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January 19, 2009

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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.

Who's "we"?

It's not the public that has to learn this lesson. It's our political elites.

The public is much more wary of war (in part because much of it is pretty deeply isolationist) than are our nation's leaders and the "serious" analysts to whom they listen.

Beinart's audience isn't the public at large. He writes, after all, for The New Republic (circulation 60,000).

The problem is that the people who do read Beinart are already pretty deeply committed to his general worldview. Indeed, that's why they continue to take him seriously.

I'll consider the surge a success the first time I read first hand accounts of the Awakening saying that they won't kill Americans and/or Shiites even after they stop getting money. Instead all I've read is that they are anticipating that after we leave there will be a civil war and they are happy to stock up.

To reason that, because violence decreased after the surge, the surge caused the decrease in violence, is to use the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. The question is whether people like Beinart are too stupid to know this, or believe that the rest of us are too stupid to know this.

Henry:
Yes.

aimai

Henry:

Yes...seconding aimai


and can we please stop calling him a democrat? How about Dino?

Moreover, even if the calm endures, that still doesn't justify the Bush administration's initial decision to go to war, which remains one of the great blunders in American foreign policy history.

He should have quit right there.

"I thought Beinart had learned these lessons too, but I was apparently wrong. Won't happen again."

Good luck with never being wrong again.

Or maybe you meant to write something different?

I have always thought the surge demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of the Bush policy. You couldn't get it right the first time? And it took how long before you stopped trying the wrong way before you owned up and did it the right way?

All sins are not magically wiped away if we manage to somehow pull something positive out of this mess. As someone who supported the war for reasons other than the supposed weapons of mass destruction (I believe we carried a debt to the Shi'ites when we encouraged them to rise up in 1991, then abandoned them), I was appalled by the callous mismanagement, war profiteering and corruption that the Administration and a supine Republican Congress allowed to take place. That we could have done the job right, earlier, cheaper and at a significantly lower cost of life to all parties, makes the bungling until 2006 *worse*.

this is quite sloppy. i'm not sure you read beinhart's article, which is much more even-handed than you let on. he admits that the increase in troops is not solely responsible for the decrease in violence in iraq.

beinhart wrote:
***
"Is the surge solely responsible for the turnaround? Of course not. Al-Qaeda alienated the Sunni tribes; Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army decided to stand down; the United States assassinated key insurgent and militia leaders, all of which mattered as much if not more than the increase in U.S. troops."
***

Additionally, your conclusion that beinhart's "general worldview" that "force is usually the answer" doesn't follow from the fact that he thinks we should give bush credit for sending more troops to iraq when it was the politically unpopular thing to do.

Finally, if you dispute the view that force is NOT usually the answer, it would help to explain how the use of diplomacy and/or "soft power" would have been more effective than force against, say, the nazis or the confederacy.

Dear Peter Beinart:

Yes, putting more troops in country helped to improve the security situation on the ground in parts of Iraq.

You win!

Now please take your ball and go home.

Thanks -

"Finally, if you dispute the view that force is NOT usually the answer, it would help to explain how the use of diplomacy and/or "soft power" would have been more effective than force against, say, the nazis or the confederacy."

It's so rare to have such an easy argument to distinguish, but: Almost never do we deal with existential threats like the Nazis or the Confederacy (although one could make the case that even these were not existential threats of the sort where force is the only way to prevent extinction). Hence, force is NOT usually the answer, but in rare and dire circumstances is.

Finally, if you dispute the view that force is NOT usually the answer, it would help to explain how the use of diplomacy and/or "soft power" would have been more effective than force against, say, the nazis or the confederacy.

Finally, if you dispute the view that major invasive surgery is NOT usually the answer, it would help to explain how the use of preventive medicine and/or antibiotics would have been more effective against, say, an aggressive carcinoma or an aneurysm in your brain.

Horses for courses.

Thanks -

Lithium cola over at dkos has a great take on this essay where he argues that the central point Beinart is trying to make is that young progressives have learned, correctly, that conservatives are always wrong and that that is going to be harmful to the country (!) when, like a stopped clock, conservatives are finally right about something, should that day ever come. Why we should struggle to grade on a curve and find one thing they didn't entirely screw up in order to prevent ugly hubris in the young generation I utterly fail to understand.

A more correct understanding of the reality with which we are faced is to say that Conservative politics, certaingly the Republican party's politics, has produced more than two generations of scorpions and that America's progressive children have finally learned that a scorpion is a scorpion is a scorpion. Asking us to forget that and hope that the scorpion changes will have disasterous consequences for our country.

