Chuck Peña: Why Liberals (like Peter Beinart) Can’t Win the War on Terror

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In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Peter Beinart — former editor of The New Republic, who has declared that only liberals can win the war on terror (the self-proclaimed subtitle of his new book) — offers up a weak mea culpa for “mistakenly” backing the Iraq war but lauds President Clinton’s “multilateral war to prevent the neo-fascist Slobodan Milosevic from cleansing ethnic Albanians from their homes.” What he conveniently ignores is that Clinton’s war in the Balkans was no different than the Bush administration’s so-called unilateral invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. Both were military actions against sovereign states conducted without the formal approval of the UN Security Council and neither represented an imminent threat to U.S. security — and both were rationalized on humanitarian grounds. As long as liberals like Beinart cannot fathom that liberal internationalism (or what he calls anti-totalitarian liberalism) is fundamentally the same thing as neoconservatism as implemented by the Bush administration, liberals cannot hope to fashion together a policy and strategy to win the war on terror.
Like the neocons and Bushies, Beinart believes the terrorist threat confronting America is a different form of communism or fascism. And he advocates the same cure for the disease: promoting freedom and democracy in the Islamic world. Where Beinart and the Bush administration depart company is the liberals’ preference for working with the United Nations and cultivating the support of the international community. But this difference is largely style over substance. It is about how to implement policy (via international institutions and multilateralism), not about policy itself — the equivalent of John Kerry saying “it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein,” but that he “would have done everything differently.” The reality is that liberals like Beinart and neoconservatives both arrive at the same end point. The result is an alliance of strange bedfellows brought together by the belief that American security is best served by using military power to spread democracy throughout the world, as evidenced by a January 2005 letter from the Project for the New American Century to the leadership of the U.S. Congress calling for increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps for “promotion of freedom.” The signatories included many of the “usual suspects” of neoconservative ilk — e.g., Max Boot, Thomas Donnelly, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, and Danielle Pletka — as well as many left-leaning luminaries — e.g., Ivo Daalder, Michele Flournoy, Michael O’Hanlon, and James Steinberg (not surprisingly, all except O’Hanlon served in the Clinton administration).


Like so many other liberals, Beinart fails to recognize that the terrorist threat represented by al Qaeda (now growing into a larger radical Islamic movement) is not due to a lack of democracy in the Muslim world. Such failure can only lead to failed policies. The reality is that Osama bin Laden has been very clear about why he attacked America on 9/11: as a response to U.S. policies, particularly in the Muslim world.
The key to winning the war on terrorism, then, is not a liberal internationalist version of neoconservatism or going back to the future by applying Truman anti-totalitarian liberalism against the radical Islamic threat. Rather, what is required is a real overhaul of U.S. foreign and national security policy based on an understanding that U.S. interventionism is a root cause of anti-American resentment in the Muslim world — which breeds hatred and becomes a steppingstone to violence, including terrorism. Accordingly, the guiding principle for U.S. policy should be to stop meddling in the internal affairs of countries and regions around the world, except when they directly threaten U.S. national security interests — i.e., when the territorial integrity, national sovereignty, or liberty of the United States is at risk. This is especially true in the Middle East and Muslim world.
Because bin Laden uses the plight of the Palestinians to appeal to Muslims around the world, conventional wisdom is that the United States must resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But a true peace can only be achieved when both parties are serious about wanting peace and willing to take all the necessary steps to achieve peace. Instead of improperly presenting itself as an honest broker and failing to produce peace, it would actually be better if the United States was less involved in trying to arbitrate and impose a peace settlement. Even if a peace could be forged, grievances about U.S. support for authoritarian regimes in Muslim countries will still exist. And the downside risk of active U.S. involvement if the peace process fails is that Palestinian terrorists could use U.S. bias towards Israel as an excuse for the failure and a reason to make America a target.
Conventional wisdom also holds that the United States is dependent on oil. But the realities of the economics of oil do not justify the U.S. obsession with Middle East oil and the need for special relationships with the regimes in the region (such as Saudi Arabia) to secure access to that oil. After the Gulf war of 1990, the United States maintained military bases in Saudi Arabia to help secure the kingdom and ensure stability and a continued flow of Saudi oil. The alliance between America and the Saudi royal family has generated enormous ill-will toward the United States on the part of thousands of Saudis who despise their government. The same can be said for America’s relationship with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, considered an autocratic regime even though it claims to be a democracy (which also highlights the hypocrisy of any U.S. policy based on promoting democracy). It is no wonder, then, that Al-Qaeda exploited that hostility to murderous ends: 15 of the 19 suicide-hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Saudi nationals and their ringleader, Mohammad Atta, was an Egyptian.
If liberals want to win the war on terrorism, then they have to be willing to re-evaluate their thinking on foreign policy. A kinder, gentler, humanitarian liberal version of neoconservatism, however, is not real change. The hard truth is that even before 9/11, the United States needed to re-adjust its foreign policy. The war on terrorism now demands making real changes. More than anything else, U.S. foreign policy is the cause of virulent anti-Americanism that is the basis for terrorism. Changing U.S. foreign policy may not guarantee victory in the war on terrorism, but not changing it will certainly spell defeat.
Charles V. Peña is an adviser on the Straus Military Reform Project, senior fellow with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, senior fellow with the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute, and analyst for MSNBC television. He is the author of Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism (Potomac Books, 2006), co-author of The Search for WMD: Non-Proliferation, Intelligence and Pre-emption in the New Security Environment (Dalhousie University, 2006), and co-author of Exiting Iraq: Why the U.S. Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War against al Qaeda (Cato Institute, 2004).

