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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Why the Left Ought to Support (An Aspect of) Bush's Foreign Policy

I know some readers of this blog tend to be from the Left. Let me get my worry off my chest.  One of the pathetic sights of the last few years has been the reluctance of the Left, here and in Europe, to denounce and reject Islamofascism. Yes, because, in spite of all the PC talk about Islam as a religion of peace, the enemy we are facing is Islamofascism (I hasten to say that not all Muslims are fascists). One of the great traditions of the Left has been its struggle against all forms of totalitarianism, especially of the fascist kind. Yet the Left has, to my knowledge, refused to endorse the message of the President's second inaugural address, when he promised to fight tyranny in the world. Why?  Because the Left is partisan and hypocritical. The current ethos of the Left is to support any regime, even fascist ones, as long as they are targeted by a U.S. Republican administration. For the Left to take to the streets to support Saddam Hussein , a genocidal monster, is the ultimate shame for a political movement that, while slow to criticize Communism in the past, at least bravely fought fascist forms of oppression.  The movement that took to the streets in 2003 was not to protest the horrendous dictatorship in Iraq, but to protest the intervention to overthrow the horrendous dictatorship. Shame on the Left. I think the Left has to reconstitute itself and recover the great imagination about equality and freedom, and stop obsessing about G.W.B. and conservatives. As far as I'm concerned, the Left today is a reactionary political movement. It not only supports Islamofascism. It also distrusts free markets, the one hope of reducing world poverty. Once you peel off all the layers of the onion, there's nothing left.

Posted by fteson on November 24, 2005 at 10:56 AM in Fernando Teson | Permalink


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"the fierce and uncompromising ooposition to this war by liberals is inconsistent with many of their known and expressed liberal beliefs."

If the "liberal beliefs" you speak of are opposition to terrorism and totalitarianism, then I, along with millions of other Americans, am wholeheartedly liberal.

However, I disagree that the "fierce" and "uncompromising" opposition to the "war" is inconsistent with the aforementioned belief.

I do not believe that the best way to declare war on terrorism was to declare war on Iraq, ergo invade and occupy it acting on faulty intelligence and without without sufficient planning or preparation.

Even if I also believed (though it hasn't yet been proven) that the world will be better off without Saddam Hussein, I don't see how this would be any more inconsistent than, say, professing a love for reeses pieces but objecting if you were to steal them for me.

Now that we are already committed to Iraq, I would still evaluate any future strategy in light of what would best curb international terrorism and is therefore would be (I believe) best for our national interest. This doesn't mean I advocate an immediate withdrawal, but wouldn't rule that out merely because the Adminstration feels it would lose face either.

In any case, I think you are confusing opposition to the inaccuracy of the initial reasons the U.S. gave to invade Iraq and the many instances of incompetence with which it has conducted its activities with opposition to the war on terrorism and opposition to totalitarianism, fundamental ideals that most liberals, among other sects, whole-heartedly support but feel are being debased by the actions of the Bush Admin.

Posted by: agmnim | Nov 29, 2005 7:04:44 PM

I didn't mean to insult anyone. I would really hope that liberals would re-examine their opposition to the war and, yes, give a fair hearing to the possibility that this effort may help Iraq, the U.S., the Middle East, and the world. Let us not talk about motivation. I do believe that the fierce and uncompromising ooposition to this war by liberals is inconsistent with many of their known and expressed liberal beliefs.

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 29, 2005 2:02:46 PM


It is unfortunate that you have concluded this debate by deciding that, gosh, it turns out after all that people who disagree with you have not been arguing in good faith (which is what I take "not giving a fair hearing" to mean).

It is especially unfortunate that you have taken this position despite repeated urgings by me and others to focus not on your impressions of the motivations of those that disagree with you, but instead the actual evidence that those who disagree with you rely on in forming their opinions. In the case of Iraq, that would mean, as I will now say for the final time, you addressing the evidence that what we are doing may well make things worse for Iraq, the region, and the U.S. Fair enough if you consider that evidence and show that ultimately you are more convinced by contrary evidence, but, I must say, not fair or convincing at all to simply ignore it and try to wish it away by attributing bad motivations to people that point it out to you. I could say the same thing about your latest line that anybody that disagrees with you about tax policy must be some combination of ignorant or in bad faith, but I don't see the point.

And finally, spare me the not-so-backhanded insult and faux-martyr routine of saying that those that disagree with you do so because they've adopted "accomodating" or "safe" views. I -- and other liberals I know -- have held and argued their views in times and places where it was much more threatening to them than being pro-war on some law prof. blog today is to you.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Nov 29, 2005 1:51:05 PM

Wrong. I change my views in response to argument more often than most people I know. I'm interested in the truth, not on blasting particular politicians or getting invited to the right groups and dinner parties. If I weren't intersted in the truth, perhaps I would advance more popular or accomodating ideas, perhaps safe left-of-center ones, like yours...
Funny, you use the word "ideology". "Ideology" is the name we give to the ideas of those with whom we disagree. I don't have an ideology, I have ideas --bad perhaps, but ideas. Also, I don't have a firm view on taxes, I just pointed out that merely saying "they are for the rich" is arguing in bad faith, and you know it. And on Iraq, I should say that, in spite of your efforts and those of others, nothing I've read here has convinced me that the liberal left has given a fair hearing to the argument that deposing Saddam Hussein was a victory for human rights. The evidence to the contrary is too strong.
I'll read the piece you recommend, thanks.

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 29, 2005 11:05:18 AM

(typo: "have the underlying views held" should be "hear challenges to the underlying views."

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Nov 29, 2005 10:26:52 AM

Fernando, you seem to be at the mercy of an ideology which does not permit you to be wrong because it automatically defines anyone who disagrees with you as acting in bad faith. You assume that nobody in good faith could genuinely believe, e.g., that tax cuts are for the rich or the war on Iraq unjustified. Thus, anyone who factually disagrees with you is by definition acting in bad faith. This relieves you of the responsibility to have the underlying views held, because any challenge to the underlying views itself constitutes a presumptively and irrebutably bad faith change of subject in an attempt to conceal the bad faith of the challenger.


