Monday, April 17, 2006

A pro-war liberal unshaken

If you're one of those people who likes his/her politics to be black-and-white, you've probably long ago given up on the beautifully complex human race ... and missed out on some rather challenging thinking. But then, I guess it's easier to follow than to think.

But not everyone is like you. Take Robert Kaplan. An avowed pro-war liberal, Kaplan is a national correspondent for Atlantic Monthly and the author of, among many books, "Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground" and "The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War." In an op-ed column in today's Los Angeles Times entitled "Haunted by Hussein, humbled by events," he admits some reservations about the use of large-scale military operations but also describes an Iraq where incremental but important change is happening.

Kaplan has been there, while overwhelmingly most Americans have not. He has seen first-hand what Republican and Democrat strategists have only read about before they spin it into the fabric of overheated rhetoric. Kaplan writes, in part:
"I expected, as should anyone who supports going to war, that there would be a certain amount of bureaucratic incompetence in executing the invasion. The conflict in Kosovo in 1999 was marked by such a level of incompetence, with a NATO alliance that assumed that target lists were a legitimate subject for diplomatic committees. Still, the Clinton administration maintained a reasonable amount of political-military unity at the top, and the State and Defense departments were not at each other's throats. ...

"As for myself, because of the way the WMD argument intersected with the humanitarian one — buttressed, in turn, by my own memories of Iraq — there was never any chance that I would not have supported the war. Because Hussein's misrule was beyond normal dictatorship, even someone like me, skeptical about spreading democracy, felt it justified to remove him."

Kaplan's essay is not complex, but his thought processes are. For anyone who believes that being a registered Democrat means you must oppose the war and wish a hateful end for George Bush ... or that being a registered Republican means you must blindly support the war and attack dissenters as traitors ... well, that's merely close-minded and shallow.

We're complex animals, we humans. Only our need for air, food and water is common to each of us. As for politics, Kaplan shows it comes in many sizes, shapes and colors, often mixing them all together in some unique bit of art.


Michael Gillespie said...

Oh come on, Ron. Next you'll be telling us it's big news that there are neocons in both parties. Robert Kaplan is to supposedly progressive journalism what Joe Lieberman is to Democratic Party politics. Both men are small "d" democrats in name only.

Ron Franscell said...

Oooh, Michael, I love it when you get annoyed!

Actually, my fascination with this phenomenon arises from my living in Southeast Texas, where we have a Religious LEFT, ardently pro-life, pro-gun and pro-gas guzzler Texas voters in a county that hasn't backed a Republican presidential candidate since Eisenhower, and would generally still prefer to have a Democrat congressman instead of a Tom Delay-installed Republican from Sugarland.

You, a native, understand it better than I, an outlander. But I recall the same fascination with my own native home, Wyoming, the Union's most conservative state. There, we had a surplus of pro-environment and pro-choice Republicans, and recently elected a very popular Democrat governor.

Michael Gillespie said...

I read Kaplan's Balkan Ghosts: A Journey though History (1993) and was intrigued by his craftsmanship and the apparent sophistication of his views on some issues despite the fact that Balkan Ghosts pales in comparison with the book on which (I'll be generous here) it was modeled, Dame Rebecca West's classic work on the Balkans, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, indisputably one of the best half-dozen travel books ever written, is also an enormously informative history of the world's second most complicated and troubled region. Then I read Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite (1993) and discovered the blatant prejudices that inform Kaplan's world view. Kaplan, like most Atlantic Monthly ( editors and writers, along with their colleagues at the New America Foundation, is a neoconservative ideologue, one who rather craftily obscures his prejudices at times. However these well-heeled intellectual thugs may choose to dress up greed and prejudice, it's still greed and prejudice.

Robert F. said...

It is extremely seductive to view the world as a lawless place that needs our continued intervention. In this closed loop of logic we bandy about invading countries based solely on our own whims. And when those whims are exposed as lies we cloak our irresponsibility with simple minded excuses like "Saddam is an evil do-er anyway." The colossal waste and incompetence of our government in carrying out this war are hard to even comprehend and go beyond what should be tolerated. When our actions also involve the torture of innocents we shouldn't need the passing of time or a wake up call from historians to see our own evil hand. To define our continued involvement in this war as the middle is most extreme. Do you hear the Tarzan yell? That's millions of swing voters riding a vine back from “Crazy Base”. This will be Bush's most lasting and endearing legacy I dare say.