Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Richard Cohen Does It Again
Bucking the trend on the left, Richard Cohen continues his sudden campaign to rescue traditional liberalism with his column "Ceding Idealism To The GOP":
About six months after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, George H.W. Bush's national security adviser Brent Scowcroft went to Beijing and met with China's ``paramount leader,'' Deng Xiaoping. Scowcroft said he communicated the president's unhappiness over the massacre, to which Deng essentially said, mind your own business. ``And I said, `You're right. It is none of our business,''' Scowcroft tells Jeffrey Goldberg in the current New Yorker. This raises an obvious question: How many have to die before it is our business?Read it. Richard Cohen is not the only person to stare at modern Democrats in shock, wondering how the party of JFK could have adopted such a feckless and reckless esteem for dictatorial regimes while abandoning JFK's principles of responsibility. The United States can't heal all the world's ills, but it doesn't have to be project an amoralistic and self-referential standard for interacting with other countries.
JFK and FDR were Democrats, of course, and the party has always been associated with internationalism -- everything from the League of Nations to the United Nations. Somehow, though, that moralism -- that urge to do good abroad -- has drifted over to the GOP. It is Republicans, particularly neocons, who talk the language of moralism in foreign policy and who, weapons of mass destruction aside, wanted to take out Saddam Hussein because he was a beast. It mattered to them that he killed and tortured his own people. It says something about the Democratic left that it cheered Michael Moore's infantile ``Fahrenheit 9/11'' even though the film made no mention of Saddam's depredations, not even his gassing of Kurdish villages. Moore's morality stops at the water's edge.
The world is currently dealing with the ongoing tragedy in Darfur, and the world has not acted strongly to stop the slaughter. Consciences on both the right and the left are pained. Surely the left and the right can speak with one voice over this issue?
But I will have to disagree with you on the neo-con statement. the "bad guy" stuff was, as you said, secondary to the WMD. I have no problem with taking out bad guys, but as I read conservative blogs of self-confessed neocons, there is a mix of "we are doing this for the Kurds," followed by a, "kill them all and sort out the innocent victims later" mentality. The two are not compatible and is an inherent flaw in the neo-con philosophy. I will give you the fact that there is a difference between the old school "intellectual" neo-con and the average American who considers themselves to be neo-con, but the latter seems to be picking up momentum.
As for the neo-con bit, Bush said that Saddam Hussein was evil. He said he couldn't wait until the threat was imminent.
I sympathize absolutely with people who didn't want to go into Iraq, but I have yet to hear an answer from anyone of them (including you) to this question:
"What should the US have done? We were patrolling both the north and south of Iraq to prevent further massacres. Should we have abandoned these people to Saddam Hussein's power?"
Sometimes we face a situation in which we have only bad options. As reluctant and agonizing as it is to me, I think Bush picked the best of the available options. The status quo was not an available option in the wake of 9/11. It was get in Iraq or get out.
I think we as the world have progressed to a point that tyrannical leaders can no longer hide behind the shield of national sovereignty for cruel mistreatments for their own citizens. The realist position of the 70s and 80s is immoral.
If we had to get out or get in, I could advocate our country getting out, so I have to support our country going in.
You once wrote about karma for the massacre of the Shiites who rebelled against Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War. I agree with you. We could not clear out and leave Saddam Hussein to his own devices.
This is also the fix we are in with Darfur. It does not seem that anything short of armed action will really help the people caught in the mess.
I agree that Saddam was a problem to be dealt with eventually. But in the context of the war on terror, I think it was extremely premature. While I know your temperament and human abuse is something you truly care about, I still see many bloggers get on the "saddam was an evil man" at the same time not giving two hoots about "collateral damage" and revert back to the war on terror is messy argument.
I am not a neocon, but I remember that it was Wolfowitz, Perle, and Bill Kristol (and most neocons) who were supportive of President Clinton during Bosnia and Kosovo. They actually urged Clinton to intervene long before Clinton decided to intervene. Their criticism of Clinton during the Kosovo War was that Clinton was unwilling to send in ground troops. He eventually did.
Links to this post: