What’s Behind Liberal to Neocon Conversions?

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In particular, what persuaded Bill Keller? In his op-ed supporting invasion of Iraq, he gave two reasons. One was the influence of Kenneth Pollack. The second was the influence of the Bosnian example. However, neither one of these reasons explains his support of U.S. military interventions. Take the Pollack book that he says provided “intellectual cover”. Pollack’s assessments were totally wrong. He thought an invasion would find WMD and that it would cost little in terms of money and American lives. He didn’t think it would shatter Iraqi society, cause economic havoc, create civil war, and cause millions of refugees, deaths, injuries and disruptions. His entire background was a signal that his views would be totally biased. Only a fool would have believed him or someone with a predisposition to accept the invasion idea. In this particular case, I think Keller exhibited both foolishness (including over-optimism about the results, limited understanding of the history of past interventions, limited understanding of Iraq itself, limited understanding of war, excessive faith in U.S. political leadership, excessive faith in U.S. intelligence agencies, etc.) and a predisposition to accept the morally bankrupt idea of invading a country for its own good and for America’s good.

Bosnia was his second reason:

“The president will take us to war with support — often, I admit, equivocal and patronizing in tone — from quite a few members of the East Coast liberal media cabal. The I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club includes op-ed regulars at this newspaper and The Washington Post, the editors of The New Yorker, The New Republic and Slate, columnists in Time and Newsweek. Many of these wary warmongers are baby-boom liberals whose aversion to the deployment of American power was formed by Vietnam but who had a kind of epiphany along the way — for most of us, in the vicinity of Bosnia.”

One idea here is that somehow Bosnia wipes out the Vietnam experience. This idea reflects a limited grasp and understanding of the complexities and thus the outcomes from foreign invasions, as Iraq would subsequently show. Also, NATO attacked a sovereign country, hardly a commendable precedent.  But Keller was focusing on one or two words that were red flags for him: genocide and ethnic cleansing. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has not found genocide.  He seems to have overlooked the U.S. genocide against Iraq during the years of the sanctions. Another Keller mistaken idea here was that Iraq would be as limited a war as Bosnia.

Now that Keller is pushing for involvement in Syria, his true colors are showing. The major factor is a predisposition to use U.S. military force for the sake of terms that are red flags to liberals, such as weapons of mass destruction, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and, in the case of Syria, chemical weapons. Prudence, good judgment, adherence to morality, and adherence to international law all go out the liberal’s window in the case of such terms. Consideration of long-term consequences is discarded. Perspective is short-circuited.

The liberal who has been using force against Americans for decades domestically for the sake of a supposed larger good and for the sake of ending other red flag terms, such as poverty, hunger, lack of education, and disease, has no qualms about shifting the use of force to the betterment of all of mankind, any society anywhere, American or not, where a bombing campaign or an invasion might do some “good”.

The distance between a liberal and a neocon is zero. Both tend to have the inclination to use force for what they conceive of as “good”, and their playing field can be domestic or foreign. They believe in endless and continual crusades of force and wars against all manner of things that really are evil or that they construe as evil. Little do they consider the evils that they spawn, and little do they consider other peaceful means for overcoming evils.  Their lack of success domestically and in foreign interventions does not slow them down for one second. They are truly blind. As long as they think they are doing the right thing, they plow on with more use of violence.

I do not think that Keller himself understands his own motivations. His op-ed gave superficial reasons: the Pollack book and Bosnia. But anyone with an ounce of good sense would not easily conclude that these were sufficient reasons for invading Iraq. Keller could believe in invading Iraq because of his proclivity to use force and violence. In other words, he has an incipient criminal tendency, so long as it is exercised through others and not at his individual level. He gets his gratifications vicariously through that criminal group action, which is the action of the State. This is what I conjecture lies behind neocons and warmongers. They get their jollies by glorifying the State and watching it lord over people.

9:57 am on May 7, 2013