hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2004
This is really, really the last post: It is written in response to one Ian Welsh in Matt Stoller's comment thread. I am very, very sympathetic to Matt's post. I could have written it myself when the vapor's are on me. But ultimately, it's not the way to go :

"But atrios/stoller types also miss a trick when they don't realize George W Bush and his partisans and admirers are not bad people"

Sadly, the record does not support that. He's someone who took the US to war based on lies. That's worthy of the death penalty - thousands are dead because of this man's lies. Those who cover for him, especially those who should have known he was lying, are morally if not criminally culpable of murder.
Posted by Ian Welsh at June 10, 2004 01:30 AM

Ian, please don't make me defend the Bush administration. But Clinton took the American people into Bosnia with lies (one year, max). The Clinton administration told lies to themselves, and to others, in order not to intervene in Rwanda. Roosevelt took the US into WWII with lies. The costs of this war are many, many thousands of people dead, and that is horrific. But the benefits of replacing Saddam's regime with something better *are* potentially great. The national security case for war was bogus, and more or less crazy. But the moral/humanitarian case for war was *not* crazy, and depended on a careful analysis of the costs of war compared with the benefits of removing Saddam, as well as careful planning and implementation of the various policies that had to be followed to minimize the costs and maximize the benefits. From a moral perspective, what is unforgivable in the Bush administration is not the decision to invade, but the sheer carelessness and incompetence with they implemented their policy, as well as their obscene gloating and hubris in the wake of the inevitable military victory.

And plus, this is somewhat irrelevant to the great mass of non-partisan Americans now. We're in Iraq. Unless you can make a strong case of how we would be doing a better job than the Bush administration *now*, at this moment, instead of saying "they fucked up, the situation is irretrievable, the most important task before us is punish all the Bush administration people who got us into this mess", you will not be persuasive to non-partisan Americans, and you probably won't win. One of Matt's main points in this post is "These bastards have committed crimes, and it's not just enough to replace them, we need to hold them accountable". Not that holding people acountable isn't important, it is just much less important than several other things, among them getting universal health care, getting our fiscal house in order, saving the social safety net, competent leadership to make the best of Iraq, competent leadership to make the best of Afghanistan, competent leadership in the War on Terror, competent leadership on other foreign policy issues, and lots of other stuff.

Lastly, Matt, George C Marshall probably despised Macarthur, and had more just cause to despise him, than any man alive. Yet when Marshall was running the war, he still had to make nice and treat Macarthur with kid gloves, because meting out justice to Macarthur was simply not worth it, given the costs. The same with Lincoln and the Confederates after the civil war. When Valclav Havel or Nelson Mandela rose to power, Do you think they liked having to kiss the ass and refrain from punishing a bunch of people who either committed great evils or were Uncle Tom's to those who did? The price of winning may be that we can't punish people as much as they ought to be punished, because the costs are just too damn high. When we get the keys to the car, we're going to need George W Bush, Don Rumsfeld, Tim Russert, Cokie Roberts, and the people who follow or admire them. As Al Gore once said "We are one people, with a common purpose and a common destiny". Our victory, if we do win, will come not by destroying our political opponents, but by persuading, coopting or neutralizing them. Or, if they refuse to play a constructive role, by letting them destroy themselves.

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