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Iraq Montage
Did the Iraq War make the Netroots? I say yes.
Ross Douthat writes:
All those now-apologetic liberals who supported the war in 2003 are a big part of this story, because without their hawkishness there would have been no antiwar rebellion on the left — no Michael Moore and Howard Dean, no Daily Kos and all its “netroots” imitators.
I don't know if this is true universally, but my "activism," such as it is, was very much a result of the Iraq Debacle.  I tried to explain how the Iraq War made me become politically active again in a post titled What is different this time:
What with Jim Brady (the WaPo ombudsman at a time when that position mattered]  and Ann Althouse [no inroduction necessary I think] and other theoretically not stupid folks wondering what hit them in the Left Blogosphere it got me to thinking -- do these people think we just out of the blue got angry and strident about the Bush Administration and Republicans? Have they ever thought about what has happened to our country since November 2000?
More on the other side.

I continued:

Is it only blogs that have reacted strongly to this Administration? Consider Paul Krugman. If you only went by Andrew Sullivan, Bill O'Reilly and the Wingnuts, you would think that Paul Krugman arrived on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times after serving a long stint at the Comintern (which reminds me, for those of you who don't know, I am virulently anti-Communist, anti-Castro, dislike and distrust Chavez, and believed the Soviet Union was an Evil Empire.) But Paul Krugman has always been a highly distinguished economist, at or near the top of his field.

Do these folks wonder what happened to Krugman to make him "The Shrill One"?

Do they wonder at all? Can the last five years of lies, failures, incompetence, illegalities, warmongering, McCarthyism, and just plain stupidity not register at all to these folks?

It didn't register. And Douthat is right that the Iraq "liberal" war hawks were a big part of the motivation for folks to look for sanity and common sense outside of the Media.

One of the "liberal" war hawks was Peter Beinart, who exchanged views with me about his view that "the Left" had abandoned foreign policy vision. I reviewed his book The Good Fight in this post:

Consider Beinart's description of his ideal- Cold War Liberal Foreign Policy. He refers specifically to Harry Truman`s 1949 Inaugural Address.  Beinart gleans the following:
Essentially, it rested on three interlocking planks. The first was containment: military efforts to prevent Soviet aggression . . . The second element in liberal foreign policy was development . . .  If democracy couldn't provide economic opportunity it would lose people's faith. This was the principle behind the Marshall Plan. . . . Thirdly, liberal foreign policy involved restraint. Rather than wield its enormous power alone, the United States would share it with other countries.  NATO was an expression of this idea. So was Truman's support for the UN, the IMF and the World Bank. Partly this reflected the Truman Administration`s recognition that in an interdependent world, the United States could guarantee neither its security nor its prosperity alone. But it reflected another recognition as well . . . Americans should not fall in love  with their own virtue, and should not expect non-Americans to take that virtue on faith. . . . " We all have to recognize  - no matter how great our strength," Truman declared, "that we must deny ourselves the license to do as we please." . . . As one State Department official put it, the goal was to foster allies "string enough to say 'no' both to the Soviet Union and the United States, if our actions should seem so to require." (Emphasis supplied.)
What an indictment Beinart lays upon himself and his allies who supported the Iraq Debacle. He and his allies violated EVERY single principle of a liberal foreign policy he now lionizes. It was those of us he now condemns who followed the precepts of the liberal foreign policy established  by Truman. It was he and his allies who forgot our proud liberal foreign policy. And he has the temerity to lecture to us? What cheek!
Beinart responded and I replied to him in this post. Beinart wrote:
Where we part company is in our analysis of where liberals are more generally in the struggle against jihadism. After quoting me as writing that John Kerry lacked "a vision of national greatness in a threatening world, something liberals have not had for a very long time," Armando retorts "Sez who Mr. Beinart? Karl Rove?"

I don't know if Karl Rove is saying that, and I don't particularly care. One of the most self-defeating tendencies among liberals today, in my view, is this idea that if conservatives are attacking liberals for something, we have to deny we have any problem, so as not to play into our opponents hands. That's a great recipe for intellectual paralysis. In the late 1980s, conservatives said the country didn't trust liberals to fight crime. Bill Clinton didn't deny the problem. He acknowledged and solved it--not only defusing an issue that helped sink Michael Dukakis, but creating a "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" synthesis that helped create safer cities.  

At the presidential level, the assertion that liberals have not had "a vision of national greatness in a threatening world...[in] a very long time" is almost self-evident. Since Vietnam, Democrats have not won a presidential election in which national security played a paramount role. Carter won in 1976 when the country turned inward after Vietnam and during détente (polls showed that 1976 was the first election since the beginning of the cold war in which Americans did not cite foreign policy as their number one issue). Clinton won in 1992 and 1996 when Americans turned inward after the cold war. But as for the national security-saturated elections--McGovern in 1972, Carter in 1980, Mondale in 1984, Dukakis in 1988, Kerry in 2004--I challenge Armando to tell me what national security vision the Democrat articulated in any of these. (Perhaps McGovern articulated one, but it was that America should stop fighting the Cold War, which was more like an anti-national security vision).

