Familiarity Breeds Contempt

There have been numerous stories lately coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War about why there were “liberal hawks.”

This one goes into great detail about their alleged philosophy. I just don’t think philosophy had much to do with it. I suspect what bothers the others is not that they were wrong, but that there is such a thing as a liberal who can support a war.

Inasmuch as I am one of those people, I should explain. I was against the Iraq War, as documented below. But I certainly was for the invasion of Afghanistan, though not in the form it took or in its permanence. If merely being a non-aboslutist regarding pacifism makes one a hawk, then I’m a hawk.

Older liberals have never met a war they liked, but they’ve also rarely met a government they’ve liked. So, they have an internal tension about the question of, at what point (if any) does a rejection of an oppressive government justify military action?

This tension was exploited masterfully by the Bush administration, just as all the other excuses for war were with the problem being that while many of the arguments they made sounded right, none of the underlying facts were true.

In other words, far more people would support a war if it meant the overthrow of a cruel genocidal dictator (on the assumption, at least, that it wouldn’t result in more death and general civil breakdown, etc.), the overthrow of a bellicose country in pursuit of nuclear weapons, or a retaliatory attack on someone who aided the 9/11 attacks, or even a “preemptive” attack on a country that was an “imminent” threat to the US (this is often called the “Bush Doctrine”).

Anyone who wouldn’t at least grant those instances was a Pacifist-Absolutist, right? The trouble was, there was no indication that removing Saddam would improve Iraq, he had no nuclear weapons even in development, he was not connected to 9/11, and posed no threat to the United States.

It wasn’t the arguments that were bad, it was the facts.

Most American supported President Kennedy’s stand on Cuba after all, and his line was considered almost traitorously weak by some who believed we just had to immediately invade Cuba. How many people would have supported leaving the missiles in Cuba?

So, liberals were put in a situation where they either had to (a) argue the facts and perhaps seem paranoid (b) become extremely pacifist and neither of these were popular positions at the time, especially in the mainstream media.





One thought on “Familiarity Breeds Contempt”

  1. Christopher Hitchens was the only liberal hawk with whose arguments I am familiar… on that basis, I would summarize said “philosophy” as one part attention-seeking, and one part insistence, in the teeth of historic evidence, that Empire can be a moral force in the world.


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