In fact, according to his own account, Berube has been consistently dovish on Iraq and attended several anti-war rallies before it was cool to be anti-war. Here is Cockburn's offending passage that ruffled Berube's feathers,
The war party virtually monopolized television. AM radio poured out a filthy torrent of war bluster. The laptop bombardiers such as Salman Rushdie were in full war paint. Among the progressives the liberal interventionists thumped their tin drums, often by writing pompous pieces attacking the antiwar "hard left". Mini-pundits Todd Gitlin and Michael Berube played this game eagerly. Berube lavished abuse on Noam Chomsky and other clear opponents of the war, mumbling about the therapeutic potential of great power interventionism, piously invoking the tradition of "left internationalism". …All true enough, but then Cockburn adds a misleading twist,
As Iraq began to plunge ever more rapidly into the abyss not long after the March, 2003 attack, this crowd stubbornly mostly stayed the course with Bush. "Thumpingly blind to the war's virtues" was the head on a Paul Berman op ed piece in February, 2004.Christopher Hitchens lurched regularly onto Hardball to hurl abuse at critics of the war.Berube certainly never stayed the course with Bush because he never was on course with him, as it concerns Iraq anyway. Berube is a "cruise missile" lefty who took the odd position of supporting the war in principle but not in practice. From what I can tell, the key piece of evidence supporting this assertion is an editorial published in the Boston Globe in the fall of 2002 where Berube took shots at "clear opponents of war" and "mumbled about the therapeutic potential of great power interventionism, piously invoking the tradition of "left internationalism." His conclusion: anti-imperialism and pro-war stances are not exclusionary positions. Lo', do I spot hawkish talons curling out from under Berube's dovish down? Berube,
Most likely the hard left's myopia and intransigence will not matter to most Americans -- that is, those who never trusted the judgment of Chomsky or Z Magazine in the first place and don't see why it matters now that anti-imperialists have lost a "credibility" they never had in some quarters. But the reason it should matter, even in parts of America where there are no campuses, no anti-Sharon rallies, and no subscribers to Counterpunch, is that the United States cannot be a beacon of freedom and justice to the world if it conducts itself as an empire…(Hmmm... The last line almost sounds like Berube is asking lefties to consider supporting the Iraq war.) It is true; theoretically, one can be pro-war and anti-imperialist. That is an easy enough conjecture, but in the real world, where the U.S. is an imperial power that launches imperial wars that can not be credibly categorized as self-defense, this is almost no longer possible.
The antiwar left … lost its bearings in Kosovo and Kabul, insisting beyond all reason that those military campaigns were imperialist wars for oil or regional power. And why does that matter? Because in the agora of public opinion, the antiwar left never claimed to speak to pragmatic concerns or political contingencies: for the antiwar left, the moral ground was the only ground there was. So when the antiwar left finds itself on shaky moral ground, it simply collapses.
…. The emergence of the antiwar right, however, may yet hold a lesson for the left, … The challenge, clearly, is to learn how to be strenuously anti-imperialist without being indiscriminately antiwar. It is a lesson the American left has never had to learn -- until now.
Let’s get to the underlying factors at play here; Berube supported the Clinton led NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 on the grounds that it was an act of humanitarian intervention. The evidence that humanitarian intervention was the primary justification of said action is mostly the consensus of the "herd of independent minds" and what some politicians in power at the time have publicly declared, ex post facto. The Iraq war is where certain factions of the political left and right meet face to face after having started out in opposite directions in Kosovo and traveling along their respective arcs of the same imperialist circle. Mirroring the liberal hawks gushing praise for Kosovo, Bush and his followers continue to insist that he has liberated 25 million Iraqis and that the sum of Saddam’s brutal past justified an even more brutal U.S. intervention to set things right. That reality has never quite squared with what either group claims is a small matter.
