The Goldberg Variations

To echo my man Spencer, someone should let Jeffrey Goldberg know that whatever you want to call the fact that the Democratic base thinks fighting AIDS should be a top foreign policy priority means, it can’t mean that Democrats are retreating from internationalism. We’re looking at an intense concern for the well-being of foreigners who live in states too poor or too chaotic to take care of them properly and, perhaps, concern about the second-order consequences of indifference to their fate. As Henley likes to say here, the specter of “isolationism” in this context is merely “a reluctance to travel a long distance to kill foreigners at great expense.”

Meanwhile, why would you be listening to Evan Bayh to put your finger on the pulse of things?

Bayh says it “would be tragic” if Iraq makes people too hesitant to launch a war against Iran “because Iran is a grave threat. They’re everything we thought Iraq was but wasn’t. They are seeking nuclear weapons, they do support terrorists, they have threatened to destroy Israel, and they’ve threatened us, too.” While Bayh’s analysis of this would obviously be more credible if he hadn’t been wrong about Iraq, his analysis is also simply wrong. What “we thought Iraq was” was a country likely to acquire a nuclear weapon that it was likely to deploy in an unprovoked first strike against the United States (possibly delivered via al-Qaeda) as well as a promising venue for an experiment in democratization-by-occupation. Not only was Iraq none of those things, but Iran is none of those things easier.

And so it goes for Goldberg. His basic view seems to be that if you’re an “internationalist” you must agree with him that the war in Iraq should be continued indefinitely, perhaps escalated à la Bush/McCain, and then expanded to Iran. But if this is internationalism — if it means committing an endless series of military blunders — then who needs it? These policy prescriptions need to be defended on the merits, but their exponents don’t quite seem to be able to muster that.