Foreign Policy

War: At Least It's Something We Can All Agree On

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Glenn Greenwald, that favorite prog-left commentator of tout le Hit and Run (and Greenwald ain't too thrilled with Reason either), talks about Obama, the great unifier when it comes to foreign policy. (As a bumper sticker I saw the other day spells it out, the definition of that recondite term, foreign policy, is best conceptualized today as "murder").

Greenwald is riffing off a Fred Hiatt Washington Post piece noting the absence of foreign policy as a big issue so far in the 2010 races:

During the Bush presidency, war debates raged because those wars—especially the Iraq war—were a GOP liability and a Democratic Party asset.  Anger over the Iraq War drove the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006 and Obama's election in 2008 (though it did not drive the end of the war).  But now, America's wars are no longer Republican wars; they're Democratic wars as well.  Both parties are thus vested in their defense, which guts any real debate or opposition. 

Very few Republicans are going to speak ill of wars which their party started and continued for years, and very few Democrats are going to malign wars which their President is now prosecuting. Here we find, once again, one of the most consequential aspects of the Obama presidency thus far:  the conversion of numerous Bush/Cheney policies from what they once were (controversial, divisive, right-wing extremism) into what they have become (uncontroversial bipartisan consensus).  One sees this dynamic most clearly in the Terrorism/civil-liberties realm, but it is quite glaring in the realm of war as well.

I wrote on Reason Online back in December 2006 on why I didn't expect much from the Democratic Party when it came to foreign policy change.

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  1. “Here we find, once again, one of the most consequential aspects of the Obama presidency thus far: the conversion of numerous Bush/Cheney policies from what they once were (controversial, divisive, right-wing extremism) into what they have become (uncontroversial bipartisan consensus). ” We could call it that… or we could call it lies, as obama ran against those policies and promising change, but nothing changed… except of course the democrats opinion on the war… it seems once they don’t oppose a war once a democrat is running it…

    1. *it seems they don’t oppose a war once a democrat is running it

      1. OTOH, one could also point out that Team Red is not about to start criticising Obama for continuing a war that they started.

        1. You’re seriously underestimating the power of partisanship. Particularly considering it is largely the sons of TEAM RED fighting it.

          1. They won’t do it. They believe in the war and want to win. They will go after him for losing it or being incompetent but the Republicans will not become an anti-war party.

          2. From my conversations with Republicans, they seem to believe that the Democrats aren’t fighting enough wars. Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Russia should all be declared war on. Because we can totally afford that.

            1. From my conversations with Republicans

              bullshit

  2. Unless Greenwald and his anti-war lefty friends are willing to hold the Dems’ feet to the fire over this, it is just so much bitching. (And I think we all know the status of that “unless”.) I don’t see any course of action that he lays out to overcome what he rightly sees as an absurd state of events.

    1. At least Greenwald is talking about it. This gives him some cred for intellectual honesty. Most of his fellow travelers are either knuckle-dragging camp followers for whom everything TEAM BLUE does is ok, even if it’s exactly what they just decried TEAM RED doing; or they’re mendacious twits who think that if they just rephrase things or don’t mention them, you won’t notice that everything is ok when TEAM BLUE does it.

      If there were substantially more Greenwalds on the left, we would all be better off.

      1. In fairness, I think that there’s a lot of Democratic Party voters for whom what they really hated was “the US is getting bad press overseas, especially in Europe, and all those war deaths are on the news all the time.”

        Electing President Obama has meant that images of war are off the headlines and front pages, even when casualties occur, discussions of civil liberties are off the front pages and out of the news, prisoners are out of sight and thus out of mind, and foreigners, especially Europeans, aren’t loudly talking about what a reckless cowboy our President is.

        So, Mission Accomplished.

        1. That is the highest level of first order cognitive dissonance JT. That would take such a level of self-deception its pathological.

          1. All it really takes is a lot of “out of sight/out of mind” thinking. People think that since it’s not in the news, all must be better.

