Wednesday, February 20, 2008
remember that in chaos lie the seeds of corruption:
Mark Lilla's essay about Jacob Heilbrunn's They Knew They Were Right is mostly wide of the mark (more when I finish the book), but I have to give Leon credit for publishing this:
Of course, there were Americans of every ideological stripe--not just members of the professional counterestablishment--who supported the war to topple Saddam. Most of them had no fantasies of restoring "national greatness," they just thought that Saddam had the weapons and that we had no better option. Fine. But even that is not the whole story. For it turned out that the liberal hawks who became so prominent after September 11, including here at The New Republic, were indeed interested in restoring "national greatness," though in a new, more left-leaning form. They have been accused of succumbing to neoconservatism themselves, but that is backwards. In retrospect, what seems to have motivated them was the desire to displace the neocons from their dominant perch in Washington by proving that liberalism could be a fighting faith at home and abroad. Clinton's intervention in Kosovo confirmed that was possible, so why not continue the march all the way to Baghdad? Why leave the promotion of human rights and democracy--not to mention the protection of dissidents such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali--to the madmen at AEI, whose domestic policies were loathsome? As Heilbrunn's pages show, though he does not quite put it this way, the temptation to beat the neocons at their own game was hard to resist--which meant, of course, that the liberal hawks also found themselves playing the old reactionary game, which is to use a foreign war to reform society at home.
--Spencer Ackerman