Beinart's piece is a disturbing example of the fact that the right has managed to make the argument of history and progress appear to fall between reactionaries and centrists. He's warning us that if we stop paying attention to and serving reactionaries we will be losing an important voice in our political debates. But what about the center left, the progressives, and the far left? I'd rather turn our attention to groups who have been proven at least minimally right on the big questions of the last eighty years and work within that framework than to keep trying to suck up to the old GOP.

aimai

"It's not the public that has to learn this lesson. It's our political elites."

It's like that "West Wing" episode where the pollster noted that the people were against flag burning -- but they weren't really too concerned with doing anything about it really.

The people might very well be against war; but, they vote for "elites" that are supportive. This includes re-electing George Bush and various members of Congress. So, maybe, the people matter too.

force is NOT usually

In answer to another person, the word we should focus on is "usually" -- this implies force is "sometimes" the answer.

Relatedly, "I thought Beinart had learned these lessons too, but I was apparently wrong. Won't happen again."

Raise your hand if you thought the last sentence referenced the second half of the first. I thought it referenced the first.

"Raise your hand if you thought the last sentence referenced the second half of the first. I thought it referenced the first."

a) It isn't a sentence: it's a sentence fragment.

b) Regardless of what you think, grammatically the antecedent is "but I was apparently wrong." That was my small point. It would be really nice if publius would spend a few seconds reading his posts before posting such unclear writing. Clear is better than sloppy.

c) Nobody seems to use "referred to" any more, and it makes baby Jesus cry.

The people might very well be against war; but, they vote for "elites" that are supportive. This includes re-electing George Bush and various members of Congress. So, maybe, the people matter too.

Of course the people matter. But they are not Beinart's principal audience.

The problem that the people face on issues of war and peace is that our political system gives them an extraordinarily narrow range of choices on foreign policy. And we're trained to think--not entirely without good reason--that a vote for a Dennis Kucinich or a Ron Paul* in the primaries, or a Ralph Nader or a Cynthia McKinney in the general election, is a wasted vote. So we look at the "serious" candidates in the primaries and the major-party candidates in the general election and choose among them.

All of which is not at all to say that the majority of the American people would actually prefer Nader's or Paul's or Kucinich's foreign policy vision to what we get from the leadership of the two major parties. But the (not always admirable, it should be said)foreign policy preferences of a sizable chunk of the U.S. public are systematically excluded from our national political discussions.

And in this regard Beinart is much more a symptom than a cause. As aimai points out, Beinart essentially wants to limit the debate to the (interventionist/neoconservative) right and the center(-right). But those are already the terms of "serious" foreign policy debate. Both Obama and McCain, after all, proposed a "surge" for Afghanistan.

_________________

* Please note that I don't mean in anyway to endorse Ron Paul's foreign policy views. I'm simply noting that he offered a very different foreign policy vision from the mainstream Democrats and Republicans.

TheFool: you haven't distinguished my argument as much as you've muddied the issue. you've taken the position that "force" should be used to address the problems you perceive to be "existential" (read: "big") or "rare and dire."

good luck applying that standard.

should we use force to stop deforestation... global warming IS a rare and dire threat?

how 'bout famine? communism? terrorism? genocide? each are "rare and dire" threats necessitating a miliary (i think) response under your standard. this sounds an awful lot like neoconservatism.

and i have no idea what to make of your parenthetical regarding the civil war/slavery not being an "existential threat."

russell: i don't really know what you mean, but i don't engage arguments by analogy.

joe: i read "usually" to mean "more often than not," rather than merely sometimes." and i'm not sure it's fair to impute to beinhart (not that i really give a damn) the belief that 51% of our foreign policy problems can be solved through the use of military force.

one of the great blunders in American foreign policy history

This is as much a lie as the rest of Beinart's piece. It was not a blunder, it was a crime.

They knew what they wanted to do, and they did it. They came into office with the objective of invading Iraq and overthrowing the Ba'ath government, and they carried it out at the first opportunity. They were expanding the airbase in Kuwait before September 11. They brought up the 'how' and 'when' of invading Iraq -- not the 'whether' -- at the first meeting of the National Security Council, in February 2001.

And they achieved a fundamental objective, which was long-term bases. "Blunder", my ass.

The trouble is that Beinart is influential. Like it or not, we live in a world where The New Republic, Wash Post editorial page, and Tom Friedman are all taken pretty seriously by many.

Finally, if you dispute the view that force is NOT usually the answer, it would help to explain how the use of diplomacy and/or "soft power" would have been more effective than force against, say, the nazis or the confederacy.