Since you're handing out reading suggestions, here's one. Leszek Kolakowsik's* essay, "Why an Ideology is Always Right," which is reprinted in his Modernity on Endless Trial. If you posess any intellectual honesty, you'll recognize your style of argumentation in his diagnosis.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Nov 29, 2005 10:24:20 AM

Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my views.
More comment would mean repeating myself, but I'll say this, Joseph: I didn't expect to convince anyone that they acted reprehensibly. That would mean expecting people to atone and be ashamed, etc., which is unrealistic. Many have tried to call others on double standards, etc., in political debate, and I know of no instances, on the right or the left, where the targets of those criticisms conceded anything. Someone who (for example) really dislikes this President would never admit that they were saying unprincipled things on Iraq or anything else. There are many other examples. Take tax cuts. Critics of this Administration keep repeating that those cuts are "for the rich", but as we all know, tax policy is extremely complex, and I would have liked to hear an honest and reasoned explanation of why lower taxes would not have stimulated the economy and thus created jobs, etc, which is what any 101 Economics text will tell you. Yet if you call critics on on that, they will never concede that they were just posturing.
Now for shameless self-promotion: to see a fully reasoned philosophical justification of the war in Iraq, see my piece in Ethics and Int'l Affairs, http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/viewMedia.php/prmID/5190. For a full study of posturing, rational ignorance, and discourse failure in political debate, see my book Rational Coice and Democratic Deliberation [with Guido Pincione](Cambridge University Press, forthcoming June 2006.)

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 29, 2005 10:04:16 AM


Much of your argument sounds like this: a war is justified (to the point where it is "reprehensible" to criticize it) if the opponent is a truly bad guy/sytem/government. And apparently, that's true entirely independent of any rationale judgment that the war will have great costs or even be counterproductive. By that logic, it would follow that we should have unilaterally and pre-emptively attacked the Soviet Union and China militarily during the cold war, and should be attacking North Korea and any other number of miserable dictatorships right now.

Again, I think your real argument is not that, but rather that you believe that our intervention in Iraq will not be counterproductive or harmful on the whole. So again, maybe you should focus your efforts on convincing critics that -- despite some evidence that you still haven't addressed to the contrary -- there really will be a relatively happy ending. Because frankly, I don't think you've been convincing on the "you're reprehensible" point.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Nov 29, 2005 9:44:48 AM

Oh, for heaven's sake Fernando. Yes, at some point, German insurgents would have had a moral (not legal: we're not talking about legalities here) right to rebel against the Allies who occupied their territory. Not in order to reestablish the Nazi government or any fascist government at all, but simply to reestablish their right to self-determination! After all, lets not forget that one of the Allies that occupied Germany was the Soviet Union, and they kept hold of their occupied territory for half a century.

Would you claim that a German insurgency against Soviet occupation in 1950, or 1960, or 1970, would be illegitimate because the Soviets liberated them from Hitler? Of course not! The Soviets were oppressing them too! The mere fact that A liberates B from C does not divest B of the right to subsequently liberate themselves from A! Nor -- and here is where I think your confusion enters -- does it lead to to the immediate assumption that the point of B's subsequent rebellion against A is to reinstall C or someone worse in power. Just as an East German rebellion in 1950 wouldn't necessarily have been an attempt to reinstall the Nazis, so an Iraqi rebellion isn't necessarily an attempt to reinstall Saddam or install Osama.

By the same token, at some point, the people of Iraq have a natural right to throw the foreign troops out of their damn country -- no matter how noble the alleged motives for the initial entry are. If we become the oppressors, they have a right to throw us out. I'm not sure whether we've become the oppressors yet, but I think that, too, reduces to the factual question of how much harm we've caused. If we've caused enough harm to render our continued occupation an act of oppression, then yes, that has moral implications both for our conduct and for the morality of resistance to that conduct.

(To forestall any stupidity here: no, this does not mean I hate our troops. I don't want our soldiers to die. However, I also am not willing to declare as a moral principle that my personal desire for the safety of our soldiers divests the people whose country said soldiers are occupying of their right to revolution.)

As for your "bet," I completely disagree. When Bill Clinton was in office, the left took umbrage at any number of his proposals. He didn't do too much in the quagmire department! While he did invade Hati and Somalia and Bosnia, none of those lasted multiple years, threw entire regions into chaos, cost thousands of U.S. lives and many thousands of foreign lives, or featured torture. MOREOVER (to anticipate your objection that the left protested Bush's war before any of these things happened), it was not reasonable to anticipate any of those things happening: neither Hati nor Somalia nor Bosnia was a major military undertaking. Indeed, they might be best compared to the Bush intervention in Afghanistan, which received a lot LESS protest, because it was more visibly justified. Also, I do recall some outrage when Clinton launched missiles at all and sundry), and there were many other policies (mostly relating to globalization) which drew major protests. You simply have no evidence for the proposition that the left protests Bush misbehavior any more than we would protest the same misbehavior from a Democrat.

Also, in regard to your most recent point: that again assumes that the enemy we're fighting now is the same one that we overthrew a few months ago.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Nov 28, 2005 10:48:24 PM

One more thing. It seems to me that the reason many people oppose the war is because it is going badly. But if the war is just, if ousting Saddam was the right thing to do, then the determination and ferocity of the enemy is a reason to fight more, not less. A war against an evil enemy does not cease to be justified simply because the evil enemy is fighting more fiercely than anticipated. It is not right to support a war when it is cheap to do so, and then oppose it when it becomes costly. Surely the 1944 German counter-offensive in Les Ardennes raised the costs of the war, but that was more of a reason to seek victory. The same is true today in Iraq.

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 28, 2005 10:36:08 PM

A reading suggestion:


Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 28, 2005 9:10:12 PM

I will happily -- not even grudgingly -- say that "we and every democrat in the world (Iraqis first) will gain if the insurgency is defeated" IF I can add the clause, "and a relatively stable, mostly secular democracy is established." It's the probability of that part occurring that we should be discussing, instead of the motivations of the left or right.

Along those lines, I would have found your point about Bosnia more convincing if you had noted that much of the right opposed Clinton's acts there -- seemingly mostly because it was Clinton doing them. And by "the right" I mean fairly mainstream Republicans, not just Rush Limbaugh, et al. To the extent there is a "partisanship" problem, it certainly isn't unique to the left.

As to people that marched while war was looming, I agree with Adil Hague that folks could reasonably have made predictions even then that things would go badly (and indeed, some, albeit not all, of the negative predictions made by the left have turned out to be much more accurate than predictions made by the Bush administration).

Also, I cited earlier a separate ground for opposing the war: opposition in principle to invading a country practically unilaterally (no, I haven't forgotten Poland), when that country hadn't attacked us and did not pose any significant threat to us. Again, this war was sold to the American people primarily on the grounds of some kind of imminent threat (quotes provided on request) that simply didn't exist -- a fact the anti-war left was correct about.

