Faith and Works

by Henry Farrell on May 27, 2005

What PNH says on self-identified “‘liberal hawks'”:

bq. The reason so many in the Democratic “base” are infuriated over being lectured by the likes of Peter Beinart and Joe Biden about the need to “get serious about national security” is that the people delivering the lectures are precisely those who were wrong about one of the most important national security questions of our time. As a result we’ve spent $172 billion and 1600 American lives, damaged our military immeasurably, trashed America’s global reputation for justice and fair play, and given the bin Ladens of the world a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come. The entire enterprise has made us profoundly less secure. … The fact of the matter is that the supposed distance between self-identified “national security Democrats” and the allegedly dovish party “base” is based on a self-serving slur promulgated by people with something to hide. … Liberal Democrats like Atrios, or me, aren’t remotely opposed to “national security.” We’re strongly in favor of it. Getting killed because I’m an American, at home or overseas: bad. Spending money and resources to protect me from getting killed: good. Maintaining a strong military, at least until planetary utopia breaks out and there are free Jill Johnston posters for everyone: really good. Making all of that far harder, and increasing my likelihood of getting killed, because some politicians and pundits needed to “look tough”: really, really bad. … At times it all seems like some sort of Bizarro World faith-versus-works argument. Liberals wind up being the ones pointing out, endlessly, that national security is provided by actual practices, not just by holding your face right.



markus 05.27.05 at 12:12 pm

How does the fact that they were wrong in their suport of the Iraq war* relate to whether they are right or wrong on the other matter (Dems being to dovish in general)? The lack of an apology and admission of error on the first matter may make them poor messengers, but doesn’t invalidate their argument unless in those rare cases, where they base their critique of general dovishness on the lack of support for the Iraq war. And I’m not aware that they are doing that to a significant degree.
To the extent that the liberal hawks are ciriticising an unwillingness to use force when it could clearly do good and the chance for actually doing good are reasonable, I think they have a point. (Obviously, to the extent that this principle leads them to ignore the practical obstacles, they are likely to be wrong).

*The current mess is IMHO to a very large part due to poor execution of the war/post-war. Being in principle (if not in every instance) for the removal of tyrannts (who also may in some sense or other be “dangerous”) by the combined force of nations not run by tyrannts strikes me as an eminently reasonable and noble position.


abb1 05.27.05 at 12:59 pm

What PNH says on self-identified “liberal hawks.

Amen, brother.


Cranky Observer 05.27.05 at 1:20 pm

> How does the fact that they were wrong in their
> suport of the Iraq war* relate to whether they are
> right or wrong on the other matter (Dems being to
> dovish in general)? The lack of an apology and
> admission of error on the first matter may make
> them poor messengers,

From the viewpoint of logic/science, one failure invalidates the theory (that the lib-o-hawks have special insight into foreign policy).

Even from the viewpoint of practical politics, though, unwillingness to admit error on what is (IMHO) the greatest mistake make by the United States in 150 years is totally disqualifying for any reason to listen to that person again. I mean, that is how con men take people for the life’s savings.



obeah 05.27.05 at 1:27 pm

Much of the information we have now about U.S. intelligence “failures”, Iraq’s lack of WMD, the administration’s incompetent and dishonest nature, etc. was available before the war. If one is “serious” about national security and yet either missed or ignored all that information, then what good is “seriousness”? What does it mean except the willingness to kill?


Barry 05.27.05 at 1:38 pm

And by now, we know that these were not honest mistakes. The analysts were pressured, bothersome data was ignored. Forces which the experts thought necessary weren’t readied because it would make clear the undesirability of the venture. The only thought given to the post-invasion Iraq was in how it could be looted and used.


Uncle Kvetch 05.27.05 at 2:56 pm

A most excellent post. Thanks for passing this on.


Jim Harrison 05.27.05 at 3:24 pm

Liberal hawks sometimes excuse their earlier behavior by claiming that they were taken in by administration reports of WMDs. While lots of people did think that the Iraqis had WMDs, however, only the most badly informed among them thought that the WMDs made any strategic difference at all. The WMDs were a red herring then, and the issue is a mere dodge now. The liberal hawks had their own reasons for wanting war and had no more reluctance to dissimulate their motives than any Bush supporter. They were simply fortunate that the President did so much of their lying for them.

