06 May 2004

i told you so

timothy burke:

"After 9/11, I wrote about my disenchantment with one very particular and relatively small segment of the American left and its dead-end attachment to a particular and valorized vision of sovereignity and national self-determination, seeing those as the only moral aims of international politics. I criticized the need to see the United States as a uniquely demonic actor in world affairs. I still hold to that criticism, and I still think it addresses a real tendency. I’m sure I’ll say it again in the future. I do regret saying it as much or as prominently as I did. That was about my own journey, my own arc of intellectual travel from my origins, not about a national need to smack down a powerful ideology. The subject of my criticisms was not especially powerful or widespread in general, and is even less so now.

I regret it because I and others like me helped the blindly naive Wilsonian proponents of the Iraq War to caricature their critics as Chomskyites all. The Bush Administration had its fixation on WMD; Andrew Sullivan, James Lileks, Michael Totten and a supporting cast of thousands had a fixation with “the loony left”. That allowed them to conduct echo-chamber debates with straw men, in which the proponents of the war were defenders of liberty and democracy and opponents were in favor of oppression, torture and autocracy..."

i feel like i won something here. burke goes on to talk about "fundamental flaws" encompassing "the whole enterprise" of the iraq conquest. he talks about misstated and/or nonexistent principles on the part of the hawks in the administration. he talks about how structural issues and unprincipled acts doomed the adventure from the start. and he talks about people who have been saying things like that from the beginning. and then he includes himself in the "i told you so" crowd? i know burke has been against this war, in some fashion, from the beginning...but i remember debates, in person and web-mediated, when burke himself painted dissenters on these grounds as hate-america chomskyites. not just allowed others to do so. did it himself. his remarks about the protests marking the beginning of the war, in their context, were downright hurtful to those of us who were interested in the principle of the thing from the get-go.

however: i am happy to see him, and many increasingly impatient smart people, so angry about the administration's utter refusal of accountability.