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May 26, 2005


I think my biggest problem with the hawks is their bull headed refusal to say "geez, it looks like you guys were right." We were shut out by not just the GOP cheerleaders and the press but these people as well. And most of us argued with facts that were dismissed out of hand even though they were there for all to see. Personally I'm surprised that there weren't more arguments against this fiasco that turned out wrong but that is more of a reason for at least some of them to admit we were right.

An example of this is in my arguments with an ex-Navy SEAL.He's a Republican, although I think he may move to ind, but it's not much different than the dem hawks. I argued with him for a long time and used the Niger documents, the aluminium tubes, the drones and the fact that Blix wasn't finding anything in the specific places we told him to look... Each and every one of these arguments have been proven now. But when I saw him a couple of weeks ago and asked for credit on the fact that I turned out right. He said he couldn't give it to me because, get this, "I was right for the wrong reasons."

Got that? "Right for the wrong reasons." What do I have to do to make people take me seriously? Kill a couple of Arabs?

What do I have to do to make people take me seriously? Kill a couple of Arabs?

Or maybe advocate a policy that's caused the deaths of over 1,500 Americans.

Well , there is that. It's at 1651 according to Pat K.

I guess what I find as the height of rediculousness is the fact that the ones that got it so terribly wrong somehow think they are still superior to us. TNR still throws out the bullshit and they expect me to praise them.

Every time I have gotten something totally wrong in my life I have given credit to the ones who didn't and been much more likely to listen to them in the future. But these guys seem to live in Bush World where the bigger the failure, the higher they should climb the ladder.

Will someone somewhere please explain to me how supporting a war based on obvious lies, which has made us weaker, more likely to suffer terrorist attacks, and less able to deal with actual REAL THREATS (like North Korea) was somehow "tough-minded" and superior to my "wishy-washy" liberalism, which was based on having been present at the creation of the lie that created the Vietnam (the Tonkin Gulf "incident") and ten years of watching my country try to flush itself down the toilet of history while it flailed away in a war unworthy of a single damn name on any damn wall.

Marshall (Half)Wittman and the rest of those morons - including young Mr. Yglesias, who 2/3 of the time I read him (Iraq and his opposition to the filibuster in current circumstances) reminds me that my policy of "don't trust anyone under 30" is often cporrect - have merely proven that they lack the collective IQ to find the zipper on their fly with both hands on a clear day with a 2 hour advance notice.

The bottom line is: their side was WRONG and my side was RIGHT and I don't care if they ever apologize, since apologies from morons aren't anything to be proud of receiving anyway. They can attack away at MoveOn and Michael Moore, but they will never get past the fact that THEY WERE AND ARE WRONG and we WERE AND ARE RIGHT.

I don't care about an appoligy either. I'd just like to hear, "Geez, Mike S was right."

Conservatives are motivated by a will to destroy evil and a superpower hubris that Robert Jay Lifton has described. At the risk of oversimplifying matters, liberal hawks are motivated at least in part, a missionary drive, Wilsonian internationalism. I think this difference explains why liberals were more likely to consider the aftermath of the war. If you think like a Wilsonian, you have to look ahead to the post-war political order. But from the theo/neo-con perspective, the war in itself was the moral good. If you destroy the source of evil-the regime, the display of righteous power will cause a quasi-religious conversion. (Think of the implications of “shock and “awe.” The term has powerful religious connotations.)

I suspect both the conservatives and liberal hawks are loath to admit their fundamental mistake about the intellectual or pragmatic case against the war, because to do so is to weaken the moral arguments against using American military power tout court.

Plus, they showed the ultra bad judgment of believing George Bush. You don't need to have a PhD and a job at a foreign policy think tank to know that he is a lying liar. Trusting him is like believing a hooker when she tells you how good you make her feel--then marrying her.

Ranelle: you're comment is a more succinct version of my point. Set aside all the high-fallutin' theories about foreign policy: these guys screwed up by trusting Bush to not screw up.

"It's as if these people thought it was Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln who would preside over the wartime government and postwar reconstruction of Iraq, when in fact it would be a guy would couldn't find oil in Texas or an Air National Guard base in Alabama."

Probably one of the best quotes I've read in a while...I wasn't a hawk on Iraq, but did believe there was truth in Powell's deal at the UN, because of that I stayed on the fence with a strong leaning to stepping up the inspections per the French proposal (6 more weeks or something), It was murky then, it is still murky, only now there are any number of retrospective judgments we can place on the pro-war or anti-war Dems. There's a time and place for everything, but now is probably less for griping than for coming up (excuse me for saying this forthrightly) with a more unified position among Dems that not only holds true to principles of the party, but is also able to convince the rubes who vote GOP on security issues that security ain't owned by the GOP. This don't mean being 'hawkish' or 'internationalist' or whatever, only being coherent and consistent.

