Roger Cohen has a column today worrying that people are calling liberal internationalists who supported the Iraq War “neocons”, and using this as a term of opprobrium. He should settle down. People who oppose American adventurism abroad, including Matthew Yglesias (who appears to worry Cohen) tend to refer to liberal internationalists like Cohen as “liberal internationalists”, and to neocons (like Jonah Goldberg, David Frum et. al.) as “neocons”. They may also critique the views of liberal internationalists, but they tend to do so in the course of arguing that liberal internationalists take an overly credulous approach to neocon proposals for new wars — in the current case, against Iran. And that is an entirely reasonable argument. Liberal internationalists who supported the Iraq War cannot simply shrug off the mistake and expect people to trust their instincts the next time around, and they certainly have no cause to get huffy when people raise the issue of their mistake. The best course of action, as Thomas Friedman is finally discovering, is to apologize for the mistake, and to account for how one’s worldview might be inadequate in ways that could have produced that error in judgment.
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