Ah, yes, the Nazis and the Confederacy. Y'know, whenever anyone uses those two enemies as examples of war's necessity, I think of Jerry Seinfeld's routine about NASA's legacy, namely, sentences that begin with "We can send a man to the moon, but we can't _______."

Caveman, it is an article of faith on this site that no part of the Iraq invasion produced anything but the worst possible result and that, in the larger sense, diplomacy isn't just the first resort, it is the only resort unless . . . well . . . uhmmm . . . good luck getting a coherent answer.

What is worse is that none of the posters seem to have even read the Beinart article. He was making the larger point that the left isn't always right, whether it was the first Gulf War or welfare reform and the left, with its unflagging hubris risks a repeat of past failures. Beinart rightly holds the Bush administration up as what goes wrong when one party shuts itself out from its critics, and warns the left of the same upcoming risk. Many here will have no part of Beinart's warning because they cannot conceive of ever being wrong or of a conservative ever being right.

You win Pete. The surge worked. Cheney was right. It was Bush's finest moment. Petreus/Feith in 2012.
Long live Limbaugh.
We support the Troops.
God Bless America et al.
Now bring the troops home and save the Treasury about $5 billion a week this year.

Many here will have no part of Beinart's warning because they cannot conceive of ever being wrong or of a conservative ever being right.

Oh, I dunno, I thought Cheney nailed it in '91 when he said toppling Iraq's government was a bad idea.

Because I'm bipartisan like that.

Beinart's column is addressed to an imaginary group of "younger liberals" who unlike the "older liberals"--who now, according to Beinert, understand that the First Gulf War and welfare reform worked out swimmingly--are not "chastened" by a sense of fallibility.

There is, indeed, a lot more going on here than Beinart's usual wrongness about foreign policy (though that's going on here, too). And one might start with his assumptions about the vindication of the First Gulf War and welfare reform.

Whoever these younger liberals are, they are not the people running the Democratic Party, which is still entirely dominated by the wing that supported both the Gulf War and welfare reform.

Nor is the divide wholly generational (as Beinart wants to make it out to be). The lions of the democratic wing of the Democratic Party (to use Paul Wellstone's apt phrase)--from John Conyers to Barney Frank, from Dennis Kucinich to Barbara Lee--are not young and naive.

My guess is that Beinart's "young liberals" are actually all those--young and old--who have been raising a fuss as Obama has filled his cabinet with DLC-style retreads. Beinart is stacking the deck by stipulating that, of course, the "New Democrats" of the 1990s were right about domestic policy (e.g. welfare reform) and foreign affairs (e.g. the First Gulf War), so the only reason one could possibly have for criticizing them from the left is that one is naive and inflexible.

In fact, centrist Democrats like Beinart are as ideologically rigid as their more liberal opponents. And rather than following Beinart in sifting through the ashes of the last eight years for crumbs of wisdom from the Bush administration, we would accomplish more by revisiting the mistakes made by "Third Way" Democrats in the 1990s.

Who knows?...those mistakes might just include welfare reform and the First Gulf War!

Beinart rightly holds the Bush administration up as what goes wrong when one party shuts itself out from its critics, and warns the left of the same upcoming risk.

his concern has been duly noted.

should we use force to stop deforestation... global warming IS a rare and dire threat?

i don't really know what you mean, but i don't engage arguments by analogy.

As you wish.

Regarding "what I meant":

"Horses for courses" is a British expression that more or less means "different things are appropriate in different situations".

If my meaning is still unclear, let me know and I'll try to unpack it a little further.

Also:

"Existential" doesn't mean "big" or "rare". It does mean a particular case of "dire", i.e., you may cease to exist.

HTH

Caveman, it is an article of faith on this site ...

As near as I can make out, the only things that is an "article of faith" on this site is that the kitty picture is funny.

Beinart will always have an argument in favor of the U.S. bombing Muslims in the Middle East. Everything he says springs from this one overriding desire.

No real opinion on Beinart -- other than he has always struck me as an egghead.

Since Iraq was mentioned, I wanted to bring something up that I haven't had a chance to bring up: During Bush's Please, Believe This Farewell Tour, he says how it was a disappointment that there were no WMDs.

To which, I have yet to see an interviewer call him on this: So, it would have been a good thing if Sadam Hussein HAD Weapons of Mass Destruction?

I mean, by his new-found reckoning, had we trusted the much-maligned weapons inspectors -- or, at the very least, insisted on more inspecting -- there would have been no Iraq War.

