Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Now I have something interesting to say about Lieberman

A few hours after I wrote a pretty weak post about Lieberman's election, and why it p0rtends ill for the Republicans, Jacob Weisberg of Slate writes that Ned Lamont's victory is a disaster for the Democrats. Here's the nut of Weisberg's analysis:

The problem for the Democrats is that the anti-Lieberman insurgents go far beyond simply opposing Bush's faulty rationale for the war, his dishonest argumentation for it, and his incompetent execution of it. Many of them appear not to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously. They see Iraq purely as a symptom of a cynical and politicized right-wing response to Sept. 11, as opposed to a tragic misstep in a bigger conflict. Substantively, this view indicates a fundamental misapprehension of the problem of terrorism. Politically, it points the way to perpetual Democratic defeat.

What utter bullshit.

Leaving aside Weisberg's questionable "insurgent" euphism, the people who supported Lamont -- and despised Lieberman -- did so because of Lieberman's unwavering support of the Iraq War and, perhaps more damningly, President Bush. I defy Weisberg, or anyone else for that matter, to point to a single written example of an anti-Lieberman "insurgent" pooh-poohing the "wider, global battle of Islamic fantacism" seriously. Virtually all of the liberal blogosphere, if it can be lumped together as such, takes the threat of Islamic terrorism seriously -- not only because, like most Americans, they don't want our country to be attacked, but also because it's a great political position. Every soldier we have in Iraq is one less in Afghanistan, or in the mountains of Pakistan, or anywhere else where terror forments (Somalia, Lebanon, Indonesia).

Second, Weisberg claims the Iraq War was a "tragic mistep" in the War on Terror, rather than a "purely a symptom of a cynical and politicized right-wing response to Sept. 11." Well, it certainly has been tragic, and increasingly looks like a mistep -- the question is, why was the mistake made? Many Americans, myself included, felt that Sept. 11 th crystallized the reality of threats we'd been content to ignore -- and, based on the intelligence our government was presenting us, felt Saddam with WMDs posed a dangerous threat. Furthermore, a small subset of Americans, myself included, felt the murderous regime of Saddam was grounds enough for a liberal, humanitarian intervention.

But this was not the case advanced by the US government. Instead, at every opportunity, the Bush Administration conflated Iraq with Al Qaeda -- the poll numbers on this subject are well known -- and manipulated the evidence to fit the preordained conclusion. In other words, the build up to the Iraq War was purely the result of a politicized, neoconservative power grab that would have been impossible to achieve without 9/11.

If that's the substance, what about the politics? It's certainly true that, in throes of the Iraq War, Democrats are faced with a problem. John Kerry's question of 30 years ago still reverberates today: How do you ask the last man to die for a mistake? Moreover, many Democrats -- who were lied to like the rest of the country -- are now caught trying to explain their war votes while still supporting the troops. It's certainly a pickle, one that is torturing Hillary Clinton (and virtually assures she can't win the Democratic nomination).

But that doesn't mean the Democrats are screwed politically. Instead, the terms of the debate need to be redefined. Democrats need to explain that the War against Terror cannot be won militarily. It just can't. You cannot use nuclear-powered submarines to find 19 wannabe martyrs armed with box cutters. (If you want further proof of this basic point, may I point you toward the current asymmetrical war in southern Lebanon). No, the War against Terror is much more like the War on Drugs: not really a war at all, but instead, a complex and perpetual menace that can only be minimized -- never eradicated.

A number of political implications flow from this realization, and since this post is already too long, I'll save my comments for later. The takeaway point for Democrats, however, is recognizing that the "tragic mistep" in Iraq is one that would have only been made by a Republican Administration blinded by ideology and blind to reality.


Gen. Wesley Clark gets it:

You see, despite what Joe Lieberman believes, invading Iraq and diverting our attention away from Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden is not being strong on national security. Blind allegiance to George W. Bush and his failed "stay the course" strategy is not being strong on national security. And no, Senator Lieberman, no matter how you demonize your opponents, there is no "antisecurity wing" of the Democratic Party.


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