During the American liberation of Iraq, the anti-war protests on both sides of the Atlantic included verbalized pronunciations of support for the enemy – which was headed by a despotic regime indebted to fascist traditions. How could the Left have been so disastrously wrong on this conflict? And so the question must be asked: did the Left go to far?
To discuss this issue with us today, Frontpage Symposium has invited Jeffrey Herf, a professor of Modern European History at the University of Maryland and the author of Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (1984); War By Other Means: Soviet Power, West German Resistance and the Battle of the Euromissiles (1991); and Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (1997); Ted Glick, a noted activist, the national coordinator of Independent Progressive Politics Network and author of Future Hope: A Winning Strategy for a Just Society; , a senior associate scholar at the Political Science Department at Rutgers University, Camden, the author of Vietnam, Jews and the Middle East and a History News Network blogger; and Thomas Spencer, author, historian and also a blogger for the History News Network.
Q: Welcome ladies and gentlemen. So let me ask the main question: how could so many Leftists on both sides of the Atlantic have been so drastically wrong on the American liberation of Iraq? They opposed a war that was so clearly against a pernicious totalitarian regime indebted to fascist traditions. The Left went too far, right?
Glick: It wasn't the Left that encouraged and actively aided repressive Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iran in the early '80s; it was the Reagan-Bush administration, including as active players Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. It wasn't the Left that provided to Saddam Hussein some of the ingredients necessary to make chemical and biological weapons; it was those same predecessors of the current Bush regime. It wasn't the Left that obstructed United Nations efforts to condemn the use of poison gas in the late '80s against the Kurds in northern Iraq; it was you know who.
It was the Left, on the other hand, which opposed the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf war, that led to the death of 1/2 million or more Iraqi children and the pauperization of the Iraqi economy. And it was the Left which opposed U.S. support to the "Islamo-fascists and anti-Semites" in Afghanistan, including Osama bin Laden, all through the '80s and into the '90s.
The United States government has a long, long history of cynical policies of support to dictatorships, fascists and repressive groups if it serves "U.S. interests," i.e., U.S. corporate interests. It is the Left which has opposed those policies and has called for and worked for democratic reforms and economic justice as the only way to be true to the best of U.S. traditions and move towards a world at peace.
An illegal, unjust and brutal war, even one which ousts a repressive dictator, will not bring about democracy and justice. There is a connection between means and ends. Rumsfeld's military was prepared to take over oil fields and defend the Oil Ministry in Baghdad but had no plans to defend hospitals or internationally-recognized, historic archaeological museums. That sums up what this war was all about, and what is the purpose of the planned U.S. occupation.
Herf: If Mr. Glick is arguing that because the United States--along with France, Russia, Germany, etc.--traded with and supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, it should not change its policy when circumstances warrant, this makes no practical sense. Recognizing error and correcting it is one of the advantages democracies have over dictatorships. Mr. Glick’s logic would suggest that the United States should not have fought the Gulf War of 1991 as well.
Jamie, the simple answer to the question you pose about "the Left" is that George Bush has antagonized many people on both sides of the Atlantic so much that they don't trust a word he says and don't believe the claims his leading officials make. In contrast to his promises to be a uniter, not a divider, Bush has pursued a very divisive social and economic policy and has made no concessions at all regarding fiscal, monetary and environmental policy. He has draped himself in religion in ways that most secular liberals--not just "the Left" find most unsettling. His Texas roots are linked to some corporate officials who may soon be behind bars following the Enron scandals, and he seems not to mind in the slightest that his tax cuts will make already existing economic inequalities worse. In Europe, he is reviled for his decisions on the death penalty in Texas, environmental policies and then the Manichean religious rhetoric with which he led the war on terrorism after September 11th.
While I sympathize with many of these criticisms of President Bush, I have been struck that many people who are liberals, not only leftists, have forgotten their own traditions. What has happened is a shortening of historical memory of liberals and the Left on both sides of the Atlantic so that their primary memory of American war making is Vietnam. World War II and the victory over Nazism is ancient history for them. Because they now, in effect, oppose most, in some cases, all uses of American military power, they oppose it even when the enemy, such as Saddam's Iraq, is a regime which really does deserve a chapter in the modern history of fascism and totalitarianism. We used to say that anti-anticommunism was the cause of leftist opposition to American military intervention. In this case, the opposition continued even when the enemy regime offered nothing but terror and war to its citizens and neighbors and was an anti-Semitic regime to boot.
