May 28, 2005
The Problem with Being a "Liberal Hawk"
Yglesias, Praktike, Patrick Nielsen Hayden and others are ruminating on "liberal hawks" and the Iraq War. But there are really only three basic American stances on the Iraq War, and they go something like this:
1. Invading Iraq was a good idea, the casualties and setbacks have mostly been either inevitable or unforseeable, and Bush deserves credit for a good decision well executed.
2. Invading Iraq was a good idea, but poor choices by Bush Administration officials have led to a whole lot of casualties and setbacks that needn't have happened. Bush deserves credit for a good decision, but also blame for terrible execution.
3. Invading Iraq was a bad idea, and Bush deserves blame for a bad decision as well as terrible execution.
Most Republicans believe #1 (good decision, good execution); most Democrats believe #3 (bad decision, bad execution). Most of the "liberal hawks" are just Democrats who believe #2 (good decision, bad execution). And they're screwed, because neither side trusts them.
"Liberal hawks" are doomed to seem disloyal and untrustworthy to other Democrats, because saying invading Iraq "was the right decision, just with the wrong execution" sounds much too close to most Democrats to saying "Bush was right, and the problems aren't his fault". Now, it's not true that liberal hawks don't think the problems are Bush's fault; they just think that what he's to blame for is how he handled war with Iraq, not that he went to war in the first place. But that's just too close to an excuse for most Democrats to accept.
And that's a pity, because the Bush Administration's most damaging foreign policy errors have indeed tended to be failures of execution, not failures of concept. Bush has coopted traditional Democratic idealism in his speeches. Democrats are going to have a hard time fighting Republicans on foreign policy on principle alone; they really need to learn to fight as well on the practice. "They're messing up and not delivering" is a simple enough sentence. You'd think a Democrat could campaign on it.
I'd really, really like to have two parties in the ring on foreign policy. But as long as the Democrats are fissured this way, the Republicans will be the only game in town -- and it's hard for either party to do a good job without the pressure of competition.
Posted by danielstarr at May 28, 2005 02:40 AM
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Problem with Being a "Liberal Hawk":
Tracked on August 2, 2005 04:28 AM
Tracked on September 14, 2005 01:40 PM
Tracked on September 21, 2005 12:47 PM
Tracked on September 25, 2005 10:09 PM
Tracked on September 26, 2005 09:15 PM
Tracked on September 28, 2005 08:57 AM
Tracked on October 3, 2005 05:59 AM
Tracked on October 5, 2005 06:04 AM
Tracked on October 8, 2005 06:57 PM
Tracked on October 8, 2005 10:09 PM
Tracked on October 9, 2005 01:07 AM
Tracked on October 9, 2005 02:48 AM
Tracked on October 9, 2005 06:04 PM
Tracked on October 11, 2005 01:23 PM
Tracked on October 18, 2005 10:09 AM
Tracked on October 19, 2005 04:35 PM
Tracked on October 20, 2005 05:31 PM
Tracked on October 25, 2005 09:33 AM
Tracked on October 25, 2005 10:33 PM
Tracked on October 31, 2005 03:46 PM
Tracked on November 3, 2005 10:13 AM
Tracked on November 4, 2005 07:10 AM
Tracked on November 4, 2005 02:36 PM
Tracked on November 5, 2005 02:53 PM
Tracked on November 7, 2005 08:04 AM
Tracked on November 7, 2005 01:00 PM
Tracked on November 8, 2005 03:02 PM
Tracked on November 9, 2005 01:34 AM
Tracked on November 9, 2005 02:39 AM
Tracked on November 11, 2005 04:21 PM
Tracked on November 11, 2005 06:00 PM
Tracked on November 12, 2005 02:17 AM
Tracked on November 13, 2005 05:48 AM
Tracked on November 13, 2005 02:49 PM
Tracked on November 15, 2005 06:14 AM
Tracked on November 19, 2005 11:30 PM
Tracked on November 20, 2005 11:43 AM
Tracked on November 22, 2005 01:34 AM
Tracked on November 23, 2005 12:45 AM
» forex training from forex training
distractions extensible unanswerable rosette headlands gnome:anxiety,currency trading methods http://www.realestatehotbuys.com/currency-trading-methods.html [Read More]
Tracked on November 23, 2005 06:56 PM
Tracked on November 24, 2005 01:15 AM
» rules for playing backgammon from rules for playing backgammon
arsenal.aliases?barbarian providing coattail ostensible boa backgammon and chess tables http://www.realestatehotdeals.com/backgammon-and-chess-tables.html [Read More]
Tracked on November 24, 2005 02:20 AM
