cry. We had a choice to make and we made the wrong one - now on a practical level there is little or nothing the US can do.

Second, the War on Terror is an international joke - right up there with the War on Drugs. To continue to rally around it is a joke - unless the US seriously gets behind an international effort to support human rights - and work with the rest of the world to try and limit the vulnerability to terrorirst strikes.

Please notice that doesn't mean obsessing about jihadists - there are major terrorists threats all over the world and they're all not Muslim.

And that's my major critique of Beinert - he's basically a useless liberal because he spends all his time answering conservative questions. And that's a big problem.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on June 1, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Beinart has an excellent column in the 6/1 Washington Post regarding Conservatives "Hijacking Harry Truman," painting the neo-conservative use of force as a product of Truman's postwar policies while forgetting his commitment to foreign aid and international cooperation. The discrepancy regarding Truman's legacy presents an indirect answer to Kevin's question: liberals should take it back. Though he doesn't explicitly tie it to his book or the war on terror, Beinart illustrates that the commitment to promoting democracy abroad was once considered a liberal goal, scorned by Goldwater and his ilk, though it is now viewed as the ethos of Kristol, Wolfowitz, et al. The sea change in perception occured as a result of the rhetoric used regarding Iraq. For liberals to talk about Iran without getting caught up in the chatter, we need only develop our own rhetoric. If we want to paint criticism of jihadism as a liberal paradigm, why not just say it explicitly? "We are committed to the liberal aims of promoting the tolerance and equality denied to the Iranian people by their leaders." "We are committed to fighting terrorism not just by hunting and capturing terrorists but by providing aid to the people, not the governments, in that part of the world." Not that hard at all really.

Posted by: Michael on June 1, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

I just don't get it, how "war" has become the all purpose solution for every political problem today. Not so long ago, this wasn't so. On 15 August 1945, President Truman requested that The United States Strategic Bombing Survey conduct a study of the effects of all types of air attack in the war against Japan (one of the team members was J. Kenneth Galbraith.) This is the conclusion ~

"...Strength as a force for peace. -- The Survey's report on the European war stated that the great lesson to be learned in the battered cities of England and the ruined cities of Germany is that the best way to win a war is to prevent it from occurring. This is fully supported by the example of the devastated cities of Japan and their unhappy and hungry surviving inhabitants. The prevention of war must be the ultimate end to which our best efforts are devoted. It has been suggested, and wisely so, that this objective is well served by insuring the strength and the security of the United States. The United States was founded and has since lived upon principles of tolerance, freedom and good will at home and abroad. Strength based on these principles is no threat to world peace. Prevention of war will not be furthered by neglect of strength or lack of foresight or alertness on our part. Those who contemplate evil and aggression find encouragement in such neglect. Hitler relied heavily upon it. The Japanese would never have attacked Pearl Harbor had they not correctly assessed the weakness of our defenses in the Pacific and had they not incorrectly assessed the fighting determination of the United States when attacked.
Suggestions for assuring the military strength and security of the United States are by no means intended as a recommendation for a race in arms with other nations; nor do they reflect a lack of confidence in the prospect of international relationships founded upon mutual respect and good will which will themselves be a guarantee against future wars. The development of an intelligent and coordinated approach to American security can and should take place within the framework of the security organization of the United Nations.
The United States as a member of the United Nations has covenanted not to use force except in defense of law as embodied in the purposes and principles of the United Nations' Charter. As one of the great powers we must be prepared to act in defense of law and to do our share in assuring that other nations live up to their covenant.
The United States must have the will and the strength to be a force for peace."

Posted by: brkily on June 1, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Some fuckwit bleated:

"Actually showing that you respect the use of force when done judiciously, and are not ready to hand all U.S. sovereignity over to an ineffectual UN will do wonders for creating enlightening discussion."

and then followed up this howler of a strawman with inadvertent criticism of his own idiocy:

"Please remind me again about how this is not the type of hyperbole which cuts off reasonable discussion of ideas based on their merits?"

Break out the bibs and drool cups.

Not to be outdone, some other moron opines that we are winning some war somewhere and liberals are upset by that.

Taking a break from pedophilia, Jerkoff rewrites history by stating that the attack on the WTC was planned from the very year that the second tower opened and that "radical muslims" attacked "the west" (not Israel) at Munich.

I tell you, you just can't buy stupidity like this- it's priceless.

Posted by: solar on June 1, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Where is the proof that fighting terror with war, another form of terror, is successful.

Why is it not better to know about the causes and fight the causes and not just the symptons?

What do the conservatieves have to show for all the martial fight of terror?

We have huge national debts and nothing but distruction to show for it.

If we borrow money to finance a car at least we have a car to show for it.

The extremists on the right have nothing to show for their policies. All the years and the result is zero, zilch.

Posted by: Renate on June 1, 2006 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Beinart is trying to tip-toe the hippo past the door. His wasn't merely difference of opinion with most liberals. His course will end up costing us a trillion dollars, thousands of lives, most of our allies, and all our credibility.

Fortunately, it has also cost his crappy Likudnik magazine a sizable number of readers.

Posted by: ATS on June 1, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

1. Beinart, like Kevin, is an intellectual entrepreneur; unless he comes up with something unique to say, he gets no attention and no income from what he says/writes. It's conventiontional for a person on the left to call for people on the left to take left of center positions, so Beinart has an incentive to call for people on the left to take rightist or centrist positions.

2. Beinart, at best, is exaggerating with respect to the polling results. As we all know, polling results depend on how the question is phrased. I took the time and effort to track down theoriginal MIT polling results, and Beinart is using tortured language to obscure the fact that the poll results he relies on blend together both those who would oppose the US military activities, and those who answered, "I don't know"! What horsesh!t! Given his earlier errors, it seems to me that he is intellectually dishonest.