            Is it pathological? Maybe. But I think it fairly accurately describes a lot of people.

            Consider that a lot of the criticism of Bush was based on what other countries thought, or how loss of prestige was hurting the war effort or encouraging terrorists– NOT fundamentally against the war itself. Those “moderate” goals can be accomplished simply through appearances.

            1. Those “moderate” goals can be accomplished simply through appearances.

              Till we get both the bill and possibly a successful attack on our soil.

            2. Anyone that gives rats ass what the Europeans think is an idiot anyway.

              The European countries are all socialist morons

              1. “”JohnD|5.25.10 @ 9:33AM|#
                Anyone that gives rats ass what the Europeans think is an idiot anyway.

                The European countries are all socialist morons”

                While this has been a cliche for a while, I think its time to give it up.

                The US has a larger share of entitlement spending as a % of GDP, we have just as many if not more wasteful federal programs, and we have nationalized the mortgage industry, the largest insurance company in the world, and the formerly largest auto company in the world.

                So, if they are a bunch of socialist morons… well, you see where I’m going hopefully. Pots, Kettles.

            3. Consider that a lot of the criticism of Bush was based on what other countries thought, or how loss of prestige was hurting the war effort or encouraging terrorists– NOT fundamentally against the war itself. Those “moderate” goals can be accomplished simply through appearances.

              Can you cite people criticizing Bush based on what other countries thought?

              1. Well, there was John Kerry’s “global test” remark, of course, as the most famous example. But nearly all of the commentary on Gitmo focused on the blowback, both among allies and among non-allied nations and terrorists. There was lots of rhetoric from Obama, Clinton, and other Democrats about how avoiding Bush’s cowboy image would help fight the WoT more effectively.

                OTOH, lots of their supporters who disliked the war saw this as just fronts for the rubes, to convince swing voters. Guess we find out who the rubes are again.

      2. From that bit there I found it hard to decipher if this transformation of the war and the police state in the eyes of the left is a good thing or a bad thing in Greenwald’s view.

  3. How’s that little war the Obama Admin WoDs started down in Jamaica going?

      1. For no good reason at all other than a civil war in Jamaica spurred on by US drug policy Cutty Ranks

  4. Fuck Glenn Greenwald.

    1. I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

      1. Ok cool, because I may have gotten Greenwald and the other quasi-libertarian guy mixed up! Greenwald has his head up his ass, but he can see daylight every once in a while

        1. You’ve spilled cocaine all over your scooter if you think Greenwald is “quasi-libertarian”

          1. Well, he is a civil libertarian

          2. He did do an excellent piece for Cato on drug decriminalization in Potugal.

            http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/greenwald_whitepaper.pdf

            This is the same guy, right?

        2. I believe you are conflating Greenwald with the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds.

  5. Glenn Greenwald is a flamer and a fool. The worst thing in the world for rational discourse is to have him (accidentally) right on some topic, since his squalid squealing tunnel-vision OCD nature makes any reasonable person automatically think whatever proposition he’s for is probably stupid, and whatever he’s against may well be sound policy. He could set back American public education in math by decades merely by asserting 2 + 2 = 4.

    1. Yes, god forbid Greenwald actually hold Obama responsible for completely bullshitting about doing something about the war. We wouldn’t want that! No, it’s more important that we go TEAM RED TEAM BLUE as soon as Greenwald opens his mouth.

      Tell me again why I should listen to you, Carl. Because you’ve done such a good job so far.

      1. Why should I give a fuck if you listen to me, dude? I don’t care about your opinion on anything whatsoever. Ta.

        1. It’s completely unsurprising that the concept of “rhetorical question” is lost on you, Carl. And “ta”? Did you really just type that? Thanks for the amusement.

          1. I hereby propose that all Hit & Run comments directed at Episiarch end with “ta”.

    2. So, what did Greenwald say to earn this vitriol? As far as I know, he’s been criticizing Obama since before he was elected for dishonesty and hypocrisy. Seems that it’s good for folks on the left to hear that kind of thing.