During the Cold War, anti-fascism in Europe evolved into a mood which focused its anger on the United States and Israel, often even more than on the Nazi past. The capacity to recognize fascism when it stared people in the face was thus eroded. The bottom line was that the antiwar movement turned out to be angrier at American policy than at Saddam's Iraq and refused to believe that the Iraqi regime with vast oil revenues at its disposal was indeed, as Kenneth Pollack put it, a "threatening storm." Tony Blair had the courage and common sense to understand that he could agree with George Bush about some things but not others. Alas, too many liberals--not just leftists--allowed their disagreements with Bush on other issues to cloud their judgment regarding Saddam's Iraq.
Klinghoffer: If I understand Ted's response correctly, he argues that the Left may have been wrong about Iraq, but the American governments past and present were even "wronger." First, it is true that the Washington has a "long history of cynical policy of support for dictatorships" that serve US interests. But citizens in a democracy elect governments to promote their interests, most especially during wartime. The unelected, self-appointed leftist activists operate under no such practical constraints and yet they have just such a cynical history. Note for example, the Left's support for the Soviet-Nazi pact, Mao's Cultural Revolution and Pol Pot's genocidal regime. Second, the American government has always been uncomfortable with its support for dictators and often withdrew its support for them once it was deemed safe. Thus, it helped rid the world of Suharto, Noriega, Marcos, Saddam Hussein etc.
On the other hand, the Vietnamese remain enslaved as do the Cubans. The leftist darling Castro has just thrown 78 dissidents into prison and the UN human rights commission, chaired by Libya, failed to condemn him or Mugabe. If the left has ever turned actively against these despots, I have yet to hear about it. I suspect the reason is that the Left is in a permanent war against the US and, therefore, it cynically supports anyone who opposes the US on the maxim that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Spencer: Did the anti-war left go too far? Well, despite the fact that we had the largest peace demonstrations in American history, we had a war didn’t we? What a strange question! To raise principled questions about whether a war was just and your government is not “going too far.” In fact, I would argue it’s my right and obligation as an American to point out the mistakes my government is making. And, by the way, just because we won the war still doesn’t make it right. This war doesn’t become a better idea just because it was easily accomplished. History is filled with easy wars after all.
I do find it fascinating how people don’t seem to care that WE built Saddam into the frightening power he was until a few weeks ago. We provided him with $40B worth of aid in the 1980s and are responsible for the monster we created. As a historian, I find this puzzling but I guess in the illiterate and ignorant nation that is America today I shouldn’t be surprised. Heck, a huge number of Americans think Saddam was intimately involved in 9/11, an assertion, no matter how many times W repeats it, for which there is absolutely no evidence.
As for the “ends justify the means” arguments advanced both before and after the war, I just can’t sign on to these arguments even now. In fact the most frightening thing is to think back on the lies told to get us into this war. Think about how few of the major arguments made by W and the boys to get us into this war have turned out to be true so far: Where are the WMDs? Where are the Al-Qaeda terrorists? If his military was really so weak, he wasn’t much of a threat to his neighbors, was he? There isn’t much that has been proven true of the cassus belli arguments advanced by the administration in the last few weeks, eh?
I am, of course, glad that Saddam is gone. Who wouldn’t be? I’ve said I’d be glad to see him go since I began blogging about the proposed war in August. It’s a red herring to try and tar those who oppose this war as “anti-American” or, to use Instapundit’s now infamous phrase “objectively pro-Saddam” because that simply isn’t the case. Most of us who were against the war are glad to see Saddam go and to try and tell us that our principled opposition to the war was somehow anti-Semitic or pro-fascist is, quite simply, a load of you-know-what. It’s a question that involves the old McCarthyite trick of guilt-by-association and unworthy of a response. I refuse to be drawn into that bogus discussion.
Of course many Americans may be whistling a different tune about this war in the next few months as our occupation / democracy-building / oil-extracting / empire-building scheme will cost tens of billions of dollars and add greatly to our federal deficit and possibly even be a drag on our economy.
As I’ve said many times, the hard part actually begins now. The war was the easy part and always was going to be. We may actually end up installing a new Saddam in the next couple of years if we’re impatient and want to do this quickly and on the cheap. For example, we’ve put Saddam’s hated police back on the streets of Baghdad in the last few days so it won’t surprise me at all if that’s what we end up doing ultimately. This war may end up being an incredibly hypocritical exercise if the Bush administration does that – and I put the odds of that at about 50/50.
