The Right Coast

November 13, 2004
The Desertion of the Liberal Hawks
By Mike Rappaport

A powerful article at Reason Online by Tim Cavanaugh:

One of the most dramatic and least surprising developments of Election 2004's final period has been President Bush's abandonment by the "liberal hawks," the collection of left-leaning thinkers, commentators, and pundits who approved of the invasion of Iraq as a progressive operation, offered well reasoned and often enthusiastic support for Bush in the prelude to the war, were granted their wish by the White House, and have now paid the president back with withering criticism and endorsements for John Kerry.

Thus, in late 2002 and early 2003, we found such luminaries as Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, Fred Kaplan, Kenneth Pollack, Fareed Zakaria, Jeff Jarvis, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Ignatieff, and many others arguing for the expenditure of American lives and treasure in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These days, none of those luminaries can summon a kind word for the president who acted in accord with their own arguments. Ignatieff dismisses the humanitarian intervention as a "fantasy." Sullivan has in recent days seized on the nebulous circumstances surrounding the disappearance of explosives at Al Qaqaa as evidence that Bush failed to keep order in postwar Iraq. Friedman declares, "Iraq is a terrible mess because of the criminal incompetence of the Bush national security team, and we are more alone in the world than ever." Zakaria calls the president "strangely out of touch," unaware that his "attitude" is responsible for the problems of postwar Iraq.

This is a neat arrangement of responsibility by the liberal hawks: All the blame falls on the president, none on themselves. Bush's former supporters channel what is now the overwhelming conventional wisdom that the administration (in the person of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld) failed to provide a large enough force to run the country adequately. Leave aside the question about just how large a force would be adequate, given that even under the current deployment the armed services are strained to meet their commitments and relying on callups of the Individual Ready Reserve to fill manpower gaps. Ignore for a moment how 300,000, or 500,000, or a million, non-Arabic-speaking troops would prevent, for example, an insider from helping massacre 50 Iraqi police recruits. Under any conditions, the liberal hawks' brand of armchair generalship is stunningly glib.

On any given week, World War II offered more fuckups and catastrophes than anything that has been seen in postwar Iraq. Anybody who seriously believes Operation Iraqi Freedom is a worthy national effort must explain Roosevelt's incompetence before denouncing Bush's.

So if the liberal hawks honestly thought the war could be conducted without brutality, they were merely naïve. If, however, they are not so much disappointed in the war as tired of Bush, they are something worse.
Although Tim Cavanaugh writes as a critic of the war, he recognizes that his argument can also be used by supporters of the war. In either event, it is a pretty devestating criticism of the liberal hawks. While they believe that George Bush let them down, in reality, it is they who have let him down.