Posted by: anonymous on June 1, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

I didn't think The Afghan Campaign was a good idea. I thought the country needed to be isolated with an international intelligence and law enforcement effort to really tear Al Qaida down, and then an international effort to defeat the Taliban and rebuild the country could be applied, much like in Kosovo.

Fortunately the war went better than I feared it would go, but it was because our rushed and sloppy strategy utilized few US troops and a lot of mercenaries. It killed and captured very few al qaida, and simply scattered them to the wind, allowing more to escape than I had guessed possible.

No, I don't take the War on Terror seriously. It should never have been made a war in the first place - all that did was legitimize small, self important criminal organizations, giving them a powe to recruit they never could have achieved without us building them up.

Al Qaida could have been wrapped up in 12 - 18 months when they thought they still had sanctuary.

Now, all we have is another unstable government in Afghanistan, with no power outside a few core cities. Its leader is a hand picked lackey, and its "democracy" consists of agreeing to support the lackey, because there's no one else on the ballot, just a "yes/no" choice. Meanwhile, our soldiers are left to try win friends down the barrels of their guns, a tactic that has endlessly failed for half a decade now.

The war on terror is is a horrible strategy choice made all the worse by the complete disconnect from terrorism by attacking Iraq. No one else in the world thinks there is a War on Terror, because instead of attacking terrorists, we just went where the oil was.

Posted by: Mysticdog on June 1, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

My sentiments exactly Kevin. Thanks for the articulation...

Posted by: Boorringh on June 1, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

I understand how the polling Beinart cites would appear to support his conclusion

But it's a bit like using heavy right-wing sentiment against 'nation-building' pre-2001, to form a theory that the right would never support a multi-year, multi-100-billion-dollar occupation of a failing state ... and that theory would clearly have proved wrong

People do want sane, effective, sustainable use of our military, left and right; and people want America to be safe from attack
Which is to say, don't make a mess of things, here or abroad, with an ill-advised military policy
That much, I'd venture to say, is pretty consistent sentiment across the spectrum, among all 'regular folks'

There are clear differences about exactly when the US should enter a fight, whom in general to fight and how to conduct that fight
Perhaps polling which can go a bit deeper and address those questions would be more useful

Even Afghanistan, which as a war could be seen as successful, has turned into a more complex, long-term, multi-dimensional (beyond military) problem for America
It's that sense that we aren't understanding clearly what we are getting ourselves into, that provokes many to want to take a step back

Not grasping that, insisting on a too-simple left/right split on how to deal with terror, produces misleading conclusions

Posted by: Jim on June 1, 2006 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

"a tactic that has endlessly failed for half a decade now."

Sorry, that should be "half a century now."

Posted by: Mysticdog on June 1, 2006 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Beinart isn't as stupid as he is trying to make us believe that he is. The data are easy to interpret. "A November 2005 M.I.T. study...found that only 59 percent of Democrats as opposed to 94 percent of Republicans still approved of America's decision to invade Afghanistan. And only 57 percent of Democrats as opposed to 95 percent of Republicans supported using U.S. troops to "destroy a terrorist camp." The issue here is not that Democrats have turned away from the war on terror or are dismissive of potential threats. We simply have recognized that this administration is incapable of dealing with them. The 59% figure represents an assessment of the costs and benefits of invading Afghanistan given that bin Laden remains free and that the next president will have to fix things. The Bush adminstration didn't get the job done in Afghanistan and won't event try to get it done. Regarding the question on using troops to destroy a terrorist camp. I'm surprised that a majority of Americans feel that this adminstration is competent to identify a threat, collect the data necessary to evaluate the threat, isolate it, and destroy it. I don't want this adminstration to try to defend me and I don't want them to try to manage the economy. I want them to go on vacation for the next three years and we'll all hope for the best. Beinart knows this gang is incompetent but persists in supporting them. Its time for serious people to stop listening to Beinart.

Posted by: rk on June 1, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

floopmesiter: Iran has provided financial and logistical support for terrorist attacks in various other countries. Take for example the bombings of the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1992 and 1994. I suppose you could say that's not an "attack" on another country because Iranian soldiers didn't cross Argentina's borders, but that would be rather sophistic. I think most normal people would view that as an attack no different in kind than sending B-1 bombers.

Posted by: DBL on June 1, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Mysticdog:

Given the porosity and inaccessability of Afghanistan's borders, how could it have been isolated to the extent you advocate? Also remember that the Taliban regime was already isolated diplomatically, to no great effect.

The main problem with the overthrow of Taliban--which was justified by international law, and had the support of almost every country in the world--was that the United States got sidetracked by the Bush Administration's desire to go to war with Iraq.

Posted by: Wombat on June 1, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with the Bush Administration is that they do everything wrong because they don't care about the truth. Fighting that by not caring about the truth is joining them because you can't beat them. We're going to get back on the right track when we start caring about the right track, and not about who's on it.

(That said, I remember the awful day, years ago, when I realized I actually agreed with Dan Quayle about something. I remember having to really argue with myself not to lose sight of what was really going on just because I was in the company of idiots. I don't remember what it was even about at this point.)

Posted by: quixote on June 1, 2006 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

ignoring the fact that Christians are not systematically killing innocent people or attempting to bomb societies back to the stoneage. This is called politically correct in that it is perfectly ok to take cheap shots at Christians but is not ok to address the radical Muslims in that fashion lest someone might be offended. This is called ignorance, prejudice, cowardice and enlightened. Jay

Except for George W. Bush fundamentalist christians don't have the power to bomb people back into the stoneage or systematically kill innocent people. It could be argued that bombing people back into the stoneage and systemagically killing innocent people is exactly what GWB is doing in Iraq. I think that assessment is a little harsh, but it is the assessment of some people, including a lot of folks who live in the middle east.