After all, this administration that has so badly botched Afghanistan doesn’t have much of a track record for patience. The biggest threat to our national security wasn’t Iraq, it’s Afghanistan which now stands on the edge of chaos.
Glick: In terms of Mr. Herf’s comments, what are the "circumstances" which warranted a "change in policy" regarding Iraq? He doesn't specify what those were. It seems to me that the "changed circumstance" was the attack by Al Qaeda on 9-11-01. One day after that attack, Donald Rumsfeld raised in a meeting that now was the time to go after Iraq even though there was no proof then and absolutely none has been provided since that any Iraqis had anything to do with 9-11. Does Mr. Herf remember Osama bin Laden?
Is Mr. Herf aware of the Project for New American Century and its projection of U.S. world domination through a particular focus on taking over the Middle East, and that members of this group--like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle and Wolfowitz--are now dominant forces within the U.S. government?
Is Mr. Herf equating Saddam Hussein with Adolph Hitler? Please, let's be rational here. Hussein's viciousness toward his own people cannot be equated with Nazism and the legitimate threat that it posed to the world. Iraq has been decimated by 12 years of U.S.-pushed, brutal economic sanctions. These sanctions strengthened Hussein's grip on power by giving him a U.S./U.N. whipping boy to go after, while also making it much harder for anti-Hussein, indigenous opposition groups to function because of the daily struggle to survive.
The bottom line once again: this illegal, Anglo-American war was not about getting rid of the evil dictator. That was the excuse. It was about oil and empire in the Middle East.
And Dr. Klinghoffer, no, the Left wasn't wrong about Iraq. We never supported Hussein. The responsibility for what he and Iraq became, as well as for what Osama bin Laden became, rests squarely with successive U.S. administrations going back to the late '70s, at least.
You're really reaching when you have to go back to 1939 as justification for your position. The Left I'm part of, and that's the predominant part of the Left these days, doesn't uncritically support either past or present efforts to build an alternative to the corporate capitalist model, a model which is responsible for widespread human suffering and environmental devastation. Where criticism is called for, we make it.
Give me a break: "the American government has always been uncomfortable with its support for dictators?" It becomes uncomfortable when there is widespread public exposure of who it's in bed with and movements arise demanding an end to such support.
There is much back-and-forth and varying positions within the Left right now about the recent actions of Cuba. There's no monolithic position there, although most of us continue to understand that Cuba's actions must be seen in the context of over 44 years of efforts by the U.S. to destroy their attempt to build a society without Enron-style criminals, on the one hand, and millions of homeless beggars, on the other. I personally have been critical of both those recent actions and of Mugabe, as have others.
Sorry, Dr. Klinghoffer, not to fit into your neat, but dishonest, packaging.
Klinghoffer: I am quite impressed by the manner in which Mr. Glick either refuse to take responsibility for the crimes committed by past leftist regimes like those of Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot and makes excuses for present ones like those of Castro. On the other hand, he gives all the credit for the overthrow of dictatorships to "widespread public exposure."
Does Mr. Glick believe that "widespread public exposure" would have brought about the overthrow of Saddam Hussein or Mullah Omar? Emotive adjectives do not an argument make, but they do reveal a determination to put the United States of America and her foreign policy in the worst possible light. The fact is that it was the United States that freed Afghani women from house arrest, ended the torture, maiming (cutting off ears) and killing of innocent in Iraq. But then the fate of actual living, breathing individuals never interested the left. Indeed, their love of life disappointed them.
How dare the Iraqis not put their "opposition to occupation" ahead of their wish to get rid of a thug who terrorized their life? How could they cheer American soldiers and, thereby give the United States, and most especially the "illegitimate" Bush administration, not only a military but a moral victory? Note the manner in which Spencer assures us that soon we will be sorry we freed the Iraqis and complains that the aftermath of the war is less than perfect but, then, the left routinely posits the perfect as the enemy of the good except when it comes to the actions of Communist regimes.
Spencer: Dr. Klinghoffer, since when am I "the left?" And when did I mention anything about communist regimes? You don't know a damn thing about me and I can't believe you'd make such bizarre generalizations about me based on so little evidence. I do assume you don't make historical arguments that have this little evidence behind them. Please address my arguments and cease making these sweeping and irresponsible generalizations about my supposed "leftist" tendencies.
Oh yeah. I forgot. It's this sort of junk that passes for reasoned argument in right-wing circles these days. I thought we were in the symposium portion of this website, not the rather irresponsible home page here that includes ad hominem attacks on liberals and leftists in every other story.
