'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Gullible Throng 

So the next issue of the New Republic is one of those woe-is-us Iraq extravaganzas. Personally I found the National Review's contribution to the genre a couple of months ago a little less nauseating. Here's the money quote from the New Republic's unsigned editorial:

At this point, it seems almost beside the point to say this: The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war. The past three years have complicated our idealism and reminded us of the limits of American power and our own wisdom. [...] As we attempt to undo the damage from a war that we never should have started, our moral obligations will not vanish, and neither will our strategic needs.

Yeah, cry me a river...

Beinart, of course, gets in on the act with a braindead rehashing of the standard liberal line that the US can't pull out now because doing so will result in a bloodbath. He says the US should threaten to leave and use staying as a carrot on a stick to force Iraq's "political elite" to whip the rabble in line. Yes, Beinart is convinced that Iraqis -- at least Iraq's "political class" -- are quaking in their boots with fear that America will withdraw. He, for example, states directly "prominent Sunni leaders now actually want the United States to stay" citing no source beyond the wisdom of General Beinart himself.

Unlike Peter Beinart I don't have any Iraqi political elites on the phone but, the last time I checked, general Iraqi opinion looked like this:

The above is from a PIPA survey conducted less than two months ago, well after the Sammarra mosque attack and so forth. Perhaps opinions among Beinart's elite vary significantly from the above, but even if such is the case the point is irrelevant: the puppets in the Green Zone governed with little power to begin with and with even less now. Maliki is now the mayor of Baghdad as surely as Karzai is the mayor of Kabul. But even if such were not the case, even if Maliki's administration was all powerful and was begging the US to stay forever, wouldn't it be democratic and idealistic, and all the good things that the liberal hawks like to pretend to be, to side with the 70% of the population -- the 35% of Kurds for godsake -- that want the US out by September of 2007 at latest?

Beinart's instinctive faith in the power of enlightened insiders betrays a peculiar view of democracy that he shares with neoconservatives. Part of Peter Beinart's schtick as a commentator is peppering his writing with pretentious historical allusions. The one he picked this time around is pretty ironic:

"Were not those right who held that it was self-contradictory to try to further the permanent ideals of peace by recourse to war?" wrote John Dewey in The New Republic in 1919, confessing his despondency at the outcome of World War I. Yes, they were right then, and they are right now. War can be necessary, but, in the decade between the liberation of Kuwait and the liberation of Kabul, it became the repository for too many of our hopes for a better world.

The full Dewey quote is as follows:

Were not those right who held that it was self-contradictory to try to further the permanent ideals of peace by recourse to war? Was not he who thought they might thus be promoted one of the gullible throng who swallowed the cant of idealism as a sugar coating for the bitter core of violence and greed?

Dewey, of course, in his day, argued against Walter Lippman's elites-know-best version of democracy (in the New Republic no less) and probably wouldn't have appreciated being quoted by chief spokesman for the gullible throng in an essay defending a Lippman-esque solution to the devastation wrought by a war aggression, ... but what do I know?

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