Tracked on November 26, 2005 08:08 PM
Tracked on November 28, 2005 01:21 AM
Tracked on November 29, 2005 07:42 AM
Tracked on December 5, 2005 10:47 AM
Tracked on December 10, 2005 08:23 PM
Tracked on December 11, 2005 04:08 PM
Tracked on December 12, 2005 05:16 PM
Tracked on December 13, 2005 08:03 PM
Tracked on December 16, 2005 10:25 PM
Tracked on December 17, 2005 04:48 AM
Tracked on December 21, 2005 10:13 AM
Tracked on December 21, 2005 06:19 PM
Tracked on December 22, 2005 11:31 PM
Tracked on December 23, 2005 09:18 PM
Tracked on December 24, 2005 05:15 AM
Tracked on December 24, 2005 11:38 PM
Tracked on December 26, 2005 10:51 AM
Tracked on December 27, 2005 10:02 AM
Tracked on December 28, 2005 05:16 PM
Tracked on December 30, 2005 01:24 PM
Tracked on December 31, 2005 08:14 PM
Tracked on January 3, 2006 08:53 AM
Tracked on January 5, 2006 03:57 AM
Tracked on January 5, 2006 04:32 PM
Tracked on January 5, 2006 09:05 PM
Tracked on January 8, 2006 03:43 AM
Tracked on January 10, 2006 01:11 PM
Tracked on January 13, 2006 02:11 AM
Tracked on January 15, 2006 05:45 AM
Tracked on January 16, 2006 04:34 PM
Tracked on January 18, 2006 09:12 PM
Tracked on January 19, 2006 05:52 AM
Tracked on January 19, 2006 09:11 PM
Tracked on January 20, 2006 08:43 PM
Tracked on January 21, 2006 09:44 AM
Tracked on January 23, 2006 07:47 PM
Tracked on April 9, 2006 02:12 AM
» gambling online from gambling online
Le but du gambling online est d'apporter et d'encourager un environnement créatif et de soutenir le système d'équipe de gambling online. Racontez-nous ce que vous aimez sur les événements de gambling online... [Read More]
Tracked on April 21, 2006 04:02 AM
» gambling en ligne from gambling en ligne
Merci de votre intérêt pour le gambling en ligne. Le témoignage n'est plus pris en compte par le budget 2002. Pour plus d'informations sur le gambling en ligne, cliquez sur n'importe quel lien sur la gauc... [Read More]
Tracked on April 21, 2006 07:49 AM
» casinos online from casinos online
If you decide not to keep the casinos online service after the 30 day trial, it will be deactivated and deleted. No obligation, and with our thanks for trying it out. Visit casinos online now! Please vis... [Read More]
Tracked on June 28, 2006 09:56 AM
» online gambling from online gambling
Tracked on July 23, 2006 05:45 AM
Tracked on November 25, 2006 08:54 PM
Tracked on November 26, 2006 05:19 PM
Tracked on December 5, 2006 02:57 AM
Tracked on December 17, 2006 04:09 PM
Tracked on January 3, 2007 02:09 AM
Tracked on January 11, 2007 11:19 AM
Tracked on January 19, 2007 12:19 PM
Tracked on March 14, 2007 02:17 PM
Tracked on March 15, 2007 09:01 AM
Tracked on March 24, 2007 01:54 PM
Tracked on March 24, 2007 06:17 PM
Tracked on March 27, 2007 06:05 AM
Tracked on March 28, 2007 04:07 AM
Tracked on April 1, 2007 07:57 PM
Tracked on April 2, 2007 07:36 AM
Tracked on April 12, 2007 08:02 AM
Tracked on April 12, 2007 06:32 PM
Tracked on April 14, 2007 11:58 AM
Tracked on April 15, 2007 03:56 PM
Tracked on April 21, 2007 05:00 PM
Tracked on April 29, 2007 07:41 AM
Tracked on April 30, 2007 05:03 AM
Tracked on May 1, 2007 07:23 AM
Tracked on May 9, 2007 02:48 PM
Tracked on June 13, 2007 03:56 AM
Tracked on June 14, 2007 04:04 AM
Tracked on June 18, 2007 10:44 PM
Tracked on June 19, 2007 09:38 AM
Tracked on June 20, 2007 04:36 PM
Tracked on June 21, 2007 08:35 AM
Tracked on September 21, 2007 08:28 PM
Tracked on September 21, 2007 08:29 PM
I think there's a fourth stance: invading Iraq was a bad decision which has gone remarkably well considering the circumstances. If a functioning democracy can be established there, Bush will deserve some credit for making lemonade out of this lemon.
Since that's my position I can say with reasonable authority that it's an actual position.
Posted by: Dave Schuler at May 28, 2005 07:42 PM
The definition of "bad execution" may be facile, especially in regards to wartime, when the enemy gets a vote and no plan survives the beginning of implementation. It may be that what you see as "bad" execution is actually acceptable for wartime effort.
The Dem national security stuff may be systematic. ( http://gmapalumni.org/chapomatic/?p=515 ) Peter Beinart sparked a discussion about this lack of structures supporting Dems who know how fighting works, and ( http://gmapalumni.org/chapomatic/?p=107 ) Michael Totten has similar description of the problem. ("Links" are to my own blog just so you can see some of the conversations that ensued as described in the post.)
