THE GOOD FIGHT….I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had recently interviewed Peter Beinart, editor-at-large of The New Republic and now author of The Good Fight, a book that promotes a vigorous, anti-jihadist foreign policy vision for liberals. It’s a very readable book (and fairly short, weighing in at only 208 pages), and spends most its time tracing an intellectual history of the “anti-imperialist” left.
More about that later. For now, fairly or unfairly, I assume that most liberals are going to focus on the fact that Beinart admits in the book that he was wrong about a whole host of issues prior to the war and that he no longer believes the war itself was a good idea. Which leads immediately to this:
KD: The obvious question, then, is with a track record like that why should anyone listen to you now?
PB: Anything one writes deserves to be judged by itself. The Democratic Party nominated someone in 2004 who had been flat wrong in his opposition to the Gulf War in 1991, I think most people would acknowledge that. Many people who were very prominent figures in the Democratic foreign policy debate and the Democratic Party in general–most of the people who were there at that time in 1991 were wrong about that. The vast majority of the party was wrong, and yet it still seems to me that we have things to learn from people like Sam Nunn or John Kerry. If you were to go from the Gulf War through Kosovo and Iraq, you would find that a large number of people in every facet of the liberal Democratic universe were wrong, on at least one of those wars. Very, very few people were right about all three of them. The people who were–and I think Al Gore is in this category–deserve a significant amount of credit, but the truth of the matter is, if you were looking for an untainted record, you would find very few people.
I think it’s perfectly fair that Beinart get beat up about this. Aside from the fact that this was a fairly spectacular misjudgment and deserves attention on that score alone, I also think he could have been more introspective in the book, spending more time on analyzing why he thinks he was wrong back in 2002-03.
At the same time, though, he also has some provocative ideas in the book, and once we get the Beinart-bashing out of the way there are some things in The Good Fight that are worth dissecting.
I’ll get into that later in the week. In the meantime, the entire interview is here.