Comments

29 comments on “Chuck Peña: Why Liberals (like Peter Beinart) Can’t Win the War on Terror

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  3. Chicago says:

    What an idiotic comment by this Pena guy. He’d better pray that he and Beinart never have to debate because it’ll be a massacre. I won’t even try to set him straight because that isn’t what guys like Pena want — to be straight. Instead they’d rather distort and obfuscate in the hope that their comments will sound like something cerebral and sensical. Well, look, the moment you say that either using international institutions or not using them is merely a style point, you’ve lost all credibility. One word: legitimacy. You see, when you engage in the biggest nation-building project since WWII international “legitimacy” is going to be a rather important idea. And, contrary to red state logic legitimacy cannot be gained by a number of Texans getting together at a FoxNews party and deciding what the “truth” is.
    Good luck all…we’re in a hell of a spot: foreign policy, domestic issues, and we’re being led by the single most unimpressive team in our nations history. But, alas, there is a silver lining: the clock is ticking, and whether Dems or (real) Republicans win in 2008, there has got to be a change. (Doesn’t there?)

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  4. Bill Hartung says:

    Clearly the Balkans and Iraq are different conflicts, initiated for different reasons. But there were many liberal hawks (e.g., George Packer, Thomas Friedman [if he can be counted as a liberal] and others) who supported the war in Iraq on humanitarian grounds well BEFORE the Bush administration switched rationales from WMD/Al Qaeda links to “spreading democracy.” The objective impact of these liberal interventionists was to help legitimate a war that never should have been fought, and that is now costing the U.S. dearly in blood and treasure, not to mention its international reputation and ability to have an impact on world affairs going forward.

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  5. Bill Hartung says:

    Clearly the Balkans and Iraq are different conflicts, initiated for different reasons. But there were many liberal hawks (e.g., George Packer, Thomas Friedman [if he can be counted as a liberal] and others) who supported the war in Iraq on humanitarian grounds well BEFORE the Bush administration switched rationales from WMD/Al Qaeda links to “spreading democracy.” The objective impact of these liberal interventionists was to help legitimate a war that never should have been fought, and that is now costing the U.S. dearly in blood and treasure, not to mention its international reputation and ability to have an impact on world affairs going forward.