By the way, what part of MI are ya from? (ahem, me Waterford, aka Watertucky aka Dirtburg).

Life is full of ironies, I guess, because whatever their effect on the moral arguments against using military power, they've sure undermined the practical capability of doing so.

Unfortunately, Atrios is wrong about one thing - it isn't the liberal hawks' mess, it is all of our mess. Like Juan Cole, I just throw up my hands when it comes to "What should we do about Iraq now?" We're just really screwed, with no good options.

-- Rick Robinson

Woah, Lion's Den

Ok, y'all were right...bad war, bad leader, disastrous follow-through, all predictable. So what?

1)You weren't going to stop the war;Congress couldn't have stopped Bush's War
2)Public vehement opposition to the war would have resulted in a loss of political power,meaning elections...in order to effect your liberal solutions to the problems of terrorism you have to have political power.
3) Public opposition to the war would have abandoned any chance of affecting the way it was managed...not that there was much such influence to be had.

Your liberal foreign policy ideas are not going to be implemented until you get elected, so this is a very moral masturbation here.

My friends campaigned for McCarthy in '68, watched Humphrey get the nomination, Nixon win the election, and the war continue for six more years. The moral high ground didn't help a lot.

wd: I'm in a bit of a transition right now, but I'm very familiar with Watertucky. Welcome.

Rick:That's my biggest frustration, that these so-called "liberal hawks" who rationalized a reason to support the war tend not to have any solutions about Iraq, or in some cases, like Joementum and some--but not all--of the TNR crowd, they keep saying things are getting better when it's pretty clear they're not.

There's not much good in talking about "what I would do if I was in charge of Iraq," because even if we regain control of both chambers of Congress, the administration will still do whatever it damn well wants to for the next 3 1/2 years (unless Iraq descends into full-fledged melt-down, a la Tet or Beirut in the early 80's or Grozny). So really, coming up with foreign policy that includes specifics is, in reality, a bit useless. However, coming up with principles that make policy and politic sense, even though just generalities, would be a big help.

Bob: My point is that too many of these so-called "liberal hawks" are asserting their own claim to the moral high ground, with little moral or analytical justification for said ground. Separate from what the policy might be is who can claim a right to articulate it. And I don't want people naive enough to believe Bush and divisive enough to blame those of us who didn't believe Bush to think that they have some claim to speak on behalf of "Democratic foreign policy" or to deny the right of those to opposed the war to be able to forumlate and articulate a responsible and appropriately robust foreign policy.

On the plus side, Iraq hasn't experienced territorial collapse ... yet.

The US Army hasn't collapsed ... yet.

The improved environment for anti-US terrorism hasn't jumped up and bit us in the ass ... yet.

On the minus side, the coalition of holdouts against facing the reality of Vietnam haven't collapsed ... yet.

Yeah, everything just seems stuck. But being stuck isn't good, and if things don't get "unstuck" in the next 3-6 months--meaning passage of the constitution, real, viable power sharing in the government, progress in the Iraqis fielding their own ethnically/sectarian mixed paramilitary units that can maintain order--then things are likely to get really bad.

Though now there's been something to point toward in the future. If the Gov't doesn't work and the constitution doesn't pass, there won't be anything to look forward to.

"to deny the right of those to opposed the war to be able to forumlate and articulate a responsible and appropriately robust foreign policy."

Granted. But whatever product you come up with has to be marketable to the current electorate. MY believes Kerry lost specifically because his foreign policy wasn't "robust" enough. I additionally want a message robust enough to start gaining congressional and Senatorial seats.

Will your message have a broad enough appeal? Will public recriminations by the most hawkish of Democrats really help win elections?

MY believes Kerry lost specifically because his foreign policy wasn't "robust" enough.

Kerry lost because too many voters believed Kerry wasn't robust enough. I don't think many swing voters were weighing the degree to which we should rely on multilateralism vs unilateralism, or thoughts about preemptivism. They knew Kerry knew more about foreign policy than Kerry, they just didn't think Kerry was tough enough. Rove ran against Kerry the person because he knew that was the way to beat Kerry. As many said last Summer, if the election was about Bush and his policies, Kerry would win. For a key segment of swing voters, the Repubs made the election about Kerry.

One question that keeps rearing its head in my mind is this.

What if the Iraq War had been prosecuted competantly form the beginning ?

