Patterico's Pontifications


Why are so many Lefties AWOL on Afghanistan?

Filed under: General — Karl @ 1:57 pm

[Posted by Karl]

That’s the question Michael A. Cohen asked at The New Republic:

While no one can be sure how escalation in Afghanistan will turn out, the warning signs are blinking red. Yet the reaction from many of the president’s liberal and left-of-center supporters has been acquiescence and even silence. The Pentagon report—like much of the recent bad news out of Afghanistan—caused barely a ripple on the left. It’s a familiar pattern. The American Prospect, along with Salon, has devoted enormous and laudable energy to covering civil liberties issues related to the U.S. war on terror, but has run only one major article on Afghanistan since Obama’s December speech at West Point.

The Center for American Progress’s Wonk Room blog has not run a headlined story about the war since January. At Talking Points Memo, which is perhaps the most prominent liberal blog, Afghanistan rarely rates a mention. Paul Krugman, a frequent critic of the Iraq War (and President Obama), has not written a column on Afghanistan since the president took office. And The New Republic itself has largely avoided critical consideration of the war. (The Nation and Mother Jones have been exceptions to this relative silence.)

So why are so many liberal voices muted?

The obvious explanation is to be avoided, so Cohen offers up three lame rationalizations. The first is that “[t]here are fewer reporters in Afghanistan than in Iraq—and little in the way of TV coverage. As a result, it is difficult to get a clear sense of what is happening on the ground and what is working and not working.” Yet a premise of Cohen’s piece is that the US mission in Afghanistan is not working; he must be getting some information somewhere, yes? Moreover, the establishment media’s coverage of Iraq was badly flawed, for reasons above and beyond political bias. Indeed, Cohen’s third reason — that the misunderstood “success” of the surge has led many progressives to now “feel chastened about speaking out against Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan” — tacitly admits that the establishment media’s coverage of Iraq warped public perceptions of the conflict.

Cohen’s remaining rationale is that “in contrast to the war in Iraq, liberals generally support the objectives of the war in Afghanistan—and for a good part of the past seven years have been calling on the U.S. to devote more attention to the war there, rather than Iraq.” How does that square with the facts on the ground? Congressional Democrats were threatening a one-year deadline last year. Both the Obama administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to twist Democratic arms to pass the emergency war-spending bill in the House by eight votes. Pelosi later said that Obama would have to make the case himself to the Democratic caucus for votes to support a “surge” in Afghanistan this year; those votes are going to be hard to find. Furthermore, two-thirds of Democrats do not think the Afghanistan mission has been worth its costs. It seems doubtful that liberals would be more committed to the mission than Democrats generally.

Spencer Ackerman offers a raft of similarly lame rationalizations. For example, the fact that ISAF is a NATO operation has done more to reveal the limits of NATO than legitimize the mission. But Ackerman comes dangerously close to the truth in offering a final reason:

The lack of a political fight over Afghanistan. Republicans have either backed the strategy or acquiesced to it. The absence of partisan bickering means the more-ubiquitous media outlets don’t treat Afghanistan as a contentious issue. (Yes, this is a structural failure of contemporary journalism.) From the liberal perspective, it would be a tendentious to ignore that liberals are just going to be less likely to get into a heated rage over a president from the Democratic Party. That’s neither a defense nor an accusation that liberals are intellectually dishonest people, just a recognition that human beings have a natural tendency to be harder on the Other Fellow than One of Us.

Any number of Ackerman’s friends know the hip term for this: “epistemic closure.” (Ace could explain why it’s also a version of “manufacturing consent.”) Why this is better than pure partisan hackery when it comes to key questions of national security and the lives of American troops is left unexplained. Moreover, the people harping on the “epistemic closure” of the Right — most of whom were quite critical of the war policies of the Bush era — will likely never bother to explain why liberal wagon-circling on the war is less of a problem.

As someone who still supports the mission in Afghanistan, it is tempting to overlook the behavior of the Left here. However, it is difficult to ignore the subtext (also present in a range of war-related issues), which is that a Democrat in the White House will face far less opposition from the Left and its media enablers in pursuing the war than a Republican. That is no way to fight a war or govern a nation.


20 Responses to “Why are so many Lefties AWOL on Afghanistan?”

  1. The real explanation is that for the Left, proclaiming concern over the Bush administration’s handling of Afghanistan had nothing to do with a concern for success in Afghanistan and everything to do with attacking Bush and pulling cover over opposition to the Iraq operation.

    Now, its “screw the Afghan’s, Bush is gone”.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  2. As we saw last night, they will turn themselves into pretzels before they ever acknowledge the 800 lb. gorilla in the room.

    Dmac (3d61d9)

  3. Wars are only bad when they are not Democrat wars.

    kansas (7b4374)

  4. Well, in the 20th-Century, we sure engaged in a lot of “good” wars.

    AD - RtR/OS! (eef339)

  5. As anyone with an ounce of political common sense knows (and have already commented thusly here) the reason for the left’s silence on Afghanistan is simple and straightforward:

    Under the evil Oilwar Jesus Cowboy Bush, dissent was a patriotic duty; under the annointed chosen savior Obama, dissent is Un-American, racist, teabagging extremism that distracts from the fundamental transformation of the U.S.