What Dr. Klinghoffer is trying to pass off as an argument is perfect evidence of the astonishing disconnect between the rhetoric that many conservatives use and the actual political reality in the United States that probably helps to explain the strange questions that started this forum. She can't believe that someone who was against this war isn't a "leftist" or even a "communist" or a "Saddam-lover" of some kind. That's where she and W go wrong. They can't seem to understand that there are perfectly reasonable people who are against this war on principle and have good arguments against it. In their minds this is impossible so we have to be appeasers and apologists of course. It certainly makes the world a simpler place if you can view your opponents that way, doesn't it? By the way, get off your high horse about how we've helped the women in Afghanistan. It appears that outside of Kabul, women are being treated just as they were before our invasion -- of course everything in Afghanistan outside of Kabul is essentially back to how it was before the invasion, except much more chaotic. Even in Kabul we have to guard President Karzai 24 hours per day to protect him from assassination.
I supported the invasion of Afghanistan but the short-attention-span folks that make up this administration long ago forgot about it as much of a priority. They left aid to Afghanistan out of the last budget after all. We really should be working a great deal more to secure Afghanistan than we are.
The same folks in Iraq who cheered us were the same people who also, I'm afraid to say, were demonstrating against us a couple of days later and, in some places, already demanding an end to our occupation. So much for that point of yours too.
You clearly should read more and get your news somewhere other than the Faux News Channel. That way you'd find out a lot of your statements aren't holding much water and that the world is an awfully messy place that isn't so easily reducible into the battle between "good" and "evil" and the "left" and the "right" as you try to make it. In short, the world isn't the simple morality cartoon that W and the boys are selling to the public on a daily basis even though it's apparent you work really hard to see it that way.
Klinghoffer: There are always perfectly good arguments not to go to war. Unfortunately, when it comes to getting rid of other people's murderous regimes, the most convincing one is the natural reluctance to pay a steep price in life and treasure. Poor, poor North Koreans! Lucky, lucky Afghanis and Iraqis.
Herf: Excuse me for a moment, I would like to make a few rejoinders to Mr. Glick. He asks what changed and asserts that the change came with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. His chronology is off by a decade. During the 1980s, the United States, along with France, Germany,
Britain and the Soviet Union all supported Iraq because after 1979 all of these powers were worried about the spread of Islamic fundamentalism coming from Iran. It was a Faustian bargain, to be sure and a regrettable one. But the change of policy came in 1990 when the first President Bush led a broad international coalition to drive Saddam out of Kuwait. Since then, as Kenneth Pollack has made very clear in his important book, The Threatening Storm, American policy tried and failed to compel Saddam to disarm through the United Nations and several attacks with Cruise Missiles. The decision to actually invade Iraq, destroy its army and government, and occupy the country is comprehensible only against the background of the failure of previous non-military means to achieve the goal of eliminating the threat posed by Saddam's regime.
I am a historian of modern Europe and modern German history and am accustomed to being told that this or that situation is not comparable to Nazi Germany. Indeed, many of them are not. No two situations are identical. Yet in 1989, in his very important work, The Republic of Fear, Kanan Makiya laid out the ideological and policy links between European fascism, specifically Action Francaise, Michel Aflaq and the founding of the Baath Party in Iraq and Syria in the 1940s. In Iraq, the Baath created a regime with all the attributes of mid-twentieth century European fascism and totalitarianism--the supreme infallible leader and the associated cult of personality, one-party dictatorship, a vicious and enormous apparatus of terror, elimination of a free press. Among its other accomplishments it crushed the Iraqi Communist Party, which incidentally published the first independent newspaper in post-Saddam Iraq this week and celebrated the end of dicatorship. Sitting on top of so much oil wealth, such a regime had the financial resources to build a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction--I am confident we will find out what has happened to those programs--and to threaten the region and the world. Moreover, in contrast to the Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein was a leader who miscalculated seriously in launching the war with Iraq and with Kuwait. There was a good case to be made--Pollack made it—that nuclear weapons in his hands would be a catastrophe waiting to happen.
So we return to the original question: the left and left-liberals were once proud of its armed anti-fascism. Saddam Hussein is/was not a "man of the left." He was, in the true sense of the word, a fascist dictator. Having refused to listen to the pleas of the UN Security Council to disarm there was no other way to get the job done than war. Thank goodness there was states, the United States along with Britain—and some interesting help from impressive Polish special forces--which had the military power and political will to "smash fascism" in Baghdad.