How much different would it have been if we had of :

1. Had enough ground troops and secured more than the oil ministry, but also ammo dumps etc ?
2. Prevented all the lawlessness, highlighted by the early looting
3. Not relied upon so many out of control contractors, and hecne avoided fallujah ?
4. Not brought Al Sadr to prominance and hence kept him low key
5. not engaged in abuse and torture ?
6. Had a rules of engagement similar to that of the Brits ?
7. Not dissolved the Iraq army and police
8. Not allowed such deep de-baathification
9. Settled on a better election system
10 even allowed the weapons inspectors to complete their mission before going in, perhaps letting more international support come along ?

SO what if it had been competant. While it still isnt a good idea ot invade, we might just be in a different position than the one we face now, and the Liberal Hawks wouldnt be looking so fucking stupid.

Everything hinges on what happens in Iraq over the next two to three years. But Iraqi politics is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma inside a conundrum. For some real insight, read the latest Prospect magazine, which has a very good article on the Moqtada al Sadr faction's attitude to the elections and the new government, which makes one feel cautiously optimistic.

Pounder: About 2 months after the fall of Bagdhad I heard an interview with Jessica Mathews, the head of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. This was obviously after the looting and mayhem, and in the period where the power grid and water plants kept getting knocked off line. At that time she was asked if she thought things would turn out OK in Iraq, and after hedging for a few moments, when pressed she said we had missed out window of opportunity. We had, she said, a brief moment to get things right immediately after the fall of Saddam's army, but because we didn't have enough troops, good intellegence or a clue about the internal dynamics, we had lost any momentum. At the time it seemed right, and nothing since then has altered my opinion.

Now does that mean it could have been done right, and that the liberal hawks weren't that far from vindication? Again, maybe if it wasn't Bush and the neos pushing and prosecuting the war. But their reliance on Chalabi and his network for intellegence, their continued attempts to make connections between Saddam and A-Q, their ties to idiots like Perle and Adelman who were predicting a cakewalk in which we'd be met with flower-bearing Iraqis, Rummy's talk of doing the whole thing with, at one point, something like only 30,000 troops total...it was all there to see for anyone with eyes that these guys were living in fantasyland. If there was little reason to think they saw clearly what they were getting into before the war started, there's little reason to think they would have gotten it right once it was launched.

I'll grant you, absolutely, that Dean didn't offer a well-articulated approach on foreign policy. But he did say things that underscored the problem with all the liberal hawk (and neocon hawk) foreign policy approaches. "We won't always be the most powerful country in the world." Got Dean a lot of shit, definitely. But that's the reality everyone else is trying to deny. So rather than thinking about what is really in the US' national interest, or how they can use our remarkable power NOW to ensure the stability and long-term viability of the world long term, they're busy denying our weaknesses and desperately trying to shore up our hegemony, albeit on increasingly fragile grounds. The Iraq war was a desperate attempt to sustain our hegemony artificially. They gambled all on this pathetic attempt to remain the most powerful and now the fall will be more sudden and more painful as a result.

Which is the difficulty I have with playing Pounder's game. Those hypotheticals are only possible if the goal is really a democratic Iraq. It isn't--and never was. Once you've accepted that BushCo was more interested in a military footprint in an oil-producing country (which was readily apparent to anyone who looked before the war), then you realize there was no way for these nice things to be true. (Which was also the fatal flaw to all of Kerry's foreign policy proposals; he was never willing to give up the underlying goals Bush set out to Iraq for, therefore never willing to give the international community a real reason to get involved, therefore never really offering a viable alternative.)

At this point, Dems seeking to formulate an alternative have only two choices, IMO. EITHER they can lay out all the very difficult things we can do to address our weaknesses. Generally, I've only seen people isolate the foreign policy issues from economy and energy and environment and so on (with the limited exception of tying energy independence to our foreign policy--but this is an issue some neocons are getting better at than Dems, ironically enough). But you need to connect them ALL, and say, "We need to fix all of these things if we're going to sustain our way of life." And prepare the electorate for A LOT of hard work. Or, alternatively, you can say, "how can the WORLD address all of these problems, and in the process come up with a much more sustainable system for everyone." The second is a much more radical question (although it is one the Europeans are dancing around), but actually probably easier to accmoplish. You just don't get to think of the US as the world's greatest country anymore, if you pursue this strategy.

