Good Fight: Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again

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Once upon a time, liberals knew what they believed. They believed America must lead the world by persuasion, not command. And they believed that by championing freedom overseas, America itself could become more free. That liberal spirit won America's trust at the dawn of the cold war. Then it collapsed in the wake of Vietnam. Now, after 9/11, and the failed presidency of George W. Bush, America needs it back.

In this powerful and provocative book, Peter Beinart offers a new ...

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The Good Fight: Terror and the Liberal Spirit

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Overview

Once upon a time, liberals knew what they believed. They believed America must lead the world by persuasion, not command. And they believed that by championing freedom overseas, America itself could become more free. That liberal spirit won America's trust at the dawn of the cold war. Then it collapsed in the wake of Vietnam. Now, after 9/11, and the failed presidency of George W. Bush, America needs it back.

In this powerful and provocative book, Peter Beinart offers a new liberal vision, based on principles liberals too often forget: That America's greatness cannot simply be asserted; it must be proved. That to be good, America does not have to be pure. That American leadership is not American empire. And that liberalism cannot merely define itself against the right, but must fervently oppose the totalitarianism that blighted Europe a half century ago, and which stalks the Islamic world today.

With liberals severed from their own history, conservatives have drawn on theirs—the principles of national chauvinism and moral complacency that America once rejected. The country will reject them again, and embrace the creed that brought it greatness before. But only if liberals remember what that means. It means an unyielding hostility to totalitarianism—and a recognition that defeating it requires bringing hope to the bleakest corners of the globe. And it means understanding that democracy begins at home, in a nation that does not merely preach about justice, but becomes more just itself.

Peter Beinart's The Good Fight is a passionate rejoinder to the conservatives who have ruled Washington since 9/11. It is an intellectual lifeline for a Democratic Party lying flat on its back. And it is a call for liberals to revive the spirit that swept America, and inspired the world.