Glick: Mr. Herf may know about history from decades ago but he conveniently has forgotten--or has distorted--history from months ago, and over the past 10 years. From what he says, not knowing the truth of the matter, one would think that Saddam Hussein continued to be a powerful dictator with a mighty arsenal of weapons up until that fateful March 19th day when the United States and Britain--"The Coalition"--initiated their Anglo-American war to bring him down. The reality, however, is that the United Nations inspectors up until 1998 had destroyed the vast bulk of Hussein's WMD weaponry, as indicated by the fact that three months of U.N. inspections yielded no evidence of either WMD or the capacity to make them. Has Mr. Herf missed the fact that one month after that invasion no, repeat no, WMD have been found and that the regime's top scientist, upon turning himself in, stated that there were no WMD? Why would he do that if there were? What would he have to gain by saying such a thing?
Perhaps some WMD will be found (or planted and "found"), but it seems increasingly clear that the rationale for going into Iraq--which was not to topple an evil dictator but to ensure that he could never use WMD--was a false one, based upon a lie.
And the Bush Administration has violated basic principles of international law by going into Iraq without United Nations authorization and in open defiance of the will of the vast majority of the world's governments and the world's people. The example we have given to the world is not a good one. The U.S.'s actions have made the world a more dangerous place.
Spencer: For one thing, Mr. Herf, I’m not sure I’d be claiming we “failed to disarm Saddam” in the 1990s at this point. We haven’t found WMDs yet and, even if we do, I’m pretty sure it won’t be the thousands claimed by the administration on the eve of the war. This war will ultimately be judged by the accuracy of the claims made by the administration – and a few things here and there and a few chemical weapons ingredients or even small stocks of weapons will not mollify world opinion given the claims of the administration. And, to be honest, at this point many in the world will greet anything that we find at this late date with skepticism and, whether true or not, may even accuse us of planting these weapons. The fact we won’t let U.N. weapons inspectors in has been greeted by many as a sign that we plan on planting something. I don’t necessarily believe that but some do.
I would agree with those who say that the fascism comparison is apples and oranges. Admittedly, fascism is a word that is used to describe any totalitarian regime over the last sixty years (although states described as fascist also generally take a certain approach to the economy at the same time but I digress) but Hitler and Saddam comparisons just don’t work too well for me. One crucial difference is that Saddam is our monster and we ultimately decided to “disarm” (although, once again, we’ve still found no WMDs) his pitiful little military by overwhelming force. Were the thousands of civilian casualties worth it? Only time will really tell. Like many, I hope we can create a stable state and democracy in Iraq but I’m not sure we will.
I guess, once again, I’m having trouble seeing the connection here between the anti-Franco / anti-Hitler left of the 1930s and 1940s in Europe and America and the folks who are anti-war in America today. As I said earlier, I think that part of our question and discussion is essentially bogus.
Those who oppose Iraq War Part II in this country are really not the same people who opposed Franco and Hitler sixty years ago and there’s been a great deal of history in this country since then. You know there was that Cold War McCarthyism thing that decimated the far left in this country.
In short, If you’re seeking a cogent and potent far left here these days, you’re not really going to find it. As a historian, I’m always seeking connections but this is one of those times I think the comparative connections that are being drawn between the left of sixty years ago and today, at least in this nation, simply don’t exist – in my opinion of course. I mean the "far left" in America is something that I'm afraid primarily exists as a political bogeyman to be used by conservative Republicans these days. There aren't a large number of them at all.
Herf: As neither Spencer or Glick raise objections, I take it we can agree that American policy obviously changed towards Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait, and not only after September 11, 2001. That's about it as far as agreement goes. Ted Glick thinks Saddam Hussein did not have a large arsenal of weapons on mass destruction because none has been found so far. As Judith Miller reports in yesterday's New York Times, American teams searching for these materials now believe on the basis of information from Iraqi scientists that much of the already produced chemical and biological weapons were destroyed in the days and weeks immediately preceding the war but that the equipment to produce it remains hidden and buried. The issue of the numbers of Iraqi civilians killed has not at all been established so to speak of "thousands" of such deaths--of civilians not soldiers--is premature.
I suggest that readers of this symposium reread Colin Powell's impressive report to the UN Security Council presenting not only evidence for weapons of mass destruction but also detailing Iraqi efforts to conceal it. In time, we will learn the truth about the Iraqi programs.