But of course, this all comes back to bob mcmanus' point. If you say to the American voter they're going to have to give up some of the consumer crap, you're not going to win elections. If you say to the jingoistic Reagan Democrat that you want to work to establish a sustainable way of life for the world, you're not going to win the election. Which is likely one of the reasons we're not hearing a legitimate alternative to the Republicans' failed foreign policy. I think it's possible to formulate it in a way that will appeal to Americans (it would start with an appeal to a former way of life, probably). But few Dems are willing to take such a risk.

I'll repost what I originally posted in Yglesias's thread, as I think it hits on what is just not credible about "liberal hawkery" of the TNR/DLC brand:

I'm not opposed to foreign wars. I supported Afghanistan, but not largely from a "idealistic" standpoint. I simply think that the US needed to show an "iron fist" after 9/11. Incidentally, I think thats why many people supported Iraq - not for any idealistic reasons, but simply because they felt Afghanistan "wasn't enough" - an argument I'm acutally sympathetic to, but not enough to casually sit by while thousands die as I armchair quarterback such a speculative venture while America's working class gets bled. And, indeed, polling tends to vindicate me here on Iraq, as support for the war is currently bumping along at an all time low, and was not perceptibly effected by the elections, which actually casused me to give more credit to the venture for a month or so than I had previously been giving it. Basically, only a fairly elite slice of opinion is sympathetic to the liberal hawk position. The Democrats would be better served - from a purely political point of view - to advocate a more ruthless and realistic policy like the one I advocated abvoe - there are more voters like this than there our TNR readers.

There is nothing liberal or idealistic about war - it is a necessary evil, nothing more. If defending America absolutely depends on it, we go to war - and if democracy results from said war, all the better. Indeed, I more than willing support the democratization of Afghanistan now that we're there - a process that would be going much better if we hadn't decided to invade Iraq to take out the nonexistent threat there. But democratization and liberalization as the explicit aim of war has never been the aim of combat, for good reasons. Because war is inherently a brutal, authoritarian, Hobbesian exercise, a process inherently antithetical to liberal values.

So, to my mind, the problem is not "liberalism" or "hawkery" but "liberal hawkery" as an intellectual construct.

Indeed, one can support American invasions like Iraq - and I've seen some decent justifications for doing so. But I think the intellectual contradictions of trying to justify said invasion - or probably any invasion like it, including Afghanistan - on the grounds of liberalism or humanitarianism ar so weak as to collapse of their own internal contradictions for the reasons I outline above.

I think the American people inherently understand this intellectual contradiction. Hence, Bush's decision to sell the war on national security grounds, as well as the reason that the elections did little to increase support for a war that is rapicly losing its backing.

To conclude, I think the problem with the "liberal hawks" is that they've conflated the terms and attributed them to people who were liberals *and* hawks, but who didn't understand their hawkery as justified by liberalism, but rather understood liberalism as one thing and hawkery as another - ie Harry Truman and FDR. The next successful presidential candidate - probably in 2008 - for the Dems will understand this distinction.

But the TNR and its fellow travellers could do us all a favor by stopping its effort to "win over" most of the majority of the Democratic Party and of liberals in general with arguments that are simply unconvincing and hollow.

I don't get it. Who cares what the DLC/TNR axis thought or think about Iraq? They were not only wrong on the facts -- they were wrong on the morals. There was no excuse for this war and this war is an assault on the possibility of a survivable future. Democrats have to present a genuine alternative path out of the mess the right has made of the country -- that is both realism and "the vision thing" we lack. Tinkering at the margins is irrelevant.

One question: could liberals please get off the entirely mistaken idea that Woodrow Wilson was some sort of "good guy."

He was a goddamned southern white supremacist ASSHOLE who did more to COMPLETELY WRECK what was left of race relations and to institute Jim Crow throughout the federal government. His policies of racial separation and white supremacy - which he personally believed in and spent the majority of his first term implementing - should see him expelled from any sort of "good guy list" for liberals. The only reason Democrats didn't see him for the worthless scum he was was because he was the first one who managed to get elected in 25 years.

His idiotic paternalistic evangelical moralizing was a crock of shit that accomplished nothing and made people who had to deal with him wish him dead.

The fact is, we would have been one helluva lot better off if Theodore Roosevelt had been re-elected in 1912 and Woodrow Wilson had retired to being the ignorant southern-fried moron he was.

The man accomplished NOTHING that was any good, nothing that promoted anything progressive. Everything he did or attempted to do resulted in MAKING THINGS WORSE. Putting that bastard in the liberal pantheon is like thinking Joementum is someone worthwhile.

If we could get rid of this idiotic Woodrow Wilson missionary zeal to remake the world, the world would be a better place and so would the United States.

I mean, all you have to do is read a damn history book to see what a bastard he was.

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