Liberals Hate Evil — But Hate Bush More

Kevin Drum quotes from Peter Beinart’s new book:

A November 2005 M.I.T. study…found that only 59 percent of Democrats — as opposed to 94 percent of Republicans — still approved of America’s decision to invade Afghanistan. And only 57 percent of Democrats — as opposed to 95 percent of Republicans — supported using U.S. troops to “destroy a terrorist camp.” George W. Bush, in other words, has used the war on terror to cover such a multitude of sins that for many liberals the whole idea of focusing the nation’s energies on defeating global jihad (whether you call that effort the “war on terror” or something else) has fallen into disrepute. Just as Vietnam turned liberals against the cold war, Iraq has now turned them against the war on terror.

Drum concedes, “Now, maybe he’s right about this. I don’t think the evidence is quite as damning as Beinart makes it out to be, but poll after poll makes it clear that at the very least the war on terror doesn’t rank very high on the list of things liberals care about these days.”

So, what’s the problem? Well, one can’t simultaneously speak out against the evils President Bush rails against, be they terrorists or Iranian mullahs, without aiding and abeting Bush’s cause:

[L]ike it or not, my words — and those of other liberals — would end up being used to advance George Bush’s distinctly illiberal ends. And I’m simply not willing to be a pawn in the Bush administration’s latest marketing campaign.

I don’t have a very good answer for this dilemma. And I’m not very happy about it.

While I understand the point, the solution strikes me as tantamount to cutting off one’s penis to prove one’s fidelity.

Isn’t there a middle ground solution, whereby one simultaneously agrees with the president that nuclear armed crazies is unacceptable and points out that military action is unlikely to solve the problem? Or that, while a democratic Iraq is a laudable goal, military force is a poor way of achieving it? Or that destroying terrorist camps is a worthwhile application of military force but that extreme care must be taken to avoid killing innocents and thus creating more recruits for the terrorists?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven Plunk says:

    Admitting there is a problem out there eats away at the “US is the root of all evil” mindset. Without being able to blame all the world’s ills on Uncle Sam the left will have to support some of the policies now in effect. That is contrary to what they want to believe therefore they will not make the first step in admitting the rest of the world has problems too. Like an alcoholic admitting a drinking problem the lefties know admission will lead to facing facts they do not want to face.

    While conservatives are accused of burying their heads in the sand the real conservative thinkers want the facts and will adjust to reality. Will the liberal thinkers do the same and adjust based on facts? We will see.

    I expect some will while the burned out hippie types will continue with worn out Vietnam analogies and sixties peace cliches. Those people haven’t adjusted at all.

  2. Andy Vance says:

    If the Bushies have taught libruls anything, it’s that the middle ground is for suckers.

  3. I’ll speak from the other side of the isle. I am open to alternatives. I do have some points that I don’t find negotiable (though even there I will listen to reasoned debate on why I shouldn’t hold those points so dearly). One of the points is that I don’t want to have the US end up suffering as many bombings aimed at civilians as occur in other places (for example Israel). That goal is not one I am willing to negotiate on. Any discussion on the GWOT will be filtered through the analysis of whether it is likely to increase or decrease the number of attacks (both in the short and long term).

    The attack by liberals on the use of force does not persuade me. Pulling out of Iraq now (as opposed to when the government is able to fend for itself) would in my opinion increase the chance of future attacks in the US, not decrease them. Just as Clinton’s pull out in Somalia and Reagan’s pull out in Lebanon increased the chance of future (now past) attacks. One of the notions in the Al Qaeda mindset is that the US is a paper tiger. That we won’t stay the course. We might knock the snot out of a place, but will quickly retreat if hurt. And Bin Ladin isn’t without reason and history to make the case. I think there is a very real perception in AQ that if they can just hold on long enough, they will be able to see Bush go and some one more in line with their idea of the American paper tiger come into power.

    And this brings me to elections in 2006 and 2008. I would love to see the political equivalent of a 2×4 up against the side of the head as a wake up call to the republicans (the democrats need to clean up their own problems). But as a republican, I tend to think beyond the initial feel good urge and think about the unintended consequences. The choices at election time may be a choice between the lesser of two evils, but the impact is that my non-negotiable desire to not have the number of terrorist attacks against the US increase greatly is in danger when you select the only alternatives to republicans, namely the democrats. And yes, I know there are third parties out there, but please be realistic about their chance to win.

    The democratic party of JFK and Truman did not have any doubt about standing up to the threats of the cold war. Tactics could freely be debated, but the goal (keeping the US free) was not seriously in doubt. And the tactics could vary. I suspect Nixon going to China freaked the Russians out much more than it bothered many in the US. We are debating what to do about immigration and our borders. East Germany built their walls not to keep immigrants out, but to keep emigrants in. Russia and China have spared over their border with tanks in living memory, we still send guys in pick ups to guard the border. You can make a great case for containment and airlift to confront the communist in post war Germany or for the Patton approach of use the army in being to solve the problem once and for all. Hindsight tells us containment worked at a much lower cost (even including Korea and Vietnam), but that is hindsight.

