Last Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press," former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said: "There is not one Democrat who wants us to fail in Iraq. There is not one Democrat that doesn't want our troops to come home safely or wants our homeland to be properly protected or let Iraq develop a democracy and operate within the region. And I have to tell you, to be maligned as not patriotic or undercutting the effort, I think is unacceptable."
I suppose it depends on what the meaning of wants is. I'll give her the second want: that our troops come home safely. I don't doubt that even the most fanatical anti-war Democrat wants our troops to come home safely, and he or she could honestly argue that an immediate withdrawal of all our troops from Iraq could best effectuate that want.
But as to the first, third and fourth wants (wanting us to succeed in Iraq, to protect our homeland, and wanting Iraq to develop democracy and operate within the region), I have to take exception to the former Secretary of State's claim. There are several elected Democrats (I won't hold Mrs. Albright's assertion to include rank-and-file moveon.org types) who actively support policies that objectively undercut those three "wants."
What are rational people to make of Howard Dean's statement that "the idea that we're going to win the war is an idea that, unfortunately, is just plain wrong." In what sense does he "want" us not to fail in Iraq? Now, this is where the definition of want comes in. It is technically true that since DNC Chairman Dean says "unfortunately," he can make the argument that he wants victory, he wants the war objectives (establishing democracy in Iraq and protecting our homeland by so doing). Dr. Dean can make that claim, at the verbally technical level, even as he openly admits that he supports substantive policies (immediate withdrawal of our troops) that will assure the non-attainment of those goals.
There were many slaveholders in America before the Civil War who "wanted" what was best for their African-American slaves -- it was just that they thought slavery was their natural condition and that slavery was best for them. We fought and won a civil war to defeat that pernicious idea.
While such slaveholders may have been subjectively honest when they said they wanted what was best for their slaves, the rest of the world was entitled to assert that objectively, the slaveholder did not support policies that were best for the slave (what was objectively best for the slave -- any slave -- is freedom).
It may be true that Howard Dean subjectively wants to protect our homeland and see Democracy reign in Iraq. But others are entitled to assert that the policy he advocates -- losing the war immediately -- objectively is not in the best interest of Iraqi democracy and the protection of our homeland.
Certainly as to the third point (bringing democracy to Iraq), no sane person can believe that intentionally losing the war by immediately bringing our troops home is rationally calculated to attain that goal. Sincerely wishing so still makes a person, objectively, opposed to gaining such results. Democratic Party officials, such as Mrs. Albright, who assert that they support both democracy in Iraq and immediate withdrawal can and should be called on such baldly false assertions.
As to the second point -- making our homeland safe -- while it is, just barely, open to debate, I believe we should have that debate. Precisely, we should have the debate that some politicians are prepared to risk our national security by calling for immediate withdrawal. Responsible national Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Biden, are as adamant as President Bush that the consequences of immediate withdrawal would be catastrophic to our national security.
Democrats (and, for that matter, Republicans) who call for immediate withdrawal should be accused of objectively threatening our national security. Let's have that debate. Politicians who call for immediate withdrawal should not be entitled to claim, as Mrs. Albight does, that they are acting in the best interest of our national security -- whatever they may subjectively think.
Once upon a time, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre shrewdly and stingingly criticized self-deceivers with the charge of bad faith (mauvaise foi): the self-deceptive motives by which people often try to elude responsibility for what they do.
Now would be a good time to review the applicability of such bad faith to the politicians who claim to have our national security at heart even as they call for surrender and retreat.