As to fundamentalist Christians not being very, well Christian, I would submit that a few centuries ago Christians killed one another with glee all over Europe. The enlightenment was a societal push back to the excesses of a lot of fundamentalist people who burned other folks at the stake, strung other folks up and engaged in systematic torture. Fundamentalist Protestants killed Catholics and other fundamentalist Protestants with great gusto. Catholic zealots did the same. During their religious wars Christian fundamentalists of whatever stripe killed millions of poor peasants who just got in the way.

Before that Christian fundamentalists killed Moslems, and other Christians, in religious wars called Crusades.

Recently there have been numerous examples of Christians raining murder down on others--abortion clinic bombers, and guys who drag gays behind cars come immediately to mind. There are others.

No, I don't give the Islamic Fundamentalists a free pass. They are vicious and must be opposed for all the same reasons the Christian Fundamentlists must be opposed. At base all of the Fundamentalists believe that they are God's chosen and that God has given them the authority to do with other human beings as they please. "You are either with us (God and me) or against us" is their cry.

I thank goodness that you have the right to your special brand of ignorance, but that is your right. I am not so sure many Fundamentalists would agree with that last statement.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 1, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Even Afghanistan is a failure, but maybe not, UNICAL did get the gas pipeline as far as I know.

The ME is just cursed with OIL.

Without oil we would not care and there would not be terrorism.

Why should the left join the right in all the failed policies?

Failures for the people as a whole but very profitable for Exxon, Haliburton and others.

Posted by: Renate on June 1, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

No one in their right mind would build a gas pipeline through Afghanistan in the foreseeable future. It's going through Georgia to Turkey.

The left would benefit greatly by abandoning the quasi-Marxist religion of economic determinism as a means of analysis.

Posted by: Wombat on June 1, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Instapundit today linked to ...

Who the hell cares what that mendacious hack Glenn Reynolds links to?

Or what Frequency Kenneth and his sock puppets have to say, for that matter?

Posted by: Gregory on June 1, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin quotes Beinart: Just as Vietnam turned liberals against the cold war, Iraq has now turned them against the war on terror.

Just as the war in Vietnam revealed that the US government was engaged in mass murder of Vietnamese civilians in the name of a corrupt and fraudulent "cold war" against communism, the war in Iraq has revealed that the US government is engaged in mass murder of Iraqi civilians in the name of a corrupt and fraudulent "war on terror", and that, in the words used by Martin Luther King in April 1967 in the speech which led to his assassination, the US government is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 1, 2006 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

I would say that liberals need to articulate a vision for the world and then actively work towards that vision.

Ron: Done and done.

Posted by: Gregory on June 1, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

"We support our troops" bumper stickers came out when the right began blasting anyone who opposed the war as being anti-patriotic. The Republican PR machine carefully subverted anti-war protests with the message that we hate the poor military folks we sent over there to fight for us. Unable to counter, it shut a lot of smart people up instantly. I agree with Kevin.

And the fact that our War on Terror slipped from the country where the terrorists are supposed to be over to that country where the oil is, is incidental. Wars on Terror are where ever this administration wants to put them.

Posted by: 22 West on June 1, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Just as Vietnam turned liberals against the cold war, Iraq has now turned them against the war on terror.

Perhaps that is because Iraq had nothing to do with the war on terror just as attacking Iran will have no effect on the terrorists. It is the constant need of the deep thinkers on the right and enablers like Beinhart to find states responsible for terrorism when it is an essentially stateless problem.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on June 1, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Col. Batguano (love the moniker):

It will have an effect, all right, unless you think that an increase in terrorism=no effect.

Posted by: Wombat on June 1, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

"We support our troops" bumper stickers came out when the right began blasting anyone who opposed the war as being anti-patriotic.

Which puts me in an odd position because, while I support the war, I oppose the troops....

Posted by: Stefan on June 1, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

I don't believe wars are fought for marxistic or any other religion, there are always material cuases, like resources, land, trade and so forth.

But you do sell the idea of war with patriotism and religion. All sides believe God is on their side and they all pray before going into battle.
At the bottom it is Realpolitik, ECONOMICS.

Posted by: Renate on June 1, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

So what to do? For the most part, I end up saying very little. And Beinart is right: there's a sense in which that betrays my own liberal ideals.

Unfortunately, if your position is anything less than crystal clear, the Republicans and the media will write their version of your position, which is nothing like your real position. You are damned if you don't as well.

Posted by: blank on June 1, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

North Korea.

Posted by: catherineD on June 1, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

The enlightenment that gave birth to Western Values in general and American Values in particular was a response to the outrageous and deadly wars promoted by religious excesses of a bunch of mad fundamentalist religious nuts who make Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson look down right liberal by comparison.

Ron,

I think you confuse religious authoritarianism and theocracy with religious conviction and principle. Perhaps you should consult DeToqueville. American values are deeply indebted to a brand of Christianity which holds to personal freedom and abhors state control.

A good examination of Church-State issues will show that modern Christian fundamentalists ( JF and PR included ) are far from the Christian theocracy supporters that they are painted as in the current liberal press. It is sure that Christians want to use their vote to pass Godly moral laws, but they hardly want to impose state religion. This is a pernicious lie put forward by those who want to silence the conservative opposition for the purpose of imposing their own ideas of a modern "free" morality.