Finally, in an earlier post I wrote "personal system" when I meant "personnel system" -- I would love to claim I was attempting a clever jibe about cronyism, but in fact I just typed the wrong word.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Nov 28, 2005 5:12:58 PM

Adil: JK is an interesting case. He did say that the world is better without Saddam. He also said that the war had been a huge mistake. But then he added that we had to stay in Iraq. From a purely political-electoral point of view, he tried to have it both ways. I should say that I liked him quite a bit in a number of ways. The problem is that he forgot an essential truth about war: in order to win a war, you must BELIEVE in the justice of the cause. You cannot say "the war was a huge mistake, but don't worry, I'll win it." Rightly or wrongly, the public was not persuaded that he had the heart to stay the course in Iraq. In my view (but what do I know) this indecisiviness, and not the inflated issue of "moral values", cost him the election.
Does he represent the Left I'm talking about? Not sure, but I doubt it. In fact, I find many Democratic members of Congress (as opposed to activists and academics, for example) have more flexible views, closer to mine. The reason, of course, is that all politicians need to win elections, and they know that the public does not share the intelligentsia's visceral hostility for Bush. Be that as it may, my view on these matters does not depend on public opinion; not when it supported the war, not now when it opposes it.

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 28, 2005 4:49:29 PM

I wrote my last comment before Prof. Teson's latest post appeared on my screen. Why is it illegitimate to oppose the war, from the beginning, based on a prediction of how events will play out? I'm confused by the "wait and see" approach. Bush has said at times that history will judge the Iraq war. Perhaps that's so, but that doesn't seem like much of a decision procedure to me.

Posted by: Adil Haque | Nov 28, 2005 4:38:46 PM

Prof. Teson: John Kerry said during the presidential debates that the world is better off with Hussein out of power. Is that statement not enough or is Kerry not part of The Left?

Posted by: Adil Haque | Nov 28, 2005 4:31:55 PM

Thank you Slater and Gowder for your comments.
1) Gowder first. I can see now that many people in the Left, if your post is representative, believe that the insurgents may be right. I'm glad that has been openly admitted. Such position is honest, and the natural corollary is to urge immediate withdrawal. However, I think it is seriously wrong, morally wrong. We are not the imperialistic occupier. We liberated Iraq, and we're trying to help the Iraqis, the vast majority of them, to build a reasonably decent society. Therefore (as I indicated before) the insurgency is a criminal enterprise. It is morally equivalent to Germans fighting the Allied occupation at the end of WWII. So, true, we have a factual disagreemt (I am more optimistic about outcomes), but we also have a moral disagreement (I believe the insurgents are fighting an unjust war, you believe they may be justified).
And I don't think my accusation of "if Bush does it, it has to be wrong" is a strawman. I would bet a year's salary that, on exactly the same facts, the Left would have been cheering the overthrow of Saddam if it had been accomplished by a liberal-democratic President (On this and similar issues of the Left and Iraq, I recommend A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE: HUMANITARIAN ARGUMENTS FOR WAR IN IRAQ, T. Cushman ed., Univ California Press, 2005) I have ample evidence of this double standard from the Left's sympathetic view of past interventions by Bill Clinton (which I supported)
2) To Slater: I don't find reprehensible people who oppose the war now on the sincere belief that it is, or will be, counterproductive. I do found reprehensible that the Left NEVER supported the war; indeed, it took massively to the streets, here and in Europe, EVEN BEFORE they had any evidence that things would not go as well as expected on the ground. Again, it would be nice to hear someone from the liberal left say, even grudgingly, that we and every democrat in the world (Iraqis first) will gain if the insurgency is defeated. Some of my frustration comes form contemplating a good part of our intelligentsia sitting back and expecting (hoping?) this President will be defeated in the Middle East, as if they had no stake in it.

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 28, 2005 4:31:06 PM

A few general comments on this thread, now that I'm back in front of my array of technology post-vacation.

1. Teson's argument confuses normative disagreement with empirical disagreement. Yes, Saddam was a bastard. Perhaps the world will be a better place as a result of the invasion even when the collateral consequences (civilian deaths, regional instability, creation of more terrorists, destruction of priceless cultural resources, precedent-setting for preemptive war, torture, etc. etc. etc.) are taken into account. Perhaps it won't. However, this is fundamentally a factual question, in that we can project various nasty consequences to the war, and, at a certain level of predicted nastiness, the war becomes worse than leaving Saddam in power. There is a qualitative difference between this factual-prediction based anti-war position ("even though Saddam was evil, the invasion will ultimately cause more evil than was remedied by his removal") and the position that Teso condemns (apparently, a blind objection to deposing Saddam simply because Bush wanted to do so). My personal objection to the war, and I think the objection of many fellow leftists, is based on a factual prediction of the consequences, and not on Teso's strawman "Bush did it so it's evil."

This is the crux, I think, of Slater's point. Teson answers it by saying that "the jury is still out" on the factual question of the consequences. Well, isn't that the point? Are liberals acting in bad faith just because we believe that the jury is likely to come out a different way on that factual question than Teso does?

2. Teson's argument confuses "the insurgency" with "islamofascism." While Saddam may have represented islamofascism (which is not true, since his dictatorship was largely secular -- he represented garden variety tyranny), and while Osama certainly does represent islamofascism, this does not defeat the right of the non-islamofascist citizens of iraq, who have had to watch pictures of their fellow citizens being tortured, to attempt to wage a guerrilla war against their invader. To the extent that the insurgents do so in aid of supporting Osama and his buddies and instituting islamofascism, of course, we're right to be fighting it. However, to the extent that the insurgents simply object to being occupied by foreign troops, their position does not seem to be immediately subject to condemnation. Again, this is a factual question. Are they fighting for islamofascism, or are they fighting for not having soldiers who feel free to raid their homes, torture their countrymen, blow up their buildings, appropriate and sell off their national resources (cough... cough... oil), etc.? We don't know. However, again, Teson chooses a strawman by imputing his apparent belief that the insurgents are fighting for islamofascism to the left. The left could believe, in perfect good faith, that the insurgents are fighting for non-islamofascist freedom.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Nov 28, 2005 3:37:50 PM

I appreciate the temperate response. My reply to your point is that I don't see how the left, right, or center can celebrate the ouster of Hussein independent of weighing the consequences of that ouster for the future of Iraq, the region, and America's ability to counter Islamofacism. I agree that the jury is still out, but there are very worrying signs that this war will be/has already been very harmful to all those interests.

I find it hard to believe that you really find it "reprehensible" to oppose the war if the opponent (a) truly thinks that, on the whole, the war will make things worse and harm our own interests, and/or (b) is genuinely troubled by a "pre-emptive" war sold on claims that a country posed a much greater threat to the U.S. than it actually did.

