Foreign Policy

The Original Liberal Hawks

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Thaddeus Russell has a fascinating and provocative article at The Daily Beast reminding liberals and progressives of their side's long history of militarism and imperialism:

What too few Americans realize—especially the president's anti-war supporters, who accuse him of betraying liberal or "progressive" values—is that if he accedes to General Stanley McChrystal's request for more troops in Afghanistan and intensifies the drone attacks in Pakistan, he will follow squarely in the footsteps of the great liberal statesmen he has cited as his role models. Though opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cheered loudly when Obama spoke reverentially in his campaign speeches of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy, those heroes of the president promoted and oversaw U.S. involvement in wars that killed, by great magnitudes, more Americans and foreign civilians than all the modern Republican military operations combined.

What should be even more troubling to those who call themselves progressives but oppose the current wars: Obama's motivations for pursuing them are rooted in the central tenet of progressivism, enunciated by his idols, that the American national government is responsible for the reform and uplift of those "we" deem to be living below "our" standards, and that "they" must be protected from their oppressors. Obama's role models followed the logic of that moral calling to the ends of the earth.

Read the rest here.

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  1. Hell, I chalk Bush the lesser’s adventurism up to his progressive impulses.

  2. Someone should send this to the DailyKOS…

  3. Teddy Roosevelt lived far below any self respecting libertarian’s standard of decency and respect for the primacy of individual liberty, free enterprise and rejection of socialism and all of its progeny.

    In death, he has only sunk lower.

  4. Off topic-

    Anybody notice Donovan McNabb’s dreadful perfromance on Sunday vs. the Raiders? He completed 22 passes on 46 attempts in the Eagles loss. Phlly put up just 9 points.

    22 of 46 is dreadful, period. Against the 2009 Raiders, absolutely putrid. Moreover, McNabb’s performance was not some kind of anomaly. He has had far too many stinnkers like Sunday’s to be seriously considered HOF material.

    Thus, Rush was not off the mark.

    1. Yeah, he was godawful. Just that one performance is enough to make me take back my diss of Rush.

    2. You don’t know what putrid is. Watch Derek Anderson for a few years.

    3. McNabb is a good QB. Not sure if he is HOF, but he is pretty close. I am not sure his ratio of clunkers is all that bad compared to some other QBs, especially when you consider how often Andy Reid asks him to drop back. Sten Hawking could have put up a 100 yard game against the Raiders run D, but Andy Reid decides to throw 50 times.

    4. McNabb was asked to pass 46 times, balanced with only 14 runs. If you don’t run the football, you become too predictable and therefore less effective.

      The Eagles offensive line was atrocious, as McNabb was sacked 5 times, including getting jacked on the Eagles’ second play from scrimmage. He was also hurried more than 10 times, and hit 10 more times.

      He didn’t play particularly well; his timing was off, and he threw it below and behind his receivers. But the QB stats don’t tell the story of Andy Reid’s appallingly stupid play-calling or the offensive line’s inability to block a heretofore horrific defense.

      This is the point that Rush never understood about McNabb, because he doesn’t understand football as much as he thinks he does. McNabb has been asked to do more with less by himself than just about any other QB in history, with the possible exception of Dan Marino. His receivers have usually been terrible (Todd Pinkston, Freddie Mitchell, etc.). The running game has been either subdued or non-existent, even during games where it is demonstrably effective. McNabb gets praise because, despite these things, he still wins. Give him a coach that actually understands the running game, give him a star wide receiver, and he goes down as one of the all-time greats.

  5. Libertymike,

    I actually like McNabb as a player but don’t think he’s HOF material. The thing about the Rush comment is people automatically jumped to the conclusion that he was critical of McNabb. He was actually addressing the media. Hell, I’m a Pats fan and think Brady at times is over-hyped but that doesn’t mean he’s not good. That’s just the talking heads making, well…talk

    1. Agreed. I think McNabb is pretty good. He has put up impressive rushing numbers and has had some spectacular performances-but-he has never been the most accurate of QBs and he has had a hihger percentage of stinkers than Brady or Manning.

  6. “Hell, I’m a Pats fan and think Brady at times is over-hyped”

    But not during Sunday’s 2nd Quarter.

  7. This is the basic flaw in progressive thought. If you believe that government should actively work to promote the best interests of “society”, how do you discriminate which “societies” deserve to help. You can’t. So you have to help all of them.

