Friday, February 23, 2007
underneath the painting where once it was clear, well, I was rolled in water -- I was rolled out past the pier:
Peter's last TRB is one of the most honest, reflective, and insightful things I've read in a good long while.
We can't be the country those Iraqis wanted us to be. We lack the wisdom and the virtue to remake the world through preventive war. That's why a liberal international order, like a liberal domestic one, restrains the use of force--because it assumes that no nation is governed by angels, including our own. And it's why liberals must be anti-utopian, because the United States cannot be a benign power and a messianic one at the same time. That's not to say the United States can never intervene to stop aggression or genocide. It's not even to say that we can't, in favorable circumstances and with enormous effort, help build democracy once we're there. But it does mean that, when our fellow democracies largely oppose a war--as they did in Vietnam and Iraq--because they think we're deluding ourselves about either our capacities or our motives, they're probably right. Being a liberal, as opposed to a neoconservative, means recognizing that the United States has no monopoly on insight or righteousness. Some Iraqis might have been desperate enough to trust the United States with unconstrained power. But we shouldn't have trusted ourselves.
Peter explains his support for the war through his admiration for the Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya. Kanan, one of the most guileless and brave people I've ever been privileged to meet, is someone I hold in similar esteem. (It probably says something about the times we live in that Cruelty and Silence -- an overview of Iraqi desperation and its apologists -- appears more apt and poignant than Republic of Fear does.) If there's anything I'd add to Peter's column, it would be this: it wasn't Kanan's fault that anyone supported the Iraq war --wait, wait, hang on, let's make this more personal. It wasn't Kanan's fault that I supported the Iraq war. It was for wanting to believe so badly in the righteousness of America's terrible swift sword. I wanted to be worthy of the respect of such a brave man as Kanan that I ended up unworthy of it by abandoning rigor.

One final thing. Many of you out there really, really dislike Peter Beinart. I hope you'll read his column and see him as I see him: a scrupulous, honest writer who doesn't stop challenging himself. If he falls short, he acknowledges it and tries to learn from the mistake.
--Spencer Ackerman
I have no beef with Beinart. This mea culpa is solid. Now all I ask is that the principles enunciated therein be put into practice.

By, say, starting to counter some of the malignant warmongering that Marty is cultivating on the other side of the TNR coin.

Otherwise, it's just so much posturing. And I don't think Beinart intends to be so vacuous. At least I hope not.
Blogger Eric Martin | 7:41 AM

His valiant search for truth isn't what pissed people off. It was the Sistah Soldjah bullshit.
Anonymous Anonymous | 12:00 PM

Why is it his last TRB? Where is he going?
Blogger t.s. | 12:37 PM

Well, as other people have said elsewhere, I'm still troubled by the fact that Beinert and other "hawks" continue to marginalize (i.e., attack and condescend to) people who were right about Iraq. Or at least he had been doing so until very recently. Also, as others have said, the notion that we don't have the wisdom to change the world through preventive war is off-base, and indicates (to me) that some further rethinking is required on Beinart's part. It would be closer to the truth to say that we (meaning the US) don't have the *ruthlessness* to remake the world through preventive war, and that this is all to the good, if you believe in human rights and democracy and all that good stuff. (This is a line of thought I'm stealing from Talking Points Memo.) I would like to see Beinert reevaluate his romanticization of war and violence (which is still at work in his thinking, I think).

Enough said.
Blogger mary | 1:46 PM

Sorry, but 1 article won't do it.

He's about 3,153 stories short.
Blogger Lone Wolf | 7:40 PM

I liked this column, and it says a lot about him that he was willing to use his last TRB column as a mea culpa.

T.S. - Peter is no longer going to be wirting the TRB column- Jon Chait is taking it over. Peter is still an "Editor at Large" at TNR and Member of COouncil on Foreign Relations.
Blogger Scott L. Stuart | 5:59 PM

Ditto the theme of this comment thread. I used to love TNR and Beinart was one of my favorites. And this mea culpa is a nice little gesture.

A little gesture. Too little, and too late. I've just completely exhausted my tolerance for the magazine and anyone associated with it (at least anyone not named Cass Sunstein or Alan Wolfe. Or Spence Ackerman.).
Blogger Unknown | 9:58 AM