American values of freedom and democracy do owe some of their underpinnings to a fight against authoritarian state-religion. It does not mean that these cherished values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are anti-religion.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 1, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

It will have an effect, all right, unless you think that an increase in terrorism=no effect.

True enough Wombat. I should have said no positive effect. That sort of goes without saying for any policy put forth by this pack of criminals.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on June 1, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Recently there have been numerous examples of Christians raining murder down on others--abortion clinic bombers, and guys who drag gays behind cars come immediately to mind. There are others.

Ron,

Please name for me ANY Christian fundamentalists leader or lay person who publicly came out in support of the atrocities you list. This is as absurd as it would be to claim that atheists are all immoral murderers if a hate crime was committed against Christians by some atheist fruitcake.

OTOH - Large masses of fundametalist Islamic leaders and lay people support and take joy from the atrocities committed by the terrorist. This is the large substantial difference between Christain fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism.

Your statements show an unwillingness to confront the reality of the situations. You just cannot be intellectually honest and pretend there is any similarity between the two types of fundamentalism ( Christian and Islamist ).

In addition - to label the acts of medieval Europe as the acts of Christian fundamentalists is a severe misunderstanding of history. The Christian fundamentalists of the middle ages were persecuted by the State religions which were mostly Christian in name only.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 1, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

A good examination of Church-State issues will show that modern Christian fundamentalists ( JF and PR included ) are far from the Christian theocracy supporters that they are painted as in the current liberal press.

ChristianExodus.org is moving thousands of Christians to South Carolina to reestablish constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles. It is evident that the U.S. Constitution has been abandoned under our current federal system, and the efforts of Christian activism to restore our Godly republic have proven futile over the past three decades. The time has come for Christian Constitutionalists to protect our liberties in a State like South Carolina by interposing the State's sovereign authority retained under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Yes, except for Christian Exodus, the Dominionists, the Christian Reconstructionists, all the Republican senators who belong to the "Fellowship/Family" (that aims for "Jesus plus none" in government), my own mom and her crazy friends and the thousands who think just like her, and the friggin' Puritans for pete's sake -- it's just a pernicious lie that any fundamentalist Christians want or have ever wanted to enact a de facto theocratic government in this country.

Oh, did you mean a de jure theocratic state? I'm sorry, I didn't know we were debating strawmen here. My bad.

Posted by: trex on June 1, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

I also argued something about this at TPM Cafe. Look, what Bush and Cheney are doing undermines the power of the Constitution, that document that set down the set of ideals that are what make me an American. When those things are threatened the spirit and existence of my country are threatened. Right now that is a closer and more immediate threat than anything else, and I think its justified to focus on it more than on whacking Iran for it's own horrible practices.

Moreover, if you say "well what if people die!" what ever happened to Liberty or Death? I myself am willing to risk my life for the cause of liberty, and first and foremost that means defeating Bush and the GOP even if that means I might be on a bus that explodes. If my country has liberty, than no terrorist can destroy it, and no nuclear weapon can cow it into submission, the very ideals of liberty won't allow us to be beaten.

Look, the ideals of liberty in the constitution are just that, ideals. When we try to implement or live up to those ideals we often fail miserably, but at least we wanted to be better and that counts for a lot. I am proud to be a part of a country that was willing to want that.

As for Afghanistan, I think it wasn't a very good idea because look how it worked out. In retrospect we shouldn't have done it because we fucked it up, but in the abstract it was the right thing to do... especially if Gore had been president.

Posted by: MNPundit on June 1, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is Bush and Beinart think WAR was necessary to stop terrorists. What was required was a police action. Historical proofs: Bader Meinhoff - German police action ended this terrorist group. Red Brigades - Italian police ended this terrorist group. Irish Republican Army - English military occupation of N. Ireland extended this conflict for decades and politicaly legitimized this terrorist group to the local population.

Had the US used international police to end Al Queda, they would have had OBL in prison by 2005, if not sooner. Beinart is wrong to think liberals/leftists do not know how to fight terrorism. It is the militarists who do not know how to fight terrorism.

Any arguments against Iran must include the woeful history of the US and Israel. Iran may not be the best place in the world, but it's democracy is comparable to ours and Israel's, but at least Iran has not invaded or occupied any territory that is not its own, which neither the US or Israel can claim.

Beinart is a hysterical ass who thinks war can solve problems. He only thinks that way because he knows he has military superiority and will never have to suffer the consequences of defeat.

Posted by: Powerpuff on June 1, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

The simple proof of the fact that BEinart lives in a reality indistinguishable from the last 12 inches of the human intestine is that his "history" of the anti-imperialist left is total bullshit. Read it over, then consider the actual history, rather than Beinart's incompetent New Republic(an) fantasies, and it turns out that - just like we have been right on the issue of Iraq from the get-go - the anti-imperialist left's critique of the incompetence known as American Imperialism has been proven right by later events in each point he cares to mention.

I'll just leave you with this thought: what do you think the middle east would look like today if, 53 years ago, a nationalist, secular, pro-western (but not pro-imperialist) government had been allowed to remain in power in Iran, using the income from its natural resources to improve the lives of its citizens? What sort of example do you think that might have set for people and governments in other countries of the region? Do you think we'dbe worried about ewar crimes committed by Fine American Boys in places like Haditha??????

Beinart's entire career is based on Being Wrong And Still Managing To Be Taken Seriously by his fellow otherwise-unemployables among the D.C. chattering class.

Posted by: TCinLA on June 1, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

The children of Haditha would like to teach Beinart a lesson about the consequences of war. I hope thay do.

Posted by: Hostile on June 1, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Bush actually wants war with Iran. Surely some of his advisors do, but I doubt Bush himself does. War with Iran would be an utter catastrophe and Bush knows it. He wanted war with Iraq because he thought it would be a cakewalk. The first three weeks were a cakewalk. But then reality hit back and Bush realizes that there is no army to fight a war in Iran. At most, the US would support air strikes by Israel. But no way would the US launch a full-on war with Iran. The fact is, we have no good easy option with Iran.

John Hansen,
Have you seen the latest putrescence from the Left Behind founder? Video games that pit "prayer warriors" against "global peacekeepers."

Left Behind Games

Do the tens of millions of Christian fundamentalists who read the Left Behind series not "take joy" in the prospect of murder of non-Christians? Anybody who reads Tim LaHaye (and finds it "inspirign") or believes Revelations literally is a sympathizer with terrorism.

Posted by: Elrod on June 1, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen, wake up and smell the roses. I am a Christian. I am sick to death of my faith being hyjacked by Christian fundamentalists--idiots who call on God to kill supreme court justices or for the murder of foreign leaders. Christian fundamentalists rarely quote Christ. Instead they focus on the Old Testament. Why, well the Old Testament God was a vengful God. Leviticus is full of crap that gives guys like Dobson and Reed warm and fuzzy feelings. It is the New Testament that most hard rock Christian Fundamentalists find problematic. I would recommend you google the word Dominionism and read a few sites. I would also recommend you read Kevin Phillips recent book.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 1, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Considering the deficits, wars, arms buildup, indifference to global warming, the Republican Party is the greatest danger to humanity the world has ever known. Much more dangerous and destructive than Nazis or Stalin. The well being of the human race needs the destruction of that Party.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on June 1, 2006 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK


Yes, we GOPers are much worse than Stalin or Hitler. Instead of killing millions and millions of our own citizens to achieve our political objectives, we are much more evil because we rely on standing for election and getting more votes than our opponents. Of course, we do this without the concentration camps or gulags, but we do have Fox News, National Review and the Editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to spread our propaganda to the masses.

You see that what we have realized is where Hitler and Stalin went wrong. Instead of killing your political opponents, which will only gives rise to martyrs and others willing to take their place, it is far better to simply highlight their utter stupidity, which you have done brilliantly. It sends a powerful message to the people what would happen if such idiots who express such views were actually put into positions of power.

Bravo.

Posted by: Chicounsel on June 1, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Brkily
I just don't get it, how "war" has become the all purpose solution for every political problem today.

Today? I think war has always been a key part of human nature since man first whacked a nuther one on the head. I'd like to see some statistics on just how peaceful or "warful" human society is right now as compared to past history. I'd bet that things are pretty damn good right now, and we just don't realize it. Maybe not as good as when it was a bipolar world of two superpowers (the only stable orbit configuration). But maybe better.

Posted by: Red State Mike on June 1, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen,

Don't tell me organized murder by Christians was confined to the State religions of the Middle Ages.

In the 19th century, near where I live a bunch of drunken Christians killed a bunch of Mormons including women and children. I know it happened, I have seen the site. The Mormons fled from here to Nauvoo, Illinois where the local Christians again ran them off, killing a lot of folks in the process. After they arrived in Utah, a bunch of Mormons wiped out a Christian wagon train in an event called the "Massacre at Mountain Meadows."

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 1, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

One of the problems is that Iran is decidedly less tyrranical, less misogynistic, and less repressive than the US-allies in the region (in fact there are more female university students in Iran now than before the revolution.) And as for 'sponsoring terrorism': they weren't the ones who armed and financed Saddam, or trained the nun-raping death squads of Latin America. So, whether you're a Democrat or a Repuglican, you're still resorting to double standards. And perhaps that's why the legitimate Iranian opposition has refused to accept US aid.

Posted by: hass on June 1, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

From my POV, some liberals have become so fixated on Americas (and Bush's) mistakes and misdeeds that they pay too little attention to the misdeeds of others, which have sometimes been far worse. E.g.,

-- the genocide in Cambodia after the US withdrawal from Vietnam,
-- the murder of fewer, but still a significant number, of South Vietnamese people by the victorious North Vietnamese and Viet Cong,
-- the bad governance of Fidel Castro that has led 25% of the country to flee many losing their lives in the attempt
-- The destruction of Zimbabwe's economy caused by the current corrupt, racist government
-- Saddams murder and torture of many thousands of Iraqis, perhaps hundreds of thousands
-- Wars started by Saddam in which 1 to 2 million people perished

I don't think the world can be fixed simply by making the US more perfect. If Bush is doing things wrong in Iran and Iraq, by all means suggest better approaches. But, please dont just ignore the problems.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 1, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

-- the genocide in Cambodia after the US withdrawal from Vietnam: Caused by US overthrow of Prince Sihanouk and placing puppet Lon Noll in power.

-- the murder of fewer, but still a significant number, of South Vietnamese people by the victorious North Vietnamese and Viet Cong: The US killed 3 million Vietanmese, which is a lot more than the North V. killed.

-- the bad governance of Fidel Castro that has led 25% of the country to flee many losing their lives in the attempt: Castro is 100,000 times better than Batista and Cuba has a lower infant mortaltity rate than the US and a higher literacy rate.

-- The destruction of Zimbabwe's economy caused by the current corrupt, racist government: Done for the greater good of the US so it can obtain more natural resources cheaper.

-- Saddams murder and torture of many thousands of Iraqis, perhaps hundreds of thousands
-- Wars started by Saddam in which 1 to 2 million people perished : All done at the behest of Reagan.

