The Triumph of Peter Beinart

Gatemouth (7/24/08): But “Aggressive Isolationism” and our involuntary quarantine by our former allies, was not always our destiny. To cop from the dust jacket of Beinart’s “The Good Fight: Why Liberals – and Only Liberals – Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again”, we once had leaders who believed that “America must lead the world by persuasion, not command”, George Bush believes the opposite, and American and the world are suffering as a result. Beinart posits an alternative “liberalism cannot merely define itself against the right, but must fervently oppose the totalitarianism that blighted Europe a half century ago, and which stalks the Islamic world today” and “an unyielding hostility to totalitarianism – and a recognition that defeating it requires bringing hope to the bleakest corners of the globe. And it means understanding that democracy begins at home, in a nation that does more than merely preach about justice, but become more just itself.”

In contrast to Dubya's Aggressive Isolationism, Beinart’s dust jacket argues that “American greatness cannot simply be asserted; it must be proved….That American leadership is not American Empire.” As Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. said in praise of Beinart, “The replacement of containment by the Bush Doctrine of preventive war…has screwed everything up with illegitimacy, tactical blunders, and utopian fantasy.”

….And clear as day, during the primaries, Obama made it known during nationally televised debates that he didn’t rule out military action in Pakistan or Iran. He also made clear that those things would not be his preference. By contrast, in Iran, the Republicans seem to be publicly salivating for war, although in McCain’s case, he may just be drooling involuntarily.

Barack Obama is a Peter Beinart Democrat; someone who can restore American Leadership because he believes in American Honor, someone who understands that the first step in leading any alliance is to listen to your allies if you want to keep them.  

Bouldin (7/24/08): God-damned lefties, not interested in whatever misguided war the Peter Beinarts of the world…are drooling over, in an unsuccessful attempt to prove their own manhood to themselves.

Obama (1/20/09): As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort – even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment – a moment that will define a generation – it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.”

The passages in President Obama's inaugural address concerning war and peace are a strong and long overdue rebuke to the Republican policy of Aggressive Isolationism. And this had been duly noted by thoughtful observers, and others as well.

What has been less noted is the rebuke they represent to those who advocate pacifism, those who feel that any exercise of American strength is always inherently evil, and those, like MoveOn (which opposed the Afghan invasion), who profess to be neither, but who always oppose using American strength no matter what the provocation. These include Michael Moore, who lost more sleep over our successful efforts to end genocide in the Balkans than he did over the genocide itself.

I am thankful to those on the left, like Katrina vanden Heuvel, who supported Obama understanding that he differed with them on the use of residual forces in Iraq, the escalation of the US military presence in Afghanistan, and the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I am also thankful to those on the left who supported Obama in part because they didn’t realize he held those positions, or believed Obama didn‘t really mean what he said and was really one of them. Clearly, in the crazed atmosphere of the Bush administration‘s unilateral imbecility, Obama was the right choice for such people, as well as for those holding views closer to my own.

But, those who expected a foreign policy team of “progressives” and instead had to settle for a team of rivals comprised of realists and liberal internationalists, should be thankful (as I am) that there are no neo-cons, and understand that they are on now on notice; when, at the beginning of our great nightmare in Iraq, Barack Obama told an antiwar rally. “I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances….After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administrations pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again,” he really meant it.

Perhaps the vanden Heuvals will explain to their less savvy allies that they are allowed to feel anger, but not betrayal.