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  6. William Fettes says:

    Others have already taken umbrage at the attempt to set up an equivalency between Balkans and Iraq, but it’s worth revisiting.
    Pena is being blatantly dishonest when he says they were no different. Iraq was argued on the basis of threat. This threat was cashed out in both an ordinary, conventional sense, as well as the more extraordinary proxy threat posed by leakage to terrorists. The case for this threat was, in turn, based on various specific material allegations of non-compliance with the disarmament regime – such as hundreds of tonnes of chemical agents, an active nuclear programme, use of aluminium tubes for centrifuge enrichment, attempts to acquire yellowcake from Niger, mobile labs, al-Qaeda links etc. It is that case and those facts which were argued before the international community and the UN Security Council, and they cannot be removed from fundamentals of the Iraq casus belli.
    The Balkans, however, while still a species of extra-Council action, at least fits within the basic paradigm of contemporaneous response to a genuine humanitarian crisis, based on nascent principles of humanitarian intervention.
    By way of contrast, Iraq could in no way be construed as either.. For a start, this was never argued before the UNSC, or put as the main and substantive justification for the war. Secondly, this is manifestly ridiculous given how far the Bush administration is from agitating for an increased scope for action within the existing system of international law, (instead they’ve delibertately chosen to act outside the system). Futher, the objective was never anything other than regime change, not preventing internal oppression, as is clear in the press and diplomatic strategems. Also, remember that the main tragedies we are talking about in Iraq were over a decade old in 2003, AND had already generated an international response in the form of no-fly zones and sanctions which had largely been successful. Finally, in the case of British punitive action at the time, at least, we see a real exemplar of what it really looks like when a state argues the basis of their action within the humanitarian paradigm. Iraq 2003 is not even close to qualifying as a genuine humanitarian intervention, and only a truly mendacious or ignorant person would argue otherwise given all we know.

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  7. reticulant says:

    Peña /Clinton’s war in the Balkans was no different than the Bush administration’s so-called unilateral invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. Both were military actions against sovereign states conducted without the formal approval of the UN Security Council and neither represented an imminent threat to U.S. security — and both were rationalized on humanitarian grounds./
    Kosovo
    Legality: Mr. Clinton, by executive order, authorized U.S. intervention to stop “crimes in progress.” The principal crime was genocide. The crime is defined by Articles II and III in the “UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide(Genocide Convention)[1],” ratified in 1951. Under Article V, U.S./NATO states, ex parte, fulfilled their “legal obligation”[2] by acting to “give effect to the provisions of the present Convention.” The U.S., “complying with [its] Constitution” empowering executive order, availing itself of statutory considerations for “crimes in progress,” could have, if needed, asserted ancillary extraterritorial jurisdiction[3] to further legitimize “given effect.”
    Moreover, U.S./NATO eventually obtained UNSC support for its intervention despite UNSC’s earlier “inability” to act. Twelve (out of fifteen) members of the Council voted to reject the Russian resolution of March 26, 1999, thereby agreeing in effect U.S./NATO action should continue. As a result, on June 10, 1999, UNSC approved the Kosovo settlement in SC 1244 which effectively ratified the U.S./NATO intervention by giving it full Council support.
    Legitimacy: Even interpretations of the UN Charter that prohibited unilateral(the U.S./NATO action was “collective”) humanitarian intervention did not support conclusions suggesting the “sovereignty” of the target state(disputed in SC 777) stood higher in the scale of values of contemporary international society than the human rights of its inhabitants to be protected from ongoing genocide and massive crimes against humanity (cf. Genocide Convention).
    [1] “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (1948), Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, UN [ http://193.194.138.190/html/menu3/b/p_genoci.htm ]
    [2] Ibid. Article V. “The Contracting Parties undertake to enact, in accordance with their respective Constitutions, the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the present Convention…”
    [3] “Empowering United States Courts to Hear Crimes Within the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court” by Douglass Cassel; NEW ENGLAND LAW REVIEW; Vol. 35:2 2001 [ http://www.nesl.edu/lawrev/vol35/2/cassel.PDF ].
    [Invoking] “the exception which applies to all bases of jurisdiction under international
    law permitting U.S. courts to try, “ancillary” crimes committed abroad; such as attempt, conspiracy or accessory —- which are “presumed to have extraterritorial effect if the underlying substantive statute is first determined
    to have extraterritorial effect” [Bin Laden, 92 F. Supp. 2d at 197]. Thus, to the extent genocide, crimes against
    humanity, war crimes and lesser included crimes may be tried in U.S. courts, so too, may those ancillary crimes over which the ICC(w/ or w/out U.S. ratification] also has jurisdiction.”
    Iraq
    Legality: Iraq was in material breach of SC 1441. However, there was no crime in progress, no state of war, no humanitarian “emergency,” no proven or provable immediate threat to compel suspension of Charter procedures or supersedure of Council authority.
    Legitimacy: Absent crimes of genocide or massive crimes against humanity currently in progress against its inhabitants, absent supporting evidence of immediate threat to surrounding states, the “sovereignty” of the target state should remain intact and protected from unilateral compliance intervention pending authorization approved by the Council according to its Charter.
    Peña /As long as liberals like Beinart cannot fathom that liberal internationalism (or what he calls anti-totalitarian liberalism) is fundamentally the same thing as neoconservatism as implemented by the Bush administration, liberals cannot hope to fashion together a policy and strategy to win the war on terror./
    Kosovo passed fundamental tests for legality and legitimacy which Iraq did not. When “advisers” like Mr. Peña conflate the two, those ‘advised’ — whether conservative, centrist, liberal or media — “cannot [possibly] hope to [formulate] a [credible, coherent, legal, legitimate, multilaterally effective] policy and strategy to win the war on terror.”

