Bob Kerrey’s “The Left’s Iraq Muddle” gives voice to a position we are not surprised to hear from him, but have begun to fear few with a D after their names hold (always with the exception of Lieberman). Clearly prompted by much that he is heard from his own party and from cliches that he knows don’t make sense, Kerrey argues:
American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq’s middle class has fled the country in fear.
With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.
One of our more irritating commentors a few days ago summed up his definition of the “liberal” position: a position of love, not hate; those on the other side wanted to kill those different and he preferred the hearts and minds approach. It is good to see Kerrey deal with such self-deceptions and a thuggery that masks (if only for itself and those who echo its assumptions) selfishness & isolationism as altruistic and virtuous affection for the “other.” Kerrey may be a “liberal,” but he doesn’t buy into hypocrisy. He describes what it is; it is perhaps their insecure mastery of facts that leads those like Kucinich and Ron Paul to a consistency; recognizing the emptiness of that position has led those polled to put them in the 0 category. Some argue they are not “for” a dictator, but why else would they consider the flyovers of Kurdish territory the decade preceding this war a provocation and not a protection.
Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.
They may sleep well because cynicism about human nature often provides the most useful gauge of human behavior. And if these people consider themselves full of the fruit of human kindness rather than base cynicism, we might think about the assumptions of the Democrats who now argue it is only our presence in Iraq & Afghanistan that has let the previously “contained” Iran pose a threat. Don’t tell me that it is a position you have taken because of your affection for the “other,” your desire to win “hearts and minds,” your love of mankind. Certainly don’t tell me this and turn around and criticize the use of “he” in a general form because it offends your feminist soul.
Kerrey’s argument notes that the way we have gone to war has not always been successful, but
No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.
His simple phrasing – “What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq” frames the current surge and the mounting deaths in an appropriate way. Indeed, he observes:
Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn’t have lasted a week.
Again, he acknowledges a liberal “talking point” that he senses, as do most of us, as a straw man; then, he embeds his own firm conviction:
This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified–though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.
This is from a man who knows how horrible and devastating war can be – on the body, on the conscience, on the country. This is from a man who sat on the 9/11 Commission.