Iraq and the Kosovo Connection

Neocon fingerprints are everywhere

From the Balkans to the site of ancient Babylon, our interventionist policies have set us up for confrontations with groups and nations that seek to stem U.S. hegemony, principally Russia and Iran. We are, it seems, presently engaged in a two-front “civilizational” conflict: with the Slavic world, in central and eastern Europe, as well as in the rest of Russia’s “near abroad”; and with Sunni insurgents and Shi’ite Iranians, i.e., a good deal of the Islamic world.

How did we get to this point? The grand convergence of Left and Right interventionists during the Clinton years led directly to what Gen. William E. Odom has described as the biggest strategic disaster in American military history. As Jacob Heilbrunn puts it in They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons:

“As [Lawrence F.] Kaplan and Kristol depicted it in their [2003] book [The War Over Iraq], the main issue that should unite the liberal and conservative hawks was the belief that American power, which had liberated the Balkans from Serbian aggression, should be redeployed against Iraq. Once again, morality was the key as well as the putative link between Osama and Saddam.”

“Such bellicose rhetoric,” Heilbrunn points out, “was adopted by numerous liberal hawks, including Paul Berman.” Such militancy wasn’t confined to a few left-liberal intellectuals who suddenly imagined themselves as their generation’s version of George Orwell. It also infected the mindset of more than one liberal politician, e.g., Hillary Clinton, whose pro-war rhetoric at the time of the invasion, as well as her vote to authorize the strike, reflected the new bellicosity on the Left. It was Hillary, you’ll recall, whose pressure on her husband to do something about the alleged “genocide” was the decisive factor in launching the bombing campaign against Serbia.

The neoconservatives often get the whole of the blame for the unfolding disaster in Iraq, but the reality is that they couldn’t have pulled it off all by themselves: they needed, sought, and got the support of the liberals.