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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
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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In the past two years much has changed. Although he is still trying to enlist Democrats in the good fight, he admits that he was wrong about Iraq in several ways. One, of course, was the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, but the other, more importantly, was the failure to realize the limits of American power and legitimacy. Borrowing from Rheinhold Niebuhr, he now believes we would do well with a little humility.
That said, Beinart still believes that liberals are uniquely equipped to fight global jihad. He supports his argument by drawing on the Cold War era and the Truman administration. Centrist liberals from the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) rejected communists and communist sympathizers at home as well as abroad. They set the Democratic Party on a centrist path and became mentors and supporters of the Truman administration. The policies of deterrence and containment advocated by Dean Acheson, George Marshall, George Kennan, and Paul Nitze served this country well up until the presidency of JFK.
In his potted history of this period, Beinart is trying to draw parallels between the fight against communist totalitarianism and today's Islamist jihad. There are, however, important differences. Osama Bin Laden is no Josef Stalin. Providing support for loosely connected cells of terrorists is much different than commanding the government of the Soviet Union and its nuclear equipped army. Moreover, demonizing communism in the 50's and 60's was one thing, but demonizing Islamist jihad, and by extension Islam, one runs the risk of inflaming a clash of civilizations that is already in danger of becoming full-blown. Even the Bush administration is tactful enough to call it simply a war on terror.
Fact of the matter is, Beinart doesn't need to draw on the Cold War era and the Truman administration. (Bush has already done that.) He should be paying more attention to Francis Fukuyama's latest book "America at the Crossroads." Fukuyama like Beinart agrees that the war on terror must be fought more agressively and more intelligently. And, if it is to be successful, it must be done multilaterally and through international institutions.
In the current chastened environment, Beinart is correct in noting that humility is in order. He tells us that when America recognizes that it too is capable of evil it will then be in a better position to determine the fates of others. This is why he believes Democrats will be better able to fight the good as opposed Republicans who believe in American infallibility and who confuse American interests with universal values. It's time to start leading more by example and consensus than by force, more by negotiation and less by confrontation. This will be the tone of the next administration whether it is Democratic or Republican.
The argument is basically that when you look at the different outlooks--Liberalism, Leftism (embodied by Michael Moore and [...]), Exceptionalism (the conservative's outlook of American purity of actions in foreign policy), and isolationism (Pat Buchanan and the John Bircher's)--Liberalism is the most suitable for the very political struggle we are now engaged in. Liberalism sees that American actions are not necessarily pure in heart, that democracy is something we have to struggle to achieve every day, both here in the US and when we promote it abroad; that working with our allies and established institutions is preferable to going it alone as a policy for legitimacy purposes, etc.
Reading this book alongside Walter Russell Mead's "Special Providence" on the various schools of thought through the history of the United States' foreign policy would be worthwhile. All in all, I believe this book earns its reputation as a controversial book. Hopefully it will spark that much needed conversation, concluding with the realization by Americans that George Bush's policies are doing more harm than good. Its time to get his party and his fellow travelers out of power. Soon.
I highly recommend this book.
Beinart's main thesis is that the Democratic party once demonstated a more nuanced and effective foreign policy than that of the Republicans and that it should be trusted and encouraged to take up the mantle of leadership in the current fight against the forces that threaten world peace.
"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.