A Rose By Any Other Name

Okay, perhaps my memory is faulty, perhaps I am just hallucinating, but I seem to remember that previous to the 2003 operations in Iraq one of the biggest concerns regarding an invasion of Iraq was that it would be preemptive and thus set a precedent for preemptive invasions on the part of the U.S. and its allies. Personally, I do not support the belief that it was preemptive, because we were regularly dropping bombs on Iraq and engaging in what I would loosely call economic warfare. That is another debate for another day.

What I want to know is what happened to all the concern over preemptive warfare? What happened to all those Democrats and others who thought that a preemptive war was not only a bad precedent to set but something that should not be tolerated? In spite of the fact that the current Iraq operations can only qualify as "preemptive" under the most liberal of interpretations of the term, it seems that most of America and perhaps most of the world, feels that Operation Iraqi Freedom did set a precedent for preemptive warfare and that now it is okay.

Both candidates in last Thursday's debate openly supported preemptive warfare in cases where America's security is threatened. Which makes me wonder whether I am incorrect in my belief that most of the Left opposed preemptive warfare just 2 years ago. Furthermore could a candidate 4 years ago (pre-9/11) have been just as open and supportive of preemptive warfare and still gotten elected?

I guess when it comes down to it, it is entirely irrelevant whether the Iraq war was really preemptive or not. It seems to only matter what the general consensus on the matter is. The Bush administration sold the operation in Iraq as a preemptive war against a known threat to America's security and thus to America it was (even though it wasn't preemptive). Hence it is now okay for modern day America to throw the first blow when it feels threatened (in spite of the fact that Operation Iraqi Freedom was far from a first blow).

I know John Kerry isn't exactly an anti-war Democrat (ironically), but I am nevertheless floored by the fact that he explicitly supported preemptive war as a presidential right without seeming to have even raised an eyebrow from a party that has prided itself on being the party of the peace activist. The Democratic party even claims to trace the origins of its current iteration to 1970. In other words they do not see themselves as the same party whose position on Vietnam resulted in a riot at the Democratic National Convention of 1968.

Either the Left has changed dramatically in the past 2 years from being predominantly opposed to preemptive war to being in favor of it (also there is that possibility that I'm hallucinating), or the Democratic party just doesn't feel like it is necessary to appeal to the Left anymore. After all who else are they going to vote for? Nader?

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No, you see the left only

No, you see the left only opposes premptive _Republican_ wars.

I think it's more subtle

I think it's more subtle than that. The part of the Left that will turn out to vote for Kerry (as opposed to Nader or no one) understands that his anti-military record (forget the VVAW years, his 20 year voting record in the Senate is proof enough), is pretty good evidence that he wouldn't really exercise the option. After all, he has the "global test" out. He's far too concerned with what the Europeans and the U.N. think to be a real unilateralist.

I sense that, for now, the antiwar left is the majority of the Democratic Party apparatus. Post-election, they have a lot of soul-searching to do on that issue. Certainly the old Scoop Jackson/Sam Nunn strong defense Democrats are things of the past. Zell Miller may have been the last of the breed.

Only the focus has changed.

Only the focus has changed. Earlier the appeal was to the left wing democratic base, but now Kerry wants to appeal to the center which doesn't really give a shit about pre-emptive war.

Rainbough, It's rather


It's rather difficult to be totally against the notion of a preemptive war under any circumstances when there are so many different nations that would like to see us all dead, and are actively persuing means to make just that possible.

You are right that the party has changed in the last two years. In 2000, I was considered a moderte/conservative republican. There are many more just like me. Things change.

Diana- You seem to be more


You seem to be more leftish than rightish, at least in terms of support for social spending, programs, and opposition to the war.

