Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Liberal Hawks, Get Real!

Gary Younge in The Guardian writes the following about "liberal hawks", which is the first clear, focused denouncement of this group from the Left I saw (before, I only read Libertarians excelling in bashing them):

...wishful thinking has been the entire intellectual and political thrust of the "liberal hawks" - the lefties who backed the war. They wished that the UN would pass a second resolution, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, that the Iraqi people would come out and greet western soldiers, that the Bush administration had noble intentions and that Blair could exert influence over the US in the Middle East. Some of us wished that they would get real.

For one of the most pernicious baseless assertions in recent times is the notion that there is any such thing as a "liberal hawk". There isn't. People are not liberal just because they say so. For the term to have any meaning at all they have to share some common ground on which the bombing of Iraq has no place. There was no progressive case for bypassing the will of the UN and international law and bombing a country that posed no immediate threat to any other. There was a liberal dilemma about how you confront vicious dictators. But in the case of Iraq it no more led to war than the liberal dilemma over how to solve crime leads to capital punishment.

Having seen their wish-list shredded by the neoconservatives in the Pentagon and the White House, some now wring their hands and wonder where it all went wrong, while others become ever more bullish and bizarre in defence of a stance long since discredited.

Liberals never provided a case for this war. There was "liberal" cover for it. A fact for which conservatives are delighted and those coopted by them should be ashamed.

That's the crux of it. I was soooo dismayed at seeing many liberals (I'm more hesitant than Younge to apply the No True Scotsman argument), including some I respected, not getting simple truths. Especially as I am a liberal interventionist myself, having witnessed the effects of short-sighted diplomacy and inaction by Western powers relatively close-by in (now ex) Yugoslavia. (Yes, I only mention Western powers, and no, not because of sole responsibility but because only of them would I expect to sometimes act otherwise.)

They didn't get simple truths like, that you shouldn't obsess about the fate of one individual, even if he is the dictator, instead you should take into account the fate of all individuals affected by the war decision equally - and draw your conclusion then. By asking me, "But removing Saddam was the right thing?" you just continue Saddam's personal cult.

Or, that reality is not a Hollywood movie terminating with a happy end, but continues after 'Victory' - if you don't prepare for the post-war situation, things can get just as bad or worse than under the deposed dictatorship. It was bloodily obvious and I preached to no awail before the war that Saddam is not the only 'evil' force in Iraq, and neocon (lack of) plans will allow the others to reach for power as soon as he is removed. (And, well, this simple truth was amiss from heads already when Clinton tried regime change in Iraq via bombing in 1998, and later in the Kosovo intervention.)

Or, that if you wish an action with a certain outcome, but decisions are made by other people who promise something else and have a history of delivering something else, your endorsement for that action obviously won't result in the outcome you wish. What the neocons really wanted was in the public domain, how they deliver could be seen in Afghanistan, to rant on about the prospect of stable democracy in Iraq in this context was staggeringly idiotic. (Then again, many of these liberal hawks lived under the illusion that Afghanistan and also Kosovo as begun by Clinton and continued by Bush were examples of successful missions.)

Or, that crooks at home elected more or less democratically taking over another country from crooks who usurped power unelected is not at all an improvement (not to speak of comparing apples and oranges) - for they too are crooks usurping power unelected in the invaded country. And 'democratic' crooks should not be measured against foreign leaders, but domestic - well, not even domestic political rivals, but domestic laws and democratic standards, ideals. (True for Bush vs. Saddam/Sadr/Fallujahis as well as Sharon/Barak/Netanyahu vs. Arafat/Hamas.) That your opponents committed more sins is no more an excuse for breaking a democratic/'Western' norm than is not having taken part in drug trafficking as the victim did, for a mafia member on trial for killing a fellow mobster.


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