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.
--Spencer Ackerman
PBS Frontine interviewed Paul Berman during the first two weeks of the Iraqi war. In the interview Paul Berman said:

Conventional wisdom imagines that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and their respective movements are utterly different and unrelated, and that war against Saddam has nothing to do with war against Osama. But I think the conventional wisdom is a little faulty.

On that count, I look on the war in Iraq as part of the larger "war against terror" -- as one element in the broader war against totalitarianism.

Then again, mature people ought to be able to overcome their personal dislikes and to analyze the situation coldly. And a cold analysis, I believe, ought to lead liberals and people on the left to support the effort to overthrow Saddam, and to push for a genuine campaign to establish a liberal society in Iraq and elsewhere, in countries that have fallen into the totalitarian trough. (my emphasis)

It is very unlikely that someone who was against the war would say "I am, I must say, disappointed that Fischer has held back from supporting the war in Iraq."
Blogger ndm | 10:21 AM

I found the article on Nexis, and it is as you, not Berman, described. Go to the ALLNEWS database and search byline(paul berman) and date is 2006. Look at the 12th of 13 stories.
Blogger Laney | 10:33 AM

The article he's referring to doesn't mention Iraq by name and has this as the paragraph:

And so, we find ourselves in the midst of a Lincolnian war, a war for the liberation of others, yet led by people with Hobbesian instincts--find ourselves plunged into a crisis of liberal democracy, in which our leaders do not know what Lincoln knew, which was how to appeal to the ever more radical principles of liberal democracy. Our military is armed to the teeth, which turns out to be a good thing. (I admit it.) But our government has for some reason disarmed itself unilaterally in the realms of persuasion, inspirational example, philosophical clarity, and moral leadership. How did this happen to us? It has happened to us. Tocqueville thought that liberal societies could not wield power, and Lincoln proved him wrong. I am terrified that we are in the process of proving Lincoln wrong--that we are wielding power without liberalism, which will turn out to be no power at all.

A pretty thin thread on which to hang his claim that he didn't support the war.
Blogger Mises Institute Adjunct Faculty? | 11:11 AM

There's a link to the article at Bloggingheads.tv, also. Go to http://www.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9817, then click on the first link in "link mentioned."
Blogger CThomas | 12:38 PM