  6. Yeah, but Obama gets off on the “Bush Started It” defense.

    At some point, this defense will wear thin. But if it hasn’t worn thin on the recession yet, it’s going to take a while on Iraq.

    1. Very few people actually care about Iraq per se, except the family members of soldiers there (and since casualties are quite low right now, even they aren’t too worked up).

      There’s always that 4% opposed to The Principle Of The Thing, of course, but for most people the only important questions were (1) Are we winning? and (2) Is it costing too much or too many lives? It was the fact that the answers were no and God damn it yes that was held against Bush.

      So long as the Obama Era answers are yeah kinda and not really, and so long as it can’t be a Democratic proxy for Don’t you hate cowboy Bush? I don’t think anyone will really care, and I don’t think it has anything to do with Obama. Really, he hasn’t even bothered to roll out the Bush started it defense on Iraq. Or even Afghanistan, which does look increasingly like a problem.

      1. The Left never gave a shit about Iraq. It was just an excuse to bash Bush. It is not like any of them are in any danger of serving there. And they supported Clinton when he bombed Saddam for 8 years enforcing the no fly zone. The whole anti-war movement was a fraud. They never believed in anything except the desire to get back in power.

        1. The right never gave a shit about Iraq either. It was just an excuse to bash turtleneck wearing, Prius drivers in Cambridge. Wasn’t like any of them were in danger of serving there. They probably didn’t support Clinton when he bombed Iraq because the frontman wasn’t their kind. The whole pro-war movement was a fraud. They never believed in anything except the desire to use their power…pure cocksmanship.

          1. Lame.

        2. I was in college while Clinton was bombing Iraq and I can tell you that there were plenty on the left opposed to that as well.
          Somewhat amusingly, when Madeline Albright came to speak on campus, she was confronted by protesters accusing her and the administration of genocide.

  7. Personally I think this is all due to Obama’s unwillingness to expend political capital on national security issues that he would like to save for fucking up the economy.

    I mean, look what his priorities are:
    #1: Health Care
    #2: Financial regulation
    #3: Cap and Trade

    And then, maybe if he still has any clout left after those three he *might* get around to trying some Gitmo detainees.

    Maybe.

    1. Card Check or Immigration Reform before Gitmo, Hazel. GITMO detainees don’t vote TEAM BLUE, since they can’t vote period.

      1. Hey, that could be a third party: Giant Douche, Turd Sandwich, and Bloody Period!

      2. Not so fast, GM.

  8. Tulpa|5.24.10 @ 11:53PM|#

    Unless Greenwald and his anti-war lefty friends are willing to hold the Dems’ feet to the fire over this, it is just so much bitching. (And I think we all know the status of that “unless”.) I don’t see any course of action that he lays out to overcome what he rightly sees as an absurd state of events.

    What they gonna do to me? Carry signs? Write essays?

    I make my decisions, I appoint my people, and I don’t care. Like Rob of the Priest said.

    Dancing after midnight, baby,
    Rocking until 2012,
    Fuckin’ shit up my way,
    Until January 2013,
    And then I’m gone!
    I’m gone!

    Where you wonder? You think I care if I lose in the next race? I’d even throw it if I could, but it looks like I wont have to.

    Eight figures and on the board of Goldman Sachs! Better than being a chump in the Illinois legislature that’s for Goddamn sure.

    Gotta think the boys at G&S and Soros for plucking me out of that piss-ant joint. Could not have done it without you!

    1. Glen Greenwald is going to write a strong worded blog post and have six different sock puppet identities chime in and agree with it. Sure he will shill for you in 2012, but he won’t like it.

  9. My two favorite bloggers are Radley Balko and Glen Greenwald.

    I don’t think the pejorative term liberal is fair to use for Glen Greenwald, he is just a rational person who has his head screwed on corrrectly as is Radley.

    1. Greenwald sockpuppet, no doubt.

  10. “But now, America’s wars are no longer Republican wars; they’re Democratic wars as well.”

