[Marxism] Paul Berman on the War Democrats

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 15 07:43:27 MDT 2004

(Paul Berman is the author of "Terror and Liberalism." As a supporter of 
the Nicaraguan contras in the pages of the Village Voice in the 1980s 
and a major booster of NATO intervention in the Balkans, it should come 
as no surprise that he has the same position on Iraq as Christopher 
Hitchens. He parts company with Hitchens, however, in believing that 
John Kerry can be a far more effective war president.)

NY Times Op-Ed, April 15, 2004
Will the Opposition Lead?


Now we need allies — people who will actually do things, and not just 
offer benedictions from afar. Unfortunately — how many misfortunes can 
fall upon our heads at once? — finding allies may not be easy. Entire 
populations around the world feel a personal dislike for America's 
president, which makes it difficult for even the friendliest of 
political leaders in some countries to take pro-American positions.

But the bigger problem has to do with public understandings of the war. 
People around the world may not want to lift a finger in aid so long as 
the anti-totalitarian logic of the war remains invisible to them. 
President Bush ought to have cleared up this matter. He has, in fact, 
spoken about conspiracy theories and hatred (including at Tuesday's 
press conference). He has spoken about a new totalitarianism, and has 
even raised the notion of a war of ideas.

But Mr. Bush muddied these issues long ago by putting too much emphasis 
on weapons in Iraq (and his gleeful opponents have muddied things even 
further by pretending that weapons were the only reason for war). He 
muddied the issues again by doing relatively little to promote a war of 
ideas — quite as if his loftier comments were merely blather. His 
national security statement of 2002 flatly declared that totalitarianism 
no longer existed — a strange thing to say. War requires clarity. Here 
is incoherence.

Somebody else will have to straighten out these confusions, then. I 
think it will have to be the Democrats — at least those Democrats who 
accept the anti-totalitarian logic. And why shouldn't they show a bit of 
leadership? After the Spanish election last month, America needed to 
reach out to the new Spanish leader, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and 
his voters. Mr. Bush was in no position to do this, given that in 
November he had delivered a speech that was all-too characteristically 
insulting to the European left. Instead, it was Senator John Kerry who 
made a public appeal to Mr. Zapatero to keep troops in Iraq.

I wish the Democrats would follow Mr. Kerry's example and take it a step 
further by putting together a small contingent of Democrats with 
international reputations, a kind of shadow government — not to 
undermine American policy but to achieve what Mr. Bush seems unable to 
do. The Democrats ought to explain the dangers of modern totalitarianism 
and the goals of the war. They ought to make the call for patience and 
sacrifice that Mr. Bush has steadfastly avoided. And the Democratic 
contingent ought to go around the world making that case.

The Democrats ought to thank and congratulate the countries that have 
sent troops, and ought to remind the economically powerful Switzerlands 
of this world that they, too, have responsibilities. The Democrats ought 
to assure everyone that support for a successful outcome in Iraq does 
not have to mean support for George W. Bush. And how should the 
Democrats make these several arguments? They should speak about 
something more than the United Nations and stability in Iraq. They 
should talk about fascism. About death cults. About the experiences of 
the 20th century. About the need for democratic solidarity.

This is not a project for after the election — this is a project for 
right now. America needs allies. Today, and not just tomorrow. And 
America needs leaders. If the Bush administration cannot rally support 
around the world, let other people give it a try.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/15/opinion/15BERM.html


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