In his recent account of a breakfast book party at the home of Tina Brown and Harry Evans, Eric Alterman misquoted me slightly but significantly. What I actually said was “the hate America tendency of the [Democratic Party’s] left wing” had made it harder for Democrats to challenge Republicans on foreign policy.
Alterman had me castigating the “liberal wing” of the party, which I was careful not to do. There is a crucial difference between liberals and leftists, especially on foreign policy–even though Republicans (and leftist-wingers) have successfully conflated the two over the past few decades. The default position of leftists like, say, Michael Moore and many writers at The Nation, is that America is essentially a malignant, imperialistic force in the world and the use of American military power is almost always wrong. Liberals have a more benign, and correct, view of America’s role in the world and tend to favor the use of military force if it is exercised judiciously, as a last resort, and in a multilateral contect–with U.N. approval or through NATO. The first Gulf War, the overthrow of the Taliban and the Kosovo intervention met these criteria; Bush’s Iraq invasion clearly did not. That was the point I was trying to make at breakfast.