Manifesto Wars

MANIFESTO WARS….I’m pretty manifesto-phobic myself, but I agree that Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin’s defense of liberalism, “We Answer to the Name of Liberals,” is a good piece of work. The title is pretty cringe inducing, but I guess that’s rather in the nature of manifestos, isn’t it? Here’s a sample:

Make no mistake: We believe that the use of force can, at times, be justified. We supported the use of American force, together with our allies, in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. But war must remain a last resort. The Bush administration’s emphatic reliance on military intervention is illegitimate and counterproductive. It creates unnecessary enemies, degrades the national defense, distracts from actual dangers, and ignores the imperative necessity of building an international order that peacefully addresses the aspirations of rising powers in Asia and Latin America.

….We reaffirm the great principle of liberalism: that every citizen is entitled by right to the elementary means to a good life. We believe passionately that societies should afford their citizens equal treatment under the law ? regardless of accidents of birth, race, sex, property, religion, ethnic identification, or sexual disposition. We want to redirect debate to the central questions of concern to ordinary Americans ? their rights to housing, affordable health care, equal opportunity for employment, and fair wages, as well as physical security and a sustainable environment for ourselves and future generations.

What’s odd, though, is that this was written in response to “Bush?s Useful Idiots,” an essay by Tony Judt in the London Review of Books. So I followed the link and read it. It’s almost exclusively about the Iraq war and foreign policy:

Intellectual supporters of the Iraq War ? among them Michael Ignatieff, Leon Wieseltier, David Remnick and other prominent figures in the North American liberal establishment ? have focused their regrets not on the catastrophic invasion itself (which they all supported) but on its incompetent execution. They are irritated with Bush for giving ?preventive war? a bad name.

In a similar vein, those centrist voices that bayed most insistently for blood in the prelude to the Iraq War ? the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demanded that France be voted ?Off the Island? (i.e. out of the Security Council) for its presumption in opposing America?s drive to war ? are today the most confident when asserting their monopoly of insight into world affairs.

….Friedman is seconded by [Peter] Beinart, who concedes that he ?didn?t realise?(!) how detrimental American actions would be to ?the struggle? but insists even so that anyone who won?t stand up to ?Global Jihad? just isn?t a consistent defender of liberal values. Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, writing in the Financial Times, accuses Democratic critics of the Iraq War of failing ?to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously?. The only people qualified to speak on this matter, it would seem, are those who got it wrong initially.

That’s pretty bracing too, isn’t it? True, Judt is unforgivably sweeping in implying that his criticism applies to every liberal in America, but careful qualification isn’t exactly a hallmark of polemics, is it? What’s more, the actual liberals he criticizes are pretty frequent targets of liberal blogosphere ire for exactly the reason he describes.

Like I said, I’m not a manifesto lover. But hell ? read ’em both. It’ll do you good.