Carl Frank at No Oil for Pacifists has, once again, used me as his whipping boy, this time suggesting that I am some sort of lefty pacifist who is opposed to the U.S. using military force against terrorists.
Frank says I wrote him that “I don’t ‘resent’ Bush, I just think it’s ironic that a war started to stop an imminent threat that turned out not to be imminent.” NO! Carl has disingenuously ommitted the most important part of my emailed comment, without even including an elipses…. Here’s what I actually wrote:
I don’t “resent” Bush, I just think it’s ironic that a war started to stop an imminent threat that turned out not to be imminent — but indeed a long-term threat — is now justified by the most liberal of all Wilsonian rationales.
Anyone who could just edit out all the stuff after the first dash is obviously not interested in a balanced or fair discussion of the issue. And any conservative who doesn’t face up to the fact that the present rationale for the Iraq war — making Iraq safe for democracy and to save Iraqis from Saddam’s oppression — is an ultra-liberal, leftist justification (Wilsonian foreign policy at its worst) is either self-deluding or just hypocritical. Without WMDs, the only reason for this war is “human rights,” Jimmy Carter’s albatross. Running away from accountability while presenting a shifting, neo-Wilsonian idealization of a war that started as a way to disarm a dictator who was said to have nukes pointed at Jerusalem and dirty bombs ready for explosion in New York is worse flip-flopping even than the greatest flip-flopper of them all, John Kerry.
Lest one think this is just another liberal or elitist Democrat talking (I am neither by the way), here’s what George F. Will — certainly not a liberal, leftist or even a Democrat — says:
[Bush] exhausted presidential ability to take preemptive military action by doing so against a nation that lacked the attribute that could justify it — possession of weapons of mass destruction by a regime likely to use them. Yes, the world is better off because Bush rid Iraq of the regime that filled the mass graves, but he does not argue that human rights horrors justify preemptive war.
Duh. Will characterized the Bush doctrine of democratic nation-building as “the stunningly anticonservative idea animating the administration’s foreign policy.” Bush won’t say “human rights” because it would expose him as a foreign policy liberal. His inauguration address was straight from John Kennedy in 1961, i.e., “bear any burden, pay any price . . . to ensure the survival of liberty” around the world. And to make matters worse, the day after the inauguration, the Administration immediately backtracked, using anonymous “sources” to announce that the speech did not mean what it said, that America would not intervene militarily in other nations to free people from tyranny and oppression.
Bush wants it both ways and so does his lapdog Frank. But reality has a way of intruding on idealism, which is what we have here. There needs to be an asterisk after the inauguration speech’s stirring rehtoric about defense of freedom and liberty, namely “unless your country has lots of oil (e.g., Saudi Arabia) or supports the U.S. in the war on terrorism (e.g., Russia, Pakistan).” The rest of the world has long thought that American foreign policy was hypocritical because for decades this country supported dictators and repressive regimes out of Kissingerian realpolitik concerns. That caused the Iranian revolution in 1978 which started the whole Shiite Muslim backlash against America and the West.
Now we’re finally at least fighting one war on the side of the oppressed, but our government is still caught in the same hypocritical trap. Putin and Musharef are oppressive, anti-democratic depots — no need even to mention the House of Saud — yet we support them without even a word of criticism. Oppressed people in other nations will rightly look at this, once again, as cynical, in turn devaluaing American ideals and the strength of our foreign policy. As Jonathan Alter observed, calling the liberty justification “a suspiciously convenient, third-string rationale for war:”
But Bush prefers Ronald Reagan to Wilson as an exemplar, which begins to explain where his vision falls short. Reagan wasn’t much interested in promoting democracy except as a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union from within. All over the world, dictators like Saddam Hussein cheered his election. Reaganism was effective and inspiring but also hypocritical — the kind of ersatz idealism that apparently allows Bush to press for democracy in every Middle Eastern country except the ones that sell us oil or help us fight terrorism. That’s a rather long list.
Two more things. First, Frank implies that I am opposed to preemptive war and American unilateralism. Not true. As I blogged 18 months ago, well before the 2004 presidential race even really began, “Unilateralism is one thing — something I most definitely can approve of — but ginning up fake rationales is quite another.” Second, Frank ends his ranting post with this admonition to me: “My recommendation, Glenn: courage” (which he links to a Wikipedia entry on Dan Rather, whom I have always detested). Well, that was also the name of Walter Cronkite’s sailboat (his old one, before retirement). The same Cronkite, liberal and all, who by coming out against Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam war changed the course of history. And it’s the heart of JFK’s book Profiles in Courage, from another liberal Democrat. So yes, Carl, “courage” indeed. Like the president you admire so much, you too are a closet liberal.
Oh, and my 13-year old son says “Don’t mess with my dad.” He’s bigger than you, Carl (in so many ways, including character), so watch out!