Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Like Slow Spinning Redemption

Atrios asks all the time when the people who've gotten it right about Iraq from the beginning will start appearing on the talking heads shows, rather than the regular group of pundits who keep calling for more F.U.s and presidential last chances to get it right.

Well, it's no wonder the networks aren't getting behind the people who've gotten it right all these years regarding Iraq, falling for the Right's caricature of the so-called "anti-war left," when liberals themselves keep confusing each other, as shown in the following three posts.

Max Sawicky started it by saying:
* The netroots criticized the Iraqi effort a) for not gaining the support of the U.N.; b) for not armoring the troops sufficiently; c) for not proving the existence of WMDs; d) for not proving connections to Al Queda; e) for not using enough troops. Can we presume that if George H.W. Bush had been there to get the support of the U.N. and prove Saddam had WMDs, an invasion would have been justified?
Then Atrios says:
Which Internets Were You Reading?

....But nonetheless most people rejected the concept of "pre-emptive war" and rejected the notion that even if WMD claims were all correct Saddam was an actual threat in any way to this country. That was the point that I remember most of us desperately trying to communicate, even if other arguments were used to try to further the general cause of stopping the goddamn war.
Which prompts Kevin Drum to say:

Question: If this really was the primary critique among the anti-war left, has the Iraq war vindicated them?

I'm not sure I see it. The fact that Iraq is a clusterfuck doesn't demonstrate that preemptive war is wrong any more than WWII demonstrated that wars using Sherman tanks are right. It's the wrong unit of analysis. After all, Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive (though that didn't help); it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building in the 21st century is doomed to failure no matter who does it. Preemption per se had very little to do with it, and the argument against preemptive war, which is as much moral as pragmatic, is pretty much the same today as it was in 2002.

Which he then clarifies:
I've used the term "preemptive war" throughout this post, but it's worth noting that this is yet another case in which the Bush administration has twisted broadly-accepted language for its own use. A preemptive war is one in which an attack is imminent and you decide to strike first rather than wait for a certain invasion. A preventive war is one in which you invade in order to prevent a possible but uncertain future attack. Iraq was a preventive war.
As if that makes the argument somehow better. (Hint: it makes the argument worse).

The true leftist is against war generally and blasts the mainstream liberal for being conditionally supportive of war; the mainstream liberal is against the Iraq war in particular, but not war in general, and talks of the concept of preemption in relation to Iraq (getting suckered in to the false rhetoric of "preemptive" war by the Bush Administration); the liberal hawk labels the mainstream liberal as against the general concept of preemptive war, and thus can't be credited with rightness or sense just because the Bush Administration is incompetent.

First of all, had the U.N. authorized an invasion, it would neither have been a preemptive nor a preventive war. It would have been a continuation of a defensive war started by Iraq in 1991. Had it been approved by the U.N., yes, this particular "lefty" might have given some support, since that would have been a much better indication that Iraq was actually some sort of threat that warranted invasion. The absence of the authorization was further indication that the rationale was bullshit.

And since it was not authorized by the U.N. it was a totally new war completely unrelated to GWI justified with false "preemptive" rhetoric, such as clouds shaped like mushrooms suddenly appearing over American cities within a few months to a year.

Second of all, for those of us who have gotten it right from the beginning, the basic argument against the Iraq war (which is what us mainstream liberals have been talking about here, and have been for four years) was never an ideological one about whether or not war in general is morally or legally right. It was specific to the situation with Iraq.

Like Atrios said, those of us who saw past the dishonesty of the Bush Administration were grasping at any argument to prevent the war, including the morality and legality of the invasion. Perhaps it was just a lucky guess on our part. Perhaps -- as visceral, knee-jerk Bush haters who would naysay any decision he might make, particularly when it comes to war, since we oppose all war -- it was mere happenstance that our belief that Bush was a big fat liar was borne out. That doesn't explain our support of the war in Afghanistan, but whatever.

Yes, Max, we probably would have been more supportive if the U.N. had sanctioned it, because we are liberals, not leftists.

And, yes, Kevin, we were vindicated. Not about the wrongness of preemptive war/preventive war/all war, since that isn't what we were even arguing about, anyway. And not because Iraq turned out to be a clusterfuck, which was a natural consequence of the delusional leadership and lies that tricked liberal hawks.

We believed, based on evidence, that we were being lied to about Iraq. We believed, based on evidence, the Bush Administration was "sexing up" and "fixing" the evidence about Iraq. We believed Iraq would devolve into a mess of sectarian violence and civil war because of a lack of postwar planning. We believed the occupation would continue to go badly because it should have been obvious to sensible people that Bush really wasn't listening to his generals on the ground in Iraq.

The sensible people who used a combination of "gut feeling" combined with intellectual reasoning should be the ones on television now. And we certainly deserve credit for our instincts about the Bush Administration and the situation with Iraq coupled with our ability to think critically about the evidence presented to us.

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