Given that the Republican party of 2000 has advanced massive spending increases on all "social spending"/welfarist aspects of the state (as well as prosecuted the WO Terror/Afghanistan/Iraq), is it only Bush's war positions that have pushed you leftward? It would seem there is not a dime's worth of difference on the social spending side of the ledger (education, health care; you name it, he's spent more on it than Clinton, and increased spending on 'em faster than Clinton), so its a bit puzzling that you used to be a Republican of a moderate-to-conservative bent (who, presumably, would be to the right of Clintonian politics, center-left as they were), but are now a Democrat after the Republican party's lurch to the left on social/govt spending ("compassion"), which are far leftish than Clinton's...

JTK- As Diana put it, its


As Diana put it, its not "pre-emptive war" per se, but whom you're pre-empting and for what reason. Though there are lefties and libertarians who are reflexively anti-pre-emptive war (including some who'd pitch a fit against pre-emption even if there were tank divisions massing on the Canadian border getting reading for an imminent attack), folks who consider themselves moderate statists (er, centrists) or to the right have no problem with pre-emption qua pre-emption, but I think most of them have serious reservations about what fits the bill, and concerns about projected cost vs. benefit.

For myself, I do not believe in a reflexive opposition to pre-emptive war, but I do believe in setting the bar very high (to near imminence). I think the experience of the Iraq war has reset a lot of people's internal "bars" much higher for supporting future pre-emption from their previous 9/11-lowered state. Which is a good thing.

But Kerry has the perception (rightfully so, IMO) of being a feckless rationalizer who's mroe interested in the opinions (and thus agendas) of foreign leaders than the interest of America. Given the threat that Americans percieve to our society from Islamofascists, Kerry has to project a willingness to kick ass unilaterally in order to reassure the voting public. Hence the pander-switch, and also hence the silence on the rabid ABB left; they'll swallow anything to get rid of Bush.

Problem for Kerry, should he win, is that the mass of the electorate will hold him to his hawkish line or else punish congressional democrats in the mid-term elections (as they did in 2002 when Daschle et al. made wimpish objections to the proposed Iraq war), but the hard-line left of the party (which is the plurality of the rank and file these days) will not stand for it (they want hypocrisy, now!), and so Kerry will be damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't.

The democrats are probably best off letting Bush win now, and insure a 2008-???? presidential and perhaps congressional dominance. If Kerry wins, its likely the Phants will take it back in '08, with an even bigger congressional margin.

Brian, I don't know where


I don't know where the Republican party of 2000 advanced social spending/programs that they actually went through with anything more than talk.

In particular there was a large cut in funding programs for the [low income]elderly. I worked in my county on many of those programs before they dried up.

The Bush administration also ended funding for many homeless shelters, runaway/pregnant teen shelters, Veteran's hospitals, Veteran's outpatient clinics, and mental health care facilities across the nation.

If you hadn't noticed any of these, I'd have to look up some sources for you. Perhaps in the morning.


What happened to all those

What happened to all those Democrats and others who thought that a preemptive war was not only bad precedent to set but something that should not be tolerated?

"All those Democrats?" The only one I can think of who espoused such a sweeping view was Dennis Kucinich.

KC Kucinich was the only one


Kucinich was the only one who ran for president. Of the rank and file democrats (as in not officials elected to high offices) that I have known most of them were strongly opposed to preemptive war in all but the most extreme circumstances. The party's leaders aren't typically that hard-line about it because they want to get elected and are trying to appeal to the center (hence clinton). Its no suprise that Kerry supports preemptive war. It is a surprise that he answered the question directly when so much of the democrats bread and butter (the left) is opposed to it. Ever since Carter the Democrats have been afraid to run candidates who view war as something to avoid to the greatest degree possible, nevertheless the Democrats have been priding themselves on being the anti-war party for the past 30+ years.

Brian, Here's a good article


Here's a good article that sums up the social spending cuts quite nicely:


I didn't go through it all, but it looked to be in order.

Also, while it seems to be thought that Clinton 'cut' social spending, the man was actually quite excellent at getting such programs to run leaner, AND more efficiently.