Posted by: Chap at May 31, 2005 09:37 PM
The leadership in every war makes some questionable decisions: consider Roosevelt/Truman being underprepared for the Soviets turning hostile, or Bush Senior's team being underprepared for Saddam Hussein's manipulation of the deals struck at the end of the Gulf War. On the other hand, most of the time these "questionable decisions" are made concerning problems no one had planned for (like Hussein not keeping his agreement) or problems that were almost too big to plan for (like the Soviet Union becoming almost as dangerous an enemy as the Nazis).
Other wartime events are indeed surprises to everyone -- Saddam Hussein's not having any WMD really does seem to have surprised all the intelligence services, not just our own, for example. And the difficulty of restoring Iraqi electricity production (under the pressure of thievery as well as sabotage -- in Iraq even power lines are valuable for the metal content) was, while technically foreseeable, something no one senior could have known to beware of unless they consulted just the right combination of experts.
Unfortunately, G.W.Bush's administration has a bad habit sometimes of refusing to prepare even for problems that *are* foreseen. Examples include Turkey's need for diplomatic cover for allowing American troops through, Iraq being difficult to govern after Hussein (foreseen by Bush Senior's own team during the original Gulf War!), North Korea resuming nuclear enrichment after GWB ended the Clinton oil-for-freeze deal, torture abuses by troops given license to go beyond POW levels of interrogation of detainees, and (foreseeable among officers who'd studied the Afghan-Soviet War) allied Afghan troops' failure to effectively block Osama bin Laden and company from escaping Tora Bora. All of these problems were foreseeable by anyone who'd studied the task in question, and all of them could have been made better (though not entirely fixed) by preparation.
But none of this proves that a Democratic President would have done better. Carter, for example, was smart and had a military background, yet was a miserable failure in most aspects of foreign policy. Moreover, the Bush Administration's "democracy push" was a smart decision that has worked out well.
But while it is hard to make fair comparisons, there is evidence to suggest that the Bush Administration has a consistent problem with carrying out the messy details of (often well-chosen) grand plans, in both peace and war. And we should be honest about facing this problem with the Administration, whether we think that a Democratic Administration would be better or worse overall. See also Drezner's remarks on this in Slate: http://slate.msn.com/id/2092791/
Our goal needs to be the best possible government, and that means facing real faults as well as giving credit for real strengths.
Posted by: Daniel Starr at May 31, 2005 11:38 PM
There's another position which would be easy to understand, give Democrats GWOT credibility, and give dissenting Republicans more space to criticize lousy policy:
Invading Iraq was a war of choice, a preference cloaked in flimsy pretexts so that the President did not have to persuade Americans that it was a good choice to make. Even though Saddam Hussein had to go, it is obvious that President Bush pursued it in a short-sighted, poorly thought-out, and nearly self-defeating manner that had more to do with the election cycle than policy.
However, while the pre-invasion Iraq had little to do with the Global War on Terrorism, the post-Saddam Iraq does. Iraq has morphed into a battle against terrorism, and has become part of the broader war. Whether we like it or not, America not only has assumed a moral obligation to the Iraqi people not to let the jihadists and Baathists win, to fail in Iraq will be to be defeated by terrorism.
The Iraq war is really two, qualitatively different wars. You may argue that Iraq had nothing to do with the war on al-Qaeda then, but it certainly does now.
Posted by: Stygius at June 1, 2005 07:38 PM
Stygius has hit the nail on the head and has pointed the true common ground. I think it is important to try to separate the discussion of the decision to go to war from the execution of the war itself.
First, even those who favor the war and think it has gone swimmingly ought to be able to admit that the Administration went to war because it wanted to and on the pretexts available, without anything remotely resembling a cool, rational discussion with the Congress or citizens of our objectives, strategy and likely or potential benefits or costs. Instead the Administration masterfully hijacked our tribal reaction to 9/11 and used totally unrelated "war or terror" to ram the Iraq war down our throats. Many of us who had some concerns choked them down out of fear.
The manner in which the Adminstration chose to go to war that has done real damage to the US democracy (leaving out the ramifications for our long-term international interests).
Certainly the Congress, the body in which our Founding Fathers and Constitution placed the authority to make decisions to go to war, was easily manipulated and rolled over, too cowed to insist that its "Wars Powers" responsibility at least implied a meaningful debate.
The Iraq war is of course a reality, and we need to discuss where we should go from here. Unfortunately, the "decision to war" debate cannot be cleanly separately from any discussion about the course of the war, for the simple fact that we still do not know, even now, the Administration's real motivations for, or its actual objectives in, the Iraq war.
We need alot more openness from the Administration in order to have the kind of meaningful debate necessary to drain the poisons this war has brought to the American body politic, and to make clear-headed decisions about where we go from here.
Posted by: Tokyo Tom at June 9, 2005 08:00 AM