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Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Liberal hawks cool down.

Calpundit looks at the squeamishness liberal hawks are starting to show as Bush's war plan sheds whatever thin veneer of humanitarianism it had picked up. You know, endorsements by Tony Blair, Vaclav Havel, Kanan Makiya, Kenneth Pollack, Thomas L. Friedman, The New Republic, Josh Marshall, that kind of thing. (George Packer assesses Makiya's failing gamble; TNR's Peter Beinart wavers; Friedman takes stock in the Times; and Josh Marshall hedges.)

The charge from more resolutely antiwar liberals is that the liberal hawks have been naive or projected their hopes onto Bush's plan. My take on it is that liberal hawks, seeing that Bush meant to take out Saddam Hussein, have tried to help shape the outcome. (Why else would liberal hawks have put so much stake in Colin Powell's efforts? How else to interpret Tony Blair's behavior?) The odds were always long — but that's because our party isn't in power, doesn't have a plan, and is embattled by silly and fractious demands farther left.

Plus, there are long-term liberal problems that need attention — like coming up with a liberal doctrine of the use of force that American voters would accept. (That's where Dissent's Michael Walzer, George Packer in Mother Jones, and — come on, admit it — The New Republic have been so helpful.) Many antiwar folks want a hard-and-fast rule like, "Don't swing til the other guy punches us in the nose." Liberals who held to rules like this preferred inaction when confronted by genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia because the United Nations chose not to intervene.

Many liberal hawks are trying to figure out how to combat tyranny, protect American interests, and strengthen international law at the same time. Clinton's NATO intervention in Bosnia marked a turning point for many of these hawks, as George Packer showed in another Times Magazine article. Unfortunately, we don't have a Democrat in the White House, and as the Democratic bystanders in Congress proved back in October, Democrats are miles from having a coherent alternative.

(Calpundit has more on the topic.)

Meanwhile, among Unitarian Universalists and religious liberals generally, the divide between pacifists and pragmatists continues to grow. John Buehrens (who opposes war with Iraq) sees pragmatists as a vanishing breed. That's not good news from my perspective.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 4 March 2003 at 10:39 PM

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