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  8. steambomb says:

    Hind sight on the Iraq invasion…. We had the opportunity to deal with Iran by occupying Afghanistan and then (here is the unconventional) make an ally once again out of Saddam (if only for a short while) Surrounding Iran on two borders and squeezing the fundamentalists clerics out. Just a thought from a layman who is wholy uninformed and naive about it all. LOL A hell of a possibility though. Think about it. We could have looked at what Iraq had done to its WMDs and gave them a pat on the back and said. Now lets deal with this enemy of yours. By far more terrorism in the hizbullah has come from Iran rather than Iraq prior to the invasion. I think we truly missed a golden opportunity. Saddam was a nut yes. But we could have used him one last time to achieve quite a change in the middle east and then reigned him in with carrots and sticks. If that didn’t work then we could have removed him.

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  9. JB (not John Bolton) says:

    First, any post that includes a reference to “the war on terror” without a ‘so-called’ or equivalent modifier is immediately suspect.
    As has been pointed out here and elsewhere ad nauseam the only thing that is real about the ‘war on terror’ is the phrase itself. Anyone remotely interested in eliminating terror from the world would be doing none of the things that are currently being done in the name of that ‘war’ and would be doing a whole host of things that are not being done.
    Based on the Bush Administration’s flagrant disregard for the outcomes of its blundering crimes in Iraq one can only conclude that the entire purpose of the adventure is to establish U.S. hegemony in the Middle East. Doing it by force is a sure guarantee that there will be endless resistance, hence the need to continue the ‘war on terror’.
    The assumed right to invade other countries because the U.S.’ intentions are good (“because we are good whatever we do must be right”) betrays an arrogance that is simply breathtaking. Bush’s recent landing in Baghdad without permission is just one more example of
    this.

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  10. karenk says:

    bob h:
    You couldn’t be more right, but we’ll never know now..

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  11. Matthew says:

    Maybe the problem is that we equate “winning” the War on Terror with taking over the economies of the oil-exporting countries. The more you read about the pro-American business provisions mandated by Emperor Bremer into Iraq’s basic law or the the new constitution, the message is clear: Liberation means foreign ownership of your assets. Considering that Iran is sitting on the next great bonanza of oil and gas, is it any wonder that she needs to be liberated next? I would welcome a column about the extent to which our economy is now dependent on war-making, i.e., liberating peoples.

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  12. bob h says:

    If we had contented ourselves with doing a good cleanup of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, avoided getting sucked into Iraq, worked a bit harder on Israel-Palestine, and fully joined our allies in the intelligence/policing operation that the GWOT really is, we would be on our way to victory now.

