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Adam Michnik, the Polish Solidarity hero-turned journalist, and one of my favorite humans alive, gives a typically provocative and wide-ranging interview dated from Jan. 15 with Dissent magazine, about Gulf War II (which he supported), the Transatlantic divide (which he worries about) anti-war intellectuals (who he mocks), and Bush's religious tendencies (which frighten him). You'll probably both agree with him and disagree with him, strongly. (Link via Norman Geras.)

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  1. My admiration to Mr. Michnik. He is once again proving himself worthy of the company of as great a man as Vaclav Havel!
    Perhaps one must have had close axperience of a dictatorship to be able to draw the necessary conclusions.
    Growing up in the ’60s Germany, I never could understand how the liberal left people, with whom I agreed on so much, could, with neither shame nor irony, take fullest advantage of the freedoms granted them by the resolve, labor and democratic spirit of America, while they let the humans on the other side of that fence hang out to suffer.
    Now many of my contemporaries are in positions of influence and proceed to mess things up thoroughly. Old habits die hard!
    My profound thanks to Adam Michnik for putting it into better words than I could find.

  2. I’m sorry to admit I’ve never heard of this guy, but he is sharp. I like this:

    “AM: Well, they say that Americans want to have power over the whole world. They criticize unilateralism. They say that they do not agree that the United States of America should dictate to the whole world. They also say that international law is being abused, that the United Nations did not consent to this. So I simply say that it’s not that I want the United States to have all the power in the world, but that I prefer this to Saddam Hussein.”

    The other natural response to this is that the Europeans want America to PAY for all the power in the world, just not to control its use. Historically, if you were worried about a large power bloc, you spent some money on a military to compensate.

    I also like what he had to say about the silliness (my word) of the lamentations over international law.

    Impressive guy.

  3. I understand where this dude is coming from nad have empathy for his position — but how would he/his country/Havel’s Czechoslovakia had turned out had it been ‘libertated’ by US forces rather than internally liberated?

    I’m not saying they’d be imprisioned by the US; getting beaten by some 19 year old schmuck from nowhere, USA but I don’t think it would have turned out as good as it did with US tanks on the streets of Warsaw…

  4. Yeah, impressive. “At what cost” for America to remove tyrants halfway around the world was never mentioned, though. It’s easy to spend other people’s money, lives and prestige.

  5. Gadfly, Michnik (whom I once saw speak, he is a very smart guy) is not saying that the US *must* take out every tyrant on the planet, but that if you see that the U.S. is preparing to take out a tyrant, don’t object unless you prefer the tyrant to the U.S. government.

    That’s a far cry from saying you have to agree with the way the U.S. is doing things or refrain from criticizing them–it’s perfectly possible to say that you think GWB’s reasons for going into Iraq were tissue-thin at best but think that the removal of Saddam Hussein is a worthy thing that should be supported.

    Of course, Michnik said it better:

    “I think you can be an enemy of Saddam Hussein even if Donald Rumsfield is also an enemy of Saddam Hussein.”

  6. “…how would he/his country/Havel’s Czechoslovakia had turned out had it been ‘libertated’ by US forces rather than internally liberated?”

    Probably something like those other countries in Europe, say France, Germany, etc., that’ve had such a hard time of it since they were liberated by U.S. forces.

  7. Looks like Mr. Michnik’s third and fourth sentences are not relevant anymore.

    Snake

  8. Looks like Mr. Michnik’s third and fourth sentences are not relevant anymore.

    Snake

  9. “Of course, you can win the war and you can lose the peace, and this is what I’m afraid of now.”

    I’m confused. WTF is the difference. If you lose the peace, you have lost the war. So he is afraid of it now, while many opposed of the war were afraid of it while everyone was demonizing Saddam and talking about cake walks. I like to think the “intellecual left” took Hussein’s brutality as a given. Like myself, they were looking towards how we were going to get this done after we ran him out of town and not seeing a viable way to do it without great cost.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have this guy running our country than Bush or Kerry but where he sees those ignoring a brutal dictator, I see someone ignoring the complexities of removing this brutal dictator.

  10. Wow, very exciting to know that you know of and follow Michnik. He was a my contrarian hero growing up as a young PolCom.

    The Polish perspective is indeed something different to consider. Being a figurehead at the roundtable talks with Communist leadership, Michnik himself experienced the power of American influence abroad to affect genuinely positive change.

    The key theme of this interview seems to be that you can separate the very deed of eliminating Saddam from all other factors including the massive and still unknown costs and say that it was a “good thing.” I don’t understand that at all.

    Whether you did a good thing completely depends on the aftermath. And the aftermath strongly depends on the ideological position you went in with. So no, I don’t see how it’s prima facie obvious that removing Saddam was a good thing.

  11. I believe the reason that American and Western European Liberals are so much less sensible than Mr. Michnik is that they have very little knowledge of, experience with, tolerance of, or appreciation for real life in the real world.

    The liberal cause in America and Western Europe has been taken over by academic thinking created by people who have never stepped outside of their upper-class school system. Most of these folks have never even held a job that wasn’t taxpayer funded. They have never been in danger from crime or from war. President Bush is the worst thing their small minds can imagine, next to having to work for a living. Their interaction with the world comes from television and NPR. How can they be expected to have anything useful to say about the world?

    It is refreshing to hear from a self-described liberal who has a firm grounding in reality.

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