Yesterday I said I’d offer up some fuller thoughts on Kevin Drums notion that Democrats actually are in agreement about national security matters. One slight problem with Kevin’s view, I think, is that it comes with the proviso that only “if you take out, say, the Chomsky wing on the left and the Lieberman wing on the right,” then you find that “there’s a surprising amount that the rest of us agree on.” In part it gets a little tautological to say that if you take a political movement, then remove its dissident elements, what you’re left with is unity. That aside, though, there is something to Kevin’s notion. But also, I think, something wrong with it.
The unity he’s talking about has been purchased at the price of a great deal of vagueness. Now there’s always going to be vagueness coming from politicians who have an understandable desire to avoid getting themselves pinned down. Which is fine, politics is politics. But if you watch the community of non-politicians in the progressive camp, you’ll find people who do articulate more specific ideas. And while either set of ideas can be fitted into the same overarching framework of platitutdes, they’re genuinely different ideas. I thought one useful way of exploring this might be for me to talk a little bit about Peter Beinart’s book, The Good Fight. There are a few reasons for this. One is simply that the book took a lot of criticism from bloggers for what I think were sort of the wrong reasons. Another is that my book is going to be on a similar sort of subject, but is going to reach substantially different conclusions. Last, Beinart’s a good case precisely because he’s fully disavowed the Iraq War, but I think still falls on the “hawk” side of an enduring divide within mainstream liberalism so looking at his ideas is a good way of showing that disagreement isn’t just disagreement about Iraq.