Beinart on Iraq

BEINART ON IRAQ….Peter Beinart on why he supported the Iraq war:

I was willing to gamble, too — partly, I suppose, because, in the era of the all-volunteer military, I wasn’t gambling with my own life. And partly because I didn’t think I was gambling many of my countrymen’s. I had come of age in that surreal period between Panama and Afghanistan, when the United States won wars easily and those wars benefited the people on whose soil they were fought. It’s a truism that American intellectuals have long been seduced by revolution. In the 1930s, some grew intoxicated with the revolutionary potential of the Soviet Union. In the 1960s, some felt the same way about Cuba. In the 1990s, I grew intoxicated with the revolutionary potential of the United States.

And why he changed his mind:

We lack the wisdom and the virtue to remake the world through preventive war. That’s why a liberal international order, like a liberal domestic one, restrains the use of force — because it assumes that no nation is governed by angels, including our own. And it’s why liberals must be anti-utopian, because the United States cannot be a benign power and a messianic one at the same time.

That’s not to say the United States can never intervene to stop aggression or genocide….But it does mean that, when our fellow democracies largely oppose a war — as they did in Vietnam and Iraq — because they think we’re deluding ourselves about either our capacities or our motives, they’re probably right. Being a liberal, as opposed to a neoconservative, means recognizing that the United States has no monopoly on insight or righteousness.

Whatever else one might think of Beinart, he’s looking at the disaster in Iraq with clear eyes and thinking seriously about how it should change his worldview. That’s something that an awful lot of war supporters continue to refuse to do. It’s as if Iraq holds no lessons for them at all.

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