The Burden of Proof
Posted by David Shorr
Above all cautionary lessons, you'd think the Iraq debacle has demonstrated the folly of resorting to military force without first gaining the upper hand of political legitimacy, establishing the existence of the threat, and clarifying, through serious planning, how armed force will achieve your objectives. You'd think that this searing experience would make clear that prudence in the resort to force is different from willingness to use force.
After Iraq, surely our political discourse is mature enough that people no longer have to prove their national security credentials by pointing toward where they would use force, and thereby falling into the same sloppy strategic reasoning that got us into Iraq in the first place. We have learned that to be hesitant to use force is simply to respect its destructive bluntness as an instrument and wait until the proper moment.
Surely the burden of political proof has shifted toward those with an itchy trigger finger. That IS the popular wisdom of November's anti-Iraq War elctoral mandate, right? From the looks of Jeffrey Goldberg's article in the new New Yorker, apparently not.
The article compares and contrasts the Democratic presidential frontrunners' foreign policy views. Maybe some of the quotes from the candidates are interesting, I don't know. Frankly I'm having trouble seeing past Goldberg's retrograde premise. He is still asking "do they have the stomach," [a paraphrase, not a quote] when he should be asking "do they have the judgment."
Just one example to show how flimsy this is: "Polls also show that a sizable minority of Democrats now feel that the war in Afghanistan was a mistake--thirty five per cent." [That one is a quote.] Is this serious political analysis? Just what does this sizable minority indicate?
Can we please have a serious debate? Please?