Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Good Neighbors: Beinart Pt. II

Following up on this wildly popular post, I bring readers' attention to this TPM Cafe discussion of Katrina vanden Heuvel's reaction to Peter Beinart's call for anti-jihadist liberalism.

In response to Beinart's beltway crusaderism, Katrina calls for a principled retrenchment of American foreign policy: "Of course, liberals need an effective national security strategy. But can we stop with all the hurrahs about Harry Truman and his liberal national security achievements? What we need to do is reclaim another liberal, internationalist and eminently (as well as ethically) 'realist' foreign policy tradition. It is the 'Good Neighbor' policy crafted and championed by Franklin Roosevelt." Further, she argues that it is deeply misleading to equate Soviet totalitarianism and "jihadism" or, in the conservatives' favorite turn of the phrase, "Islamofascism" (whatever either of those terms means -- haven't any of these critics noticed that they're using a vague, ambiguous, emotionally-laden term right in the center of their arguments?).

Like Tomasky, the TPMC blogger claims that Beinart and Katrina misrepresent Truman, who did not advocate preventive wars, but rather was a multilateralist who emphasized building international institutions. Basically, he argues that Truman should be Katrina's, not Beinart's patron saint:

Truman-era liberal foreign policy is a story about liberal order building. In my book After Victory and elsewhere, I argue that what is special about Truman-era foreign policy is the way it fused power to institutions and liberal purpose. The restraint on American power and the projection of American power went hand-in-hand. Truman and his colleagues blended liberalism and realism in a creative and distinctively American way that led the United States, at zenith of its power, to imagine and build a new type of international order that still stands today as the most stable and successful the world has yet seen.

I don't know enough about Truman to weigh in, except to say that I like the mulilateralist Truman a lot more than Beinart's Truman.

Tags: news and politics, history, truman, beinart, iraq


  • At 7:04 AM, Anonymous gatemouth said…

    Sorry, but Beinart's Truman and Tomasky's (and Gate's) are the same guy. While Tomasky and Beinart disagree about the sufficiency of Beinart's contrition about Iraq (and if Beinart had follwed Tomasky's suggestions, his book would be far more powerful and effective among liberals), Tomasky does not seem to disagree with Beinart's basic aasumptions. And, to be fair to Beinart, Beinart is quite clear that multilateralism is amongst the most important things that separates Cold War Liberalism from Bush style unilaterlism.

    Sad to say, but Vanden Hueval differs from both Tomasky and Beinart, who are both Trumanites; she falls more into the line of Henry Wallace.

    The difference on Iraq between Beinart (since recanted) and Tomasky resembles the Vietnam debate between Cold War Liberals like Schlesinger and Niebuhr, who did not see the Vietnam War as a rightful extension of Trumanism (because Ho Chi Minh was a genuine indigenous nationalist, with real popular support, rather than a Soviet imposed stooge), and those like Johnson and Humphrey, et al, who did not understand this. By contrast, Vanden Hueval is more like the Tom Haydens who rejected Cold War Liberalism's entire raison d'etre. While Schlesinger might have been marching against the war with Hayden while johnson stood at his window cursing the marchers, Schlesinger's world view was far more like Johnson's than Hayden's. And Tomasky is more like Beinart than Vanden Hueval.

  • At 1:13 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    I've decided to read the first couple chapters of Beinart's book before I really reply to this.

    For now, I'll just say that Tomasky, at least, thinks that he and Beinart have very different ideas about Truman, as he made clear in his Slate diatribes: "What infuriated me in the run-up to the war was the complete misreading of the history of the '48ers by many writers and intellectuals, you, I must say, included."

    After I actually read the Beinart, I'll be able to better judge whether Tomasky was misrepresenting Beinart.


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