    Now? There was significant Democrat votes when the use of military force was authorized. The Democrats always owned a piece of both wars, especially Afghanistan.

    1. Ah, but Omaba didn’t have ownership because he wasn’t in Congress then. The GOP needs its non-incumbent candidates to take stands against the wars. Toomey can’t but Rand Paul can.
      It would be difficult (but not impossible)for any GOPer who was in Congress in early 2000’s to criticize the war now in light of a pro-war vote then

  11. Obama is destroying the anti-war and civil libertarian movement in this country. All of the policies that those two movements complained about under Bush are now bi partisan. What people going to say when Republicans continue these policies under the next administration? They have no shame so immediately getting out of Afghanistan will become a fierce moral urgency where it isn’t now. But no one is going to believe them.

    1. You overestimate your fellow citizens. As someone else noted above, it is definitely out of sight, out of mind for most people. The media, of course, are complicit. If these wars have not been wrapped up by the time Team Red controls the WH (and maybe the House and/or Senate), you should bet your life savings that the media will spring into action once again. Then all the people who vote but don’t actually pay attention to what’s going on will believe (wrongly) that we’re involved in another Team Red War.

      1. They will manage to rewrite history after the fact. Most people today think Vietnam was Nixon’s war rather than Johnson’s war. But that is only after the fact. At the time, people know the truth. At the time people blamed Johnson for the Vietnam war and ran him out of office for it. And they re-elected Nixon who was in the process of ending it. Only later were leftists after years of lying with a straight face able to claim that Nixon was somehow responsible for Vietnam because he invaded Cambodia.

        1. They will manage to rewrite history after the fact. Most people today think Vietnam was Nixon’s war rather than Johnson’s war. But that is only after the fact. At the time, people know the truth. At the time people blamed Johnson for the Vietnam war and ran him out of office for it. And they re-elected Nixon who was in the process of ending it. Only later were leftists after years of lying with a straight face able to claim that Nixon was somehow responsible for Vietnam because he invaded Cambodia.

          President Johnson betrayed the country .

    2. Obama isn’t so much destroying it as alientating it from the Democratic party. I doubt people will just stop caring about those things. It may help drive a wedge between the statist left and the libertarian left.

  12. Greenwald is probably 50% more libertarian than most Reason writers.
    Civil liberties? Check.
    Warfare State? Check.
    Drug War? Check.
    Corporatism and bailouts? Check.
    Regulation and economic intervention? Meh…..

    That’s a pretty good record for a “mainstream” pundit

    1. “Regulation and economic intervention? Meh….”

      That is a pretty big deal. I am sorry but only wanting to control people’s economic lives through regulation isn’t much comfort.

      1. Agreed, but his wrath is mostly directed at banks and insurance companies – hardly bastions of free-market idealism. And most decent people place the slaughter of human beings and the denial of habeas corpus above the rights of the banking cartels

        1. as priorities, i mean

      2. So, one out of five, John! Come on, even you have to admit that glass is 80% full. That’s better than any mainstream politician (or pundit) I can think of.

  13. The Democratic party was pretty much pro-war during the ’90’s wasn’t it? Didn’t they argue that George Bush Sr. should have invaded Iraq? I guess war is only a bad thing when Republicans start them.

    1. Al Gore ran to the right of George Bush on the Iraq issue in 2000.

    2. That’s why I like Glenn. He thinks preemptive war is a bad thing no matter who starts it.

  14. File under: Voting For Either Party Is A Waste Of Fucking Time.

    Damn, that folder is overflowing…

  15. Brian, et al,
    Democrats have started far more ‘wars’ than the Republicans:
    WW1 Wilson
    WW2 Roosevelt
    Korea (yes it was a war) Truman
    Vietnam (ibid) Kennedy/Johnson
    Do a body count and compare.
    When you analyze governmental funcions emperically, Democrats don’t do much of anything well.

    1. Roosevelt started WW2? Thought it had something to do with that Hitler guy and that Pearl Harbor thingy.

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