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The Good Fight: Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 30, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
This stimulating manifesto calls for a liberalism that battles Islamist totalitarianism as forthrightly as Cold War liberals opposed Communist totalitarianism. Former New Republic editor Beinart assails both an anti-imperialist left that rejects the exercise of U.S. power and the Bush administration's assumption of America's moral infallibility. America shouldn't shrink from fighting terrorism, despite civilian casualties and moral compromises, he contends, but its antitotalitarian agenda must be restrained by world opinion, international institutions and liberal self-doubt, while bolstered by economic development aid abroad and economic equality at home. Beinart offers an incisive historical account of the conflicts straining postwar liberalism and of the contradictions, hubris and incompetence of Bush's actions. He's sketchier on what a liberal war on terror entails—perhaps a cross between Clinton's Balkan humanitarian interventions and the Afghanistan operation, with U.S. forces descending on Muslim backwaters to destroy jihadists and build nations. The tragic conundrum of a fighting liberalism that avoids enmeshment in a Vietnam or Iraq (the author now repudiates his early support of the Iraq war) is never adequately addressed. Still, Beinart's provocative analysis could stir much-needed debate on the direction of liberal foreign policy. (May 30)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Skittish about the "liberal" label, progressive politicians have virtually abandoned a history that offers lessons for addressing current domestic and international issues. Beinart, editor at large of the New Republic, offers a perspective on how liberalism has steered American politics away from its worse impulses, from the red scare^B through the cold war and Vietnam, in search of ideals of freedom that promised domestic and international security. He highlights the political trade-offs liberals have made, including struggles to remain true to ideals and avoid conservative charges of being soft on Communism, championing racial equality to strengthen the nation at home and abroad, later facing the brutal realities as the nonviolent civil rights movement transformed into rising militancy in the 1960s, and responding, ineffectively, to changes in domestic and international politics since 9/11. Beinart worries that liberals are so fixated on the threats posed by the Bush administration and the Right that they risk being too dismissive of the very real threat of terrorism. A thoughtful perspective. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
I am a product of working class liberals from Cleveland, Ohio. I viewed the arms race as dangerous and needlessly expensive. So Mondale got my vote. Then I spent a year in Europe. Being on one of the front lines of the Cold War transformed my thinking. Totalitarianism, and the threat it posed, was real. The Cold War needed to be fought, and it needed to be won. Reagan's policies gave us a chance to win it. I became a hawk.
At the same time, I learned a little about WWII and the ensuing Cold War. I came to realize that Republicans were not the original hawks. They were largely isolationists. To my surprise, Democrats were the original hawks. From WWII into Vietnam, the Cold War was fought by Democrats. What happened to the Democrats between Vietnam and 1984, and then into the present? Where did Reagan come from?
If you have any curiosity about these questions and their answers, Mr. Beinart's book is a must read and earns five stars on his treatment of these historical issues alone. Mr. Beinart is a "liberal" partisan, so kudos to him for criticizing "liberals" where criticism is due and recognizing "conservatives" where recognition is due.
But Mr. Beinart did not write a book just to tell the history of the Cold War. He writes to persuade us that the war on terror is every bit as real as the Cold war and, perhaps more importantly, every bit as important to fight. In the process, he offers a fair assessment of why the war in Iraq might not advance, and may actually hinder the war on terror, just as the war in Vietnam did not advance, and probably hindered the Cold War. If Vietnam caused a generation of "liberals" to abandon the Cold War, Mr. Beinart is concerned that Iraq may cause "liberals" to abandon the war on terror. He has good reason to be concerned. He reports that "only 59 percent of Democrats - as opposed to 94 percent of Republicans - still approve of America's decision to invade Afghanistan."
As a "conservative," it is refreshing to hear a "liberal" voice speak honestly and directly about the dangers facing America today and about the need to confront those dangers using all available means, including military means. To the extent anyone, "liberal" or "conservative," needs reminding that the war on terror is real and worth the fight, again Mr. Beinart's book warrants five stars. To the extent anyone, "liberal" or "conservative," wants to critically assess what the war in Iraq means for the war on terror, his book will give any staunch (if open minded) "conservative" something to think about. After all, even George Will concedes that Mr. Beinart may have written "one of those rare books that turns a political tide."
Mr. Beinart would like to turn the tide for "liberals" and his partisanship on this issue is not subliminal: the subtitle to his book declares that only liberals can win the war on terror and make America great again. The subtitle is unfortunate if it serves to dissuade "conservatives" from reading the book because the very history Mr. Beinart elucidates without bias tells us that someone in either the Truman or Reagan mold can lead America to win the war on terror. Only diehard partisans care whether that person is a "liberal" or "conservative." The rest of us just hope that someone emerges as a leader because Mr. Beinart convincingly persuades that the "good fight" is worth fighting, which makes the "Good Fight" worth reading no matter your political stripe.
"Make America Great Again" has been hijacked by Trump of course but that does NOT invalidate Beinart's central thesis: when America becomes "We The People" rather than selfishly follows individualism, it becomes TRULY great, whether during The Great Depression, WWII or the Cold War. "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!" was JFK's call to his his fellow citizens in his inauguration( and although it would be much mocked esp during the debacle of Vietnam and the shame and scandal of Watergate, it would STILL be a valid call). In the wake of 9/11, applications for voluntary groups such as Teach For America, AmeriCorps and even the CIA skyrocketed but unfortunately the only thing that Bush suggested Americans do is go shopping.