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Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 16:21:10 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: War Dissent? Dont Look on the (Hawkish) Left
War Dissent? Don't Look on the (Hawkish) Left
by Dan Balz Washington Post Service
Tuesday, November 27, 2001
WASHINGTON President George W. Bush has called the battle against terrorism
a war like no other, and the same could be said of domestic dissent. In
this conflict, the right has vigorously challenged the administration's
military policies while the left has been quiescent.
That could change in the weeks ahead as the debate moves from retaliation
against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Qaida terrorist network
of Osama bin Laden to more controversial questions of whether to carry the
fight to Iraq and beyond. But up to now, the left has been satisfied to
question Mr. Bush's moves to fight terrorism at home, leaving it to
conservatives to question how the military campaign has been waged.
Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic
research group, said it was "astonishing how little anti-war agitation
there has been on the left" in America. Abroad, the left has pilloried Mr.
Bush's policies, but the attacks of Sept. 11, which left more than 3,800
people dead, produced a consensus across the political spectrum in the
"It's hard to dissent from a policy of retaliation when you've obviously
been attacked," Mr. Marshall said. "Typically, the friction on the left has
arisen when the U.S. has intervened in a foreign conflict. That's not the
case here." On newspaper op-ed pages and in the columns of opinion
magazines, conservatives have challenged the administration over its
initial bombing strategy, questioned the decision not to insert more troops
on the ground and prodded Mr. Bush not to shrink from taking the war to
Iraq in phase two. When Vice President Dick Cheney recently rebuked the
administration's critics, he was pointing to the right, not the left.
In contrast, there has been no anti-war movement of note. Campuses have
not erupted with protests, and many on the left who have opposed U.S.
intervention in the past have embraced military action against Mr. bin
Laden and the Taliban.
"The war in Afghanistan against apocalyptic terrorism qualifies in my
understanding as the first truly just war since World War II," Richard
Falk, emeritus professor at Princeton and long a dissenter against the use
of U.S. military power in regional conflicts, wrote in a recent issue of
the Nation magazine.
Mr. Bush has enjoyed this kind of support in part because he has embraced
policies that progressives say are compatible with values they have long
endorsed. Harold Meyerson, executive editor of the American Prospect, a
left-of-center magazine, called the administration's war strategy "a case
where a liberal value became one of the strategic guides to the conduct of
the war." That means a strategy designed to keep civilian casualties and
other collateral damage to a minimum, that gave a high priority to
humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan and that played to
feminists by focusing criticism on the Taliban's policy of oppressing women.
Potential critics on the left also have been encouraged by what they see as
Mr. Bush's embrace of the cautionary advice of Secretary of State Colin
Powell, who advocated diplomacy and coalition-building, over the more
hawkish instincts of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and his
supporters outside the administration. "He went with the Powell position
against the holy warriors," Robert Borosage of the liberal Campaign for
America's Future said, referring to hard-liners inside the administration
and outside. "So a huge portion of the progressive side of politics
That is exactly what has rankled those on the right. "A lot of
conservatives were worried in the first few weeks of the war that some of
the pathologies that seemed to mark former President Bill Clinton's
military interventions were resurfacing in this administration," said Gary
Schmitt, executive director of the Project for a New American Century.
Those fears led to critical columns in newspapers. All expressed fears that
Mr. Bush was more concerned about keeping his disparate coalition pacified
than about waging war vigorously and expansively.
But to some of Mr. Bush's most conservative critics, the issue is not just
dislodging the Taliban and uprooting Mr. bin Laden's network; it is the
shape of the world in the years ahead.
William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and co-author of a number of
articles challenging the administration's war policies, said that, for many
Americans, Sept. 11 represents "a challenge we need to beat back
competently," but not much more than that.
"For us, more is at stake," he said. "If this war is fought right, the
benefits will be huge, but if it's fought wrong, the costs will be huge. If
you think what's at stake is the shape of the world order, if you think
about threats of weapons of mass destruction in the future," then "you're
likely to be engaged in how this war ought to be fought." The flash point
in the debate is Iraq and whether Washington decides that its war against
terrorism requires a new effort to drive President Saddam Hussein from
power and wipe out his capability to develop weapons of mass destruction.
"Whether we take on Iraq has huge implications for the U.S. role in the
world, and fundamentally, it's whether we're going to take it upon
ourselves to shape a new world order," Mr. Kristol said.
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