Michael Totten

A Reply to Matthew Yglesias

Matt Yglesias hopes we liberal and ex-liberal hawks don’t defect from the Democratic Party.

Take a deep breath. Look in the mirror. Take another deep breath. Look at some photos of your liberal friends and family. Ask yourself: Do you really believe that they opposed the Iraq War because they wanted Saddam Hussein to stay in power; do you really think they don’t care if your hometown gets destroyed by terrorists?

I think Matt confuses our position with that of Ann Coulter. Of course I don’t think my liberal friends and family don’t care if Portland gets destroyed by a nuclear weapon. Nor do I think any liberal opposed regime-change in Iraq because they have warm feelings for Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party.
That said, opponents of the war (both left-wing and right-wing) did prefer a course of action that would have left Saddam in power. They did this despite the fact that they despised his regime. They didn’t like Saddam. (The ANSWER goons are another matter.) I know that. Every reasonable person knows that.
But they still would have left him in power. There is no getting around it. Anyone who opposed his removal supported leaving him in place. It doesn’t matter why they wanted to leave him alone or whether or not they thought a perfect planet should include him. What matters in the real world is that he would still be in power if the anti-warriors had their way. The refusal of war opponents to accept responsibility for the consequences of their position is the reason we hawks keep banging on about it.
I don’t need to look at photos of my anti-war friends to know they aren’t Baath Party supporters. The trouble is they are softer on fascism than I am. That’s where we differ. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them or don’t understand where they’re coming from.

Try reading some actual policy statements put out by Democratic foreign-policy hands, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and members of the Armed Services Committee. Ask yourself: Do the views expressed therein really sound like the characterizations of them you’ve read on NRO and the hawk blogs?

Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. It depends on the policy statement and it depends on the critic. And it cuts both ways. I also read the work of the Neoconservatives. Their views are also mischaracterized by their more strident opponents.

Look again in the mirror, focusing this time on your hairline and that little space next to your eyes that gets wrinkly when you squint. There’s no easy way to say this, but . . . you’re getting old. I am too. It’s scary, it happens to us all. Ask yourself: Has the left really changed, or am I just that cliché guy who stopped really caring about the poor as I aged?

This has nothing to do with anything. Moving along now.

Take a look at the transcript of the latest White House press conference. Find some other examples where the president had to respond on-the-fly to questions. Ask yourself: Given the perilous international situation, am I really comfortable with the fact that a total moron is president of the United States.

I wouldn’t call the man a total moron, though I once did. Sure he makes embarassing gaffes in public. I have a whole 365-day calendar full of them, with a new one for each day. Still, calling him a total moron is a mistake, if for no other reason than that some of his critics are even bigger morons. (Note: I said “some.”) Besides, what will it say about the Democrats if they can’t beat a total moron in the election next year? Don’t underestimate your opponent.

Read this post again. Consider the condescending tone, the cheap psychoanalysis, the refusal to confront your actual arguments. Ask yourself: Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been doing all this time?

Some people think my writing is condescending, others don’t. I suppose it depends on how far apart their views are from mine. I try to reserve my harshest rhetorical broadsides for people with extreme opinions, and I try to be polite to people with more moderate views whether I agree with them or not. I don’t think that’s a terrible standard to try to follow. I don’t want to drop the H-bomb on every person who doesn’t see the world my way, but nor do I wish to become David Broder. (No offense to Mr. Broder. We are just different people.)
Anyway, Matt, you know better than to say that every liberal hawk is a condescending psychoanalyzer. You are, or were, a liberal hawk yourself.
I haven’t yet decided if I will join the defectors or not. If I do, it will only be halfway. I have already decided to vote for a Democratic Congress next year. My presidential vote is undecided. It depends on the nominee.
If the Democrats lose my vote it will because of a disagreement about principle and policy, not because I think anti-war liberals are terror-supporting boogeymen. Matt, just remember the anti-war leftists at Harvard who gave you hell for supporting regime-change in Afghanistan. Remember how they sounded to you. That’s exactly how the Democratic Party sounds to me now. I may not stand with the Democrats for the same reason you didn’t stand with the leftists. You know how it is. So don’t pretend that you don’t.
UPDATE: Armed Liberal also has a response.
UPDATE: Liberal hawk Sean LaFreniere answers Matt, too.