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  13. Roger Keeling says:

    Oops … in my reply above, I misunderstood who posted what here (and who wrote what reply to it). I see now that Charles Pena did not post this thing himself, but rather it was posted by dmeyer at 4:52 p.m. That means that the two replies that I approved of were written by Wha? and bakho at 7:03 p.m. and 8:46 p.m. respectively. My apology for mixing that up. But my reaction to Pena’s comments remains exactly the same.
    In fact, you know what Pena’s opinion looks like to me, now? Typing by some rightwinger or GOP shill deigning to offer “advice” to liberals about what we should and shouldn’t be doing or thinking. Notice, as another poster above mentioned, how this piece completely embraces rightwing framing of the issue. That’s a mighty good sign that it deserves to be ignored.

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  14. Roger Keeling says:

    Steve, I’m with jorj tilson and Wha? (at 6:36 and 7:03 p.m. respectively) on this. I don’t know why you invited this guy to post here, but almost the very first thing he says is — fundamentally — a lie. Rather the same way that rightwingers (and the media lapdogs that serve them) are forever trying to equate Democratic Party behavior with Republican Party behavior, so Pena casually tries to equate Bill Clinton’s decision to go into Bosnia and Kosovo with Bush’s obsession with invading Iraq.
    The two are NOT the same, were NEVER the same, and equating them is just pure, 100% intellectual dishonsty. They were never even vaguely similar based on the specifics of the case (Clinton gave coherent reasons for his actions based on the fairest and most accurate readings of the facts on the ground that he could find; Bush lied and lied and lied and lied and lied and lied and lied and is still lying). But beyond that, they were never even vaguely similar as application of over-riding foreign policy theories.
    So like jorj tilson, I just can’t get past Pena’s opening misrepresentation of plain fact. Why should I believe ANYTHING this guy has to say after reading THAT?

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  15. serial catowner says:

    Seems pretty optimistic to think we can actually do anything about U.S. policy. Apparently the black budget of our intel agencies is about $50 billion a year (very roughly), and who is going to bell that cat?
    This becomes even more astounding if you consider what our world hegemony has bought us- the total export of skilled manufacturing, and now a paranoia that makes it impossible for us to market our higher education systems to foreign students. And they tell us it’s not about the oil? Well, what, pray tell, is it about?
    It would be a wonderful thing if high-powered thinkers could have good ideas that appealed to policy-makers with enough spine to do the right thing. Unfortunately, history suggests that rational thinking is most likely to emerge when people are standing in a pile of rubble and saying “Well, that was a real mistake. We’ll have to try something different.”
    Still, it would be nice if we could learn from experience (especially that of others) and heaven knows we’re going to need to learn something pretty soon.

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  16. Shaneekwa says:

    Note to Carlos/Charles/Chuck Pena:
    Your reasoning is facile and idiotic. You ridicule the threat presented by extremist Muslims without evidence of your fanciful theory that we should withdraw and ignore them. You ridicule allied humanitarian military actions without offering an alternative approach to confronting real threats to world and American security that the current United Nations Security Council (which includes two despotic nuclear powers) refuses to approve. No, “liberal internationalism” is not “fundamentally the same thing as neoconservatism as implemented by the Bush administration.” Your saying it’s so doesn’t make it so. Educate yourself, please. Gadflies are not helpful to the analysis of international relations.

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  17. elementary teacher says:

    The war on terror isn’t intended to be won, it’s intended to be financed.
    “Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death.” – Adolph Hitler

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  18. Marky says:

    Any realistic discussion has to question the threat posed by Iran. If the premise is that Iran poses a grave threat which must be met, and the question is what should our course of action be, then Bush wins. Iraq was a paper tiger, and for all I know, Iran is one also. I certainly see no reason that Iran is among the top 5 threats to our security.

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  19. vaughan says:

    Posted by S Brennan at June 17, 2006 01:39 AM
    S Brennan: This post is not by Steve Clemons, it’s by Chuck Pena. Pena seems to be a foreign policy realist, has ties to the Cato institute, and seems to be currently working to help prevent a US invasion in Iran.
    Steve Clemons: I think it’s very cool that you bring a diversity of voices here. I don’t agree with Pena on the Balkans thing, but I do agree that in general, the world would be much better off if the US just stayed out of meddling with the rest of the world.

