THE PLANK FEBRUARY 28, 2007
Eli Lake is a good reporter, but his latest opinion piece in The New York Sun is seriously misguided. Lake is angry that liberal politicians and writers are voicing apologies for having supported the Iraq war:
What the apologists are asking for, if only by default, is a return to the amorality of detente and Realpolitik. Again, Iraq demonstrates this. In the decade before the Gulf War, when Saddam's torture state was a balance against Iran's ruling clerics, America sold grain credits to the regime after it cleansed more than 100,000 Kurds from the country's farmland in the north.
Lake goes on to chart many more "realist" policies that were harmful to the Iraqi people. Fair enough. And I also think it's fair to say that people who opposed the invasion did, "by default," support the status quo (although this is a tricky issue). But that doesn't mean Peter Beinart or John Kerry, both of whom Lake mentions, thought the status quo was a good thing. It just means they've come to the conclusion that it was the least bad choice when the alternative was war.
Moreover, there will be a lot of pressure, regardless of who wins the White House in 2008, to revert to a foreign policy grounded in Realpolitik. For people like Lake to criticize those who have come to oppose the war as automatically being in favor of such a shift will only deepen the rift between neocons and liberal internationalists, and right and left. The consequences of this will be even less trust, and even greater difficulty in finding policies that do away with both immoral "realism" and whatever you call the current disaster. Lake should stop hyperventilating if he really wants to prevent a return to the bad old days.