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Bush the Liberal
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I thought this commentary on Bush's U.N. speech in Slate was interesting. It points out that when it comes to foreign policy and world affairs, Bush is actually far more liberal than Kerry:

I admit it. I have a soft spot for President Bush.

I love it when he goes to the United Nations—as he did two years ago and again today—and tells those lazy cynics to get off their duffs. They spend their days congratulating each other, passing toothless resolutions, and giving lip service to tired pet issues. Bush is just what they need. He pokes them in the ribs. He points out that scofflaws are treating them like a joke. He tells them to enforce their threats, or he'll do it for them. He preaches freedom and democracy. He vows to serve others, no matter who else joins in the cause. He refuses to back down, no matter what the price.

Unfortunately for Bush, it's the liberal in me who loves these things. And it's the conservative—in me and other Americans—who's turning away.

This is what liberals do: They coerce or cajole the fortunate to serve the less fortunate. They spend American lives and money to serve causes beyond our national interest. It's what lured Presidents Kennedy and Johnson into Vietnam. It's what conservatives hated about President Clinton's war in Kosovo.

Saletan then points out that Bush didn't intend for Iraq to be an altruistic war...he just kind of stumbled into that justification after protection and self-interest failed.

But I think that's a crock. I think the Iraq War was born out of a blend of motivations. As I've pointed out here, Bush often spoke of the brutality and injustice of the Iraq regime when arguing for action. The humanitarian justification wasn't a was integral to the justification for the war from the beginning. I'll admit that the war was generally sold to the American public based on a threat. But I believe the underlying motive (what some call a neocon fantasy) was to attempt a forceful reform of the Middle East.

Saletan says:

It's inspiring stuff. But don't tell me Americans would have tolerated going to war for these reasons. We thought we were heading off another 9/11.

Well, if you're looking long-term, how do you best head off another 9/11?

Bush and his team were pretty clear on their plan. Drain the swamp. Hunt down and kill as many terrorists as possible. Freeze their money. And make as many places as possible as inhospitable as possible for them to set up camp. By eradicating a dictator in the heart of the Middle East, and trying to establish a moderate democratic country whose influence would resonate throughout the region, the long-term goal was reform of the Middle East. Another benefit entailed becoming less reliant on Saudi oil, and hence influence.

Saletan calls this plan "noble", but also a "folly". But he (and others like him) have never really addressed why such a plan is inherently stupid. You hear vacuous criticisms like "You can't democratize people at gunpoint", which is dumb (one, because that's not what we're doing, and two, because military intervention as often allowed new forms of governance take root).

And should critics answer the question of why forceful reform of the Middle East is a folly, I have yet to hear a viable alternative plan. I hear people say we should have focused more on Afghanistan, but Saddam would still be there, still siphoning off billions from the oil-for-food program, still reigning over a brutal police state. And wouldn't those terrorist that are flowing into Iraq now have been flowing into Afghanistan?

"Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are confronting the terrorists and foreign fighters so peaceful nations around the world will never have to face them," Bush effused this morning. He thanked U.N. officials for their "selfless" assistance and concluded, "The advance of freedom always carries a cost, paid by the bravest among us."

So much selflessness, so much bravery, so much cost—not for our benefit, but for all those "peaceful nations" that won't lift a finger to enforce the resolutions of their own United Nations. As a liberal, I admire it. As a conservative, I wonder how it looks to the guy in Ohio who can't pay his bills.

Several times I've argued that humanitarian military intervention was the more liberal point of's refreshing to hear a liberal actually acknowledge that.

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