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The Good Fight: Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, January 29, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060841605
  • ASIN: B0035G03Z8
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,870,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Orlando on June 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1988. Peter Beinart would probably consider me a "conservative." It may therefore surprise anyone reading this review that I have given his book five stars. It may also surprise you that I voted for Walter Mondale in 1984, the first time I ever voted in a presidential election.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
"Good Fight" is quite possibly the best work of liberal intellectual history since Schlesinger's The Vital Center. It really is that damn good. Beinart knows his stuff. If all you're interested in reading is another empty-minded polemic on the Iraq War, don't buy this book. "The Good Fight" isn't about the War. It's about a historical narrative spanning 60 years. In the age of mind-numbing hyperpartisanship, books like these are becoming increasingly hard to find.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has two inseparable arguments. The first is that America's liberals, or at least the "national greatness" school of liberals, are better superintendents of a long struggle against ideologically motivated enemies than conservatives are, because liberals will seek to impose minimal restraints on American power abroad and somewhat more comprehensive reforms on American injustice at home that will cause us to be, and be seen to be, more legitimate than we would be under conservative rule. The second argument, upon which Beinart actually expends more time and effort, is that liberals can only win the domestic struggle for power by embracing the war on terror as they embraced anti-Communism during the Fifth Party System (which most analysts would now agree ended in 1968 with Nixon's victory over Humphrey).

The first three chapters of this book are a recapitulation of the entire history of post-World War II American liberalism. The fourth chapter, "Qutb's Children," is about this generation of Americans' greatest enemy, whom Beinart describes as "Salafist totalitarians." It is immediately followed by a chapter entitled "Reagan's Children" explaining the predilections of the conservatives and neoconservatives running the Bush administration's foreign and domestic policies. The last three chapters cover, respectively, the Iraq war and how it was sold (unsuccessfully) to the world and (successfully) to Americans; the 2004 election; and the issues and playing field both domestically and abroad as they stood in 2006, when the book was written.

Beinart did not anticipate the Great Recession, but his Afterword, written in late 2007, did anticipate the other great test that faced President Obama: the withdrawal from Iraq.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 2004, Peter Beinart wrote an article for the "The New Republic" calling on Democrats to reject the pacifists in their party - such as Michael Moore - and to toughen up in the fight against Islamist totalitarianism. Beinart was trying to rally the Democratic Party around the so-called "liberal hawks."

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.
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