A childhood friend of mine had a brilliant strategy to avoid losing basketball games. Actually, he always lost them, so it was more like a brilliant strategy to convince himself that he didn’t lose. After we’d score the last points, he’d immediately grab the ball and say “if I hit this, I win.” Then he’d hit it and march off the court cheering loudly to avoid hearing us.
That’s pretty much Peter Beinart’s latest column in a nutshell.
At first glance, Beinart’s request seems reasonable. Democrats – particularly younger ones – should admit that the surge was correct and that it represented Bush’s “finest hour.” Well, I don’t.
Here’s what’s really going on underneath Beinart’s reasonable sounding column. Beinart has been – and remains – committed to the idea that the use of force to solve problems is a good manly thing that Democrats should embrace. The problem, of course, is that Exhibit A of his argument – Iraq – didn’t turn out so well. (To his credit, he openly admits this point).
He still, though, wants to salvage his larger argument that force is good. In that sense, his surge cheerleading is sort of like grabbing the ball after the game is over and saying, “See, I win. Force can be good.”
On the merits, I think Marc Lynch sarcastically asks the right question: “[P]erhaps we could have another round of arguments as to whether the surge brigades arriving in the spring of 2007 caused the Sunni turn against al-Qaeda in the fall of 2006?”
But there is a serious point here. As bad as the Iraq War was, Beinart’s general worldview is arguably more dangerous. That's because if the public accepts the Beinart worldview that force is usually the answer, then we're destined to keep fighting new wars that solve no problems, but make people feel temporarily hairy-chested. One would hope we had learned more from Iraq.
I thought Beinart had learned these lessons too, but I was apparently wrong. Won't happen again.