Sorry, ex-liberal, you are historically challenged and probably never a liberal in the first place.

US citizens are responsible for their government's actions, not righting other countries governments.


Posted by: Powerpuff on June 1, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK
From my POV, some liberals have become so fixated on Americas (and Bush's) mistakes and misdeeds that they pay too little attention to the misdeeds of others, which have sometimes been far worse.

Maybe you don't understand popular sovereignty: America's mistakes are our mistakes. Its about responsibility.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 1, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

PB just wants everyone of all political stripes to pat him on the head and tell him how smart, reasonable, and thoughtful he is, like a roomful of maiden aunts, and then kiss him on the cheek with their old lady raspy moustaches to make him feel good about himself. He's a yutz who thinks he is the story, not a mensch to be rewarded for trying to be what he thinks of as "reasonable" and "centrist."

Posted by: bongo on June 1, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin gets at one of the central problems of Beinart's thesis (at least as far as liberals are concerned), namely that so much as talking up democracy and lobbing rhetorical spit wads at Iran (for instance) can be co-opted by the right for policies liberals today don't in any number of cases support.

Another problem with Beinart's thesis (that has largely gone unmentioned) is his Cold War analogy, and the idea that America can have civil liberties and a worldwide "war on terror" at the same time.

For all its apocalyptic menace, the Soviet Empire was a big, stable thing which (as the goofy Tom Friedman might say) preferred life to death. M.A.D. worked. Containment worked. And the American people felt that the threat was rarely so immediate (although you'll note that our civil liberties weren't especially restored until Hoover was dead and only for the last 15 years or so of the Cold War).

It is certainly true to say that Islamist terrorists do not and are unlikely to have the means to annihilate every last man, woman, and child on the planet (which might have been the result of a nuclear war between America and the Soviet Union), but they also have few scruples. As an actual matter, it *is* likely that there will be future attacks on American civilians in this country (or "homeland" or whatever it is today). As a political matter, you're not going to convince the right and middle thirds of the country that the threat is over, and therefore that civil liberties can be restored (regardless of the fact that they're unlikely - in an individual sense - to die in a terrorist attack).

But Mr. Beinart is correct about one thing: the left (by which I mean almost everyone other than the Hillary Clintons and Joe Liebermans of the Democratic Party) has yet to convince America they too have a grand strategy for ending the threat of radical Islam.

Yes Mr. Bush fucked up Iraq. Yes much of the talk of democracy promotion has been just that: talk.

But the fact of the matter is that #1) a majority of voters believed the Iraq War was part of the broader war on terror on the day that mattered most (that is, election day, 2004) #2) the American people were given a choice between a vigorous realism with the imprimatur of the UN and "democracy promotion" and they chose the latter #3) there is already empirical data suggesting rather convincingly that political reform in the Arab-Muslim countries *does* reduce anti-American sentiment (and by and large it is the people who threaten us, not the government) and #4) whether or not liberals realize it today the status quo in the Arab-Muslim is no longer sustainable, and a generation from now the map of the Arab world in particular will look very different.

The question is what America can and should do at this point to help manage the direction of change in the Arab-Muslim world.

And this is another place Mr. Beinart's thesis is problematic.

The trouble with invading Iraq is really the trouble that democratization may well bring in multiple Arab-Muslim states. Iraq and possibly a number of other countries in the region are immature political and geographical fictions that haven't had time to cohere around a strong set of national institutions or a national culture. It is not a stretch to say that Iraq has little reason to exist beyond the dispensation of oil revenues.

Democratization in this historical context may not bring liberalism and pluralism but sectarianism and civil war. The endgame for the Arab world (and perhaps other parts of the Muslim world, in Central Asia and beyond) may not be liberal democratic versions of the states that currently exist, but many more countries organized along ethnic, religious, and sectarian lines. What we may have on our hands is a kind of Yugoslavia writ large, a ticking time bomb we can longer keep from going off.

It takes a certain kind of conservative delusion to think some of these countries will not descend into chaos and ultimately perhaps partition at the first hint of democracy. It takes a certain kind of liberal delusion to think the status quo can go on.

And if you are think America can step in and prevent even perhaps reduce the bloodletting you may have another thing coming. Bill Clinton and the European elites did not drag their feet on Bosnia out of total disregard for the people (although I doubt they lost much sleep over it). Intervention came late because they understood there was little that could be done earlier. The various ethnic and religious groups needed reorganize themselves (or more precisely for some of them: be reorganized) in their own private enclaves, and unless Washington is willing to help along the process of ethnic and religious cleansing we are likely to be bystanders to this change, and its inherent tragedies.

No one wants to say this aloud, even if they recognize it.

But if the Deaniac wing of the Democratic Party can't sell Reaganism to the American people (hunting Osama, funding port security, etc are tactics not grand strategy) they might be able to sell isolationism, getting energy independent, and withdrawing from the region until it becomes opportune to offer humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance. This is a genuine (if risky) alternative to Beinart-ism, though I doubt liberal Democrats even still recognize they have a problem on this front, let alone what they should do about it.

Posted by: Linus on June 1, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, powerpuff for illustrating my point.

Suppose you're right that all the atrocities I listed can be somehow tied to the US, so what? You haven't offered solutions to the current problems in Iraq, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. Bush's solutions may be unworkable. Maybe he's disingenuous in offering them. But, given a choice, most voters will prefer the party that offers solutions to the one that simply offers blame -- especially when the blamed party is the voters' own country.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 1, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: lami on June 1, 2006 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

How about we say what we believe is true and not give a damn for what we think the Americans will want in 06 and 08? Isnt that what Goldwater and Reagan did in their days in the wilderness? They were who they were, they didnt shape themselves to be who they thought the people would want. Then the world turned and their time came.

