Monday, April 17, 2006

Liberals need to learn to forgive.

Why shouldn't I change my mind? - Los Angeles Times:

Tip goes to the Huffington Post on this one.

"But when my political shift occurred is not important: Even if it had come a year or two later, it would still not have represented a cowardly retreat or an apologia, but a realistic, intellectually honest willingness to face the new facts of the situation.

In my view, no one should be required to apologize for having supported intervention in Iraq before the war. There were important competing moral goods on both sides of the argument, something that many on the left still refuse to recognize. The U.N. in 1999 declared that all nations have a positive 'duty to protect, promote and implement' human rights, arguing in effect that the world's powerful countries are complicit in human rights abuses if they don't use their power to correct injustices. The debate over the war shouldn't have been whether it was morally right to topple Hussein (which it clearly was), but whether it was prudent to do so given the possible costs and potential consequences of intervention and whether it was legitimate for the U.S. to invade in the unilateral way that it did.

It was perfectly honorable to agonize over the wisdom of the war, and in many ways admirable that people on the left, such as Christopher Hitchens, George Packer, Michael Ignatieff and Jacob Weisberg, supported intervention. That position was much easier to defend in early 2003, however, before we found absolutely no stocks of chemical or biological weapons and no evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program. (I know that many on the left believe that the prewar estimates about Hussein's weapons of mass destruction were all a deliberate fraud by the Bush administration, but if so, it was one in which the U.N. weapons inspectors and French intelligence were also complicit.) It was also easier to support the war before we knew the full dimensions of the vicious insurgency that would emerge and the ease with which the insurgents could disrupt the building of a democratic state.

But in the years since then, it is the right that has failed to come to terms with these uncomfortable facts. The failure to find WMD and to make a quick transition to a stable democracy — as well as the prisoner abuse and the inevitable bad press that emerges from any prolonged occupation — have done enormous damage to America's credibility and standing in the world. These intangible costs have to be added to the balance sheet together with the huge direct human and monetary costs of the war.”

-Famed neoconservative switches sides on the Iraq war -- and all hell breaks loose.

By Francis Fukuyama, Francis Fukuyama is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the author of "America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy."

See also Andrew Sullivan's nuanced hindsight. Welcome back to reality, Andy. Your quite lyrical and intelligent statement of the yet-possible rewards are noted and agreed upon, with the observation that those were possible either without military force, or with much less military force.

Both writers suggest to one degree or another that their issues and concerns were valid, notwithstanding their NeoConservative agenda. And indeed, many concerns they cite are, but from my perspective, at the time, while I had no difficulty with the invasion of Afghanistan (dispite my feeling that it would be much bloodier than it turned out to be), I had grave reservations about the validity of our choice to topple Saddam. I grudgingly supported the idea at first, in a flip-floppy sort of way, as I assumed, as I'm sure most others who supported the war did, that the Administration had better advice and better intelligence than I did.

Now it's clear that they abused my trust, and the trust of the American people.

It's also clear that a serious, clandestine intelligence-gathering effort would have clearly shown us much better ways to go about undermining the rotting edifice that was Baathism.

Don't get me wrong; Saddam was a boil on the ass of the world. But there are many such boils. The first thing we need to do is to redefine our foreign policy in such a way as to keep such boils from forming in the first place. The way to do that is to cease supporting "stable" governments, or at least, defining "stable" as "not dictatorships by definition.

We also need to question the fundamental premise of NeoConservatism; that we have the need and the right to dominate the world. First, I doubt very much the world, as a whole will permit it. Second, it's clear that we cannot actually dominate a single middle-eastern country.

It’s clear that the age of military power as the enforcer of effective domination is at an end, and I think the description of this conflict as a “clash of cultures” is an admission of this essential truth – that this has become an age where the means of domination is not conflict, but communication.

In order to win a cultural conflict, it follows that we must put the same effort into devising a superior culture with superior ideas and demonstrate the pragmatic value of freedom to all. Only then can we “win” something worth having, and that is done pretty much by sighing and deciding that in this sort of situation, someone has to decide to be the grownup.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

While I still support the Iraq war, because if it's done right for a change (that is by no means the fault of our many brave soldiers who are doing their best with such questionable leadership) it's still winnable and the winning is important (for more reasons than "saving face," though that is one of them); I agree completely with this statement:

"The way to do that is to cease supporting "stable" governments, or at least, defining "stable" as "not dictatorships by definition.""

America, as per foreign policy, needs to get its priorities straight. If democracy and human rights are truly our foreign priorities, than we need to exemplify that in all of our foreign interactions. Not by war, but by diplomacy, trade and various other means.


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