As far as international law is concerned, a good case has been made that the war was the only way in which United Nations resolutions could have been made credible. There is no law without means of enforcement and the UN was not enforcing its own resolutions. It was quite funny, really, to see France leading the antiwar charge given that France asks no one, certainly not the United Nations, when it has engaged in some of its military interventions in former African colonies. Liberals need to look critically at an organization, the UN, in which Libya chairs a committee on human rights violations. As President Bush made clear in his September 12, 2002 speech to the UN, it and the hope for international law would be undermined if it did not back up its disarmament resolutions with the credible threat of force.
If Ted Glick or Thomas Spencer have read Kanan Makiya's Republic of Fear, or Kenneth Pollack's The Threatening Storm, their responses give no evidence of having done so. Again, I would urge readers of this symposium--especially liberals--to do so. Pollack presents the factual background of Iraqi resistance to UN disarmament demands and makes the most powerful case as to why containment and deterrence would not suffice to deal with Saddam. The case for preemption--invading Iraq before it acquired nuclear weapons--was a powerful one. Far from regretting that the Iraqis did not put up a better fight--and let's be frank, thus kill more of our soldiers--we should be relieved that the war that could have been much more terrible was over in a matter of weeks rather than months. What could have been a huge and truly disastrous war did not take place because Bush and Blair opted for a short war now rather than a longer war later.
I'm glad that Thomas Spencer hopes for a successful transition to democracy in Iraq. It is going to be very difficult. In post-Nazi Germany where democratic traditions existed from the pre-Hitler era, Allied occupation and the absence of any national German government lasted four years, 1945-1949. 200,000 people were interned in the Western occupation zones, 100,000 in the American zone alone. Over 5000 people were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Makiya estimated in 1989 that several million Iraqis had been involved in the apparatus of repression in Saddam's Iraq. Sorting out the big fish and small fry, the arch criminals from the banal opportunists, the incorrigible advocates of dictatorship and terror from those who want a new democracy is a huge task. It will take time--years, not months. In such situation, the impulse to forget the past to focus on getting the electricity on is enormous. Liberals should be speaking up to both get the lights back on but also to bring the not inconsiderable number of Iraqis with blood on their hands to justice.
The Baath Party is one of the after-effects of European fascism of the 1930s and 1940s. To understand this point, which has received almost no attention in the public debate about the war, readers of this symposium should read Mikaya's work, among much else. This is not some far fetched and inappropriate historical analogy but another example of a government which like the fascists and Nazis of Europe's mid-century hates liberal democracy, individual rights, political pluralism, the United States and yes, the Jews as well. In the 1930s and 1940s, people who called themselves liberals--and they, not the left or far left are my primary concern--agreed with Franklin Roosevelt that war against these regimes was necessary. Too many people who think of themselves as liberals today remain frozen in a set of attitudes formed in the 1960s and then passed down without serious reflection. They cannot admit or accept that sometimes the enemies of the United States are really the vicious, and yes evil regimes which our government, even this very conservative administration, says they are.
In 1984, I published a book entitled Reactionary Modernism in which I examined the incorporation of modern technology into German right wing discouse in the 1920s and 1930s at the same time that these political forces rejected Western liberal modernity. For many years, I have believed that link between rapidly spreading technology and the hatred of liberal values in various countries would be one of the key threats to our country and to peace in general in the 21st century. Saddam Hussein's Iraq brought this synthesis to the fore again. September 11, 2001 showed a low tech version of what totalitarian fanatics could do with box cutters and airplanes. I believe that had we not waged this war, that there was a strong possibility that we and countries in the Middle East and in Europe could have faced far grimmer threats from an eventually far more powerful Saddam Hussein.
These are my political judgments. They are judgments made on the basis of my reading of history in the midst of the uncertainties of the present. Yet from George Orwell to Raymond Aron to the editors and writers of The New Republic, Partisan Review and recently the editorial page of The Washington Post, these judgments rest on the notion that one does not give a vicious murderer such as Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt. The American occupation of Iraq is going to be very difficult and success is by no means assured. It was not a sure thing in postwar Germany or Japan either. But liberals should breathe a sigh of relief that the threatening storm of Saddam's government is no more. When France, Germany, Russia and China made their short-sighted misjudgements not to give teeth to the UN resolutions, the United States and Britain had no alternative but to go to war or else declare that the UN and its resolutions were meaningless. I wish it had been a liberal President who had led the charge but better that the deed was done than not done at all.
Interlocutor: Jeffrey Herf, Thomas Spencer, Judith Klinghoffer and Ted Glick we are out of time. It was a pleasure to have you with us on Frontpage Symposium. We will see you again soon. Thank you.
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