What is it that makes liberals like Dean, preening their humanitarianism, so antiwar in Iraq and so pro-intervention in Liberia? ...Bill and Donald both seem to imply that liberals' aversion to using force is based on a belief that America is bad. Maybe I'm putting words in Bill's mouth, but Donald says directly:
They all had a claim on the American conscience. What then was the real difference between, say, Haiti and Gulf War I, and between Liberia and Gulf War II? The Persian Gulf has deep strategic significance for the United States; Haiti and Liberia do not. In both Gulf wars, critical American national interests were being defended and advanced. Yet it is precisely these interventions that liberals opposed.
The only conclusion one can draw is that for liberal Democrats, America's strategic interests are not just an irrelevance, but a deterrent to intervention. This is a perversity born of moral vanity. For liberals, foreign policy is social work. National interest - i.e., national selfishness - is a taint. The only justified interventions, therefore, are those which are morally pristine, namely, those which are uncorrupted by any suggestion of national interest.
Hence the central axiom of left-liberal foreign policy: The use of American force is always wrong, unless deployed in a region of no strategic significance to the United States.
I think it is the Left's belief, no longer subject to empirical analysis, that America is bad for the world. Actions, whether military or not, that enhance America's national self interests are therefore anathema. If old "Engine Charlie" Wilson's motto was, "What is good for General Motors is good for America," the Left's motto runs perversely: "What is good for America is bad for the world." ...I don't dispute that some liberals view America this way, but I don't think that most do. Hey, I'm as cynical as the next guy, but Charles Krauthammer has a better analogy when he compares foreign policy to social work. I don't think that most liberals want to hurt America; rather, they think that our nation should act more like a world judge or referee rather than a participant. We have the most power, and we should use it to enforce fairness, not to promote our own interests.
In their mind, America is an imperialist nation, imperialist in many forms - economic, cultural, linguistic and especially militarily. If America's gross transgressions are to be corrected, then America's national power must be turned away from promoting America's national interests. Hence, America's armed forces can be used only for reasons that do not serve its interests.
The backbone of liberal ideology is arrogance and elitism, and this perspective on foreign policy follows directly (and strikes me as very European). America should act as the third world's daddy, because we're smarter, richer, and just better in general. It's not fair for us to use our power to our own advantage, and as a judge would we should recuse ourselves from any situation that presents us with a "conflict of interest", such as Iraq. On the other hand, we're allowed to intervene in Liberia precisely because we have nothing to gain; we can be neutral and fair and calm the squabbling children.