Which, of course, is the real point. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the neocons wanted an Iraq War and made the there-has-to-be existinence of WMD as the excuse for going to war -- no matter what revisionist regret he is spewing now.

gary, why do you think the word "referred" makes the baby jesus cry?

I saw it suggested numerous times by knowledgeable people that there were alot more reasons for the decrease in violence than the surge. Reasons like MONEY, we basically stated paying the Sunnis not to kill us. There has been, of course, the ethnic cleansing which has worked great wonders as it always has throughout history.

I'm surprised knowbody has mentioned this. I was even more surprised when Obama jumped on the band wagon of the surge with McCain. Prepare to be disappointed Nell, but he does offer hope, even if in the form of a miracle which is the only reason I can see that he would stoop to inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation.

I think you are entirely right too,Nell, that dismissing the invasion as a "blunder" or result of bad intelligence is nothing but a BIG LIE and everyone knows it and Colin Powell is guilty of the same lie. There is no way he didn't know what he was doing when he gave that speech to the UN describing WMD.

I probably shouldn't comment on grammar, so I won't, but I understood the post alot better than the suggested corrections in comments. Hey, nobody appreciates good grammar more than I do, I have NEVER gotten used to looking less than stupid when it comes to grammar.

Thanks for the chance to post a comment again, I think I was exiled, apparently only temporarily, as appropriate to the degree of the grammatical and spelling infractions I committed. It has gotten much worse, I spilt coffee on a portion of the keyboard and can't afford to replace it. No, before you ask, don't send contributions, I think I enjoy the lack of accountability.

There is absolutely no accounting for what happens when I hit certain keys now, so, standard disclaimer applies with even less responsibility assumed than heretofore. Seriously,I can't believe this stuff really happens!

Nobody seems to use "referred to" any more, and that makes baby Jesus cry.

Hey, I've got toothache again the past couple of days, gout acting up again, and spent an hour on hold with the dental clinic earlier today before they disconnected me and after I called back, I got a recording saying call tomorrow.

That all retroactively accounts for my sloppy casting, I'm sure.

"Caveman, it is an article of faith on this site"

This site has no agency, or views, whatever. It is a product of a multitude of individual views, including yours. Staying otherwise is wrong, and silly besides.

If you'd like to give a cite to any individual who has made any such claim here, please do so.

Either that should be easy, if lots of people hold such a view, or if not, it would appear you are making a false claim that you can't, in fact, substantiate.

"that, in the larger sense, diplomacy isn't just the first resort, it is the only resort unless . . . well . . . uhmmm . . . good luck getting a coherent answer."

Indeed, because who here, specifically, holds that view? Cite?

Not me.

"Beinart will always have an argument in favor of the U.S. bombing Muslims in the Middle East. Everything he says springs from this one overriding desire."

Can you substantiate that?

"No real opinion on Beinart -- other than he has always struck me as an egghead."

What, exactly, does that mean?

It's generally a term anti-intellectuals throw at people who read, or write, or use words of more than two syllables. What do you mean by it?

Well, Gary, he's never kept my interest, made me agree or disagree with him with any passion, and, hell, I probably can't get past of all of those syllables.

Other than that, it wasn't meant to be much of a putdown.

More of a:

Meh.

"Beinart will always have an argument in favor of the U.S. bombing Muslims in the Middle East. Everything he says springs from this one overriding desire."

That's not fair. Race, religion, nationality, and creed mean nothing to guys like Beinart, just as long as somebody's getting bombed.

I really wish people like this would get over that awkward encounter with Wavy Gravy or whatever the hell it was that resulted in their willingness to sign off on any policy, no matter how vile, as long as it tweaks pinko-commie pacifists* like me.

*formerly known as moderate Republicans who don't think war should be waged for kicks

As always, Patrick Cockburn will cure that bad case of the stupid you might have picked up from the Beinart piece.

"Well, Gary, he's never kept my interest, made me agree or disagree with him with any passion, and, hell, I probably can't get past of all of those syllables."

I tend to dislike the historical anti-intellectual implications that anyone who reads is an "egghead" (e.g., Adlai Stevenson), but I understand you didn't mean it that way. I'd suggest that perhaps a term you might use for Beinart is "boring."

If I make submit comment,I win.


Oh, yeah! Suck it Losers!!!!!!!!!!

Wow.

I even screwed that up.

The irony kills me.

I lose.

G: Yes, "boring" or "a bore" would have been better.

BTW, we could use more eggheads like Stevenson.

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Whatnot


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