    Got it? This aint rocket science folks.

    Mike D (cfd823)

  6. The opposition on Afghanistan will increasingly come from the right. Even Michael Yon, who tries very hard to avoid partisan digs, says this president isn’t up to the battle. Tony Blankley is now in opposition. Pakistan, like Turkey, has seen the future with Obama and is increasingly our enemy. They were never a real friend but they are much more open about their intentions now.

    I gave up some time ago. I was worried even before that.

    By the way, if you read the Michael Yon article, you should know that Menard was relieved about two weeks ago.

    Mike K (82f374)

  7. Comment by Mike K — 6/16/2010 @ 3:32 pm

    I can only imagine what Yon has to say about Amb. Karl W. Eikenberry?

    AD - RtR/OS! (eef339)

  8. obama F up
    cup of coffee let alone
    lead during wartime

    ColonelHaiku (523269)

  9. “So why are so many liberal voices muted?”

    What are they going to say? That we’ve lost almost as many guys in the 18 months that the New Messiah has been c-in-c than we lost during all the years Bush was running the show, and that we appear to be making no progress whatsoever in pacifying the country now that the the great military genius from Chicago has replaced the incompetent war criminal Bush?

    Wouldn’t be holding my breath waiting for the far left media or their cohorts in the MSM talking about the nearly 500 Americans killed in Afghanistan since their boy, Obama, moved in to the White House.

    If things start looking up (which I doubt will happen, but you never know), then they’ll start running some stories about the great one’s masterful handling of the situation in Afghanistan, but for now…mum’s the word.

    Dave Surls (46f219)

  10. It’s a real bitch that they can’t blame what’s happening on Rumsfeld.

    AD - RtR/OS! (eef339)

  11. There never was any principled anti-war movement. None nada. It was always just a get-out-the-vote drive for Democrats. A leftover remnant from the 60’s that goes well on college campuses and older hippies in the media got wet remembering their “good ol’ days” of pot smoking and draft dodging.

    You guys see the huge protest this year on the anniversary of the Iraq war?

    Yeah neither did I.

    What happened to all the Code Pink and ANSWER guys yelling at the President saying “No war for oil” and coming up with conspiracy theories of why we are still there? Whatever happened to General Betrayus ads?

    Mr. Pink (bb8267)

  12. Code Pink is busy with their pro-Hamas rallies.

    Mike K (82f374)

  13. If democrates lose control of the house in November we will see constant reporting on the homeless and unemployed starving. As long as Barry is in charge the homeless will not be discussed. I read an AP story a couple of weeks ago detailing 10 NATO soldiers death in Afghanistan. The information that 5 of them were Americans was not revealed until the second paragrah. NATO deaths not American deaths. The propaganda spewed by the MSM in support of Barracky no longer represents reality if it ever did. How many reporters were sent to destroy Sarah Palin? How many have reported that Barrack Hussein Obama has used at least 3 different SSN’s since his stay in America began? Three social security numbers for one person. Other than fraud why would he need 3?

    highpockets (cf4a2b)

  14. Wasn’t it Digby that basically admitted that all of the leftist caterwalling about the unjust illegal war in Iraq and the just war that must be won in Afghanistan was simply political rhetoric, they knew they were lying/being lied to, and did not care, so long as it brought them electoral success?

    JD (4b684a)

  15. We need to stay in Afghanistan.

    Remember 9/11.

    Michael Ejercito (249c90)

  16. Some folks thought that they were being clever by pointing to A as the war that needed to be fought and Bush was distracting the effort by invading Iraq.
    Everybody knew that was a lie. From the get-go.
    Once Iraq was settled, A would be the bad war.
    However, we now have a dem in charge. Making A out to be the bad war is a bit more complicated than they thought.
    But nobody ever didn’t think the left and the dems and the MFM were lying.

    Richard Aubrey (3d5d8b)

  17. Republicans, by their actual open support (no, not just “acquiesce”-nce) for Obama’s Afghan actions (half-of-Bush’s surge though they be) demonstrate quite effectively that “Party” comes in second or lower in their list of loyalties.

    Democrats have just as clearly demonstrated the contrary.

    sherlock (62f2cf)

  18. where right become wrong
    where nothing worth defending
    you find democrats

    ColonelHaiku (523269)

  19. However, we now have a dem in charge. Making A out to be the bad war is a bit more complicated than they thought.

    People have not forgotten about 9/11.

    9/11 was a much stronger casus belli than the violation of a cease fire.

    Michael Ejercito (249c90)

  20. The nominee for Deputy Attorney General, Cole, does not think 9/11 was an act of war or a justification for war.

    So yes, Michael, some people not only have forgotten 9/11, but some of them actually never even noticed what it was. And most of them are responsible for Obama and therefore the massive problems Obama has brought upon our nation.

    What’s sad is that you’re also right… many American remember 9/11 clearly and understand exactly what it means that Obama is our president. 44% strong disapproval at this early stage of Obama’s presidency is almost like a cold-civil war.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

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