Rather, I would hope that your position is based more on your optimism about what the final result will be. That would mean we should be debating facts, theories, and predictions on that issue. As a liberal, I would be delighted if democracy started to break out all over the mideast. But I don't think that's the way it's heading. And my arguably partisan belief that the Bush administration fundamentally doesn't know what it's doing in Iraq is not my only cause for concern on that score.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Nov 28, 2005 2:44:26 PM

Two simple points in reply to J. Slater's good comment. First, whether or not the U.S. tactics are counterproductive for Iraq, the region, and the world is yet to be seen. The jury is till out on that. Second, what are the "tactics"? What the administration has done since ousting Saddam? My point is that ousting him was the right thing to do, even if the subsequent tactics were bad, and that it is reprehensible for the liberal left not to say so.

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 28, 2005 11:29:13 AM

Let's dispose of the preliminaries. I despise Islamofacism and oppose its spread (and I'm perfectly comfortable using that term). Theocracy is indeed entirely contrary to liberal and left values (although "the left," seems to have shrunk to more or less "ANSWER and Noam Chomsky" in later posts, and I'm less confident about their values). I also think Saddam was a brutal thug. And I'm happy to agree with you when you say, "encouraging liberal reforms in Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Ayria, China, etc., is a good thing."

But I, like pretty much everyone (and certainly everyone significant in the American liberal-left) who opposes the war believe that Bush's tactics are counterproductive in that effort. That's the obvious answer to the question posed. Perhaps Bush's critics are wrong and in the long run this will all bring peace, democracy and liberal reform to the Middle East. But there is significant evidence against that, evidence that this war will have long as well as short term harmful effects on the region and on U.S. national interests -- some of this evidence has been cited/linked to above, just in terms of what will happen in Iraq. More could be provided (arguments that the war has weakened our army, gravely damaged crucial alliances, distracted from rebuilding Afghanistan, etc.).

Again, the evidence could be fairly debated. But Fernando Teson's failure to address this evidence and argument, and instead his insistence that "the left" is simply naive, wrong, or arguing in bad faith makes this thread much less informative than it could be.

My contribution on the substance is this. Teson might productively compare the anti-war movement now to anti-war movements in past U.S. wars. In most-all previous wars (the first Gulf War might be an exception), there were far more "anti-war" types actually rooting for the "other side." The left was explicitly pro-Sandinista; a not-insignificant chunk of the peace movement during the Viet Nam war was chanting Ho Chi Mihn's name approvingly at marches -- note that you don't see even the most extreme folks chanting the name of Saddam or OBL at American anti-war rallies these days. Heck, a not insignificant chunk of the American right was explicitly pro-fascist in the lead up to and even during WWII. Indeed, part of the reason that there is no major peace/anti-war movement as there was in Vietnam is the realization on the part of the overwhelming majority of the left that the opposition really are Bad Guys. But again, that does not mean accepting the Bush adminstration's plan for dealing with them, which many on the right have admitted has been deeply flawed.

Also, this sort of thing is becoming tired. As more of the justifications for the war and arguments about how it would go turn out to be some combination of wrong, naive, and/or made in bad faith for partisan purposes (lengthy albeit obvious list available on request), the dwindling number of Bush supporters seem to know only one play -- attack critics of the administration. Of course, reality no longer allows the "do you want to see a mushroom cloud in Chicago?" jabs we used to hear, and folks like Murtha make it hard to equate opposition to the war with something along the scale of underming the war effort to treason.

Finally, since the original post accused the left of being "partisan" about the war (along with being "pathetic," "hypocritical," etc.), I would submit that the right made not just this war but the whole post- 9/11 security issue highly partisan long before anyone on the left did. Remember the Bush administration holding up the creation of the Department of Homeland Security for months just so it could get the two-fer of (i) denying collective bargaining rights to DHS employees and (ii) being able to use opposition to this move as un-patriotic in the mid-term elections? The administration got to bust unions, run ads comparing Max Clelland to Osama and Saddam, and the country got the wonderful personal system at DHS that, among other things, produced Michael Brown's FEMA.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Nov 28, 2005 11:18:09 AM

Professor Teson, I once again urge you to read some of the work that Peter Galbraith has done in the New York Review of Books on the subject of Iraq. Sadly, his original column that I referenced in my earlier post is no longer available without paying a fee, ( http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=17103 ) but these two articles are:



Posted by: Bart Motes | Nov 27, 2005 9:19:01 PM

I'm sorry, but you are completely wrong. This has nothing to do with "Lefties." Removing Saddam, with no plan on what to do with the country afterward, no plan for providing the people with police protection, infrastructure, electricity, clean water, or anything is lunacy. Saddam was awful, yes. He also had ensured that there were NO terrorists in that country. He ran a police state - there were no terrorist camps or weapons. There sure are now, along with rampant violence, civil war, and chaos. He was fundamentally secular - not Islamofascist, by the way. That's sure not the case in Iraq now. And why choose to remove Saddam? What about Darfur???, Iran, Korea, Haiti, etc., etc., etc???

Posted by: jane | Nov 27, 2005 7:58:08 PM

One of the pathetic sights of the last few years has been the reluctance of the Left, here and in Europe, to denounce and reject Islamofascism.

That's funny. I was just thinking that one of the pathetic sights of the last few years has been the eagerness of the Right, here and in Europe, to worship Satan and to do his demonic bidding. I guess we all have our foibles.

Posted by: alkali | Nov 27, 2005 2:07:06 PM

Professor Teson, you don't applaud someone for getting rid of a bad situation when, through willful ignorance, poor leadership or uninformed arrogance, they make it worse.

Posted by: a-train | Nov 26, 2005 10:44:53 PM

The above commentors have all made strong critiques of Tenson's post. However, the sincere are distinguished from moral cowards by action. What I find most reprehensible about screeds such as the one above is that the authors advocate for someone else to do the fighting. They claim the moral clarity to make their assertions yet very few ever leave the comfort of their lives to make the very sacrifice for which they advocate.

How ironic it is then that after the last accusation is written, Tenson is in the same position as those he crticizes....on his butt!

