A Manifesto for American Liberals

In response to Tony Judt’s recent piece on the “Strange Death of Liberal America” in the LRB, Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin have issued a manifesto for liberals, which has been also signed by a number of prominent liberal intellectuals, including Kenneth Arrow Joshua Cohen Robert A. Dahl James K. Galbraith Arlie Hochschild Margaret Levi Robert B. Reich Elaine Scarry and Charles Tilly. (Via Crooked Timber.) In The American Prospect:

As right-wing politicians and pundits call us stooges for Osama bin Laden, Tony Judt charges, in a widely discussed and heatedly debated essay in the London Review of Books, that American liberals — without distinction — have “acquiesced in President Bush’s catastrophic foreign policy.” Both claims are nonsense on stilts.

Clearly this is a moment for liberals to define ourselves. The important truth is that most liberals, including the undersigned, have stayed our course throughout these grim five years. We have consistently and publicly repudiated the ruinous policies of the Bush administration, and our diagnosis, alas, has been vindicated by events. The Bush debacle is a direct consequence of its repudiation of liberal principles. And if the country is to recover, we should begin by restating these principles.

We have all opposed the Iraq war as illegal, unwise, and destructive of America’s moral standing. This war fueled, and continues to fuel, jihadis whose commitment to horrific, unjustifiable violence was amply demonstrated by the September 11 attacks as well as the massacres in Spain, Indonesia, Tunisia, Great Britain, and elsewhere. Rather than making us safer, the Iraq war has endangered the common security of Americans and our allies.