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  20. PW says:

    I agree with Bob and others about the differences between Bush’s and Clinton’s interventions. But what further undermines the argument (though I agree with Peña’s bottom line as to when and why the US should intervene) is the absence of any discussion that I could find of the reason for our ill-begotten wars, and that is “The Incredible Hulk” — aka the demands of the military- industrialists and those who profit from them politically and economically. Aren’t they largely the determinants of our foreign policies ? Don’t the proceeds from “the war on terror” go straight into their pockets?
    As for oil, I’d hate to see what the Bush administration and its tagalong successors would do to fledgling liberal democracies in Latin America in order to control their oil if we freed ourselves from ME oil. Take a look at how Bush is handling Venezuela already..
    So that leaves three huge challenges which, of course, I’d like to see the Democrats stand up to (fat chance): ending dependence on oil from any and all sources, maintaining the value of the dollar once oil and dollar separate, and significantly cutting (say, by two thirds) the Pentagon and its suppliers even as we loosen their unholy grip on our democracy and economy.

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  21. Steve says:

    You can email President Bush, VP Cheney, Congressional Leaders & Rush Limbaugh from my eclectic homepage. Check it out here….
    http://www.geocities.com/capitolhill/8889

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  22. bob h says:

    What he conveniently ignores is that Clinton’s war in the Balkans was no different than the Bush administration’s so-called unilateral invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein
    But tactically, Clinton made no attempt to remove Milosovic, reconfigure the government, or to occupy the country and involve himself on the ground in the sectarian strife.

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  23. S Brennan says:

    Jeeze Steve,
    This statement was/is an offensive lie:
    ” …Clinton’s war in the Balkans was no different than the Bush administration’s so-called unilateral invasion of Iraq” – Steve Clemmons
    By that standard the blitz of Poland by the Nazis was no different than the D-Day invasion by the allies.
    Please Steve………in the future try to show some respect for history…and the intelligence of your readers.
    S Brennan

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  24. Affrayer says:

    Yes there are similarities between Kosovo and Iraq but there are also differences.
    The invasion into Iraq was done on the cheap. Years of planning such an invasion were thrown out the window. Instead a plan was dreamed up that turned out to be shear folly. Where the stratagy for Kosovo was followed to the letter.
    The bottom line is that we cannot forget the different levels of competence between the Clinton’s and the Bush’s administrations…

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  25. kwest says:

    Perhaps this is more complicated than either side makes clear. Yes, bin Laden attacked us because he resents U.S. meddling; but what if our meddling (liberal humanitarian/neo-conservative intervention) this time actually amounts to an imperfect attempt to mend our ways, a more or less genuine attempt to distance ourselves from autocratic regimes that we have supported in the past (e.g., by removing Saddam himself, by removing our bases in Saudi Arabia, by putting at least some additional pressure on Egypt to foster democracy, and even, perhaps, by quietly pressuring Israel to reform its behavior vis a vis the Palestinians with more conviction and less bias than we have in the past)? What if, in other words, this has been a bungled attempt (bungled by misjudgment, ineptitude and hypocrisy) at a war of contrition? What if this HAS been an attempt at a radical break with the U.S. foreign policy status quo (meddling) that resulted in 9/11? Removing Saddam, removing sanctions, supporting a freely elected Iraqi regime only as long as it needs us and then getting the hell out of Dodge COULD be the beginning of a less meddlesome, more principled, and more helpful foreign policy that begins to assuage some of the legitimate antagonisms we created with post-WWII interventions, secret wars, and coziness with dictators, could it not? Is this a terribly naive justification for this war? If not, it is certainly one that Beinart has thrown out with the bath water and that Pena has evidently never considered.