Liberal imperialism may be a defensible policy stance, but it ought to fly under true colors.


tib 05.27.05 at 3:47 pm

Increases my appreciation for one liberal hawk, Al Gore. He supported the Gulf war, Kosovo and vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq. Not that it matters to the Republicans, the media or the Beinarts of the world, he opposed Bush’s adventure so he must be a raving peacenik.


Jerry 05.27.05 at 3:50 pm

You may say the liberal base of the Democratic party is interested in a strong military, but the Clinton and Carter years argue otherwise. If you can’t be trusted there, why on anything else? The red states might be dumb but they’re not stupid.


Nash 05.27.05 at 3:59 pm

You may say the conservative base of the Republican party is interested in a strong military, but the Bush II years argue otherwise. If you can’t be trusted to keep a fighting force in good shape, with enough troops in reserve and adequate protection, supplies and training, with sufficient levels of new recruits, with proper funding for medical needs for returning veterans, why on anything else? I live in a red state, and you are correct, we aren’t stupid.


Cranky Observer 05.27.05 at 4:01 pm

> but the Clinton and Carter years argue
> otherwise.

Carter started the reorganization and re-equipping of the miliary that Ronald Reagan took credit for. Primarily because Reagan shoveled 100s of billions of extra dollars to defense contractors (after Carter raised salaries for the troops). Read Ben Rich’s _Skunk Works_ for a funny (if painful to the wallet) explanation of the B-1 bomber and how (1) Carter knew it was unnecessary due to stealth (2) Reagan blustered about it during the campaign (3) Carter invited Reagan’s military advisors to a briefing on stealth, after which they knew the truth (4) Reagan funded it anyway to save face (and perhaps help keep the secret) – and oh yeah, to shovel a few tens of billions to campaign contributors. Welfare indeed. Heh.

What the hell did you expect Clinton to do in 1992? Raise taxes to maintain a military capable of defeating the Soviet Union – when the Soviet Union was dead, gone, and buried, and the Russians were begging us for aid? Should we have kept the Navy we used to defeat the IJN in being too? How about the level of troops we had at then end of the Civil War? Hey – I know – let’s NEVER disband any miitary formation no matter what our needs are! Then if we have to invade Mars we will be all set.



Uncle Kvetch 05.27.05 at 4:32 pm

Yeah, praise God that the mighty, manly, decisive GWB is around, ensuring that the US military will be all that it can be.


gmoke 05.27.05 at 5:00 pm

I saw Beinart speak at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center within the last couple of months. He was plumping for the book he writing about how the model for Dems in the early 21st century should be the muscular liberalism of Truman. I proposed that a better model would be the values we fought for during WWII, FDR’s Four Freedoms (freedom of worship everywhere around the world, freedom of speech everywhere around the world, freedom from fear everywhere around the world, and freedom from want everywhere around the world). He fobbed me off without really addressing the differences between my approach and his.

Besides, he looks like he’s about twelve years old.


Jerry 05.27.05 at 6:31 pm

Think this will render all the palaver about fillibusters, Iraq, red-blue divide, social security and so on irrelevant: Reports coming out of Qinghai suggest H5N1 infections in humans and birds are out of control, with birds distributing H5N1 to the north and west, while people are being cremated and told to keep quiet.


Ben Alpers 05.27.05 at 10:55 pm

Well, Jerry, according to the good folks at Tech Central Station [via The Poor Man], Darwinism is scientifically disproven, so all that stuff about H5N1 probably can’t be happening.


bi 05.28.05 at 2:48 am

Think this will render all the palaver about fillibusters, Iraq, red-blue divide, social security and so on irrelevant: Why. Is. Scientology. Still. Around?

I guess Jerry is just too stupid to admit that he’s stupid.


RSL 05.28.05 at 6:22 am

Social security is about to trump national security as the primary concern of the American people: with leadership like Biden’s, you can count on the Dumbocrats to switch issues at exactly the wrong time.


RSL 05.28.05 at 6:24 am

Just to clarify, I mean “social security” in the broadest sense–not just the government retirement program, but also health care security, economic security, etc.


Jerry 05.28.05 at 8:43 am

The mortality rate with the avian flu pandemic gathering in China and elsewhere in that part of the world shows a dip from 70 to 60 per cent, but that might just be a statistical abberation. No, Bi, Scientology will not protect you. Nor will a dancing witch doctor or nostrums bought from gypsies from the back of a wagon.


bi 05.28.05 at 8:55 am

Not that America’s crazy actions in Iraq, Gitmo, Afghanistan, Okinawa, or Belgrade will protect me from bird flu either. How much of the budget is the US government devoting to finding a cure for _that_, by the way? (I guess it’s something like $1 allocated to each Bush supporter to whine about bird flu.)

