An Interview with Paul Berman

In Democratiya, Alan Johnson interviews Paul Berman on his personal and intellectual development, Terror and Liberbalism, Bush and the Iraq war, and more. On the Iraq war:

A better intervention was unquestionably possible. Before the war I was arguing to continue in the path of the Kosovo intervention: marshalling the right arguments, doing the diplomacy, assembling the right allies, making adequate plans, recognising what sort of occupation was going to be necessary. Kosovo was not brilliant by any means, but neither was it a total catastrophe. I made those arguments as an observer reading the newspapers. Now we have books like Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, the present and past military correspondents of The New York Times. Trainor is a retired Marine Corps Lt General. It turns out top generals were arguing for precisely that kind of thing – for drawing on the Kosovo model. The criticisms of outside observers like me turn out to have run parallel to criticisms made inside the armed forces.

Over at TPM Cafe, Matthew Yglesias comments on this idea of a better intervention.

I think it behooves people to get much clearer than this as to what the Kosovo model was a model for. For one thing, who would “the right allies” have been in Iraq? In Kosovo, in lieu of the UN we had the support of the relevant regional organization, NATO. But was President Berman really going to get, say, the Arab League to support the invasion and occupation of Iraq in order to rebuild it as a democracy? That seems very unlikely. And it seems equally unlikely that NATO would have any particular legitimacy in Iraq.

But the problem, really, is deeper. People sometimes seem to forget that during the Kosovo War we didn’t march on Belgrade. Instead, international forces just occupied the province of Kosovo after having made war on Serbia. Since the troops were there in order to secure de facto independence for Kosovo it’s no surprise that it was relatively easy to prevent the emergence of resistance.