The case for liberal interventionism — “taking a stand” — had nothing whatever to do with the Iraq war. Those of us who pressed for American-led military action in Bosnia and Kosovo did so for several reasons: because of the refusal of others (the European Union and United Nations) to engage effectively; because there was a demonstrable and immediate threat to rights and lives; and because it was clear we could be effective in this way and in no other.
None of these considerations applied in Iraq, which is why I and many others opposed the war. However, it is true that United States military intervention in urgent cases will be much harder to justify and explain in future. But that, of course, is a consequence of the Iraq debacle.
Liberal hawks have been quick to swoop down on dovish critics of the American military — condemning in particular MoveOn.org’s criticism of Gen. David Petraeus. Quickly, it has become conventional wisdom that liberals should never disparage the military.
But why not? Soldiers have to respect generals. Civilians don’t. In a free society, it is a sign of robust civic health when generals are pilloried for getting into policy issues. Liberal Democrats should ask themselves whether, amid today’s cult of military “heroes,” a president would dare cashier a Douglas MacArthur for insubordination, as Harry Truman did in 1951 — and what our liberal hawks would say if he did.
Finally: In a democracy, war should always be the last resort — no matter how good the cause. “To jaw-jaw,” as Churchill reminded Eisenhower, “is always better than to war-war.” So the next time someone waxes lyrical for armed overseas intervention in the name of liberal ideals or “defining struggles,” remember what Albert Camus had to say about his fellow intellectuals’ propensity for encouraging violence to others at a safe distance from themselves. “Mistaken ideas always end in bloodshed,” he wrote, “but in every case it is someone else’s blood. That is why some of our thinkers feel free to say just about anything.”
I had thought of myself as something of a liberal hawk, but then those like surreal Tom Friedman and the delusional Joesph Lieberman mad me rethink my self description. Sure the idea that while the invasion of Iraq was based on fabulouslistc spin maybe, just maybe things would work out for the best. Contrary to the Right’s childish accusations that liberals were hoping for failure from day one. I still believe that American military intervention can still be a force for good when used in the right place under the right circumstances. Iraq was the worse of places and circumstances. If nothing else there was no urgency. Dealing with Saddam could have been put on the back burner as one pundit wrote six years ago. We should have finished the job of destroying al-Queda in Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden. For the neoliberals that salient fact shouldn’t be too much for them to admit. BTC News had this recent post on Friedman – Is Thomas Friedman the stupidest pundit on the planet?
Friedman, though, can’t bring himself to admit that it wasn’t “us”, but him. He probably can’t imagine circumstances under which he could be deluded or deranged or imbecilic while a hundred million or so of his fellow citizens weren’t. Louis XIV said “L’État, c’est Moi” — “I am the State”; Tom Friedman says “Si je suis aliéné, nous sommes tous aliénés” — “If I’m insane, we’re all insane.” It’s a Friedman-centric universe.
Well, but he’s better now, and shouldn’t we welcome him back to the fold?
No. Screw him. The column, which is a broadside against Rudy Giuliani and any other presidential candidate “who runs on the 9/11 platform”, contains not a word of apology.