RSL: actually, that may not be a bad move. Isn’t it a good idea to strike the enemy where the enemy is weakest? So, let’s talk about WMD right at a time when US citizens are feeling that the Iraq war isn’t worth it. That’s so crazy, it may just work.


bi 05.28.05 at 8:58 am

But hey, why are we talking about Iraq, bird flu, or social security? Look, George Lucas just tried to slip a political message into Star Wars III! This must be stopped Real Soon Now!


roger 05.28.05 at 10:32 am

Jerry, brother, you nailed it on that Carter. Remember how he was told, back in 1976, that terrorists was gonna hit the country? And he took a vacation in Plains, and did like squat about it? And how, when they hit, he was non compos for the day, and Mondale had to take over? And how he promised to get the guy behind the hit dead or alive, and that promise was about as good as a carpetbagger’s iou? And how he gave billions of dollars to the country that we know helped the terrorists, Pakistan, and attacked a country that had nothing to do with em? And how even he didn’t seem to know the reason he did that, so he kept changin’ the story about the why and the wherefore? And how ever year that he was president, terrorism spiked upwards?
Pathetic. Yup, you can’t fool the Red States about a thing like that. They is too smart.


Jerry 05.28.05 at 2:26 pm

Is Bi the chap who wears his atheism on his sleeve? There are so many barking mad loons visiting this blog it’s hard to keep track. In any event, I’m beginning to think Bi doesn’t stand for — oh, to pick a word from the air, bifurcation. Carter was a disaster for a president, one of the worst in the 20th century. There is no serious disagreement about that among serious historians, whose work, I must warn you, doesn’t not appear in publications where thought is shown in balloons. This will be a disadvantage for many. It seems odd for someone to use Carter to contrast a successor whose administration is too soon to judge, except perhaps on the sour, embittered left. FDR was the subject of vicious criticism in his day, every bit as bad as what we’re hearing about GWB, if more literate. Nobody took his Four Freedoms, for example, as anything but gassy rhetoric. Avian flu — check it out. Coming your way soon.


Barry 05.28.05 at 4:42 pm

Jerry, you must be the Memorial Day Weekend Substitute Troll. Quite sorry for taking you seriously.

For those outside of the USA, this is a three-day weekend, so the usual trolls are probably on vacation. So they had to hand over the keyboard to people who couldn’t pass the IQ test to become regular trolls.


Jerry 05.28.05 at 4:55 pm

Barry: You and Bi — close? Thisclose?


Kevin Donoghue 05.28.05 at 5:20 pm

For those outside of the USA, this is a three-day weekend, so the usual trolls are probably on vacation.

Thank you for that. I understand you to mean they are on holday. But the line that has me puzzled is: “The red states might be dumb but they’re not stupid.”

I take it “dumb” does not mean: Temporarily speechless, as with shock or fear; or Unwilling to speak, taciturn; or (Nautical:) Not self-propelling. That leaves me with: Conspicuously unintelligent; stupid. However, Jerry doesn’t seem to have that in mind, unless he refuses to exclude the middle. Finally we have: Unintentional; haphazard: dumb luck. Now US policy with regard to the budget, Iraq and other matters does seem pretty haphazard and heavily reliant on dumb luck.

Is Jerry telling us that this is an expression of red state political philosophy? If not, what is he telling us?


Kevin Donoghue 05.28.05 at 5:23 pm

For holday read holiday. Please may we have our preview back?


gmoke 05.28.05 at 7:16 pm

FDR’s Four Freedom speech is well worth reading today. It is a powerful tool, if followed, towards cutting the ground away from those we call “terrorists.”


bi 05.28.05 at 11:15 pm

_… while people are being cremated and told to keep quiet._

Kevin: and this line has always puzzled me as well. The only useful interpretation is that the “people” being cremated aren’t the same as the “people” told to keep quiet, which raises the question of why both groups of “people” are denoted by the same occurrence of the word. Is this representative of the kind of thinking that makes Jerry et al. hate “The Left(tm)” so much?

But… ugh, why are we talking about WMD again? Horrible things are happening at Gitmo! You should be talking about those instead!

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