Posted by: lawstudent05 | Nov 26, 2005 7:40:19 PM

Only three points in response to Paul Ruchira's thoughtful comment.
1) Saying that things have gone "abysmally wrong" in Iraq is unfair. There is much progress that, unfortunately, is underreported, and even if reported, is systematically ignored by our intelligentsia. At the very least, the jury is still out on whether (i) Iraq's democracy will succeed; and (ii) the Middle East, partly as result of the U.S. effort, will also see liberal reforms.
2) Still no response to my questions. (i)Why aren't critics saying that they WANT a victory in Iraq and calling the insurgency a criminal enterprise? (ii) why hasn't the operation in Afghanistant been dubbed "liberation of women"? Isn't that a (justified) liberal-leftist cause? It is not enough that today "no one in his sane mind" would say that they prefer the Taliban in power. My point is that it takes an "intemperate" posting to make people grudgingly say it (by the way, I feel lazy on a Thxsgiving weekend, but I suspect that if we do a Nexis search about what the Left said in Oct. 2001 about Afghanistan, we won't find the consensus that you mention. Certainly I don't recall anyone thanking GWB for freeing women.)
3) The conduct of the war is an important topic, but the ius ad bellum, whether it was right to do what we did, is also crucial. Yet critics of the war, when pressured about the justification, jump to the question of the conduct (blunders, Guantanamo, etc.) I want to talk about the justification and why good liberals don't say that ousting these criminals was the right thing to do.

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 26, 2005 5:12:23 PM

Christopher Hitchens raised an alarm about Islamic fundamentalism as early as when Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salman Rushdie, perhaps even earlier. He has also railed against Myanmar, Israel's right wing, US interference in Chile and to his credit, repeatedly against the terrorist government in Sudan. (Darfur right now is the worst example of rampant, genocidal terrorism). So, he used to be consistent. But the conduct of the Iraq war has compelled him to go through uncharacteristic contortions and even to tell a few untruths. Perhaps it is justified to demand the same intellectual honesty from the supporters of the Iraq war as you demand of the liberal "anti warriors". That even if the spirit was right (of opposing tyranny), the flesh has been abysmally wrong headed. I do believe that in case of Iraq, Saddam's execrable regime notwithstanding, even the spirit was deceitful.

As for the Afghan invasion, except for the dedicated pacifists, most sane people on the left considered it a deservedly just action. Nobody in his or her right mind would decry the overthrow of the Taliban and the eradication of Al Qaida. But we didn't do a very good job there, did we? Afghanistan is not yet safe for women (girls' schools are again being closed down) or for the ordinary citizens. The central government is held hostage in Kabul, the Taliban is returning home from Pakistan after training in Iraq, Osama has a safe house somewhere (probably Pakistan)and the warlords run their old principalities according to their own rules and grow poppy with abandon. Nothing much has changed Professor. Afghanistan will slip slide into the same old, same old, despite, or perhaps because of our half hearted efforts there. If we were not so eager to go into Iraq in 2003, we probably would have done a more thorough job in Afghanistan with enough resources and a clear conscience. And perhaps we would even have had the stomach to deal with Pakistan, the granddaddy of state sponsored terrorism - the brain behind Taliban, Al Qaida and an alphabet soup of Islamic terrorist groups. Yet we call Pakistan an ally, even after discovering a Walmart of nuclear technology export to dangerous hands, operating out of Islamabad. Musharraf makes appalling, anti-women statements right here in Washington D.C., lies about Al Qaida's influence in his country and we turn a blind eye and even agree to sell him F-16 fighter jets.

This is what bothers many of us - that the rhetoric of the right and of the Bush administration does not match the action. Questioning a flawed experimental protocol and hating the resultant Frankenstein are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Ruchira Paul | Nov 26, 2005 4:51:00 PM

To some of my critics: I am an admirer of Bill Clinton's, precisely because he was a free-trader and because he showed leadership in Kosovo, Haiti, and elsewhere, so you are complaining to the wrong person. I referred to the Left, not to the Democratic Party, and perhaps I should have made clearer who they are. Perhaps Anti-War movement would have been better. I was also too rash to say that the Left "supports fascist regimes", so let me amend it a little. I decry the failure of the Left to welcome the attempt to democratize the Middle East. I concede that this is not true of all people in the Democratic Party. But I stand by everything I said about those who have NOTHING positive to say about this government having liberated Iraq and the world from two horrendous regimes. And likewise, I think it is a grave failure for women's groups to say nothing about the liberation of millions of women from the Taliban. Yes, people like my critics here, will, under contextual pressure, agree that Saddam and the Taliban deserved not to be in power, but they will not volunteer any praise for the U.S. government who did the dirty job (the job that no one else would do) of running those thugs out of town. I debated Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, in NYC a few weeks ago, and he refused to say that the insurgents were fighting an illegitimate war. This is the Left I'm referring to. Some of them (perhaps a minority in the U.S., but not in Europe and LAtin America) simply believe the U.S. is an imperialistic power and should bite the dust. Others, while not believing or saying this, see as their priority to defeat or embarrass a conservative administration, and so they keep silent or criticize only the U.S blunders.
I'm a bit surprised about how surprised my critics are for my saying this. I invite them to read, not conservative columnists, but the works of Paul Bernam, Christopher Hitchins, and Tom Cushman, all of whom are left-liberals who make the same point I made here.
I don't know how many of my critics here share this (and if they do share it, I invite them to say it, so my faith in intellectual integrity may rekindle): I firmly believe that this war in Iraq has to be won, that the Iraqi people deserves to win it, and it is to our credit, not to our shame, that we are helping them out against this criminal alliance of Al-Qaeda and Baathist henchmen.

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 26, 2005 2:06:13 PM

Professor Teson, I find some of your criticisms disingenuous--for instance, your argument that "[t]he current ethos of the Left is to support any regime, even fascist ones, as long as they are targeted by a U.S. Republican administration." Can you provide some examples? I just don't see what you're referring to. Were there any mainstream leftists who argued that Saddam Hussein's regime was a good one (as opposed to those who thought we dealt with it in the wrong way)? That the Taliban deserved to stay in power? Further, it is the Bush administration's ethos to support any regime, even abhorrent ones, if it purports to help our endeavor in Afghanistan or Iraq. Is there a better analogue to Franco's Spain than Musharraf's Pakistan? Is there any defense for the plutocratic, kleptocratic, dictatorial, oppressive "government" of Saudi Arabia, other than that they torture terrorists for us?

As for the term Islamofascist, about which you say, "I still don't understand the reluctance to use this term. You yourself, who I know abhor these regimes, use the term in quotation marks. What has to happen for people to start worrying about this? Another 9/11???" You didn't address this to me, but I can tell you why I'm reluctant to use it. First, it conflates an old evil with a new, unrelated one and second, it uses the term 'fascism' improperly, just as a catchall term for 'evil idea I disagree with.' To be terribly reductive, fascism was an ideology based around the supremacy of the State and a corporatist economic system. These terrorists are fighting the very notion of a State; I think their ideal would be a world extremist Islamic government, a notion repugnant to fascist ideology (note, e.g., the conflict between Hitler and Stalin). I don't use the term 'Islamofascist' because it is just an inaccurate rhetorical tool and I try to engage with ideas, not rhetoric.

