The Hawks Regroup

THE HAWKS REGROUP….Jacob Heilbrunn surveys the scene in liberal hawk circles these days:

A host of pundits and young national security experts associated with the [Democratic] party are calling for a return to the Cold War precepts of President Truman to wage a war against terror that New Republic Editor Peter Beinart, in the title of his provocative new book, calls “The Good Fight.”

….These Democrats want to be seen as anything but the squishes who have led the party to defeat in the past.

Indeed they do. But here’s the funny thing about that. I read The Good Fight a couple of weeks ago, and Beinart is pretty clear that he now believes he was wrong about a whole host of things back in 2003. He was wrong about WMD, wrong about containment, wrong about the need for international legitimacy, etc. etc. If he had it to do over again, he wouldn’t have supported the war.

What’s more, his prescription for how liberals should approach foreign policy going forward is distinctly non-martial. He believes we need a sort of modern-day Marshall plan for the Middle East; a willingness to work with international institutions even if that sometimes restrains our actions; an acceptance that we should abide by the same restrictions that we demand of others; greater patience in foreign affairs; and a rededication to social justice both at home and abroad.

In other words, I think he could give the keynote address at YearlyKos and not really say much of anything the audience would disagree with. If Beinart really is the standard bearer for a new incarnation of liberal hawkishness, then we’re almost all liberal hawks now.

There’s a little more to it, of course, and Beinart remains critical of liberals who have gotten so disgusted with George Bush’s approach to terrorism that they’ve decided the whole war on terror is just a sham. Still, it’s an interesting transformation, and many of the differences that remain within liberal circles strike me as more rhetorical than substantive.

I interviewed Beinart about all this last week, and the interview should be available in a couple of days. I’ll have more to say about it then.