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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Friday, November 12, 2004
comment on winds of change:

I think there is a great comparative biography/history book waiting to be written concerning the lives/careers/values/politics/ ideas of three great Americans: Douglas Macarthur, Dwight Eisenhower and George C. Marshall. The modern Republican party foreign policy is essentially a combination of the Eisenhower and Macarthur wings. The Democratic party defense/foreign policy, at its best, espouses the values of Marshall.

If you want a catchy slogan for a Democratic foreign policy, you might say "Democrats believe in kicking ass to win the war and hauling ass to win the peace". Or something along those lines, but less crude.

I think the liberal idealism of this Administration's foreign policy is much exaggerated. There were 4 rationales for the War with Iraq:

1) The National Security case

2) the moral/humanitarian/Iraq as beacon of Arab Democracy case

3) the minor national interest case (e.g. oil considerations, no longer any need to enforce no-fly zones or keep troops in Saudi Arabia)

4) The Resume Building for 2004/Demonstration of American Power/ restoration of American Awe/ The Pride is Back/ we get some cool photo-ops and a big-ass parade/ rah-rah-rah case for War.

The national security case for war was very weak, the minor national interest case is, well, minor, and a cool photo-op should not by itself be a reason for going to war.

That leaves the humanitarian/long-term transformation of the Middle East as the sole legitimate reason for the war, and resume-glossing as a possible illegitimate reason. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the moral case for war, but humanitarian reasons alone have not traditionally been a reason to sacrifice American soldiers in a foreign land. In any case that's not the way this war was sold, making any unbiased person wonder what the Administration's real motive was. Anyway, the circumstances make it vitally important to American interests that Iraq and Afghanistan become success stories.

I take it that praising Krugman in these quarters is almost as bad as praising, shudder Al Gore, but here is something he wrote concerning the humanitarian benefits of deposing Saddam:

"Does it matter that we were misled into war?
Some people say that it doesn't: we won, and the Iraqi people have been freed. But we ought to ask some hard questions not just about Iraq, but about ourselves.

First, why is our compassion so selective? In 2001 the World Health Organization the same organization we now count on to protect us from SARS called for a program to fight infectious diseases in poor countries, arguing that it would save the lives of millions of people every year. The U.S. share of the expenses would have been about $10 billion per year: a small fraction of what we will spend on war and occupation. Yet the Bush administration contemptuously dismissed the proposal.

Or consider one of America's first major postwar acts of diplomacy: blocking a plan to send U.N. peacekeepers to Ivory Coast (a former French colony) to enforce a truce in a vicious civil war. The U.S. complains that it will cost too much. And that must be true: we wouldn't let innocent people die just to spite the French, would we?

So it seems that our deep concern for the Iraqi people doesn't extend to suffering people elsewhere. . ."

Does any conservative blogger have an answer to Krugman's questions? I would genuinely like to know.

Lastly, nothing was more damaging to the Democrat's credibility than their Job-like recantation (see below) of their criticisms of Bush and the Iraq war in the face of military success. James Carville had it absolutely right: if people don't trust you to stand up and defend yourself, how can they trust you to stand up and defend America?

I happen to believe that many of the criticisms made were valid, but in any case, having made those criticisms, they should have stood by them, or carefully explain why their position was a reasonable one at the time, and why they were wrong or why they changed their mind. To put it mildly, that's not what happened. Daschle's mea culpa was particularly comical.

Democrats before the war: No-exit strategy, not enough troops, inept diplomacy, we have a right to ask questions!

Democrats after the war:

2: "I know that Bush canst do all things, and that no purpose of His can be thwarted.
3: `Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4: `Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.'
5: I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee;
6: therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
. . .

I made a distinction between the National Security case(i.e. More Americans will die if we don't remove Saddam than will die if we do remove him) and the National Interest case (i.e. base, presence, oil, Saudis). I called it the "minor national interest" case for war. You apparently believe that such benefits are not so minor.

I don't really disagree, but don't you think the primary justification for the war, in retrospect, is the moral case? And isn't the implication that it is absolutely vital to American interests that say, six months from now, Iraq is an unquestionably successful, even thriving, country?

I should also add to my previous "comment" that in addition to standing up for themselves and their pre-war positions, whatever they may have been, Democrats should always state constructively what they think we should be doing. Criticism of Bush is necessary, but first must come the explanation of what the Democrats would be doing if they were in charge, and then the critique of Bush stems from that.

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