Strange Inconsistencies, Left and Right

During spring of my senior year in high-school, the US and a few allies invaded Iraq in response to Saddam Hussein’s repeated defiance of the UN resolutions requiring him to submit his weapons programs to inspection (so you don’t have to do the math, I’m 26 now). Many leftists opposed the war at the time, while conservatives, influenced by neo-conservative ideals, largely supported the war. Eight years, billions of dollars and many thousands of military and civilian casualties later, we are still in Iraq, even though President Obama promised a withdrawal.

President Bush’s reasons for going into Iraq made sense to me at the time. In retrospect, and after ten years of observing the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, I’ve become more non-interventionist in my leanings. I don’t think we have the power to affect much democratic change from the outside, particularly in Islamic nations. I don’t think that there’s much we can do to make Islamic nations more friendly toward us; in fact, the more we intervene in their affairs, the more power the terrorists’ narrative of creeping American hegemony gains traction.

Turning the the present situation in Libya, I think it’s very strange that leftists are now supporting US-led military action in support of the rebels against Qaddafi (or however you spell his name). Conservatives, on the other hand, have tended to oppose this action in support of so-called "freedom fighters." The similarities between Iraq and Libya are very similar: a brutal dictator, tolerated for years by a powerless/hypocritical UN, oppressing his people, who now have a chance at liberation.

Leftists accused Bush of going to war for oil in Iraq; conservatives accuse Obama of political opportunism. Both presidents justified their actions on humanitarian grounds. Bush prosecuted the war without much support at all from congress; Obama has not obtained congressional approval according to the constitution.

The real difference between Iraq and Libya is this:
Bush (R)
Obama (D)

The whole thing is just fascinating. In most arenae of public discourse, thoughtful assessment of moral and social principles and ethical concerns has given way to "my guy, vs. the-other-guy-who-hates-America-and-wants-children-and-puppies-to-die."

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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9 Responses to Strange Inconsistencies, Left and Right

  1. Joshua Bean says:

    …Yes, very true, and no, very NOT true, but not because you’re wrong =)

    1) Definitely inconsistent from both sides. You expect the conservative to be non-interventionist, the liberal to be a pacifist, or at least to defer to international bodies without first dropping bombs and bypassing the US gov. entirely.

    2) Just like REAL conservatives opposed intervention Iraq, plenty of liberals are opposing operations in Libya, John Stewart, Amy Goodman, and Jim Wallis standing out as prominent lefty voices of opposition. Though Ed Schultz, who seems to me to be pretty left (pro-Labor left, not exactly Bernie Sanders left), defended Obama in Libya…

    So, yeah, some lefties are towing party lines, like the righties did during Iraq. But that’s only the REAL case if party lines get to determine what’s right and what’s left, which is sort of, kind of the case, but not really.

  2. Thomas says:

    What should really make us wonder (and I include myself, who was all for the Iraq war eight years ago, sigh) is that, in the midst of all these internal, people led, pro-democracy revolutions in the Middle East, would have Iraq followed suit? Imagine the amount of money and life that would have been saved if Iraq could have been allowed to arbitrate its own democracy.

  3. thinkhardthinkwell says:

    @Thomas: very true. If 50 years of failed post-colonial humanitarian efforts in Africa have taught us anything, it’s that it’s very difficult to force change from the top down–bottom-up institutions are the ones that last.

    @Bean: Yes, there are some consistent members of the right and the left, and some on each side who supported both wars and some who opposed both. The vast majority, though, is hypocritical, or trying frantically to justify an about-face.

    Sad times. This is why I don’t trust democracy anymore.

  4. Joshua Bean says:

    =) As much as I hate disputing words, it does depend on what you mean by “democracy,” right? Is it defined by what we’ve got, or is it something else? I mean I don’t trust what we’ve got, but I tend to call it what Ronny P calls it – Corporatism. Or what Chomsky calls it – rule by two branches of the Banking party.

  5. Joshua Bean says:

    And I know those are framed more in economic ideas rather than political ideologies, but that would be the nature of the beast, right? A government tied essentially to the corporate and banking sector, rather than to the majority (or public, or whatever) – i.e. “democracy”?

  6. thinkhardthinkwell says:

    Neither is preferable, IMHO. Wall Street is interested, the public is ill-informed and demonstrably economically biased. Whatever balance we have of those two, we’re screwed.

    • Joshua Bean says:

      Interesting article, and certainly a logical response to the premise that society is irrational. The questions I think I would pose to him are whether current institutional, systemic realities have promoted popular irrationality, and whether the ultimate ideal would be to “rescue” the public out of that irrationality. On the one hand, the response could be to tear down the oppressive institutions and heap responsibility (and ownership) on the public; on the other, the response could be to have the people in power be more… coercive? It seems like he’s advocating a benevolent despotism of the “rational class” on the assumption that the rational class will be benevolent… But I skimmed more than read, so I’m probably very wrong.

    • thinkhardthinkwell says:

      You should read his book–it’s very good. I can loan it to you, if you like.

  7. Joshua Bean says:

    Tribal warlords it is, then. Now I just have to think up a good name for my tribe…

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