Posted by: Ivan | Nov 26, 2005 12:13:23 PM

I agree with the above - tempered a bit, of course. You are way off base. You dramatically misread the American Democratic party if you believe they distrust free markets. Bill Clinton, who presided over one of the largest economic booms in our nation's history, was a firm believer in the power of markets. What many reasonable Democrats do believe is that markets can fail, and that government should be prepared to address those failures. This is a point that all mainstream economists would accept. Honestly, can you imagine how fast a candidate who claimed during an election that they distrusted free markets would fall? And no one can reasonably argue that opposing the war is the same as "tak[ing] to the streets to support Saddam Hussein." Frankly, you sound like you've gotten your ten cents from the extreme right rather than any kind of empirical observation. This was a pretty low-brow post, given the usual quality of this blog.

Posted by: anon | Nov 26, 2005 11:58:18 AM

allow me to apologize for losing my temper. did not mean to call you an idiot. got by the editors.

Posted by: a-train | Nov 26, 2005 10:38:55 AM

(Note from site owner: this comment has been edited on account of its abusive language (and without FT's urging). If this kind of intemperateness appears again, a-train, you will be banned.)

1) Who wrote the most clearly aggressive, thoughtful and comprehensive analyses of Terrorism, tactics, strategies, and problem areas...BEFORE 9/11? Gary Liberal Hart.
2) Who had in place massive military surveillance, border watch, visa watch, intelligence operations, and fast-action prevention plans that WORKED to stop the "millenium plot"? Bill Liberal Clinton.
3) Who ignored, reversed, and bumbled all of the above policies, strategies, and operations? Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld.
4) Who ARMED AND TRAINED the Islamic Radical core of the modern international terrorist cadre? Who funneled BILLIONS of dollars to those groups and their sponsors via the Islamic Madrassas in Pakistan, via the ISI, via the Saudi Wahabbis and Royal Family, and via arms for hostages for guns and drugs and terrorist death squads in Iran/Central America? Right, you're getting there.
The basic assumptions underlying your "critique" is that Arabs, Muslims, Persians, Asians, and etc are incompetent and unaware of US policy, US history, and US aims.

Name one Liberal, Leftist, Communist, Socialist or Progressive leading light who says that fighting terrorism isn't really even a serious problem.
Just ONE.
Even Noam Chomsky agrees that fighting terrorism is important and a serious problem. Howard Zinn. The WSWS, the ISO, FRSO - the Leftiest of the Left, and the Proggiest of the Progs ALL agree that international terrorism is a blatant and terrible threat.
What they DON'T agree is that attacking Iraq, or Iran, or Syria, invading, overthrowing, and otherwise...
Going all the way back to installing the House of Saud, Faisal, Pahlalvis, and the Hashemites as client-kings of oil-rich fiefdoms...to overthrowing Mossadegh, overthrowing Kassem, funding the Mujaheddin, and on and on and on and on...

And now more of the same self-defeating, destructive BS from the same people and their ideological water carriers.
And you know who is saying "Bin Laden is not that important" and "The war on terrorism can't be won" and so on and so forth?
Continuation of the same policies that got us where we are today is NOT smart...killing 100,000 or so innocent civilians in Iraq is NOT going to help.
And before we start bashing that lancet study in order to win friends over at LGF, let's remember that the Lancet methodology is the SAME methodology used to calculate the number of people killed by Saddam Hussein, by Stalin, by Milosevic, and by Mao...so either y'all stop talking about the "Black Book of Communism" in terms of the millions killed...or y'all better just deal with that 100K number, because the same methods were used on similar data in ALL cases.
Go into the Nation archives, Mother Jones, Covert Action, and other Lefty Rags...Go back to the EARLY 90's, and the entire 80's...find the ravings and warnings about "Arab Afghans" about the Mujaheddin, about the ISI and the Madrassas, and the dangers posed by the Wahabbi freaks and their Saudi paymasters. We were on this before most of the moderates and the Right even knew where afghanistan was on a freaking map. We were warning about arming those freaks then, we were warning about collaborating with those fanatical fundies before people even knew what "Taliban" meant, and we were laughed at and those on the Right were calling the freaks "the moral equivalent of our founding fathers"...
So don't you DARE talk about how the Left doesn't recognize the threat - we knew about, warned about, and wrote about that threat before most of you folks even knew the difference between Sunni and Shi'ia.
As long as the world's most important resource, upon which the entire economic infrastructure depends comprises exactly ONE form (crude oil), and as long as that resource is only found in large economic qualities and quantities in ONE place (the ME and Southwest Asia)...
AND...as long as Democracy roughly translates as "self-determination and self-rule via popular participation and popularly elected governments controlling national resources for the betterment of the national population"...there will NEVER be Democracy in the Middle East in any meaningful sense....because a Democracy would demand a fair price for the resource, and would demand fair wages and practices for its citizens, and would extract maximum utility and profit from their control of their resources...

Posted by: a-train | Nov 26, 2005 9:15:09 AM

I'm not advancing the "patina of legitimacy" argument as much as observing that it seems to be the way the world works. To cite one obvious example, after a while the world seemed to hold its collective nose and deal with Pinochet as though he belonged to the club.

Posted by: burnspbesq | Nov 25, 2005 7:39:57 PM

many Americans would not have supported an invasion of Iraq, even had the putative causus belli turned out to have a factual basis, is the widely held belief that "we are America, and we don't do that." "That" being invading a foreign country that poses no real threat to us in order to depose a government that either is legitimate or has acquired a patina of legitimacy be being in place for a long time.Are you advancing the idea that an illegitimate government can acquire "a patina of legitimacy [by virtue of] being in place for a long time"? Is there a ratio here of tenure-to-legitimacy? And are you advancing this argument on behalf of yourself, or the "millions of other Americans" whom you feel agree with you?

On the other hand, in support of Burnspbesq's comment ("I still am [proud to be an American], but for the last four years my government has acted in ways of which I am ashamed"): in the 1990s, it was conservatives who drove around in bumber stickers saying "love my country, hate my government" - perhaps those conservatives could arrange some sort of "lend-lease" project to give any left-overs of such stickers to our liberal frineds?

Posted by: Simon | Nov 25, 2005 4:15:33 PM

A couple of observations.

First, I know I speak for myself, and I suspect I speak for millions of other Americans, when I say that one reason why so many Americans would not have supported an invasion of Iraq, even had the putative causus belli turned out to have a factual basis, is the widely held belief that "we are America, and we don't do that." "That" being invading a foreign country that poses no real threat to us in order to depose a government that either is legitimate or has acquired a patina of legitimacy be being in place for a long time.

Second, assuming the role of judging which regimes need to be changed is an awfully slippery slope. Why Hussein? Why not Mugabe? Or Lukashenko?

