Not to be Confused with the 'I Can't Believe You're Surprised by This' Club

Salon’s Jordan Michael Smith takes the roll for the “I can’t believe I’m a hawk!” club — “They’re liberals who opposed Iraq from the start — but they’re on-board with Libya:”


History might not repeat itself, but it often performs impressive reenactments. So it’s tempting to see the liberal debate over the Libyan war as a mere replay of the argument over the Iraq War in 2003.

Once again, the liberal hawks — Democrats who support the frequent use of American military force abroad — favor intervention. They include Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former director of policy and planning at the State Department; Bill Clinton; the editors of the New Republic; and the folks at the Progressive Policy Institute. And once again, the anti-imperialists at the Nation, realists like Stephen Walt and David Rieff, and humanitarian-minded liberals like Dissent editor Michael Walzer are hoisting antiwar flags.

But the similarities between the two debates are mainly superficial. The cast of characters has changed, for one thing, and many seem to have reconsidered their philosophies in the interceding years.

Some who supported the Iraq war dissent from the Obama’s administration maneuvers into Libya. The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, Time’s Joe Klein, the young group of bloggers known as the “Juicebox Mafia,” and the counterinsurgency fetishists at the Center for a New American Security have all been skeptical or outright hostile to American participation in Libya. Whether because of concerns of imperial overstretch, fears of another long-term occupation, or simple post-Iraq humility, these one-time liberal hawks have traded in their wings.

What’s more surprising, though, is that the ranks of liberals who favor the Libyan intervention contain some of the earliest and most vocal critics of the Iraq War.


Why on earth should that be surprising?

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(Found via Orrin Judd, who writes, “If Mr. Obama were to announce today that he were switching to the GOP they’d all bail on the Libyan people.”)


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