Over at The New York Times Magazine, Mark Danner presents a frightening analysis of the war on terror thus far.
Let me admit frankly that despite my leftism, when it comes to our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am something of an agnostic. Mideast politics has always perplexed and bothered me; I have never been quick to take a stand on much of anything going on over there. And although I am a reflexive pacifist, I've generally been quiet about the decision to send our soldiers to Iraq. I felt going into it -- to invoke Leonard Cohen for a moment -- that there already was a war; the damage done by our sanctions combined with the cruelties of the Baathists had been immense. An invasion, I reasoned, could hardly be worse.
I've also been influenced somewhat in recent years by the writings of pro-war centrists and lefties like Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Friedman, Dan Savage, and Paul Berman, as well as the very capable bloggers Michael Totten and Dean Esmay. Their narratives tell a different story of the Bush Administration. For all its flaws, they see it as conspicuously liberal in taking on the challenge of democratizing the Middle East, a region that for too long has been under the heel of autocrats, theocrats, oligarchs, and warlords. As someone strongly drawn to feminist and pro-labor thinking, I've been particularly moved by their and others' arguments that the US show solidarity with unions and women's rights groups in the region, most of whom are very much pro-intervention.
The pro-war liberals have something else going for them, too: strength of story. Like the neoconservatives, the story they're telling is a stirring one -- profound, challenging, even unsettling at times. Especially for a pseudo-intellectual news junkie like myself, their interpretation of current events can be compelling; certainly more so than most of the antiwar stories going around. Despite my many misgivings about the Iraq invasion, I've avoided actually protesting it because I've found the antiwar story -- one which frequently neglects to acknowledge just how bad the Hussein regime really was -- to be dangerously shallow. There are exceptions of course -- this old Washington Monthly article by Josh Marshall is one of them. But for the most part, while I've been a fellow-traveller with peacemongers before, lately I've been sitting it out.
Anyway, enter Mark Danner to cast a shadow upon my doubt. His article isn't exactly anti-war, although I have no doubt that it will be seized by that movement, and castigated by the prowar liberals and neocons. What it does offer, however, is offer the narrative that the anti-war crowd has long been missing. It describes, in chilling terms, how an invasion could be worse, has already made things worse - at least, for us. This is Cindy Sheehan for the insider set. I expect sparks to fly.
Read it, and tell me what you think. I'm not convinced, either way. If anything, I remain out of my depth on this issue.