And the failure of our candidates speaks to something bigger, which is really the topic of my book: that conservatives have a national security story that they know by heart and we don't. We had one from the 1940s through the 1960s--and it is tremendously relevant today--but we've forgotten a lot of it over time, and that is reflected in the presidential campaigns our candidates run.

I responded:
Beinart makes a fundamental mistake in not caring about the politics (my Rove metaphor is about the politics) of national security. For it is the politics of national security which has hamstringed reasoned debate on national security not only among Democrats, but in the country as a whole. Why were the voices of principled Truman-like reason crowded off the stage in 2002, including by a large number of Democrats? Why was General Wesley Clark not heard? It is because of the politics of national security.

[...] In order to gain an authentic voice for a Democratic liberal foreign policy, Democrats must master the politics of national security. Peter would focus solely on policy as if there really is a wide divide between his vision of a liberal foreign policy and that articulated by Democrats. I simply don't think there is. Peter's book and the policy he outlines reflects, in my opinion, the thinking of the Democratic Party today on national security.

[...] Beinart writes:

I highlight this problem because I believe it is only when liberals see fighting jihadist totalitarianism--an ideology that enslaves women and non-Sunni Muslims, and murders gays and lesbians--as our cause--not Bush's, ours--that this struggle will be won. It is our values, more than his, which are at stake. It is our tradition--not his--that recognizes that America wins when it leads by persuasion, not command. That recognizes that in foreign policy, legitimacy is power. That recognizes that it is only when we act democratically--when we struggle for freedom at home--that we can truly champion democracy around the world.

That's our heritage and our mission, I think. But we can't fulfill it if we decide the anti-jihadist struggle is a Bush concoction in which we have little stake. And that tendency is growing, according to the polls. Which is partly why I wrote my book.

I think most do see it as our cause. I think what Peter is missing is that what most liberals object to is the view that we must "stand with Bush" in order to fight for a liberal foreign policy against Islamic jihadism. Many of us believe the opposite. Many of us believe that Bush has been a disaster in the struggle against Islamic jihadism. Many of us believe that the Iraq Debacle was one of our biggest setbacks in the struggle against Islamic jihadism.

Indeed, many of us believe that those who most protest that we must take the struggle against Islamic jihadism seriously are the people doing the most damage in that struggle because they make it difficult to critique the disastrous  Bush policy. Why is this the case?

Because of the politics of national security. You can't take the politics out of politics, as Ed Kilgore wrote. And you can't take the politics out of national security. Peter forgets this.

The Netroots rose, in my view, because no one on our side was talking any sense, either in terms of policy or politics. I think Douthat may put it differently, but from my point of view, that is the essence of his statement for me.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Truman-like Reason Was Crowded Out Because We (10+ / 0-)

    no longer had a lethal enemy empire to worry about. In Truman's time there were stupedous consequences for being a rogue nation.

    A lot of what's been done to this country by the right is because their interests are no longer at risk to a lethal enemy.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 05:27:08 PM PDT

  •  Something about being in power (5+ / 0-)

    forces you to regress a bit on insisting that politics and policy make sense on your side. The trouble is that "your guys" may know how to win (sometimes) or, more likely, know how to be the warm body designated for election when our ideas win, except that they have their own "ideas" about politics and policy.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 05:44:38 PM PDT

  •  Armando as Blogger-King of the United States (9+ / 0-)

  •  i've always been an activist of sorts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DeadHead, Creosote, Militarytracy

    after lurking for a year or two, i became a blogger because of a bum knee. i wish the blogosphere had been what it is now during the runup to war. not to mention during the 2000 media hatchet job against al gore.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 07:02:30 PM PDT

  •  I was active in antiwar work prior to... (10+ / 0-)

    ...arriving at Daily Kos, and it was the Iraq war that drew me to site. But my foreign policy activism long predated the war, as in, for decades. During the '60s, many of us in the antiwar camp were arguing against liberal foreign policy because it was Cold War liberal. That little imbroglio in Southeast Asia—in which millions were killed, more bombs dropped than the Allies dropped in Europe and Japan during World War II, megatons of defoliation chemicals spread, the assassins of Operation Phoenix, the torture of captured Viet "Cong," ad nauseam—was a Cold War liberal invention. The conservatives wanted to drop nukes.