More perception needed here. A great failing of most humans is they believe they can have some inkling of what is in store for the race (human). Our standard method of prognostication is to take the situation of today and project it out into the future, which is nuts. The truth is there is only one thing we can confidently predict: BIG surprises. Tomorrow WONT be like today.

So, since we have no idea whats coming, what philosophies will be in or out, the most practical way to act is, to thine own self be true. We are seeing incredible change right now. With exposure of the atrocities, the constant revelation of Republican misdeeds, the growing war weariness, a new era of peace-love is as likely as Beinarts world of war-on-terror fixations. Do and say what you really believe and sleep well at night.

Posted by: James of DC on June 2, 2006 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

Like many others here, I'm finally tired of the phrase "War on Terror" (and never understood why it was shortened from "terrorism", which makes slightly more sense but not much.). I was alright with it for a while, particularly because the Afghanistan campaign was very definitely a war, and one I believe was worth fighting (though I also am not happy about its execution). I thought Iraq was a distraction from the "war", and it has now of course sapped a lot of energy from what until 2003 had been a not-too-bad-but-kinda-late discourse about why people want to kill us and what we can do about it.

I can't remember the exact language he used, but I think Kerry was on to something in the '04 campaign when he said the fight against terror should be more like a police action than a war. Terrorism will never go away, Islamic radicalism probably won't go away any time soon, either. But both can be reduced and made less attractive as options for young men. In that sense, both radicalism and terrorism are like crime.

While I'm certainly not of the "blame America first school", I don't think at this point it's really extremist to say that we probably have not made terrorism look all that unappealing to the people most likely to engage in it: young educated muslim men from countries with governments allied with the US.

My prob with Beinart is not that he's an ideological entrepeneur. I like that, the reason I still read his stuff is because he purposely tries to find ways to buck conventional wisdom, even if he's not always successful. I wish he would just buck it enough to realize that terrorism can't be reduced to an acceptable level by figuring out what country we are going to invade next. I wouldn't say that kind of logic is self-defeating, it's just nonsensical. It's like saying "I'm hungry so I'm going to turn off the lights now."

If you want to "change the face of the world", maybe invading lots of countries is a good way to go. I just want people to knock off that flying-airplanes-into-buildings crappola. That stuff is for the birds.

And stefan, I too treasure that Bill Hicks line about being for the war but against the troops. "There is something about those young men I just don't like!" Classic.

Posted by: sweaty guy on June 2, 2006 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers

You may call yourself a Christian, but it seems like you have way to big of chip on your shoulder regarding others who call on the name of Christ. What denomination are you? My experience with vast amounts of Christian fundamentalists is that they quote both the New Testament and Old Testament. They study the Word as a whole and actually try to apply it to their lives.

I hate to attack the faith of anyone, but your characterization of Leviticus as "...full of crap..." doesn't give me any confidence in your knowledge of the Bible. The idea of the OT as a vengeful God and the NT as not a vengeful God is in my opinion a very immature way of looking at the Scriptures.

Paul suggests in Corinthians that we should imitate him and grow up and put away childish things. Childish things such as willfully misunderstanding the sayings of others or thinking you have some superior intuition to be able to read the hearts of people you don't agree with, limit our ability to mature as Christians. My suggestion is that you visit a Bible study at a Church that you think you will disagree with. You might be surprised with what you hear.

OTOH - you could just sit at home and accuse them of being fools. I think Jesus had something to say about that.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 2, 2006 at 2:50 AM | PERMALINK


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I don't think the world can be fixed simply by making the US more perfect. If Bush is doing things wrong in Iran and Iraq, by all means suggest better approaches. But, please dont just ignore the problems.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 1, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is the worst Commander-in-Chief ever. He went to fight terrorism (supposedly) with an army. Didn't know his history: not 20 years previous when Reagan's staff were still celebrating the Russian army invasion of Afghanistan; not 30 years previous when we left Vietnam. He's been a C/D level student his whole life.

What say you that we stick by international law? Unless a country poses a real and present danger to the United States and its direct interests, we leave them alone. Use subtleties like cultural exchange, diplomacy, external pressures (financial, trade, pariah-complex), poverty relief, medical help, international treaties and alliances, all pressures for a country to find its own solutions to becoming a fully accepted member of the international community. US meddling has too often turned and bitten us -- Saddam and the Shah for 2. Time to use again all the tools that worked so well for 50 years before 2001.

"War on Terror" was a horrible and immature choice from the start. Immediately conjured up the war on poverty and war on drugs. Two other screaming successes.

As stated above many times, there's no buying into Beinart's neo-republican imperialism. The challenge is to offer a real, practical and effective anti-terrorism organization aimed, over the years, to develop a reputation better than the Israelis. They and the UK, along with a number of European nations have experience we have never had.

Attack! It's time for someone to go out on a limb. I would start the argument by pointing out how much has been wasted in time, money and lives. For what? I'd lay out the President and his staff's dissembling, inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. There's 30% of the nation who are not going to listen, but I think it's close to where the rest might like to hear the truth. But it needs to be followed through on if the Dems have the power.

Attack! The Dems should be demanding the administration to tell the nation NOW! what their plan from this point is -- in detail -- and the prognosis. The situation needs to be debated critically -- not something either house seems to remember how to do. Enough waste, particularly of lives, has gone by in the name of neo-con hubris and errors.

