Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bosnia and Somalia Were not the Progenitors of Iraq

Today Robert Kaplan writes a lengthy op-ed on how Iraq is like Bosnia, and how even though it's been an utter debacle it doesn't change at all the rationale behind our interventions in Bosnia or Somalia. The problem is that Iraq of course is not at all like Bosnia or Somalia, and...well, I can't really say it any better than Glenn Greenwald does:

See, all we were ever trying to do in Iraq was help the Iraqi people make a better life for themselves and to end oppression, so the only lesson we need to draw from all of this is that the overflowing Goodness of neoconservatives and their desire to help people just needs to be tempered a little bit by the harsh realities of a bad world. That's all: "In this decade idealists went too far; in the previous one, it was realists who did not go far

This is rank historical revisionism of the most deliberately dishonest strain, designed to cleanse the sins of neoconservatives and other Iraq war advocates, and it is spreading everywhere. It is vital to preserve the truth that the invasion of Iraq was not some slightly excessive extension of our long-standing idealistic desire to help the world's oppressed people. The opposite was true.

The invasion of Iraq constituted a radical departure from decades-long American foreign policy doctrine governing what constitutes a justifiable war against another country. To justify the war which Kaplan wanted so eagerly, the Bush administration issued
National Security Strategy in 2002 (.pdf) which "shifted U.S. foreign policy away from decades of deterrence and containment toward a more aggressive stance of attacking enemies before they attack the United States." That militaristic hubris is the doctrine which drove our invasion (and it is still in place, as the Bush administration re-affirmed it earlier this year).

The rest of Glenn's post is justified bagging on Kaplan for trying to redefine what the invasion was all about. I used to have quite a lot of respect for Robert Kaplan. I regarded him as something of a "realist" with humanitarian leanings (which is how I'd describe myself), and certainly not of the aggressive, militaristic, simple-minded school of the neo-cons (let alone the "fear of the swarthy Arab Islamonazifascist" approach of most right-wing bloggers and pundits.) But this war did something quite strange to even "reasonable" people like Kaplan; they signed on for an invasion with full awareness that the people who were leading us to war were neither the competent nor inspiring nor honest leaders that one would hope for in wartime. They agreed to support a war based on their own intellectual, moral or personal justifications (see Cohen's "therapeutic" rationale) oblivious to the fact that the architects of the war were not motivated by such high-minded purposes. They agreed to war from which democracy and liberalism would flow forth, when the people driving us to war were telling us we had to save ourselves from mushroom clouds over our own cities. I suppose it was the "patriotic fervor." Though strangely, we here at TWM will put out credentials as patriots up against anyone's, and yet we could see that something was fundamentally wrong with invading Iraq. It was obvious, and only those intellectuals capable of more adroit reasoning than we, could manage not to see it.

It's truly more sad to see someone like Kaplan, someone I respected, trying to "revise" his justification for the war. Of the neo-cons, right-wingers, Bush apologists and foreign policy "pundits" that populate the media, I expect no less. But of people like Kaplan, I had hoped for more; I had hoped that they would be led to sincerely question their own beliefs, and to wonder why they could be suckered into buying into a war that people supposedly less "informed" than they managed to see problems in. I suppose I shall remain disappointed.

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