It’s a little surprising that someone as sophisticated as Salon‘s Joan Walsh just discovered that Democrats got smeared for being insufficiently anti-Communist during the Cold War. But, now discovered, that fact forms the basis for her theory about why ostensibly anti-war liberals are so silent, or even keen, on Obama’s recent wars of choice:
[G]iven the last 60 years, you can see why it’s a relief to be able to answer the Joe McCarthys and the Karl Roves and the Dick Cheneys of the right with dead enemies, even if some people have qualms about the way they were killed. Obama has provided an unexpected defense against those right wing bullies, a political gift liberals are reluctant to criticize….
[During the 2008 election, Obama] was against the Iraq war, but he wasn’t a peacenik — I’m against stupid wars, he said. He promised to double down in Afghanistan and even go into Pakistan without permission to get Osama bin Laden. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John McCain criticized and even mocked him on that last point, he sounded even mas macho than Bush, with all of his unilateral war-mongering. I’m not sure what peace-minded progressive Democrats who worshiped Obama thought at the time. No doubt some hoped he was just saying what he needed to get elected, but he didn’t mean it.
He meant it.
Speaking as one of the peace-minded progressives, I suppose we took him at his word that he was against stupid wars. I.e., wars that, whatever immediate gains they offered, promised to create national security headaches and reduce both our standing and our safety in the future.
On exactly this point, there was a recent shoot-out between Glenn Greenwald and Conor Friedersdorf on one side and Andrew Sullivan and George Packer on the other. I come down with Greenwald and Friedersdorf:
What frustrates me about Conor’s position – and Greenwald’s as well – is that it kind of assumes 9/11 didn’t happen or couldn’t happen again, and dismisses far too glibly the president’s actual responsibility as commander-in-chief to counter these acts of mass terror.
This is exactly backward. I absolutely believe that another 9/11 is possible. And the reason I believe it’s so possible is that people like Andrew Sullivan — and George Packer — have spent the last decade publicly cheering for American violence brought to the Muslim world, and they continue to do so (now more than ever under Obama). Far from believing that another 9/11 can’t happen, I’m amazed that it hasn’t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will.
Joan Walsh contends that American liberals are sensitive about speaking out on national security because they’ve got institutional memory going back to the 1940’s telling them not to. But… I don’t know. It looks unlikely, given that almost nobody seems to be able to remember as far back as 1953.
(Or its bookend year, 1979.)
UPDATE: I just want to add — there’s something particularly problematic about drones as a mode of supposedly fighting terrorism. Remember “we fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here“? Whatever shred of truth that idea may hold has to be predicated on the notion that we are actually fighting — i.e., putting troops on the ground — “over there.” Otherwise, how can “they” conceive of doing anything in retaliation other than attacking us “over here”?