Empty Sloganeering

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"Empty Sloganeering"

David Greenberg has a weird article in The New Republic slamming various liberals, including myself, who didn’t go in for hard-core anti-Russian demagoguery as an immediate response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia:

When the right language happened to come from McCain–who declared, “We are all Georgians now”–the general response among liberal pundits was to scoff. Writing on The Washington Post’s website, Andres Martinez told the senator to speak for himself. “I am not a Georgian,” he insisted, deriding the “over-the-top rhetoric about democracy and liberty” from McCain and Bush. Blogger Matt Yglesias, writing under the aegis of the Center for American Progress, called the statement “empty political sloganeering,” “downright irresponsible,” and “mawkish sentimentality.”

My initial thought was to respond to this by saying that I was right. McCain was engaged in empty political sloganeering that substituted mawkish sentimentality for an actual policy response. But Greenberg, stunningly, doesn’t deny that I was right — he just thinks that being right is no defense!

Why should the statements of liberal pundits trouble us? It’s not because their criticisms are necessarily wrong.

The rest of the article goes on to posit a supposed divide between noble idealistic liberals like Greenberg and bad ol’ cynical realists like me. But I think the real divide is captured by Greenberg’s admission that the statements he objects to aren’t necessarily wrong. On the one hand, you have some people who think that the purpose of foreign policy commentary is to try to elucidate the issues and point the way to practical policy responses that will improve the world. On the other hand, you have some people who think that the role of foreign policy commentary is to demonstrate that you have an appropriate emotional orientation to the world. To me, this is “mawkish sentimentality” rather than a serious, responsible, approach. And Greenberg agrees! But somehow I’m wrong anyway. Well, fair enough then.

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