The Kosovo bombing left us with Camp Bondsteel and an enduring legacy among liberals as an exemplary use of American military power - even though it was officially a NATO action. Partisan liberals are especially susceptible to this particular framing because of Saint Clinton’s involvement. And since Chomsky is involved in the conversation, I should mention that he wrote two books explaining the alternate narrative of events that is by Berube’s account, “beyond all reason”; “A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West” and “The New Military Humanism: Lessons From Kosovo.” Both are mostly available online. Just for fun, let’s drag another name into the mix; that of Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army Colonel and former Professor at West Point, author of “American Empire: The Realities & Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy.”
Berube asserts that the “antiwar left … lost its bearings in Kosovo and Kabul, insisting beyond all reason that those military campaigns were imperialist wars for oil or regional power.” Again, “Beyond all reason.” Bacevich and Chomsky certainly go “beyond all reason” in their books and actually probe the evidence supporting the contention that bombing Kosovo was humanitarian intervention. I won’t reproduce their arguments in full, but I do urge any party interested in the matter to see what Chomsky and Bacevich wrote in their full contexts and examine the primary evidence they cite.
Bacevich mentions in his book that Bosnia had been enduring a civil war for several years before the bombing in 1999. He argues that what was at stake was Europe and U.S. leadership in Europe,
“Much the same can be said with regard to the much larger military enterprise launched in connection with Kosovo in March 1999. Assertions that the United States and its allies acted in response to massive Serb repression of Kosovar Albanians simply cannot survive close scrutiny. Operation Allied Force was neither planned nor conducted to alleviate the plight of the Kosovars. When Slobodan Milosevic used the start of the bombing as a pretext to intensify Serb persecution of the Kosovars, that point became abundantly clear: NATO persisted in a bombing campaign that neither stopped nor even restarted Serb efforts to empty the province of Muslims. To the extent that General Wesley Clark…. Modified the script of his original campaign plan, he did so not by providing protection to the victims of Serb repression by victimizing Serb civilians.
Indeed, some members of the Clinton administration actively sought a showdown with Slobodan Milosevic: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright designed the so-called Rambouillet peace conference in February and March 1000 so as to ensure that the Yugoslav president would reject any negotiated settlement of the Kosovo issue. … military action was what the United States wanted: a demonstration of what a new, more muscular alliance under U.S. direction could accomplish in thwarting ‘creeping instability.’ The intent of Operation Allied Force was to provide an object lesson to any European state fancying that it was exempt from the rules of the post-Cold War era. It was not Kosovo that counted, but affirming the dominant position of the United States in a Europe that was unified, integrated, and open. As Clinton himself explained on March 23, 1999, just before the start of the bombing campaign, “if we’re going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be a key…. That’s what this Kosovo thing is all about.”
Elsewhere, Bacevich traces the rise of Wesley Clark, who under the mentorship of Richard Holbrooke believed in U.S. military power as a tool of diplomacy rather than strictly for use in self-defense. Clark lobbied for a “carrot and stick” approach to dealing with Milosevic, the stick a euphemism for bombing, of course. Clark grew to know Milosevic and firmly believed that Milosevic would back down when faced with bombing, as recorded in Clark’s memoirs. Clark and the U.S. had staked the credibility of NATO on forcing Milosevic to back down, and when he didn’t acquiesce, they felt compelled to bomb or risk eroding NATO’s credibility. Bacevich documents,
“’We’ve put NATO’s credibility on the line,’ Clark reminded Albright. ‘We have to follow through and make it work. There’s no real alternative now.’”Bacevich hints at a niggling detail of the humanitarian bombing, extensively documented by Chomsky, that the intervention rapidly escalated the scale of atrocities.
“The first several days’ bombing succeeded in only stoking the fires of Serb nationalism and in providing Belgrade with the excuse to accelerate its ethnic cleansing of Kosovo… high officials in Washington continued to characterize the operation as a ‘humanitarian intervention,’ launched in response to Serb-perpetrated genocide.” As Clark admitted in an interview, “’It was always understood from the outset that there was no way we were going to stop these paramilitary forces who were going in there and murdering civilians in these villages.’”