    George Kennan, the inventor of "containment" adopted by the Truman administration, was a sharp critic of much of the Cold War arms build-up against the Soviet Union, the Vietnam War, the Iraq war. He argued all along (to no avail) that containment did not require a militarized foreign policy. The Cold War liberals chose otherwise. While the old guard was, of course, mostly gone by 2001-2002, and the Soviet Union dead a decade, the Cold War liberal mindset was still quite prevalent in the Democratic Party then. This was reflected (even with all their hedging) by the Senate vote of prominent Democrats for the authorization to use military force in October 2002, a vote that Barack Obama once said he did not know whether he would have approved or not had he been in that body then.

    I'd personally be a lot happier with all the "apologies" we've been hearing from liberals lately about their support for the Iraq war if fewer of these weren't just watered-down apologias. If, however, it means they'll not rush in if and when the argument for war with Iran starts being laid out, I guess it's a good thing.

    Beinart, for instance, make the case for Chuck Hagel at Defense by citing Iran as a good example for why Hagel would be a good choice since he has expressed reservations in that regard. Here's Beinart in a recent CNN interview:

    I think so far, the debate about military action in Iran has been conducted by and large in Washington, as if Iraq and Afghanistan didn't happen.

    As if we haven't learned anything from the disaster (of) these two wars over the last 10 years. I think the real struggle between Hagel and his foes is he wants to bring some of the lessons in to the Iran debate that we learned about (Iraq) and Afghanistan.

    He talks very compellingly about the fact wars once launched can't be fully controlled. He is very cognizant of the enormous financial cost that these wars have imposed on the United States, and I think the heart of the hostility is the fear that his recognition about what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq will make taking us to war in Iran harder.

    CNN: You suggest there are no consequences for the Iraq War in terms of those who supported or imposed it.

    Beinart: What I said if you listen to Republican foreign policy discourse, with the exception of a few people like Chuck Hagel, you would think the Iraq War had been a great success.
    Because all of the same people who said it was a great success are defining in large measure the debate over war on Iran, pushing the United States closer, and I think Hagel is a (messenger for) ... the president to say, "Hold on a second here.

    "I am going to set the bar for war higher than George W. Bush, and I don't think this is a simple and easy thing."

    Hold-on-a-second here would certainly have been a good thing to have heard from Peter Beinart in 2002-2003 when he was, instead, banging the drum for going after Saddam. Are there no consequences for "liberal" public intellectuals like their support for that war? A mea culpa without penance does not, as every good Catholic knows, even us lapsed ones, bring absolution. The Jewish precept is the same: forgiveness requires a vow to do better in the future. As part of that penance or vow, could be have a heartfelt apology for the thrashing Beinart gave those of us who weren't wrong? And a vow not to call us idiots and pacifists and accuse us of incoherence when we oppose the next unjustifiable war?

    Beinart has, of course, long since repented some his specific errors regarding Iraq—about WMDs, trusting Bush as competent, etc.—and he's gone on to get himself chewed on for critiquing Israel. But even though he has been spurred to approach with more caution any urgings of actual invasions and willing to admit he was wrong, he is only willing to do so as long as those who were wrong remain in control of the party.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 07:48:08 PM PDT

  •  Even before the Iraq war (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Creosote, Militarytracy

    the acquiescence of so many Democrats to the Bush administration after 9/11, and their vote for the Patriot act, and other measures, started to make me more upset with the party than I had been before. This was compounded by Iraq, and the response to these things by Howard Dean and his campaign, renewed my interest in politics and introduced me to political blogs, and Daily Kos.

    Unfortunately, I haven't really gotten that energy back since Kerry lost. I was excited by Barack Obama's senate campaign, but after he became senator, I started to become more skeptical of him, particularly after some of his interactions with this blog. I supported him for president, and still do, but not with the level of enthusiasm that many had.

    Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

    by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 11:23:49 PM PDT

  •  No matter which party is calling the FP shots, (0+ / 0-)

    it still looks to me like Milo Minderbinder is running the enterprise. And if I remember correctly, the original Minderbinder charter was issued during the FDR administration.

    Courage is contagious. - Daniel Ellsberg

    by semiot on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 09:37:19 AM PDT

  •  I think the netroots were always going (0+ / 0-)

    to be born, but the horror of the Iraq War did change that pregnancy and birth.  I feel like I can talk about war and giving birth because Condi can :)  Instead of a quiet pregnancy and a water birth, the netroots came into being born in a virtual forge.  And the fire raged and raged for the same reason every fire does, because there was fuel and oxygen and the truth of that fire was bigger than everyone who could put it out. Who can be surprised that with all that tempering the netroots could and would quickly become a weapon they fear?  Who didn't see that all coming?

    It was always going to be though, intelligent people, computers, the internet, the Koch brothers; the netroots were always going to be born.  Lefty activists know how to organize, they just got better tools is all, they went from the wheel to a sportscar.

  •  The Iraq War was what did bring me here (0+ / 0-)

    though.  It is intimidating to de-lurk, and the Iraq War did that too eventually.

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