Friday, September 02, 2005

Evolving Iraq

Two interesting articles about Iraq. I've been having another adjustment in thinking about Iraq, as things continue to, well, not get better, that's for sure. Christopher Hitchens received some attention for his well-written and impassioned defense of the war in the Weekly Standard, entitled A War to Be Proud Of. It's a good read, and he makes many excellent points, as always, about how bad the other options were for dealing with Saddam Hussein, and about how much better it will be for Iraq to be even a highly-imperfect free country than a country controlled by a tyrant. But I must say, to declare that my primary feeling about the war, at this point, is pride, would require a level of shamelessness that I don't possess. I still desperately hope that the end result will be a good one, and it's the only thing we can plan for because the alternative would be terrible, but to say that I feel "proud"? No. Just hopeful that we make sure to turn it into something that America can feel was the right thing.

I'm also frustrated that Hitchens continues to focus his best intellectual firepower on gunning down the likes of Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore, but when he has a chance to publish an article in the Weekly Standard, a publication read by many Washington conservatives, he mostly re-affirms the rightness of the war, instead of blasting the people responsible for making a positive outcome of this war a question mark: the Bush Administration. Seems like an opportunity wasted, as the effect I think is mainly to reassure conservatives who might be feeling a bit uneasy about how things are going that they shouldn't worry, it's still the right thing.

A better reflection of how an idealistic liberal hawk should respond to Iraq is this article by Jonathan Chait called Defending the War: Dove Tale in today's New Republic. This paragraph pretty well sums things up:

Given that things have not gone terribly well to date, a certain degree of humility is in order here. (In 2002 and 2003, I wrote a TNR cover story and a couple of editorials defending the war in fairly strident terms.) I'm tempted to accept the chastening and slink away. The trouble is that things aren't quite as clear-cut as the doves would have it. And more is at stake here than pundit bragging rights. The clear implication of this dressing-down is the view that the Democratic Party needs to nominate a war opponent in 2008 in particular and to stop listening to its hawkish foreign policy intellectuals in general.

One of the bad outcomes of the poor execution of this war is the fact that I look like a jackass to many of the liberals to whom I defended the Bush Administration. Well, ok, that's not really a very important bad outcome, but more broadly, the Bush Administration seems intent on making people like Michael Moore and look like foreign policy geniuses. And this is very bad for the Democrats. Even though things have clearly not gone as I would have hoped in Iraq, I'm still in the "idealistic interventionist" foreign policy camp. And I still hate the "anti-war, anti-US military" attitude that continues to hold much of the Democratic base in thrall. I think this idea that the U.S. is the primary cause of war and violence around the world, and that the world would be a more peaceful place if the U.S. were no longer the biggest military power and willing to exercise that power, is morally bankrupt and based on a leftist fantasy. Prior to the Vietam War, Democratic politiicians were proud to have a forceful miitary and an assertively anti-totalitarian foreign policy. Coincidentally, since the Democrats abandoned this hawkish stance in 1972 with McGovern's campaign, they've gone on to win just three out of the next nine presidential elections. So, not only is the, shall we call it, McGovernite foreign policy wrong, but it's also politically suicidal.

Which is why looking at all the things Bush has done that I really hate does not make me reconsider my support for the Iraq war, it just makes me more ticked off that Democrats have continued to ensure that the likes of George W. Bush will be elected president by refusing to re-vamp their foreign policy and their image as, at best, being uncomfortable with the exercise of military power. Used to be, Americans who wanted a strong military could choose between a Repubican or a Democrat. Now, if they want a strong military, they have to vote for the Republian, and our reward is having the country run by the pro-tax cuts for the rich, anti-people welfare, pro-corporate welfare, anti-science, anti-environmental, pro-oil, pro-nuclear, pro-Christian wackos party.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next presidential election.

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