Clinton had to that point justified the bombing by claiming it was a humanitarian intervention, but as the atrocities and refugee problems mounted it became increasingly more difficult to do so. They were forced to choose between full scale invasion instead of an air campaign or an adjustment of the intervention’s publicly given rationale. Bacevich,
“Even as [NATO] expressed continuing sympathy for the plight of Kosovars and maintained a pretense of going after Yugoslav forces in the field, the alliance would shift the weight of its air effort to Serbia proper. Targeting government facilities, communications networks, the electrical grid, oil refineries, factories, and infrastructure, allied aircrews would wreck whatever level of havoc was required…. Instead of searching ineffectually for Serb forces scattered among the villages of Kosovo, NATO would go after downtown Belgrade. People might die as a result, but few if any of them would be wearing the uniform of a NATO nation. …So that is Bacevich’s “beyond reasonable” analysis of what Kosovo was all about. Let’s turn now to Chomsky, who addresses many of these same issues with much more explicit references to the evidence. In interviews after the publication of his two books, Chomsky references the words of John Norris, director of communications for Strobe Talbott, who was the lead American negotiator and big whig at the joint NSC-Pentagon- State Department task force during the bombing. Norris writes that “it was Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform – not the plight of Kosovar Albanians – that best explains NATO’s war.”
But all of this was nothing in comparison with Kosovo’s moral and ethical implications. Indeed, on these matters, the events during and after the conflict left a long skein of confusion trailing in their wake. … The United States and its allies publicly justified intervention as a necessary response to the horrors of ethnic cleansing. But once the shooting began, they took no meaningful action to protect the Kosovar Albanians, whose plight actually worsened as NATO proceeded with its attack.”
The U.S. was primarily concerned with preventing the loss of a single NATO life, hence the much more destructive air war and lack of ground forces. It became “expedient to target the Serb political and economic infrastructure, and inevitably Serb civilians….
Kosovar refugees returned home thirsting for revenge and wasted little time slaking that thirst. A savage process of reverse ethnic cleansing ensued, which KFOR did little to impede.”
In “The New Military Humanism”, Chomsky states the obvious, “Serb atrocities in Kosovo, which are quite real, and often ghastly” before detailing the time-line of events during bombing, noting the sharp uptick in refugees and deaths as a consequence of the bombing campaign, documented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) report, the International Court’s indictment of Milosevic, a British Parliamentary Inquiry, and the U.S. State Department. In “A New Generation Draws the Line”, Chomsky discusses the justification of the conflict, quoting Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Chariman of the Joints Chiefs Henry Shelton, who enumerated “entrusting the stability of Eastern Europe, thwarting ethnic cleansing, and ensuring NATO’s credibility” and in his repetitive style that is so popular with the kids repeatedly points out that the worst atrocities occurred as a consequence of the bombing, which were later used as a pretext for bombing in an inversion of the accepted chronology.
In classic Chomsky style, he also points out a number of ongoing atrocities that occurred during the 1990s under U.S. approval and sponsorship in Colombia, Turkey and East Timor. The point being that the U.S. had the ability to meaningfully and deterministically engage in humanitarian intervention in several places by simply refusing to continue its material and political support for them and the outcome would be far more certain than a large scale bombing campaign. So that is a survey of the “beyond all reason” arguments Berube derides. Namely, that a bombing campaign that displaced several hundred thousand refugees, instigated a wave of reprisal killings, targeted civilians in a massive 78 day bombing campaign, led to the withdrawal of monitors and peace-keepers which in turn contributed to a sharp increase in violence and murder of those ostensibly being protected, while at the same time prominent military officials and political operatives referred to NATO credibility as a pretext and admitted that there was little in the way of planning or motivation to stop the ongoing atrocities can only reasonably be described as a humanitarian intervention.
More recently, about Afghanistan, Chomsky cited several NGO reports and a few mentions in the media that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan would cause massive food shortages and widespread starvation. Chomsky has publicly questioned our moral compass for failing to consider this outcome. On this score, Berube savages Chomsky for making an incorrect prediction - except that Chomsky was not predicting anything but citing the concerns of NGOs and commenting on how little that mattered in Washington’s calculus. Berube has a point of sorts and, similarly, if I were to shoot a gun into a crowd and not hit anyone then one would have no right to call me a reckless endangerment to my fellow man.