Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Being anti-Iraq War is NOT being soft on terrorism

DailyKOS diarist BriVt provides a good defense of the anti-Iraq war position in an open letter responding to Pete Beinart's suggestion that that position is an example of "soft" liberalism that leaves the Democratic party in a weakened position (Fighting Faith). To summarize some of his point (please read the whole post):

  • Opposition to the Iraq war is not necessarily based on an opposition to war in general but instead on the belief that the Iraq war was a distraction from the real war against terrorism inspired by religious fundamentalism.
  • The reason the anti-Iraq faction had to align itself with more general anti-war forces (ANSWER, Michael Moore, etc.) is because there was very few alternatives presented by the Democratic establishment.
  • One of the few who did offer such an alternative was Howard Dean and the establishment reacted to his success by working with Republicans to paint Dean as just another example of a liberal peacenik (in complete contradiction to reality).
  • The struggle we are in today is not against totalitarianism, as Beinart suggests, but religious fundamentalism and it is the GOP who has the greater obligation to face up to its past association with such.

With respect to the last point, I quote BriVt:

[...] Iraq was not part of the global terrorist network in any meaningful sense. Iraq was "totalitarian," which, by your language, makes it a part of the "enemy," but that shows the limit to your language. We are not fighting a totalitarian view, we are fighting a religious fundamentalist view. See the Pentagon report quoted here to see how damaging to our cause this lack of understanding has been.

The GOP has not made this distinction because they can not talk about fundamentalism due to domestic political concerns. While the Democratic Party of the late 40s needed to shed its Communist sympathies to confront the Soviet Union, it is now the Republican Party that needs to shed its fundamentalist sympathies to confront Al Qaeda. But your formulation that we are fighting "totalitarianism" and that Iraq, while bungled, was part of that fight, is further obscuring this central truth.

I happen to have a lot of sympathy for the liberal hawk position. I could very well have supported a war against Iraq on different grounds (Saddam Hussein was in violation of UN mandates and was dangerously cagey about his WMD capabilities). But I happen to believe that even a war that could be justified legitimately can be corrupted if it is tied inextricably to an illegitimate justification. The fight against al Qaeda and religiously inspired terrorism was an illegitimate justification for what we did in Iraq.

Where the liberal hawks lose me is when they suggest that opposition to the Iraq war because of that illegitimate justification is equivalent to opposing the Iraq war in general and is therefore an example of "softness". That's just another variation on the objectively pro-terrorism canard and no amount of sympathy on my part will abide that kind of scurrilous suggestion.


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