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March 17, 2009


Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

An emphasis on military means (peace-building, security, as well as war-fighting) equates to greater control - albeit expensive control - in framing, rules and expectations. 9/11 converted President Bush into a progressive and he chose a progressive frame for the War on Terror.

On the other hand, diplomacy, particularly with competitors, as a collective method, gives up control and is counted by what is given, what is conceded, and who (eg, local liberal dissidents and abused minorities) is sacrificed in order to reach accord with those competitors. President Bush was often criticized for failing at diplomacy, but the unasked questions are, what did the Bush administration refuse to give and concede, and who did the Bush refuse to sacrifice? In contrast, for the sake of better diplomacy and a shift away from military means, what is the Obama administration willing to give away and concede, and who will be sacrificed to the likes of Iran, Russia, or the "moderate" Taliban?

These questions are not meant as implicit praise or criticism of either President, because while the ideological answer is easy (for a progressive), the practical questions regarding the Afghanistan mission are and have always been much more difficult than, say, the Iraq mission. Which is to say, President Obama - like Presidents Clinton and Bush before him - is forced to choose from a set of highly unattractive options regarding that region of the world.

But I will comment here from an ideological standpoint, because your post is more ideological than practical: I agree with you.

I have long noted on your blog and elsewhere that the post-9/11 anti-war movement is anti-progressive. I have watched with sadness since 9/11 as many progressives, who should know better, joined with and thereby empowered the anti-war movement. The effect of their decision to oppose the *definitively* progressive Iraq mission has been to greatly reduce progressive principles as guiding principles for (applied) American foreign policy, whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Even now, when the Iraq mission seems to be on a successful track and a progressive outcome in the global War on Terror largely depends on our success in Iraq, many of those progressives *still* refuse to support our Iraq mission or even acknowledge its importance to achieving a progressive liberal world order.

So, to any progressive who opposed the Iraq mission and now frets that progressive ideals - the same progressive ideals they betrayed in order to protest Operation Iraqi Freedom - are being sacrificed in Afghanistan, I say this: The principles and people whom we will sacrifice because you joined the anti-progressive anti-war movement - they, and we, will reap what you have sown. While they are not your victims, your choice to be anti-war may have robbed them of our help, and robbed us of our beliefs.

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