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Tuesday, April 01, 2008
public witness ain't seeing too much:
Paul Berman did a BloggingHeads with Heather Hulburt in which the arch liberal-Iraq-hawk strongly suggests that he didn't support the war. You be the judge. Relevant section is about 2:30 in.
On the Iraq war, I myself wrote a piece in The New Republic on March -- which came out in the March 3, 2003 issue saying George Bush was leading us over a cliff. And that his notion of how to deploy power was lacking in liberal principle and that his use of power was going to turn out to be no power at all. In short it was going to be a disaster. I published this before the war. I made that prediction before the war. It's true that afterward I haven't made a career of running around saying I told you so, but if you look it up, the major article ... yeah, I was in favor of getting rid of Saddam but Bush's way of going about it was quite bad, and I pronounced myself, I used the word 'terrified,' of what would come of it.TNR's messed-up web archives have erased Paul's article, and for some reason I can't find it on Nexis, either. But it doesn't say what Paul says it says. I know because I factchecked it and discussed it with Paul on the phone pre-publication.
Leave aside his odious arrogance. (He told me so?) Paul says his piece recognized Bush's strategic foolishness and illiberalism. He's right. The trouble is he recognized it as a caveat to his enthusiasm to the war, not as an impediment. In other words, Berman wanted a war for liberalism, recognized that it wouldn't be one, and backed it anyway. That -- to say the least -- implicates his judgment.
In order to whitewash this, he pretends his caveat was his argument. He did this before, in the New York Review of Books, where he quoted his caveat and said it rose "rising to what I like to picture as a crescendo." Well, it wasn't a crescendo. It would only have been a crescendo if it stopped him from backing the war. Instead he took the opposite approach. Fine. But own up to it, don't pretend that wasn't your judgment.
Update: Oh God. Toward the end of the clip, Paul says:
Then there's the intellectual debate. The intellectual debate should always tell the truth. It should never be modest. It should always be grandiose.Please, please, please, step back from the cliff.
Late Update: I should have mentioned that Matthew Yglesias was catching Paul Berman misrepresenting his position on the war before it was cool.
PBS Frontine interviewed Paul Berman during the first two weeks of the Iraqi war. In the interview Paul Berman said: