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Liberals, Terrorism, And Iraq


by Michael KazinFor a particularly provocative attempt to view the struggle against "Islamic extremism" as little different from the earlier ones against Naziism and Stalinism, take a look at the American version of the Euston statement, mostly written by Jeff Herf, a smart historian from the University of Maryland. The sentiments are similar to those in Peter Beinart's recent book: Only liberals can be trusted to defeat terrorism, but liberals must make that defeat their priority. But is this nascent groupuscule going to influence anyone, as long as its (handful of) members disagree about the war in Iraq? To wit:

The signers of this statement include supporters of the decision to go to war in Iraq and others who opposed this decision from the beginning. Despite our agreement about many things in this manifesto, our differences on this issue remain. Our group includes signatories who view the war as a failure and a diversion from the struggle against radical Islamists. They therefore advocate an American withdrawal at the earliest possible time, especially in light of Sunni-Shia sectarian violence enveloping that country. However others amongst us point to the fragile beginnings of democracy after dictatorship and think success there is still possible and essential.

Imagine if, in 1951, Reinhold Niebuhr and Arthur Schlesinger wrote a similarly intentioned statement about the cold war, yet were compelled to add: "The signers of this statement disagree about the wisdom of the decision to go to war in Korea and, by the way, we're not too sure if we ought to be funding the French attempt to defeat the Viet Minh either."

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