For war

For war
: The NY Times reviews William Shawcross’ Allies, a case for the war in Iraq.

William Shawcross, who made his journalistic reputation as the scourge of Henry Kissinger (in ”Sideshow”), and later anatomized the failures of international aid and of humanitarian intervention (in ”The Quality of Mercy” and ”Deliver Us From Evil”) — that William Shawcross — has written a polemic ardently endorsing the war in Iraq. And that’s not all. Shawcross also argues for the Bush administration’s aggressive use of the doctrine of pre-emption, Donald Rumsfeld’s distinction between old and new Europe, the neoconservative case for regime change, the perfidy of the French, the indispensability of the Americans and much else to gladden hearts in Washington.

Having picked himself up the floor, reviewer James Traub says the English press tried to psychoanalyze a reason for this apparent anomaly but Traub says:

…it’s more instructive to consider the possibility that Shawcross has remained true to his principles, but that a morally driven foreign policy looks very different after 9/11 than it did before.

Shawcross is scarcely the only liberal or leftist to see the war in Iraq as the consummation, rather than the contradiction, of his principles. Christopher Hitchens is the best-known example; others include Paul Berman, Bernard Kouchner and Andre Glucksmann. These few brave souls have been pilloried by their coreligionists, who are inclined to view the United States as a greater threat to world peace than Iraq. Shawcross must have caught a lot of this himself, for he takes up the cudgel against the ”hate-America-first” crowd, so busy loathing President Bush that they can spare ”not a word about what the Iraqi people had suffered for decades.”


Traub gives a history lesson to explain liberal support for the war:

In the 90’s, force was used or, more often, not used, in the face of humanitarian catastrophe, in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and elsewhere. This scrambled the old ideological alignments, dividing both left and right. The antiwar left and realpolitik right opposed these ”CNN wars,” while the Wilsonian moralists of left and right championed them….

The attack on the World Trade Center upended the doctrinal order yet again. In the era of weapons of mass destruction, monstrous dictators, especially monstrous dictators in the Middle East, had become a threat to the West as well as to their own beleaguered people, so that humanitarian crises now had a strong national security element. This was the case for regime change in Iraq advanced by figures like Paul Wolfowitz; and it is Shawcross’s as well. Though he appears to believe that Saddam Hussein’s barbarity alone would justify intervention on humanitarian grounds, he also argues that Hussein’s fascist state posed the same order of threat that Hitler’s once did. The failure of much of continental Europe to support the war in Iraq, he insists, ”showed that it was still capable of failing the test that it flunked” in the 1930’s. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, M. de Villepin!

Amen again.

Traub doesn’t much like the book, saying that it is high on polemics, low on reporting. But he says the fact that Shawcross has written this book alone makes it important. And the fact that this perspective — in favor of humanitarian intervention and preemptive defense — is published also makes it important.

: UPDATE: THE Roger Simon has more.