August 24, 2005

The Liberal Hawks and Iraq

Sheelah Kolhatkar:

The people on the right cannot possibly be feeling the kind of dissonance that liberal supporters are feeling. It’s not a simple matter to live with, I have to tell you,” said Mr. Wieseltier, whose name appeared on a letter to Mr. Bush urging the removal of Saddam Hussein in late 2001, and who said that the U.S. shouldn’t cut and run. “I think that it is impossible, even for someone who supported the war, or especially for someone who did, not to feel very bitter about the way it has been conducted and the way it has been explained.” For some writers who were accustomed to speaking only to tiny audiences clustered on the coasts, the invasion of Iraq and its implications presented an opportunity to actually influence something. It was a career-making moment for theorists who had cut their teeth in Bosnia and who were ready to test out their newly formed vision of American force as a tool to promote democracy and human rights and prevent genocide. It made media stars of academics like Mr. Feldman, who prior to the war was merely an “assistant professor who had been teaching for one year,” according to him, and the human-rights expert Michael Ignatieff of Harvard, who wrote various Iraq analyses for The New York Times Magazine. Writers such as Mr. Wieseltier, Mr. Berman and Mr. Hitchens were profiled admiringly in the months before the war, held up as avant-garde prophets.

To make matters worse, the same group couldn’t even get the Democratic Presidential candidate to see things their way—or even to pay attention to what they had to say.

John Kerry, who was the great hope for people like us, completely finked out. He had no Iraq policy,” said Mr. Feldman. “Many of us were on various advisory committees in the Kerry campaign, and we submitted our memos up the chain, and they were assiduously ignored. No one’s really listening.”

Mr. Feldman said that, with Mr. Kerry lost in a confused fog, the anti-war camp clamoring for immediate withdrawal and the Bush administration fixated on “magical thinking” and lean, quickie warfare, there was never a political constituency behind them.

“I consider that to be our failure, mind you,” said Mr. Feldman. “You’re a failure as an advocate if you can’t get people in power to move.”

Kerry 'finked out' (as this blog pretty steadily reported back then), and Dubya is living in something of a flypaper bubble. It ain't pretty.

P.S. Mr Wieseltier, there's 'dissonance' on the right too...

Posted by Gregory at August 24, 2005 10:43 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

What a joke. "Better Candy" liberals knew that we weren't going in with Shinseki's 400,000 troops prior to the war, and they didn't make a peep. Nor did they acknowledge that it was a war of choice till well after there was substantial evidence that there were no WMD. Nor did they gainsay the "flowers and candy" crap. They actively promoted the idea that the terrorists hated us not for policy reasons (which wouldn't mean we should adjust our policies), but for our "freedoms." And none of them took up Padilla or the various abuses to notions of due process that have happened on their dime.

They had a model, their model sucked, and now they are backfilling lest someone call their model, and with it their authority and their careers, into question. They should take heart: if the last few years have shown anything, it's that we are not a people that demand much accountability from those up the food chain.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim at August 24, 2005 11:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kolhatkar: Mr. Feldman said that, with Mr. Kerry lost in a confused fog, the anti-war camp clamoring for immediate withdrawal and the Bush administration fixated on “magical thinking” and lean, quickie warfare, there was never a political constituency behind them.

Why do you think I rail against the two-party system? It's way too exclusionary.

Posted by: fling93 at August 24, 2005 11:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

fling93,

So what do you propose, legislatures with coalitions of parties? Of, course, we now have coalitions within parties. Is there really a significant difference? Are you just looking for support, in a group, for your personal views and policy preferences?

Personally, I find there is more stability in a two party system. It forces more lasting alliances but reasonable people can differ; like Brits and Americans.

Posted by: RiverRat at August 25, 2005 01:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

fling93,

So what do you propose, legislatures with coalitions of parties? Of, course, we now have coalitions within parties. Is there really a significant difference? Are you just looking for support, in a group, for your personal views and policy preferences?

