In America, both Left and Right love the long war

Summary:  Our new standard to determine which wars we fight:  middle aged guys declare if they would go fight — in the unlikely event anyone asked them.  Really bogus, showing the decayed state of American geopolitical thinking.  Perhaps petitions to fight wars should require that they enlist their son or daughter as riflemen.  That might have some meaning, and prompt interesting discussions at their dinner tables.

Juan Cole (Prof History, U Michigan) kicked this off when discussing the Iraq War in February 2005:

Although I do not believe that everyone who advocates a war must go and fight it, I do believe that young men who advocate a war must go and fight it. . . . I don’t think there is anything at all unpatriotic about a young man opposing a war and declining to enlist. But a young man (and this applies to W. and Cheney too) who mouths off strongly about the desirability of a war is a coward and a hypocrite if he does not go to fight it.

Cole implies that old guys get to advocate wars without the test.

Today Glenn Greenwald has a Question for Juan Cole, extending the question from one asked of young men to everybody:

Cole said he supported the war in Afghanistan because he could answer “yes” for that war, but not for the war in Iraq. How about the war in Libya: is that the proper question to apply to determine its justifiability, and if so, would Cole be willing to risk his own life or his children’s to fight that war?

Cole replies at his website Informed Comment. He appears ecstatic to show he’s as manly as any neocon. And happy to shift sovereignty to the UN.

Answer for Glenn Greenwald, for whom I have enormous respect: Yes.

Iraq was an illegal war, for no pressing national interest & with no UNSC authorization.

The Libya intervention is legal and was necessary to prevent further massacres and to forestall a threat to democratization in Tunisia and Egypt, and if it succeeds in getting rid of Qaddafi’s murderous regime and allowing Libyans to have a normal life, it will be worth the sacrifices in life and treasure. If NATO needs me, I’m there.

No concern here that the US Congress did not authorize the action in Libya (which it did, somewhat, for Iraq), let alone get the degree of consultation given to foreign nations (for Cole this may be a feature, not a bug). No concern about the precedent set. For example, if Obama or President Palin bomb Iran they will almost certainly cite Libya as another precedent.

These guys believe that brave (if theoretical) declarations of machismo are important factors in geopolitical decision-making.  Every year I believe that our obsession with military force cannot get worse.  Every year I am proven wrong.

For more information

Posts about recent events in the Middle East:

  1. The Middle East scorecard, 18 March 2011
  2. Events in the Middle East expose the nature of US foreign policy. There is yet time to change before we hit the rocks., 20 March 2011

Posts about Libya: 

  1. Libya’s people need uninvited infidel foreigners to save them!, 1 March 2011
  2. “You just have not seen enough people bleed to death”, 8 March 2011
  3. About attacking Libya – let’s give this more thought than we did Afghanistan and Iraq, 6 March 2009
  4. Our geopolitical experts see the world with the innocent eyes of children (that’s a bad thing), 14 March 2011
  5. We’re at war, again. Another shovel of dirt on the corpse of the Constitution., 21 March 2011
  6. A war monger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya, 22 March 2011
  7. What will the world’s tyrants learn from the Libyan War? Get nukes., 25 March 2011
  8. Who are we helping in Libya? Here are some answers., 27 March 2011

1 thought on “In America, both Left and Right love the long war”

  1. But the leftist warriors are better because their hearts are pure, update

    Unintentional humor: “Not All Interventions Are the Same“, Jim Arkedis, Foreign Policy, 28 March 2011 — “Quit it with the comparisons between Iraq and Libya. There’s a world of difference between neoconservatism and liberal internationalism.”

    It’s difficult to believe, but he seriously writes the following:

    Progressive internationalists aren’t hard-core lefties, but rather progressives in the original sense of the word: pragmatic liberals. We are ideological moderates rooted in classically liberal understandings of individual liberty and equality of opportunity — at home and abroad — who believe the world’s problems should be solved through tough-minded diplomacy and negotiation, whenever possible.

    … While progressive internationalists certainly support a strong military as the bedrock of America’s foreign policy, they also know that international affairs in the 21st century seldom present black-and-white binary decisions of the sort that Bush mistakenly sought to resolve with a good whack.

    … Progressive internationalists recognize that U.S. foreign policy is now a holistic enterprise that must first summon all sources of national power to deal with what goes on within states as well as between them — direct and multilateral diplomacy, development aid to build infrastructure and civil society, trade to promote growth, intelligence collection, and law enforcement, to name a few — and only then turn to force as the final guarantor of peace and stability.

    Then he explains that neocons are bad guys. So although they both support lots of wars, usually the same wars, they’re different. The good guys are pure of heart!

    If you believe this nonsense, please email me. I have a bridge for sale, a great opportunity for such a discerning buyer.

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