Thursday, November 23, 2006

The pro-war liberals long walk back

Oxblog has been on my occasional blog read list for a long time. Like many liberal blogs I like (Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias among them) they supported the Iraq war. Unlike most of the blogs I read they mostly haven't changed their minds. Imagine my surprise when I saw several posts by David Adesnik explaining why he and other Iraq war supporters were wrong:
HOW DOES A LIBERAL HAWK APOLOGIZE FOR IRAQ? That is the challenge facing Peter Beinart and other liberal interventionists. They don't want liberalism to return to the inward-looking dovishness of the post-Vietnam era. But they also must persuade their fellow liberals that supporting the invasion of Iraq was an accident, not a true expression of the muscular liberalism that Beinart and others prescribe.
I've always found his writing insightful - and infuriating - but now it's giving me a clearer view of how some pro Iraq war liberal thought. That they viewed the Iraq war as a way of distinguishing themselves from the "inward-looking dovishness" of certain liberals is no mystery but there are other more basic mistakes that lead many reasonable liberals to support the Iraq war at first.
Clearly, an aggressive push for democracy has not prevented the slaughter in Iraq. Why did I expect it would? Because I never expected the minority in Iraq to intentionally provoke a vicious civil war. In my post I cited the examples of Kosovo, Sudan and East Timor, where minorities were the principal victims of ethnic cleansing or civil war.

Even now, I don't understand how the Sunni minority expects to prevail. After a long interval of Shi'ite restraint, the death squads have emerged. If the Americans go, the Shi'ites will almost certainly prevail, thanks to both their militia and their American-trained army.
Civil wars aren't always embarked upon after deliberation and debate. And just because entering a civil war is not in the interests of a community doesn't mean it's not in the interests of individuals. I mean, how many guys did it take to blow up the Al-Askari Mosque? About six? What was in it for them? Did they think Sunni's had a chance of retaking the government? Most Sunnis don't know how outnumbered they are. Were they just seeking revenge? Did they think a blast could strengthen their hand politically? Were they a terrorist group hoping to turn Iraq into the type of failed state that proved so useful to them in the past? We don't know but perhaps we'll all think about this kind of thing before we advocate going somewhere and blowing it up.

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