    What I would like to see is a national consensus that we will protect the US from more terrorist attacks. And on the surface I don’t doubt we have such a consensus. But when the MSM discloses secrets to one and all, when congressmen can publicly call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq and not be scorned for their lack of foresight on the consequences of that immediate withdrawal, when you have trouble distinguishing between a Bin Ladin tape and democratic talking points, the consensus is exposed as a fraud. Can you imagine the MSM exposing enigma or magic during WWII? Can you imagine how long a political career would have lasted if a politician cited casualties at Iwo Jima or the battle of the bulge and advocated we bring the boys home now before anymore are killed? Can you imagine Tojo or Hitler using the words of republican speaking points? You probably can’t because we had consensus that we needed to win that war. We had debate on the wisdom of working with the communist, investigations into war profiteering, disappointment on casualties taken, especially from military bungling. But the goal was united.

    The way out of the dilemma is clear to me, but obviously Drum is blinded by his own liberalism. Make 2008 a rematch of JFK and Nixon. The debate wasn’t on whether to fight the cold war, but rather which one of the two committed to the fight would do better at fighting the cold war. And the real kicker is the left would have to mean it and convince enough people that they meant it. If you took national security as a given, 2004 would have been a lot closer. But there are enough doubts about the democrats willingness to stay the course that Kerry lost ground in both the popular vote percentages and electoral college votes compared to Gore in 2000. And just as I wouldn’t doubt Lieberman’s intention to see Iraq through, I also wouldn’t doubt he would also try to advance some of those liberal ideals that Drum holds dear.

    As long as the left sees apologizing for being attacked as a viable option, rather than vigorously defeating any who have the temerity to attack us, I don’t see this dynamic changing for long. Even if the MSM and left get a president elected or gain a majority in congress, it would only be for one election cycle if their actions fitted their rhetoric today.

  4. lily says:

    I’m, a liberal but I agree with James. I think it is entirely possible to agree about a premise (like Iran has a terrible government and it would be better if they didn’t get nukes) while disagreeing about what to do about it.

  5. ken says:

    Isreal learned the hard way, with thirty years of bus stop, restaraunt and hotel bombings, that bulldozing innocent peoples homes and oppresing people does not lead to peace.

    The conseratives want America to become, like Isreal, a place full of fear and terror. It is the only way their message will convince enough people to give up their American freedoms and grant them more power.

    Of course the more power conservatives gain the less safe Americans will become.

  6. NJ voter says:

    With all due respect, there is no middle ground. You are either trusting the President to lead the nation, or you are with the terrorists. We’ve picked our quarterback, and we need to stick with him until the end of the season.

  7. RA says:

    Liberals believe they can solve all our problems by talking, signing worthless papers and ignoring anything bad that happens to us. They are delusional and very dangerous.

    Liberals pose a greater theat to our national security because if they control our foreign policy they amplify all the threats that exist and encourage other threats by being so weak.

    If America is to be safe, the destructive left must be defeated.

  8. Mark says:

    Regarding the post’s title – Liberals Hate Evil â?? But Hate Bush More – it reminds me of a poll that appeared on the Daily Kos that asked the diarists who they hated more: Bush or bin Laden. Of course the poll was taken down shortly after it was posted, but that it was even posted speaks volumes of the mindset of the left.

    By the way Ken, how did you vote in that poll? I’m guessing you selected Bush.

  9. Mark says:

    Admitting there is a problem out there eats away at the �US is the root of all evil� mindset. Without being able to blame all the world�s ills on Uncle Sam the left will have to support some of the policies now in effect. That is contrary to what they want to believe therefore they will not make the first step in admitting the rest of the world has problems too.

    It is disheartening that people in the US can say something like this – is this person serious? I’m not sure. If they are, it makes me pessimistic about the future of right/left relations.

  10. Mark says:

    Liberals pose a greater theat to our national security because if they control our foreign policy they amplify all the threats that exist…

    Would you agree that the current Republican administration is doing a pretty good job of playing up the threats of terrorism?

  11. anjin-san says:

    This is just a bait and switch to deflect attention from the fact that liberals are really pissed because:

    Bush did not finish the job in Afghanistan and now the Taliban is making a comeback.

    Bin Laden remains at large. He is free to plot against us and there has been no justice for 9-11 victims.

    The Bush admin has played politics with terrorism alerts.

    The war on Iraq has caused great suffering both for Americans and Iraqis. It has not enhanced our national security. We continue to pour billions into Iraq while cops and firemen in America still lack necessary disaster equipment to cope with a terrorist attack.

    Homeland security is a joke.

  12. G A PHILLPPS says:

    Liberals are evil!

  13. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Ken, how do you deal with people who do not think you have a right to exist? Israel has been kind. The U.S. would have wiped the Palastinians off the map. A sissy like you, Ken, would probably not know this, but if you are sure to be in a fist fight, when the other guy has his fists balled up, the time for talk is over. If you do not thing we are in a fight, study the history of Islam, particularly radical Islam.

  14. Christopher says:

    Liberals are wackos. Why would we expect any intelligent thoughts to come from them.

  15. Roger says:

    Unjust war, torture, demonizing those who speak truth, etc. What’s not to hate here? Hating Bush and hating evil are one and the same thing.

  16. Christopher says:

    Hey, Roger: a question for you. Just wondering what your answer would be.

    Would you rather:
    a) Jump out of the 100th floor window to the sidewalk below, or
    b) Be burned alive in a scathing hot jet fuel burning fire?