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A Warmonger By Any Other Name

Anne-Marie Slaughter thinks the U.S. should bomb in Iraq and Syria. She starts off her argument with some complaining:

For the last two years, many people in the foreign policy community, myself included, have argued repeatedly for the use of force in Syria — to no avail. We have been pilloried as warmongers and targeted, by none other than President Obama, as people who do not understand that force is not the solution to every question.

It’s a little strange that Slaughter opens with these lines. She has been a consistent supporter of using force in foreign conflicts, which is how she has earned a reputation for always being in favor of military action. Not only has she supported intervention time after time, but she has been an outspoken and vocal advocate for these views. She is notable among Syria hawks for having made some of the most outlandish arguments in favor of bombing Syria. No doubt she has argued for more aggressive policies because she believes them to be preferable to the status quo or any other alternatives, but that is exactly why she doesn’t get to complain when critics point out the problems with her consistent hawkishness and advocacy for military action. Slaughter is one of the liberal hawks that made a point of celebrating the Libyan war as a success and as vindication for their interventionist instincts. As far as I know, she has never faced up to the negative consequences of the Libyan war on Libya or the surrounding region, nor has she applied any of the lessons that might have been learned from the Libyan intervention to her arguments on Syria. When someone is a consistent and vocal proponent of U.S. military action in response to new conflicts and crises, and when that person has no record of publicly opposing military action before it begins, it is fair to say that this person routinely tries to sell the public on war. This is what a warmonger does, and that is why these people are reasonably called by that name. If that is so upsetting to interventionists, perhaps they should reconsider their consistent support for aggressive policies.

I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to be called a warmonger. Fortunately, the word still has very negative connotations. Despite the strong bias in favor of military action in our foreign policy debates, being labeled a warmonger remains a definite political liability. This is why those that have a record of advocating for military action are so displeased when the label is applied to them. If supporters of intervention are accurately called warmongers, that will tend to make it harder to get the U.S. into new wars, and that is bound to be frustrating for them. I’m just not sure why the rest of us should care.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. 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.

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