LIBERALS AND WAR….Responding to either Peter Beinart or me (or both), Atrios says this today about the use of military force:

Even if we stipulate that going to Afghanistan was the right course of action, by essentially branding all those who disagreed at the time as america-haters (and, yes, arguing that such people would “never” support the use of military force, including presumably as the North Korean tanks are rolling through Los Angeles, is doing just that) provides a very loud warning for anyone who would ever dare disagree with a proposed war. For some reason it’s only okay to be wrong about a war if you supported it.

Meanwhile, Matt Yglesias, who spent 2001 and 2002 as a student at Harvard, has this to say:

Fine, fine. Opposition to the Afghan War does not imply, as a matter of formal logic, that you would oppose the use of American military power under all circumstances. But if you, like I, spent the fall of 2001 in a place where anti-war sentiment ran high, listening to anti-war speeches and lectures and protests and teach-ins, reading anti-war op-eds in your school paper, speaking to anti-war people in your daily life and so forth, it was clear that most of the publicly offered rationales for opposing the war did, in fact, imply that the speaker or writer was opposed to any and all use of American military power. The most common line of criticism I heard was that any action that resulted in the deaths of Afghan civilians was an illegitimate form of collective punishment. There’s a certain logic to this position, but it’s the logic of pacifism and it’s not the basis of a viable national-security policy. Unless the Democratic Party and its advocates can say so, it’s not going to win any elections for the foreseeable future.

Needless to say, the issue at hand is expeditionary military force, not some weird strawman about Koreans invading LA. And evading the issue by constantly implying that no one who supported the Iraq war is morally qualified to criticize those who opposed it doesn’t really help matters.

This is a conversation we liberals need to have. But if we don’t engage in it honestly it doesn’t do any good.

(Conservatives could stand to have a few honest conversations about this themselves. But that’s up to them, not me.)

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