Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Left's War

Peter Beinart's work at promoting a moderate pro-Iraq position for Democrats is paying off. If by "paying off" you mean "provoking spittle-flecked rage."

I'll spare you that, but Tim F., the anti half of Balloon Juice, quotes approvingly from a Kossack who mostly manages to keep the spittle in place and tries to explain why he hates this:

More and more, I’m seeing pro-war figures look for a healing, of sorts, between those who supported the Iraq War and those who decried it. But this healing seems to take exactly one form—the pro-war pundits perhaps begrudgingly admitting their errors, but simultaneously continuing to dismiss opponents of the Iraq War as being against it for supposedly shallow or insincere or offensive reasons.

Tim and the Kossack focus on the righteous rage they feel at unnamed people who have consistently misrepresented their principled opposition to overthrowing Saddam. They claim to have been conflated with pacifists, with Chomskyites, with Int'l. A.N.S.W.E.R., with head-in-the-sand terrorist-deniers.

It's good to see someone on that side take the trouble to distance himself from that set. Even if the only time I do seem to see it is as a sub-plot in a piece whose real purpose is to slam the "right."

But it would be nice to have some specific examples to accompany that charge of broad-brush painting. I mean, I know it does happen. But the only names I see associated with such bad behavior in this piece are "Peter Beinart" and "Glenn Reynolds." Twice, both of them. Now, I can't claim to have read everything those two have written, but it seems to me that, on the whole, they have not fallen into the broad-brush stupidity Tim and the Kossack are seeking compensation for.

Then, in the Balloon Juice thread, it only takes about six comments to get to:

Your enemies aren’t on the other side of the planet. They’re right here, on the keyboard virtually across from you. They are the people who collectively wet their pants on 9/11.

If this “war” has done anything, it has shown just how reason-deficient large swaths of America are, and how easily manipulated they are. These reason-retarded now have a voice via the blogosphere, and you won’t be able to fix them any more than you can fix Ol’ Yeller. There is no meeting them half-way or any-way.

... I’m all for the “conservatives” failing harder and more spectacularly. They can’t fail enough for me. If The People don’t finally stand up and flush your values down the toilet bowl of history, then we deserve what we get.

If, in spite of that sort of broad-brush slander (which only reproduces language found on Atrios and a dozen other big-time netroots Democratic blogs), center-leaning people like Beinart and the Euston Manifesto crew are still trying to find a common ground with the anti side, why are they being slapped down?

Oh, I have my guess. I think it has less to do with having your feelings hurt by being called a pacifist and more to do with: "Your politicians are in deep shit, so what's the point of us looking for the ethics and the long-term good now, when we finally have our re-creation of the Last Days of Nixon within reach?"

The Kevin Drum answer comes close to this:

So what is it that Beinart [author of The Good Fight] 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.

[Hat tip: American Future]

Ah, well, reverse some of the nouns of that and you end up naturally with: "Criticism of America is not just criticism of America. Whether I want it to or not, it also provides support for the Islamists' determined and deliberate effort to whip up another 9/11."

UPDATE: To which the other voice here, Reader_I_Am, comments:

I see this a bit differently; that is to say, a different thing angers me mightily. As it has since I've been reading this sentiment, Drum's and others.

To the point that I can't respond just now, other than to say that it is utterly appalling and despicable that so-called "serious" people are so short-sightedly timebound in their thinking. This is not a first-term presidency; Bush will be out of office, one way or another, no later than a little over 2-1/2 years hence. The challenges that we face now--historical, political and otherwise--will not so depart with him.

What opportunities, Kevin and others, are you eschewing by putting your "principles," as you yourself put it, on the sidelines?

I mean, in the longer term?

Hell, even in the short term.

What the hell are you people thinking?

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