Third, assuming, arguendo, that the Middle East is in need of democratization, what principle of public international law gives us the right to unilaterally decide that we will be the instrument of that democratization? Put another way, whatever happened to self-determination?

Finally, one of the obvious second-order effects of our disastrous invasion of Iraq is that we have given the previously small and illegitimate group of militant jihadists legitimacy and cachet that they never could have obtained by themselves. The fundamental error was to conceptualize the struggle against al-Qaeda and similar groups as a "war." Tht makes the other side a legitimate quasi-state actor. If the struggle is conceptualized as a law enforcement problem, then those on the other side are criminals, unworthy of anyone's respect or admiration.

All of which reduces to the following: for the first 46 years of my life, I was proud to be an American. I still am, but for the last four years my government has acted in ways of which I am ashamed.

Posted by: burnspbesq | Nov 25, 2005 1:40:31 AM

Dan, if we make a bet, hire Jon Klick to do an empirical study, controlling for all the variables, about whether or not there is insufficient concern with Islamofascism* in all the venues that you and I agree are "the Left", you'd lose. And you know I'm not the only one complaining about this, so there's no use in following an ostrich strategy here.
The magazines you cite, of course, are committed enough to open debate, but the pieces supporting the policy of trying to democratize the Middle East are a distinct minority.
And you know as well as I do that supporting the effort in Iraq in academic circles is risky business. I hate whining, but I know several cases where academics have seen their careers suffer because of their support of the current foreign policy.

*I still don't uinderstand the reluctance to use this term. You yourself, who I know abhor of these regimes, use the term in quotation marks. What has to happen for people to start worrying about this? Another 9/11???

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 24, 2005 5:08:12 PM

Maybe you don't think the New Republic is part of the "mainstream" of Democratic politics, but I think it is, its editors probably do, and it has regularly endorsed or published positions exactly like the one you mention in the previous comment. The same goes for others. Slate, the Atlantic, the New Yorker and the NYT Magazine have regularly published Hitchens, Berman, and other left-wing hawks who are willing to give some credit or support to the Administration. So, on the merits, I think you're not reading a wide enough array of views from Democrats to support the accusation that there's insufficient concern with "Islamofacism." There might be a ton of concern and condemnation, but disagreement over whether Iraq is/was the proper focus for its efforts.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Nov 24, 2005 4:48:12 PM

Dan, I mean the mainstream liberal-left in this country. That is pretty granular. I mean mainstream human rights organizations, mainstream Democratic activists, and yes, mainstream academics. Berman and company have been ostracized and excoriated by the mainstream left. I can give many examples of this failure of the mainstream left, and I give them in my published work. I just want to raise the issue here, maybe more focused: once again, why aren't mainstream liberal-left academics condemning Islamofascism (and yes, I use the word, as I use it for Pinochet and my very shameful own Videla), and praising this government's efforts to promote democracy and freedom? Still no answer to that question, Dan, just collateral complaints about the post.
And by the way, I just mentioned in passing the failure of the Left to criticize communism, but I don't see why I shouldn't do it, given the crimes it committed. If past behavior is any predictor, then one can perhaps understand why the phenomenon is recurring. The Left should be self-critical about that episode (I know some are.)

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 24, 2005 4:29:43 PM

I see our posts crossed and you are narrowing the claim you wish to advance. I would note however that, to my chagrin, we are not seeing a truly "liberal constitution in Iraq." Women will be oppressed under the new regime just as they are in other regimes. As to the Taliban, very few people (with credibility) on the Left criticized the war in Afghanistan. The difficult question, especially absent WMD, is what justifies singling out ending tyranny in Iraq as against ridding the various other tyrannies, not to mention the genocide in Darfur. What's more, it's fair to be upset that the leading (though not exclusive) rationale for going to war was based on insufficiently scrutinized intelligence. Let's say we didn't think there were any WMD prior to 2003 in Iraq. It's doubtful a majority of Americans would have supported the mission of ending tyranny in Iraq, notwithstanding the mass graves etc. Even though you and I might feel differently about the value of reducing or eliminating tyranny, we might also credit the good faith views of our fellow citizens in a representative democracy. Our job would probably be to persuade them that humanitarian intervention was warranted, not to deceive them about another rationale. In other words, living in a liberal democracy, we owe some deference to the values of our fellow citizens, no? (Btw I'm not yet committed to the position that the Bushies actually lied about the intelligence though I am at least at the position that they failed to do adequate due diligence. I am open to further persuasion though.)
P.S. Notwithstanding all the caveats, I'm happy that Saddam is gone and I'm glad that we're doing more to encourage liberal reforms in the other regimes you mention...the relevant questions I think are which means we should adopt, and when, to further these legitimate and admirable ends.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Nov 24, 2005 4:29:35 PM

Fernando, I guess the problem with the post's content is that it's unclear who "the Left" is here and so it is unfocused in its critique. You yourself mention people like Paul Berman and Christopher Hitchens. Aren't they sufficient evidence of a non-monolithic Left to rebut the charge before it is made? Wendi and I saw Fahrenheit 9-11 the other day (my second time, Wendi's first) and I could see why it is tempting to locate Michael Moore as part of that group. But he is a provocateur, and at bottom, an easy target. Harder than Moore are those elected Democrats who have in the past failed in basic judgment -- those Dems in Congress who did not vote for authorizing the '91 Iraq war. But I think to accuse even them of hypocrisy and partisanship is too unfair; many of them struggled in conscience to make a difficult decision, a flawed one in my mind, but a difficult one no less. And to excoriate members of the left today for failing to sufficiently condemn Communist tyranny during the 80's seems like an odd choice of battles to pitch right now. So let's make the claims under scrutiny more granular. No doubt there is an overlapping cluster of reasons to berate Bush and the policies he has promulgated. Some of these criticisms are hysterical, but many of them can be made in good faith and with substantial evidence. Our project here, at least in part, is to distinguish one from the other.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Nov 24, 2005 4:14:56 PM

I didn't intend to offend anyone, so let's try to lower the rhetorical heat. I think I'm asking a fair question: given that the Middle East is saddled with these totalitarian regimes that stand as an obstacle to peace, freedom, as well as economic and social progress in the region (not to mention that these regimes either condone, support or sympathize with, those who attacked us in 9/11), why do my friends in the left refuse to see anything positive about this administration's efforts to change the political culture there? The comments to my posting talk about education, health, silliness, caricature, etc., but there has been no answer to this simple question. I would have thought that the American liberal left, precisely because it's liberal and not authoritarian, would have supported the doctrine of the second inaugural address, at least in its general form. I do not ask that they vote for GWB or abandon their political beliefs. All I ask is a little footnote in the midst of all the barrage of criticisms, a little footnote saying "by the way, I think getting rid of Saddam, and enncouraging liberal reforms in Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Ayria, China, etc., is a good thing."
Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 24, 2005 3:57:26 PM