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Editorial Reviews

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One of the most discussed essays of 2004 was Peter Beinart's "A Fighting Faith: An Argument for a New Liberalism." In the piece, the New Republic editor-at-large made an urgent case for the return to forgotten liberal principles: That America's goodness cannot be simply asserted; it must be earned. That to be good, America does not have to pure. And that liberalism cannot define itself merely against the right but must fervently oppose totalitarianism. The Good Fight expands and updates those arguments in ways that will inspire -- or incite -- readers. A fresh take on the age of terror.
Madeleine Albright
“The Good Fight is a book filled with apt insights and common sense … Recommended for liberals and conservatives.”
Samantha Power
“Beinart has given Democrats a blueprint for … taking back the White House.”
Thomas Frank
“Peter Beinart takes us on a vigorous and entertaining search for a usable past … His reasoning must be heard.”
Thomas Friedman
“Insightful, provocative.”
Arthur Schlesinger
“This is a brilliant and provocative book in a great tradition.”
Washington Monthly
“A thoughtful, provocative, well-written book.”
The Washington Post
“An intellectual archeologist, Beinart excavates that vanished intellectual tradition and sends it into battle in his new book.”
The Boston Globe
“Beinart, in his deftly argued new book, . . . helpfully grounds the current debate in its oft-forgotten history.”
James M. Lindsay
Beinart rightly notes a core irony: President Bush stripped away the restraints on the exercise of America's freedom to act because he wanted to demonstrate America's strength; he has thereby made American power illegitimate in the eyes of much of the world, which has made us weak. A true fighting liberalism would not have fallen into that trap. The Good Fight may not provide all the answers on how to fashion a durable foreign policy vision for the very real dangers we face, but it provides us with a fine place to start.
— The Washington Post
Joe Klein
Happily, Peter Beinart reminds us that the values and methods Truman deployed were not just a momentary response to the crisis of Communism, but an enduring legacy that can guide us now in a world far more complicated than the one Truman faced — and every bit as dangerous.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
This stimulating manifesto calls for a liberalism that battles Islamist totalitarianism as forthrightly as Cold War liberals opposed Communist totalitarianism. Former New Republic editor Beinart assails both an anti-imperialist left that rejects the exercise of U.S. power and the Bush administration's assumption of America's moral infallibility. America shouldn't shrink from fighting terrorism, despite civilian casualties and moral compromises, he contends, but its antitotalitarian agenda must be restrained by world opinion, international institutions and liberal self-doubt, while bolstered by economic development aid abroad and economic equality at home. Beinart offers an incisive historical account of the conflicts straining postwar liberalism and of the contradictions, hubris and incompetence of Bush's actions. He's sketchier on what a liberal war on terror entails-perhaps a cross between Clinton's Balkan humanitarian interventions and the Afghanistan operation, with U.S. forces descending on Muslim backwaters to destroy jihadists and build nations. The tragic conundrum of a fighting liberalism that avoids enmeshment in a Vietnam or Iraq (the author now repudiates his early support of the Iraq war) is never adequately addressed. Still, Beinart's provocative analysis could stir much-needed debate on the direction of liberal foreign policy. (May 30) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The Greeks had a word for it: hubris. Coming from the alpha and the omega of the ideological spectrum, U.S. journalist Beinart (columnist, the New Republic) and British author Murray (Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas) each claims that he knows the one true political faith, which just happens to be his own. Beinart recounts postwar liberalism's wanderings-how Americans for Democratic Action begat Students for a Democratic Society, which begat the Democratic Leadership Council, etc.-though conservatives use a different hymnal for this history. He faults liberals for positions that have weakened America abroad and for inattention to defining the nation's international role. He would resurrect the Marshall Plan to fight terrorism, though the record of foreign aid in kleptocracies makes this an unlikely solution. Like Beinart, Murray supported the Iraq War and its goal to proclaim liberty throughout the land, but given the arguments he presents, why not also invade the rest of the world's illiberal regimes? He defends Iraq by bashing Noam Chomsky and other pastors without congregations. America's purgatory began in the 1960s, says Murray (b. 1979), and there's just too much taxation, welfare, government, and crime. What's "neo" about saying that? Who knows, for his first page confesses that "neoconservatism does not have a manifesto." In short, while salvation is promised here, we are not delivered. Murray's book is not recommended, while Beinart's is an optional purchase for larger libraries.-Michael O. Eshleman, Kings Mills, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
New Republic editor-at-large Beinart delivers a cri de guerre that seems tailor-made for-well, maybe Hillary Clinton, if not the DNC. American liberals have erred in thinking that because American power is vulnerable to being used immorally, American power should not be used at all. Beinart wistfully admits to having supported the invasion of Iraq, hoping that it might "produce a decent, pluralistic Iraqi regime," but allows that he was mistaken. Still, he adds, the classic liberalism of the Cold War period posed what Arthur Schlesinger called "the vital center" between the poles of communism and fascism, and it made no bones about being activist and interventionist and using force where needed. It also placed great faith in international development, in the belief that relieving the world of poverty and want was a positive instrument for building peace and making friends, a very far cry from Bush and company's avowed lack of interest in nation-building. Just so, Beinart writes, John F. Kennedy-who was only sort of a liberal, at least at first-proclaimed that the core of America's Middle East policy ought to be "not the export of arms or the show of armed might but the export of ideas, of techniques, and the rebirth of our traditional sympathy for and understanding of the desires of men to be free." Civil rights at home and anti-totalitarianism abroad: The formula barely survived Kennedy, for the New Left of the 1960s dismantled Cold War liberalism and disconnected its ideals from "the struggle for freedom around the world," a mantra the right cynically took over. Modern liberals, the author adds, have tended not to have much to say about national security. But, he insists, they can take the high ground-and even the White House-by mastering the topic. So, Beinart concludes: civil rights at home and anti-jihadism abroad. We'll see how the idea plays out in the 2006 debates, but his prescription will surely find takers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060841614
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/30/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Beinart

Peter Beinart is an associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He is the senior political writer for The Daily Beast and a contributor to Time. Beinart is a former fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Good Fight. He lives with his family in Washington, D.C.

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Read an Excerpt

The Good Fight

Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again
By Peter Beinart

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Peter Beinart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060841613

Chapter One

A New Liberalism

The trip began badly. Within minutes of former vice president Henry Wallace's arrival at the Minneapolis airport, the crowd waiting to greet him had already begun to squabble. Wallace's aunt and uncle, who were Minnesota residents, wanted to drive their famous nephew to his hotel. But the leaders of Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party insisted that he travel in their car instead, in a show of solidarity. Communists were like that. In the transportation sweepstakes, Hubert Humphrey, the 35-year-old mayor of Minneapolis, came in a distant third. Not only was he denied the honor of ferrying the country's leading liberal politician in his car, but the Communists didn't even give him a seat in theirs. So he had to wait to speak to his political idol until later that night.

