It's About King, Not You
I recently discovered the New York Review of Books after receiving a gift subscription. The best thing about it is the long book reviews that summarize recent books. Through this, you can learn a lot about Vladamir Putin, Sandra Day O’Connor, or the crisis in Darfur. But I have begun to realize that there is a strong liberal slant, which can show itself at strange times. For example, there is a lengthy review of At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 by Taylor Branch. The review is excellent except that it uses the book to spout off about the war in Iraq. There are two big reasons I have a problem with this.
First, I don’t think the war should be mentioned in this review at all. Although one might be able to guess that Dr. King would oppose the Iraq War based on his stance on the Vietnam War before his death, this isn’t a sure thing. But beyond that, it feels wrong for a reviewer to use King’s life to sound off about their own policy positions. At Canaan’s Edge is the third volume in a series of books about Dr. Martin Luther King and the events around him. The review therefore should celebrate (and critique) the book and the life of Dr. King. Anything else is self-serving and doesn’t belong.
My other problem though with the article is the same problem I have with so many liberals and their view of the war. In the article, the author tries to show that Iraq is even more complex than Vietnam was because Iraq is essentially three separate countries – Vietnam only had two. I acknowledge that there are three ethnic groups in Iraq (Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd), but ending the discussion there ignores other aspects of an Iraqi’s identity. So many liberals, either because they don’t know about it or because they refuse to acknowledge it since it doesn’t fit their view of the futility of the situation, won’t recognize that nationalism is in fact a part of Iraqi identity. During the Iran-Iraq War in the early 1980s, one of the reasons we supported Iraq was because we were afraid the Shiites in Iraq would unite with the Shiite government in Iran and overthrow the secular government of Saddam Hussein. On the whole though, Iraqis followed nationalism more than we expected them to and didn’t side with Iran during the war.
I don’t want to believe that the author of this book review is just unaware of this, so instead, I have to assume that he ignores it. I could understand if someone looked at the situation and feared that Iraqis would ignore their nationalism and fall along sectarian lines. But I don’t understand why no liberals even acknowledge that this nationalism exists or the possibility that it could still be stronger than their ethnic identity. I feel like a broken record, but I honestly believe that if liberals were able to look at the situation objectively, they might finally see that there is reason for optimism in Iraq and that talk of troop pullout is premature and detrimental to success.