Personally, I find there is more stability in a two party system. It forces more lasting alliances but reasonable people can differ; like Brits and Americans.

Posted by: RiverRat at August 25, 2005 01:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Note that we already have coalitions in our system, but they occur before elections with little accountability to the voter.

That being said, I'm not too fond of the way coalitions form in parliamentary systems either, but parliamentary systems are not a prerequisite for a multi-party system. You just need to use PR instead of single-member districts (and this has the bonus of solving the gerrymandering problem). So I've long desired to see a multi-party system within a presidential system. PR for the legislature, while keeping a separately elected executive. This means no coalitions are needed to create a government. Instead, I think coalitions would form and dissolve more naturally issue by issue, hopefully resulting in legislation that more accurately reflects the will of the people. Liberal hawks could ally themselves with social conservatives for one bill, then with social liberals for another. Ditto for fiscal conservatives. Whereas in our system, we end up with parties of unlikely bedfellows stuck with each other and sizable groups with no representation whatsoever.

Of course, I didn't think anybody had tried this yet, but in the course of writing a term paper for a Poli Sci night class, I recently learned that there have been multi-party presidential systems in Latin America, all of which have suffered serious problems. It's unclear whether that's due to the system or due to cultural and historical factors, though. Perhaps a semi-presidential system might work out better, but you'd end up with coalitions again.

Yeah, the pros of one are the cons of the other. Stable but inflexible and unrepresentative vs. unstable but flexible and more representative. Although some argue that presidentialism is actually less stable, since there is no recourse when the executive and legislature disagree. In countries like ours, where little or no urgent governmental action is needed most of the time, you just get gridlock. But in most others, the tension is resolved via coups. Plus, I think it's pretty telling that, whenever a new democracy forms, they never copy our system. Including Iraq.

I'm a libertarian, by the way, which is the main reason I hate the two-party system.

Posted by: fling93 at August 25, 2005 04:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There is dissonance on the right, of a certain kind. There are normally solid Republicans on the fringes of party politics who are becoming pretty discontented right now over Iraq, and of course many people with military and foreign policy backgrounds and deep knowledge of the course of the war are Republicans who have been expressing reservations about aspects of the war for some time now.

The core of the party, though -- the activists, the operatives of the permanent campaign and the great majority of the elected officials -- are too heavily invested in a President who has brought Republican control of the White House and Congress to be in revolt over this. Not to put too fine a point on it, but most of these people know less about Iraq than I do, and I haven't worked in government or even set foot in Washington for over ten years. Hard core Republicans can absorb discontent (elected officials hear it every time they go back to their states and districts) but they are directionless when it comes to suggesting alternatives.

Here's one bit of dissonance I'm feeling: I supported John McCain in the 2000 GOP primaries and still think it likely he would have responded to 9/11 better than Bush did. But he is as heavily invested in this hopeless Arab democratization business as Bush is, and if he might not be any worse at running a war than Bush has been it isn't obvious to me that he'd be much better either. And apart from him the Republican bench is very, very thin -- mostly Bush-style Republicans focused on campaign politics, and old men. So if nothing else I can sympathize with any Republicans feeling adrift right about now.

Posted by: JEB at August 25, 2005 04:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I find myself checking in with this blog less and less these days what with all the hand-wringing and prophecies of doom. There are plenty of jihadis getting their tickets punched. Police were running away from their own stations in Mosul just 6 months ago; now they are staying and fighting. Carloads of knuckleheads intimidating the locals in Haditha is not "holding territory". I doubt that it will amount to anything close to what we were up against in Fallujah. I also question whether this reporter could tell a Shia policeman from a Sunni one. While it is true that the Iraqi Army is almost all Shia and Kurds; the local police are usually recruited, well, locally. I'm gonna need more than a report from a Guardian stringer to be convinced.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at August 25, 2005 06:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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