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  26. tbaum says:

    As long as we continue to accept the Bush/NEOCON framing of what we seek to accomplish in Iraq and why we went there, virtually all of our analysis and comment will continue to be off-base and essentially nonsequiturs. Just think how differently our thinking on Iraq would be, if we always kept reminding ourselves that we are there for purely imperialistic reasons along with the natural consequence of that being our ability to control most of OPEC’s oil. It is simply incorrect to say that our primary focus in the Middle East is not oil, but, rather a conflict of cultures or different civilizations. It is particularly incorrect to say, “But the realities of the economics of oil do not justify the U.S. obsession with Middle East oil and the need for special relationships with the regimes in the region (such as Saudi Arabia) to secure access to that oil,” because the combination of the nearness of the world’s “Peak Oil” and the fact that, who ever controls the oil of the Middle East, literally has the rest of the world by the throat, are the two factors that have created the US drive to dominate the Middle East. Yes, it does all come out of PNAC and Cheney’s work on the energy issue, but make no mistake about it, even the NEOCON proclaimed interest in having democracies in the Middle East has nothing to do with real democracies. That is the last thing they would wish for. Rather, they are looking to have compliant, client states that give the surface appearance of being democracies, but, in reality, are states that will dance to our tune and states which will accede to our control of that oil.
    Given the above, the following quote from the Pena’s piece must be understood to be modified with the requirement that our national security interests must be modified as shown below in parenthesis for the Bush/NEOCON agenda to be compatible with it:
    “Accordingly, the guiding principle for U.S. policy should be to stop meddling in the internal affairs of countries and regions around the world, except when they directly threaten U.S. national security interests — i.e., when the territorial integrity, national sovereignty, (access and control of needed natural resources), (US World hegemony) or liberty of the United States is at risk”.
    As far as the Israel/Palestinian problem is concerned, I highly recommend any and all read Beyond Chutzpah by Finkelstein before deciding the degree to which the US should hitch our wagon to the actions and intentions of the Israelis. I think Pena’s points on this issue are well taken.
    Again, Neoconservatism is not about spreading democracy beyond the appearance of it. It is all about using that idea as the vehicle to achieve the world hegemony or dominance they saw as the natural right of this country as the result of becoming the world’s only superpower. Now, of course, their incomparable incompetence has shown the world just how super that superpower really is and so their dreams are falling apart before their very eyes.
    Finally, I too think we should credit Bin Laden for what he says as opposed to what our leader’s ideology would have be the truth. Forget that silly notion about their hating us for our freedoms, religion and form of government. I believe Bin Laden is perfectly honest and correct when he declares that we will experience unlimited “blowback” for what we have done, and not for what we believe.

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  27. bakho says:

    Clinton sat on the sidelines for a lonnnnnnggggggg time before doing anything in the Balkans. Finally the humanitarian crisis and the flood of refugees into Italy and the rest of Europe was threatening to cause big headaches for NATO. Milosevic was ethnic cleansing and could not be deterred by a no fly zone. Saddam was deterred from ethnic cleansing by a no-fly-zone. Bosnia had government on the ground to support as did Kosovo. Iraq had nothing on the ground and Bush prevented the political forces in existence in Iraq from coalescing at the time of the invasion. Eventually, something other than no-fly-zone had to be done about Saddam, but invading Baghdad was surely not the correct answer just as invading Serbia was not the answer.
    (Note to revisionists: Bush invaded Iraq. Clinton did not invade the Balkans.)

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  28. Wha? says:

    I couldn’t get past the first BIG LIE paragraph that Clinton’s war in Kosovo and Bush’s attack in Iraq were both based on humanitarian grounds and without UN approval.
    Bush’s attack was based on WMD and imminent threat; a lie. The humanitarian angle would not get the war they very much wanted. The humanitarian bullshit only came later after NO WMD to hang their hat on for the war they were hell bent to have no matter what, UN or no UN, with the UN only being used as a dupe, and the whole world being lied to at the UN by Powell because they wanted war and nothing else.
    How dare you, Pena, lie so blantantly trying to equate Clinton and Bush and their wars.
    If you were kidding, better say so.

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  29. jorj tilson says:

    Thanks, D.Meyer, for posting this and link to Straus..Project. Strong effort should be made to change the language in which this area of foreign policy is described. Pena’s book calls it the “Un-War”, and that is a start. Maybe “challenge management” would work; at any rate, ‘war on terror’ is emotionally manipulative and promotes aggression. Treating this as a criminal matter, rather than military, as most other governments do, would be much more effective. And then, too, ever since at least the days of Alexander the Great outsiders have tried to impose their will on middle EurAsia, with such notable success!

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