Fernando -- There's a nice spot for you over at many shrill blogs by political hacks where everybody spends the day spewing venom against the other party. This post -- and your reply to Marty's level-headed response -- is indeed a ridiculous caricature that strikes me as woefully out of place on a blog by academics. If you want to rant and rave in silly screeds, there are plenty of blogs filled with raving politicos who are unwilling to address the other side except in rants against total straw-man positions. I'm surprised I'm even participating by responding to such a silly post, but I'm doing it because I just didn't expect such obnoxiousness to be appearing here at an otherwise thoughtful blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | Nov 24, 2005 12:48:53 PM

I am reminded of something that fascinated me when I first noticed the Becker-Posner blog. I wondered at the time whether or not people would give the Nobel prize winning economist and the distinguished federal judge & professor the respect they deserved or whether soon enough the blogosphere would be filled with comments like "Those idiots over at the Becker-Posner blog are rambling about something pointless again..." So, I'll try to cleave to the former in replying, bearing in mind that the intemperate remarks in this case are being promulgated by a distinguished professor at my law school. (C.f. Markel, "Can We Call You Al?" Harv. Crim.!)

I think Professor Teson's remarks have no merit as substantive argument but great merit as thought experiment--what does the Left really stand for? I cannot answer that question for anyone but myself. But for me, being on the Left means prioritizing education and health care and leveling the playing field so that the kid from the trailer park gets to go to a good college if she has the aptitude for it. A legitimate criticism of the Left is that it too often wedded to solutions for problems that confuse the solution with the problem. Take affirmative action. Why should we be committed to a half-measure mid-wifed by a Republican President whose other great contribution to race relations was the Southern Strategy? Yet, to take the Right's approach and pretend that there is no problem or that it will be magically resolved by the market is even more foolish.

No, the problem with the Left is not that we are intellectually bankrupt, it is that we cannot agree exactly what we stand for and we refuse to compromise our principles in order to stand against our opponents, who have the discipline and mindset of cadres directed by the Komintern/RNC.

For a wonderfully moral and pragmatic view of the Iraq War that takes fully into account the evil of Saddam Hussein, see Peter Galbraith's work in The New York Review of Books. I would say that no Right publication has the courage to publish such an ambivalent piece questioning some central presumptions of its target audience, but then there's this from the much maligned American Conservative:

At the Human Rights Conference on Sept. 9, the former prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, described Americans as “people with blood-soaked hands.”

“Who are the terrorists,” asked Mahathir, the Iraqis or the Americans?

The entire world is asking this question.

The author, Paul Craig Roberts, is described as the former assistant secretary to the Treasury under Reagan.

The Islamofascist rhetoric is totally unproductive, as well. Fascism was an ideology that could be discredited and shed, but Islam is a religion that will always be with us. The only way that the real enemies of America can be defeated is to isolate them from the broader Muslim community. Rhetoric like Islamofascist has the opposite effect. Have we still not learned the lesson of guerrilla war, that the guerrillas get their strength from the tacit support of the general population? Are we so anxious to turn terrorists into Saladin?

So, Professor Teson, I don't think your statement has much weight as accusation, so I refuse to be provoked. But I do think that it raises a good intellectual question, and so I will be stimulated by it. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, thank you.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Nov 24, 2005 12:42:44 PM

It's amusing to see people do something and then say they don't do it. Perhaps saying that the Left supports Islamofascism is too strong, I concede. But what about their silence? Why can't the Left say they don't like this president yet have the honesty to concede that removing Saddam was a good thing? What about Human Rights Watch, who keeps blasting the United States while saying nothing about the mass graves that the Coalition finds almost weekly in the Iraqi desert? What about the Left saying nothing about the liberal constitution in Iraq? And what about women's groups (also part of the Left) who said absolutely nothing about millions of Afghan women freed from the cruel yoke of the Taliban? The Left should listen to the few courageous people from their ranks who supported the war in Iraq, like Paul Berman, Tom Cushman, and Christopher Hitchens. But I hold faint hope of persuading anyone. After all, these are the same people who, even today, refuse to give any credit to Ronald Reagan for having helped freed millions from Communist tyranny. Why doesn't THAT count as a leftist cause?

Posted by: Fernando Teson | Nov 24, 2005 12:33:19 PM

Wha?! Sorry, but this is simply a gross caricature. It's like saying that "the Right" is represented by the folks over at Powerline. (I hope that that's not the case, although some of the more mainstream conservative blogs are linking to Powerline (and Little Green Footballs, and Derbyshire, etc.), and citing it with apparent approval, a bit too much for comfort.)

I'm sure there are some folks on the Left -- mostly on-the-fringes and marginalized figures -- who are "reluctant" to "denounce and reject Islamofascism," and who don't think we should "fight tyranny." But, for better or worse, I hang out predominantly with persons "of the Left" (being one myself), so I think it wouldn't escape my notice if there were many such persons with a meaningful part in the conversation. Trust me, there aren't very many of them, and virtually none that holds any position of prominence in public life.

But even if I'm wrong about that, I'm fairly confident that "the Left" -- the "Left" that matters, anyway -- does not remotely "support any regime, even fascist ones, as long as they are targeted by a U.S. Republican administration," and has not "take[n] to the streets to support Saddam Hussein." Who on earth does Prof. Teson think of when he thinks of "the Left"?

Of course "the Left" does not vouch for, or approve of, every idiotic thing done by someone who claims to be on our side of public debate -- and the same is true for "the Right," and for every political movement that's ever existed. (Does the inevitable existence of unrepresentative crackpots really need to be explained?)

Are we "obsess[ed]" with "G.W.B. and conservatives"? Yes, in large part, you bet we are -- because they control all three branches of our government and are setting policies for our Nation, and because much of what they've done (not everything, but much) is, in our view, wrong, dangerous, or both. I don't think such an "obsession" -- i.e., a focus on the public policy concerns of the day -- is unhealthy, or in any way suspect, even if one disagrees with the merits of any of our particular critiques. But more to the point: Opposition to Bush policies -- right or wrong, wise or not -- does not in any way, shape or form equate to, and is not correlated with, support for the Baathists and other fascist regimes. I feel somewhat silly even writing this, it's such an obvious point. It's a shame that it needs to be said on what is typically a fine and level-headed blog.

Posted by: Marty Lederman | Nov 24, 2005 12:08:46 PM

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