Despite their differences, Humphrey revered Wallace. The younger man was jovial, corny, everybody's best pal; the older man was mystical and introverted, a lover of humanity but rarely of those around him. But they were both Midwesterners, and they both worshipped the New Deal, seeing it not merely as a template for America, but for theentire world. At the 1944 Democratic Convention, Humphrey had unsuccessfully fought to renominate Wallace as vice president, rather than the hackish Harry Truman. On the day Franklin Roosevelt died, Humphrey poured out his soul to the man he hoped would one day be president. "I simply can't conceal my emotions," he wrote to Wallace. "How I wish you were at the helm."

Now, more than a year later, Humphrey needed Wallace's help. Nineteen forty-six had been difficult for the young mayor. During the war, when the Minnesota left had united in a popular front, Humphrey had gotten along fine with the Communists. But now they were moving against him. In June, Communists and their allies had packed the state DFL convention in Saint Paul, choosing their own slate to run the party, and passing resolutions excoriating Truman's new hard line toward Moscow. When Humphrey rose to speak, the crowd greeted him with cries of "fascist" and "warmonger." He persevered, until a security guard growled, "Sit down, you son of a bitch, or I'll knock you down." And so, without finishing his remarks, Humphrey did.

If things were turning ugly in Minnesota, they weren't much better on the international stage. In February, Stalin warned that American capitalism and Soviet Communism were on a collision course. In March, Winston Churchill journeyed to Fulton, Missouri, and after an introduction by Truman, declared that "an iron curtain has descended across the Continent," dividing Western Europe from the "police governments" to the east. Humphrey wasn't eager for the cold war -- he had hoped World War II would leave a new era of international cooperation and development in its wake. But he couldn't ignore events in the world, and in his backyard. By the end of summer, he was condemning Soviet despotism and declaring Minnesota's popular front dead.

Wallace was headed the other way. In September, in a rally at Madison Square Garden, he attacked the "numerous reactionary elements" seeking to undermine "peace based on mutual trust" between the United States and the USSR. He was still in government, serving as Truman's secretary of commerce. Yet he was contradicting Truman's foreign policy. Eight days later, he was out of a job.

Despite all this, Humphrey -- the inveterate optimist -- still believed that when he sat down with Wallace, they would see eye to eye. When they finally did, at Wallace's hotel that night, he explained what was happening in Minnesota and pleaded for Wallace's help in taking the party back. Wallace seemed puzzled by the talk of Communist treachery. After all, he explained, he knew only one Communist himself. Humphrey was stunned: Several open Communists had driven Wallace from the airport. Liberalism was headed for civil war and the man he once idolized would be on the other side.

but in the fall of 1946, that civil war was still months away and Wallace was still a liberal icon. Shortly after his firing, the American left gathered in Chicago to defend their hero, denounce the growing cold war, and mobilize for November's midterm elections. All the biggest liberal groups were there -- the National Citizens Political Action Committee, the Independent Citizens Committee, the NAACP, and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) -- for what historian Alonzo Hamby has called "one of the widest and most representative assemblies of liberals ever brought together." The conference demanded that Truman "exert every effort" to repair the deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow. To Wallace, it sent a special message: "Carry on with confidence that you have the support of . . . millions upon millions of Americans."

Liberals left Chicago giddy at their show of strength and confident about the fall campaign. In mid-October, CIO president Philip Murray, the left's most influential labor leader, predicted that "we expect this movement to become in due course the most powerful liberal and progressive organization brought together in the history of the country." The liberal newspaper PM exulted that "the great wave of conservatism that was supposed to sweep the country after the war is a delusion."

Richard Nixon knew better. In September 1945, the 32-year-old Navy lieutenant commander received a letter from a prominent banker back home in Whittier, California. The letter asked if he would like to be a candidate for Congress on the Republican ticket in 1946. Nixon quickly agreed.

The district, California's twelfth, was represented by a five-term liberal Democrat named Jerry Voorhis. Voorhis was hardly a Soviet apologist. In fact, he had angered Los Angeles-area Communists by criticizing Russian repression in Eastern Europe. But he did have ties to the National Citizens Political Action Committee and the CIO, and for Nixon, that was enough. Fusing the two organizations under the sinister rubric "the PAC," he made their supposed support of Voorhis the centerpiece of his campaign. "I welcome the opposition of the PAC with its Communist principles and its huge slush fund," proclaimed Nixon in late August. . . .

Continues...


Excerpted from The Good Fight by Peter Beinart Copyright © 2006 by Peter Beinart. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 A new liberalism 1
2 Losing America 32
3 After the fall 63
4 Qutb's children 88
5 Reagan's children 112
6 Iraq 141
7 Losing America 167
8 A new liberalism 189
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