LIBERALS DON'T TAKE THEIR OWN SIDES IN AN ARGUMENT.

LIBERALS DON'T TAKE THEIR OWN SIDES IN AN ARGUMENT. About our preemptive who-lost-Iraq back and forth, I have to say Scott makes an excellent point. Of course the right will blame liberals, the press, the public, etc., for losing the war -- especially if it's a war the right prosecuted exclusively.

My concern is that, right now, it's precisely the neoconservative project that bears the exclusive blame for the war, and in the broader sense of the public, my guess is that most people think it's Bush's war, full-stop. As liberals, with a better answer to the pressing challenges of national security, we owe it to ourselves to make sure it stays that way. Scott is surely right that the conservatives will shift the blame. But we shouldn't forget how readily we as Americans don't want to accept having lost a war. It was a mere five years between the fall of Saigon and the return-to-glory election of Ronald Reagan, who successfully peddled the noble-cause myth -- and remember, Vietnam was a much more settled argument than Iraq is. Sure, liberals can't stop the right from seeding the bed for the claim that liberals lost the war. But we can avoid stepping into the trap as much as possible, and thereby stopping the forces of reaction from claiming the popular imagination through the media, etc.

The larger point is that if liberals lose the struggle for Iraq-revisionism, we're in for more disastrous, astrategic wars. Bush isn't going to stop the war while he's in office anyway, so the right approach for liberals is to ensure that an antiwar candidate -- like a certain Illinois senator -- has as much breathing room as possible to win the Democratic nomination, and then the general election, on a platform of ending the war. (And then of course making sure he ends the war.) Keeping neoconservatism in braying, dishonest apogee and disgrace is the best way to make Scott's likely scenario a marginal phenomenon, and allowing room for a better national-security strategy to emerge.

--Spencer Ackerman

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