    This is also where progressives don’t understand libertarians. The belief that the government should not keep it self busy trying to make a better society, does not mean that free people have no moral or ethical responsibility to help other people.

  8. Though opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cheered loudly when Obama spoke reverentially in his campaign speeches of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy, those heroes of the president promoted and oversaw U.S. involvement in wars that killed, by great magnitudes, more Americans and foreign civilians than all the modern Republican military operations combined.

    Small point but wasn’t Theodore Roosevelt a republican?

    1. A Republican of TR’s era could easily have been a progressive. His Bull Moose party was actually named the Progressive Party.

    2. People use the word “modern” to mean any time period including or ending today. Likely this writer is using “modern” to mean “from 1980 to now.”

      1. The people who were actually called modernists did no such thing. They viewed modernity very much as having begun at the beginning of the twentieth century. I don’t even think the post-modernists quibbled with that definition, and popular thinking has maintained it. A while back I tried to make the point in conversation that the second siege of Vienna happened relatively recently by saying it was “more or less in modern times.” By that I meant that America was being settled by Europeans, the printing press had been invented, the era of trial and error rather than revealed truth was well under way, etc. But everybody else in the discussion just laughed at that phrase.

        I think the rule of thumb may be: If you can take a picture of it, it’s modern.

        1. If you have a picture of it, it’s modern, if you can take a picture of it, it’s, um, now.

          1. But what happened to then?

    3. Wasn’t most the people killed in Vietnam, killed during Nixon’s time in office?

      1. Using today’s logic, Nixon was fighting Johnson’s war and trying to clean up the mess Johnson left him with.

        See how that works?

      2. The highest U.S. casualties were 67, 68, and 69. Nixon didn’t begin serving until Jan. 20, 1969.

    4. I think TR is kind of hard to capture with today’s labels of Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. He was all for “manly firmness” and bellicose activity when necessary in dealing with other nations; he had a great love for nature and did a lot to establish the national park system and protect wilderness; he had a strong sense of fairness to the working class; he also apparently hated corruption in public office.

      And what the Republican party was back then is a far cry from what it is today. Same thing can be said for the Dem party of today.

  9. The democratic party of the deep south became the republican party of the deep south. The republican party of the northeast became the democratic party of the northeast.

    It’s like the earth’s magnetic poles changing every 10,000 years or so.

    1. Similar disastrous consequences, too.

  10. Of course Teddy Roosevelt was a war mongering, land stealing, hard core progressive. How else would he finish in the top five of so many historical rankings.

  11. Obama’s motivations for pursuing them are rooted in the central tenet of progressivism, enunciated by his idols, that the American national government is responsible for the reform and uplift of those “we” deem to be living below “our” standards, and that “they” must be protected from their oppressors. Obama’s role models followed the logic of that moral calling to the ends of the earth.

    Are we still allowed to call it the White Man’s Burden?

  12. This article highlights one of the things I find mysterious about political stereotypes. A former co-worker of mine was always on about how Democrats were peacenik wimps, but also started most of the U.S.’s wars in the 20th century. Which is it?

    Or do they start wars to defend against the wimp label?

    1. Bi-Polar Disorder perhaps?

      1. I believe Mr. Miyagi will back me up on this one: Only a wimp starts a war.

        1. We could also look at which party ended wars.

          But I find the whole party/war thing dubious, it’s all about spin to make one side think it’s better than the other.

    2. It depends on which point of view is has the political advantage at the time.

    3. I think it’s a case of rhetoric vs. action. Democrats talk about peace and how war is awful and unnecessary a great deal, but in practice they’re pretty much as likely as republicans are to start or continue involvement in a war.

      It’s a lot like how people think Bush was a conservative, free market guy, because that was the image his rhetoric put out there, but his actions were clearly not in line with his words.

  13. I remember when I was 15 in 1980 my mother, who was always a Democrat, said she voted for Reagan. I asked her why, she said becasue Democrats always got us into wars and I was too close to draft age.

    1. That’s funny, because Reagan sent me to Lebanon, and some friends to Grenada.

      1. Shows you the geo-political instincts of a middle aged irish woman in 1980 🙂

      2. If that was the average of what we normally did every eight years it’d be amazing. Reagan talked big, but was relatively careful with U.S. troops. Part of this is also explained by the post-vietnam use of force hangover, though. Most of our engagements were relatively small (Lebanon, Grenada, El Salvador), which isn’t to say they didn’t all turn out well.

