An important theme of Michael Lind's article is peace. Lind says, "The ideal of liberal internationalism...is a world organized as a peaceful global society of sovereign, self-governing peoples, in which great powers, rather than compete to carve out rival spheres of influence, cooperate to preserve international peace in the face of threats from aggressive states and terrorism."
Throughout the essay Lind returns to the notion of peace; the word itself or the concept of preserving it appears whenever a critical point is being made. Lind reinforces the importance of peace with historical examples, including the League of Nations and the United Nations, which he says are precedents to what may be established today. He calls for America to be the leading member of an international concert of great powers that seeks to secure and maintain, above all else, peace.
An explanation as to why peace is so important to Lind may come from Karl Polanyi, author of The Great Transformation. Writing during World War II, Polanyi maintained that for a hundred years during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, at the inception of institutional market economics, "under varying forms and ever-shifting ideologies--sometimes in the name of progress or liberty, sometimes by the authority of the throne and the alter, sometimes by grace of the stock exchange and the check book, sometimes by corruption and bribery, sometimes by moral argument and enlightened appeal, sometimes by the broadside and the bayonet--one and the same result was attained; peace was preserved."
Polanyi speaks of the "emergence of an acute peace interest," and the regular subordination of security and sovereignty to this interest by great powers. These powers sought to establish and maintain "peaceful business as a universal interest," to ensure the flourishing of new economic opportunities. Polanyi uses this situation to argue much larger topics, but he warns that, "The bearers of the new peace interest were, as usual, those who chiefly benefited from it."
Although time has passed and some circumstances have changed, Lind's attitude clearly falls directly in line with what Polanyi cautioned against. Lind's appeal may be found in his saying that, "The United States should rapidly remove its troops from Iraq and minimize its military footprint in Arab countries," but his interest is far removed from what may be implied from such a statement. Hastened withdraw may actually involve an American rejection of and refusal to acknowledge that Operation Iraqi Freedom ever took place. This attitude is common, if unacknowledged, among many that Lind criticizes, but he appears to hold it as well.
Lind's attitude is certainly not antiwar, but it is anti-Iraq, which is a form of peace but should be distinguished from genuine antiwar sentiment. Towards the end of his essay, Lind makes it clear that he supports new concerts of American power, "orchestrated by the United States." He argues for "something like a G-8 for security [that] could serve as an informal great power concert." "The gradual and prudent transformation of America's left-over cold war alliances" would be undertaken by expanding NATO and OSCE (already well underway, at the command and to the pleasure of the American military-industrial-complex, neo-con or not), and the establishment of new Eastern and Central Asian alliances dominated by the United States.
It is peculiar that Lind does not once mention Afghanistan or Pakistan, where some of the most important American foreign policy work is currently being formed. It should come as no surprise that once Americans leave Iraq many will enter Afghanistan. That war has been and is being called "necessary," as opposed to Iraq being a "chosen" war (including by Lind himself, elsewhere).
In the end, Lind appears to be arguing for peace, but he decidedly demonstrates an interest in immediate and long-lasting American war. Peace in Iraq, or at last an American withdrawal, according to Lind, serves the specific purpose of keeping American war respectable enough, quickly enough, so that we can do it again. This development should not be ignored once America does in fact leave Iraq: It is not antiwar; it is prowar with an antiwar foundation.
Fairless Hills, PA
Jun 21 2007 - 4:01pm