Thus, this is a defining moment for America, the only true enforcer of international law, the keeper of the flame of a progressive world civilization.
With all due respect, when supposed liberals use jingoistic slogans like this while advocating war, I have to wonder if there is any hope for country.
“And now the parting on the left, is now the parting on the right.”
Here is my reply:
With all due respect, to suggest that I am only a “supposed liberal” because I took a position to defend the integrity of the international prohibition against chemical warfare is, well, what I expected from some on the left, given what I have been hearing and reading. There is in your “supposed liberal” comment a sad note of intolerance, which I wish I could only expect from reactionaries and not from progressives. Alas, you may be correct: “And now the parting on the left, is now the parting on the right,” or vice versa.
And you used the term “jingoistic slogan.” Huh? Is it jingoistic to defend the keeping of international law? Does that make sense? Additionally, do you deny that international law would have any real force at this point in world history apart from our national willingness to enforce it? If not us, then who will do it? And if it doesn’t get done, what then? Do we want to retreat from the hope of a world civilization? Is that what American liberalism should stand for in the twenty-first century?
My decision was not based primarily on our parochial national interests, even though I don’t think it is ridiculously jingoistic for someone to suggest that the well-being of our country is important. My decision to support limited military engagement with Syria, as I clearly explained, was based on my conclusion that the potential for greater harm, including more killing of innocents, is greater if we do nothing than if we act. If defending humane international laws, which in this case were designed to prevent the kind of heinous deaths we saw last week, makes me jingoistic and illiberal, then I am at a loss to explain what the central tenets of liberalism might be.
I hope you don’t think Bernie Sanders is a “supposed liberal,” do you? His statement on the matter is instructive:
The use of chemical weapons by the Assad dictatorship is inhumane and a violation of international law. However, at this point in time, I need to hear more from the president as to why he believes it is in the best interests of the United States to intervene in Syria’s bloody and complicated civil war. I look forward to the Senate debate that will be taking place in the very near future.
If Senator Sanders eventually supports an authorization of military force in this matter, does that make him something other than a liberal? In fact, can his progressive credentials be questioned just because he is willing to consider the use of military force against Assad?
As I wrote the other day, I had hoped that our side—those of us who embrace the general ideas of liberalism—would not morph into Tea Partyish ideologues and demand fealty to some imagined liberal position on this issue or else risk having our progressive bona fides questioned. On this issue at least, there are good arguments on both sides, and liberals can embrace either resulting conclusion, depending on how each person applies liberal principles to what is happening in Syria.
Finally, I am a liberal. But I am not a pacifist. I believe the use of military force is a necessary evil in this world as long as there are people in it who don’t want to live as civilized citizens and who are willing to use violence and force against us or our allies. I also believe that not strongly acknowledging that brute fact about the world is why a lot of ordinary folks don’t trust liberals to run the country. Conservatives have co-opted the ancient and practical idea of “peace through strength,” and I wish liberals would seize the concept and demand its proper application.
Thus, despite a robust skepticism toward the military-industrial complex, I do believe in a strong and invincible American military. But not because I believe warfare should be a means to every parochial national end dreamed up in the minds of right-wingers, but because I believe it makes world civilization possible while there are so many bad actors around who want to impose their ideological or theological will on the rest of us.