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April 3, 2003

As opinion polls, media coverage, and personal anecdote attest, liberals are deeply divided -- both among and within themselves -- over the war with Iraq. Those who support the war, or at least cannot bring themselves to oppose it, do so for various reasons, among them the fear of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein; the desire to enforce United Nations resolutions and preserve the credibility of the UN; and the hope that the war will bring democracy and human rights to the Iraqi people.

Whether Tony Blair emerges from the Iraq conflict politically strengthened, the hero of Baghdad, or whether it costs him his political life, there is little doubt that he will remain a pivotal and divisive figure in the liberal debate over whether the war was justified. Here, as a special Web-exclusive companion to the documentary "Blair's War," FRONTLINE invites three leading public intellectuals -- the British writer Timothy Garton Ash and the American writers Paul Berman and David Rieff -- to answer questions about Blair, Iraq, and the liberal divide.

Interviews With:

))) Paul Berman
A political and cultural critic whose writings appear in The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications, he is the author of Terror and Liberalism (2003), just published by W.W. Norton, and A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968 (1996).

))) Timothy Garton Ash
A fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford, he is the author of several books on Central and Eastern Europe in the late-20th century, including History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s (2000), The Magic Lantern: The Revolutions of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague (1990).

))) David Rieff
An American writer and foreign-policy analyst currently at the American Academy in Berlin, he is the author most recently of A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis (2002) and Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (1995).

A War for Liberal Democracy? Or Liberal Imperialism?

What do you say to those who support the war with Iraq on the grounds that it will bring democracy and human rights to the Iraqi people? And what's the difference between the liberal version of this justification and the neoconservative version in Washington, of spreading democracy, remaking the Middle East? Do both entail a kind of "liberal imperialism"?

A War Against Totalitarianism? A War of Ideology?

There are those who make a case for viewing a war against the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein as a war against a latter-day incarnation of 20th-century totalitarianism -- and who present it as part of a broader war against a kind of Islamic, or theocratic, fascism. Is this a war of ideology? Are there inherent dangers in embarking on ideologically driven wars to overthrow regimes? Where does one draw the line?

Leader of the Free World? Or Crusader?

Some say that Tony Blair has done a better job than George W. Bush of making the case for this war as a war for democracy and human rights, and even refer to Blair as "the leader of the free world." What does Tony Blair represent? What kind of a figure is he for divided liberals? He has been described as a "Christian liberal interventionist." What about this almost missionary aspect of Blair's foreign policy? His religious faith is often seen as something he has in common with Bush. Is Blair a crusader?



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FRONTLINE : wgbh : pbsi

posted april 3, 2003

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