        1. “which isn’t to say they all turned out well.”

          (I.e., Lebanon – but even there we exited, rather than doubled down. Shouldn’t have been there in the first place either way.

          1. But to this very day the neocons argue that Reagan was a pussy for getting out of Lebanon when it became clear that being there was a mistake.

    2. I was 10 when he was running against Jimmy and John Anderson. My mom told me Reagan wanted to start world war 3.

  14. Speaking of Rush, Jim Irsay was quoted as apparently saying he could never vote to allow Limbaugh into the club. I don’t see why; they have plenty in common. The two of them could compare notes on doctor-shopping and prescription drug “overindulgence”.

  15. Obama’s motivations for pursuing them are rooted in the central tenet of progressivism, enunciated by his idols, that the American national government is responsible for the reform and uplift of those “we” deem to be living below “our” standards, and that “they” must be protected from their oppressors.

    I hope Obama will figure out faster than G.W. Bush that it took more than democracy to make the United States of America.

  16. So has anybody else noticed the deathly silence in response to Obama’s troop surges in Afghanistan? No Republicans pumping their fists in the air shouting “Stay the Course!” No Democrats bitching about Obama’s imperialistic ambitions. I guess the left and right aren’t motivated by ideology so much as by whether a “R” or a “D” trails the name of the president. Imagine that.

  17. Obama spoke reverentially in his campaign speeches of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy…

    *sigh*
    When are we going to have a president who reveres Calvin Coolidge?

  18. Obama spoke reverentially in his campaign speeches of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy

    Didn’t they get us into every single war of any note in the 20th century except the Gulf War?

  19. If, as Christopher Hitchens wrote recently, Germany losing WWI led directly to a Nazi fixation and thus WWII, and the Allies wouldn’t have “won” the war without U.S. manpower, as generously donated by Woodrow Wilson, then you could argue that the liberal hawks caused WWII! (Tendentious, to be sure, but not wholly inaccurate!)

    1. Randolph Bourne’s War Is the Health of the State made this same point in 1917: By joining the war, the United States weakened its own hand — i.e., the influence that came with being a strong but neutral party. I don’t buy the case that the Versailles treaty was a predatory document that led even indirectly to Hitler. But the settlement was probably harsher than it would have been if the U.S. had stayed out. That Wilson believed you can join a three-year-old war as a combatant but then prevent the foe from taking too much of a beating calls not only his intelligence but his sanity into question.

  20. I don’t buy the case that the Versailles treaty was a predatory document that led even indirectly to Hitler.

    Are you familiar with the terms of the Versailles treaty?

    1. The Treaty of Versailles assigned “war guilt” to Germany and made them pay reparations, which indeed had an effect on their economy. But to claim that it led to Hitler is ridiculous. I fucking hate “Versailles caused WWII and Hitler arguments”, because when taken to their logical conclusions, they serve as an apologia for Hitler’s mass-murdering tyranny.

      Hitler’s rabid anti-semitism, megalomania and his liebensraum delusions of grandeur were no more “caused” by the Versailles Treaty than Pearl Harbor was “caused” by an embargo on the Japanese, another bullshit justification one often hears when discussing WWII.

      1. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a deliberate, calculated risk by the Japanese to neturalize the Pacific Fleet so these forces wouldn’t be able to interfere with the Japanese forces that would smash through the weakened British and non-existant Dutch defenses and take the oil fields in what is now Indonesia.

        The Japanese also calculated that they had to neutralize the PI because it sits a short distance off the the side of the midpoint of the sea lane that runs from Malacca to the Home Islands.

        They miscalculated.

      2. Some Guy, agreed. Hitler must always be blamed. But context does matter. Is Hitlers rhetoric more or less effective if Germans are not shoveling Duetch-marks into their fireplaces for warmth?

      3. If you compare Versailles to post-Napoleonic wars Congress of Vienna… there could be no doubt in any intelligent observer’s mind that round 2 was coming soon… whether it would be a Prussian aristocrat, a socialist or someone else leading Germany into it is a different question.

        Also… Godwin’s!!!

  21. Calling John F. Kennedy a liberal is highly debatable.

    1. Calling many modern “progressives” liberals is highly debatable.

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