Posted by: notthere on June 2, 2006 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

I hate to attack the faith of anyone, but your characterization of Leviticus as "...full of crap..." doesn't give me any confidence in your knowledge of the Bible. The idea of the OT as a vengeful God and the NT as not a vengeful God is in my opinion a very immature way of looking at the Scriptures. John Hanson

No you don't. You love to attack the faith of anybody who actually believes in the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus Christ.

Have you actually read Leviticus and do you obey every provision in that book? After all it is the Word of God. My guess is you, like a lot of other fundamentalists, just pick and choose from it to advance some kind of homophobic gay bashing. Why, because Christ doesn't address homosexuality at any point in the canonical gospels.

You need to quote something to reenforce the hate buried deep in the hearts of your followers. After all if you actually taught love and compassion, they might not put as much money in the collection box.

Fundamentalism has less to do with Christianity than it has to do with the fundamental desire on the part of its leaders to gain treasure and weld temporal power.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 2, 2006 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Do any of us have any reason to believe one word that comes out of Bush's mouth?............this is getting weirder and weirder..

Is there a term for all the red lists and other nonsense scattered through these comments? Is it a sort of internet tagging?

Posted by: Mary Alice on June 2, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ron,

I can't for the life of me understand where you get your brand of Christianity from. Are you part of a recognized denomination? You have such a warped idea of what fundamentalist Christianity stands for, I do not understand what you mean.

Please indicate something of what Christianity means to you so I can understand some context.

And don't bother replying if all you are going to do is slam me for all the hypocritical and homophobic attitudes you assume that I have. I am really trying to understand how someone who claims to be a Christian can slander other people so easily.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 2, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

I am scared for what's next. Though I'm a teenager, I've become very engaged in politics over the last 6 years. Its interesting to see how many events have unfolded, changing the world, in my perspective, in overwhelmingly negative ways. But fear not right-wingers, I'm not a democrat (nor a republican, for that matter) and you know what: its not important.

The volatile world of Washington has grown stubbornly partisan (duh, I think even my dog figured that out a while ago), and unfortunately, all it has given us is a lack of serious debate and rationality. Everybody in DC is fighting over this petty, bullshit, partisan advantage. Umm, hello, people are dying, starving, overpopulating, polluting, living like it was the Medieval Age. Im fucking feed up with both parties, no joke.

It reminds me of my past, 10 years ago, back when I played soccer. We were little 7 year olds, crowded around the ball in the corner of the field, trying like hell to kick it. And then someone would get lucky and kick the ball out of the cluster, only for history to hilariously repeat itself. This is Washington for you, politicians who only see what right in front of them. Look around, theres a whole goddamn field for you to use. Where is the grand reform we were promised; politician arent thinking big anymore. It is the exact same as the soccer game, except I dont see much hilarity in it.

Alright, now that I've gotten my basic, painfully obvious, ethos and pathos out of the way, now I'll tell ya why I sometimes listen to the news and then shit my pants in fear. The burgeoning ego and size of Washington is slowly creeping into our lives. Centralization has given politicians (especially the executive branch) far too much power in dealing with foreign affairs. I'd like many of you to open up your pocket constitutions (you better have one, I have mine) and try to find the granted powers for some of the things they do. I'm not saying everything they have done is unconstitutional; it is simply that politicians have the falsity firmly planted in their mindset that they are the law and therefore, have the power to directly effect other people's lives, practically regardless of outcome and consequence . This includes both Americans and foreigners abroad.

Hell no. They are not above myself or above any of you. That is wrong; it cannot be and should not be. Nobody is above the law and nobody has any right in making enormous decisions that deprive anybody of any of our unalienable rights as humans. For instance, we have no right in trying to prevent Iran from pursuing nuclear power, of course, strictly for peaceful purposes. I tend to see good in other humans. For that reason, Ahmadinejad and Iran need to be given the opportunities to advance themselves in the scientific world. Nuclear power is not some to fuck around with, I understand, but how can you grant states like China and India this privilege, but then try to control the outcome, manipulating everything behind the scenes. Ahmadinejad may not be a man that has made progressive decisions in the past, but Im sure he understands the grave consequences of making actual nukes. An Iran that is becoming more progressive with each new day, will not profit by making da bomb, I personally see no possible reason for it. (But please, if you disagree, feel free to let me know).

The imperialist America that I have witnessed in my first real glimpses of politics leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It is hard for me to comprehend the notion that these people and specifically the Pres, can find the morality to trample into other countries, fully aware of the risk, and the loss of life. When Bush said Saddam had 48 hours to step down, he should have also just apologized in advance for the thousand of Iraqi, American, British, Muslim, Christian soldiers who would lose their life so that we can all pleasantly fill our cars with gas. I mean, it would have saved the government a lot of time from internal fighting and the schism that has unnecessarily divided America.

The power the government wields scares me. Conservative, liberal, neo-con, socialist, fascist: right now, its all the same to me. Iraq is just a single disaster that our government has made in a list that is practically endless. Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, Hurricane Katrina, social security reform, public school restructuring (Ive endured 12 years of pure bullshit), intelligence failures, the Colombia crash, Americas removal of the Kyoto treaty, and so much more. Sadly, our foreign policy approaches the term incorrect. To my surprise there are not any riots in the streets. So for once, can we put polarizing politics, mindless figureheads, and pointless online fighting (though specially not this board, I love this debate. It is wonderful that I can put my 2 cents in.) aside for a moment, and take a step back. Then, only then, will we realize that we live in a nation, with a government so far from ideal. Controlling and operating our lives, ruining others; what we, America, have done is disgusting. I am ashamed at what George W Bush masculinely boasts about, we all should be. There has to be a better way than this, and Im sure it doesnt come out the end of a gun.

Thank you for taking the time to read my idealistic ideas.

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