The American Enterprise: Not a Sunni Day for the Left
Two leading writers on the Left, Sam Rosenfeld and Matthew Yglesias, recently garnered significant attention with a piece they wrote in The American Prospect entitled “The Incompetency Dodge.” In short, they argue that liberals who supported U.S. entry into Iraq—but have since qualified their support by contending that there weren’t enough forces and/or the post-war planning was abysmal—are engaging in a “fool’s endeavor.”
Rosenfeld and Yglesias contend that “using force to build a pluralistic liberal democracy where none existed before could count as a moral justification for war if we had any sense of how to feasibly engage in such an endeavor, but the evidence from Iraq and elsewhere indicates that we do not.” Moreover, they reason that “injustice exists in the world that is beyond America’s capacity to remedy. Refusal to see this—which is part and parcel of the incompetence dodge—may be the liberal hawks’ most dangerous tic.”
This is an attractive and facile argument. However, it is contradicted by results in Iraq and the Middle East.
Kevin Drum, a liberal former supporter of the Iraq intervention, agrees with Rosenfeld and Yglesias’s thrust, but thinks they take it too far, since it would permit U.S. intervention only in cases of genocide, and admits as much in his response, “Make War No More?...” in the Washington Monthly:
“In other words, democracy is nice—eventually—but the bigger issue is kicking over the status quo in the Middle East and forcing change. And the hawks would argue that this is happening. Slowly and fitfully, to be sure, but count up the successes: Iraq and Afghanistan are better off than before, Libya has given up its nuke program, Lebanon's Cedar Revolution is a sign of progress, Egypt has held a more open election than any before it, and the Syrian regime is under considerable pressure.
Did the invasion of Iraq precipitate these changes? I think the hawks considerably overstate their case, but at the same time they do have a case. Even if Iraq is a mess, it might all be worthwhile if it eventually produces progress toward a more open, more liberal Middle East. At the very least, it's an argument that needs to be engaged.”
And Drum’s engagement of the argument comes in his conclusion: “The Iraq invasion has had some positive effects on the Middle East, but they’ve been modest and have been counterbalanced by some negative effects—and those effects are likely to get ever more negative as time goes by.”
Victor Davis Hanson replies by pointing to the root of the Left’s opposition to the U.S. role in Iraq. “While no mainstream Democrat has yet gone the McGovern route, it is still politically toxic for any to state publicly that we should be optimistic about the future of Iraq, inasmuch as they are convinced that such an admission could only help George W. Bush.” Hanson judges that, “when all this is over—and it will be more quickly than we imagine—there will be a viable constitutional government in Iraq. But the achievement will be considered either a natural organic process, or adopted as a success by former critics only at its safe, penultimate stage.”
Another military expert, Austin Bay, chimes in about the key role of “Iraq as the Central Front” that confronting terrorists in Iraq plays for the transformation of the Middle East:
“I think a confrontation with al-Qaeda on Middle Eastern turf was a strategic must…. Bringing the terror war back to Arab Muslim turf is the political and psychological ‘strategic judo’ it takes to expose al-Qaeda as the mass murderers they are—mass murderers of Muslims.”
Even the New York Times’ defeatist in Baghdad, Dexter Filkins, was forced to recognize the significance of last Saturday’s turnout in Iraq’s constitutional referendum, which was heavier than last January’s turnout and higher than most U.S. elections. It “represents the first evidence that Iraqi’s Sunni Muslims, whose community forms the heart of the guerrilla insurgency, have decided to join the budding Iraqi political process.” Another New York Times report tells us that, for the first time, “Syria’s Opposition Unites Behind a Call for Democratic Changes.”
As Hanson predicts, we may yet see the New York Times’ rabid editorialists recognize the success of the U.S. in transforming the Middle East to a more benign, democratic region. But, it’ll surely be a good while for their eyes to open to the news on their own pages.
The Arab League, dominated by corrupt Sunni Arab despots who opposed the U.S. action in Iraq, has woken up. Its Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, has finally declared that the Arab League “condemns Iraq’s insurgents.”
David Gelernter instructs the negativist Left with “A History Lesson,” in the Los Angeles Times, where he writes: “Democracies rarely declare war to improve the world…. They fight to protect themselves…. But once a war is underway, free peoples tend to think things over deeply…. America at war has lifted its sights again and again from danger, self-interest, and self-defense to a larger, nobler goal. Same story, war after war. Iraq fits perfectly.”
In response to such claims, however, Kevin Drum states that “these are all good arguments, but I think they obscure two more fundamental points that Sam [Rosenfeld] and Matt [Yglesias] don't address. Point #1 is the fact that democratization was probably never more than a small part of the original plan anyway, so maybe the whole ‘democracy at the point of a gun’ argument isn't all that important.”
That may be so for the Democrats, who are obsessed with re-fighting their 2002 campaign against intervention. They repeat, “no WMD’s found,” but ignore Saddam’s efforts to retain the capacity. They search, less and less successfully, for any sign of difficulties. They try to settle scores with Judith Miller for defiling their New York Times editorial altar of incessant harping.
But the world has moved on past them. Even some Sunnis are deserting the American Left’s arsenal of criticism. Not a Sunni day for the Left.