Susan Glasser seems surprised that Americans are paying more attention to a devastating war that their government is backing unconditionally than they are to a visiting foreign leader:
It says much about this moment in U.S. politics that, on Thursday, when demonstrators staged a die-in on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge timed to the APEC summit, they were protesting Biden’s strong support for Israel in the wake of the October 7th terrorist attack by Hamas and subsequent Israeli attack of Gaza, not anything having to do with Xi.
It would be bizarre if there were more American protesters showing up to condemn Xi than to protest Biden’s policy when Biden is their president and he is currently giving full support to a disastrous war that has killed thousands of innocent people in just a few weeks. There are plenty of things to protest about the Chinese government’s actions, but at the moment they aren’t the ones providing weapons and diplomatic cover for a military campaign against a densely-populated, besieged enclave where children make up nearly half the population. It is normal for people to put more effort in trying to influence their own government, and obviously lots of Americans believe that there is an urgent need to pressure the Biden administration to change its terrible policy.
Glasser talked to Andrei Cherny, who made this very strange comment:
“It feels like, in some ways, the first real foreign-policy debate among Democrats in the post-Cold War era,” Cherny told me. His view is that, while there have been strong disagreements among Democrats in recent decades on foreign-policy issues such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq, most Democrats eventually came to see that war as a mistake.
If Cherny thinks this is the first real foreign policy debate among Democrats in the last thirty years, he hasn’t been paying attention. It is true that many Democratic supporters of the invasion, including Biden, eventually came around to the view that it was a mistake, but for years the party leadership and most of their contenders for the presidential nomination supported the war and disagreed with Bush only over how he was conducting it. They judged that was the politically “smart” position to take, only to scramble and change course when things started to get even worse in 2005 and 2006.
Between 2002 and at least 2006, opposition to the war inside the party came almost entirely from the left, and the out-of-touch leadership was just as clueless then as it is proving to be now. Maybe four or five years from now many of the Democratic politicians cheering on the war in Gaza will change their tune, but right now they are playing the same role that Biden, Kerry, Clinton, and others played in 2002-03. The comparison with the Iraq war debate is a useful reminder that U.S. policy right now is being set and supported by some of the same Democrats that voted for authorizing that disastrous war then.
Daniel Larison is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.