What Liberal Quandary Over Iraq?


Sunday's NY Times Magazine features George Packer's article, "The Liberal Quandary Over Iraq," which asks the subtitular question, "Why is the Vietnam generation not marching against Iraq?"–by which he means why is that generation not uniformly marching against war with Iraq.

Apart from its odd selection of representative liberals–sure to David Rieff, Michael Walzer, and Paul Berman, but since when did Leon Wieseltier become such a spokesman for liberalism?–the piece fails to pack much of a punch. With the exception of Christopher Hitchens, none of the figures is clearly in favor of war with Iraq. So much for a compelling quandary; instead, what you have is a group of people willing to admit that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and that they don't like the current, hard-left peace movement. And Packer doesn't ask the obvious question, even as he references the former Yugoslavia: Would this cast be as ambivalent about intervention if a liberal Democrat was in the White House?

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  1. I saw Michael Walzer speak at Princeton University on the Iraq issue a few weeks ago. His argument was thoroughly incoherent. The war, he tells us, is unjustified (he used the present tense even though it hasn’t begun yet). What’s needed, he said, was inspections that can be backed with “coercive force.”

    So if the inspections fail, it follows that we should go to war to enforce them, right Professor Walzer? Evidently. And if we’re to go to war, we have to deploy ahead of time? Yes, Socrates. So why exactly is the current deployment unjustified? In the whole of a rambling and self-congratulatory lecture (70 minutes?), Walzer never managed to address that obvious question, nor did anyone in the room (200 people!) ask him
    about it.

    In the NYT article, Walzer describes the Iraq issue as “mixed up.” A classic case of projection, I’d say.

  2. Thank you, Mr. Iglesias, for openly admitting what most people opposed to the war are too embarassed to admit. A few questions:

    Many Democrats, including Bill Clinton and Al Gore, stated that they regarded Saddam Hussein as a clear and present danger during the Clinton presidency. They have largely changed their tune. Do you believe what they say now, or what they said then?

    When a Democrat was President, Democrats generally expressed no reservations about the low-level war we have been engaged in with Iraq in the no-fly zones. A Democratic President was in office for numerous exchanges of fire between Iraqi and American forces. Does this low-level war become less justifiable when a Republican President takes over and continues it?

    Do the deaths of 3000 Americans at the hands of groups who are demonstrably connected to and supported by Saddam Hussein give any justification for escalating our low-level war to include regime change?

  3. Well I’m a liberal who would be less hesitant about war with Iraq if there were a democrat in the White House. The implication of your question seems to be that that’s an irrational reaction, but it makes perfect sense to me. I usually vote for democrats because I tust the motives of the democratic party. Hence, when democrats tell me war is necessary, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. That may sound silly to some, but surely the silliness (if it is silliness) lies in believing in the democrats in the first place, not in placing more trust in them in the special case of war.

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