The dissident voices in this country (at least the ones with which I have engaged) have met this prospect with an orientation that could be summarized as: Oppose and Expose. This is a similar orientation to that taken toward the two recent American engagements with this part of the world; the Gulf War of 1990-91 and the campaign in Afghanistan against the Taliban. In both cases, this dissident American position came to be in conflict with those of the people who have lived and suffered under these regimes and who in both instances welcomed (and at times begged for) outside, including American and including military, interventions. The kind of social disintegration that the Ba'th or the Taliban had produced meant that internal forces opposing these regimes knew all too well that they were too weak on their own to get rid of them. No outside intervention meant continuing to live with (and die from) the intolerable brutalities of these regimes indefinitely. The American dissident position, therefore, was received by these forces (and is received currently by the Iraqi opposition) as worse than irrelevant: it is tantamount to criminal non-intervention. What here may seem the honorable position of opposing the war machine and military adventurism of one's own government, in this configuration, came at the price of other people continuing to suffer with no end in sight.
In all these instances, this opposition to war stance has been linked to another stance, that of exposing US government's history of prior support for the very forces that it then has set to overthrow, the Taliban and the Iraqi Ba'th. In the extreme, the Taliban and the Ba'th become mere creations of the all-powerful US government -- something verging on racist denial of any agency on the part of the people of the Near East to be able to even produce their own dictators. In any event, even if one were to agree on the total responsibility of the American government, that responsibility could just as easily and in fact more logically be invoked for a US intervention to set these past bad deeds to good for a change, instead of a non-interventionist stand. Why should Afghanis and Iraqis continue to suffer the consequences of terrible US foreign policy instead of expecting that government to take responsibility for its bad judgments and do some good? Without an interventionist orientation that is centered on the interests of the people of these regions, the exposition of prior US foreign policy by the voices of American dissidence over the war is received by Afghanis and Iraqis as hollow moralism at their expense. While they have been repeatedly betrayed by US government policies, Iraqi dissidents feel they have no other option but to seek its support for their struggle. Similarly, the great fear of Afghanis today is lack of long-term commitment by US government (and other international forces) to stay in Afghanistan and help their post-Taliban reconstruction. Why shouldn't the dissident energies in this country be focused on the kind of American intervention (one for the interests of Afghani or Iraqi people), rather than on a policy of non-intervention?
[O]ne may have to consider the terrible possibility that a policy that may be wise for internal US developments may not be good for Iraqis and Afghanis. One may have to openly say: sorry folks, but we have to abandon you. Yet I am not convinced that that desperate position is necessary, at least not until we have considered other options. I do not believe that opposition to the attack on civil liberties and immigrant rights has necessarily have to be linked with a non-interventionist policy. This is a link that the most hawkish and right-wing forces in this country have worked hard to forge in post-September 11th political landscape; the you-are-with-us-or-against-us mentality. It is critical to break apart this link. There is no reason why the opposition to the internal US developments cannot be linked with an interventionist policy that puts demands on the government over the terms of its interventions, and the consequent responsibility beyond the military aspects of intervention. [Emphasis Added]
I agree completely. I cannot say how many times I have written posts critical of appalling human rights violations done under the guise of the war on terror, and received responses (both liberal and conservative) which all assumed I was anti-war. We very well may fail in managing to have a foreign policy of liberation that does not stray into imperialism and mismanagement. But if that is the case, it is a failure, not some sort of vindication for the left. It is intellectually lazy to think otherwise.
Perhaps the Harvard Women's Studies Department is not exactly the place one might expect this sort ofchallengee to be coming from. But it's been my observation that even the liberal academia (including those professors in the much-maligned "identity politics" departments, such as this one) is nowhere near as narrow-minded and monolithic as it is made out to be by the conservative media. I doubt heavily that Professor Najmabadi is in the majority amongst her peers. But she is raising the right questions, and I hope to see her claims addressed in the near future.