I must admit that this is a question that I struggle with - as I assume many other liberals do as well. Those of us who have been steeped in the traditions of Gandhi and King know that non-violent resistance is anything but passive (as some folks would like to claim) and that there is a power to be grappled with in that type of response.
And yet, I'm not the only one who has had to question the idea of how non-violent resistance would have been effective in stopping someone like Hitler. Or an even more recent example, was military intervention the only way to stop the massacre of thousands in Libya last year?
These are difficult questions for many of us. And for those, like Niebuhr and President Obama, who've settled on the idea of being against "dumb wars" but not all wars, it is nothing short of insulting to claim that that makes them no different from Republicans who's first response is to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.
The chances that any of these issues will be debated in an Obama/Romney presidential contest are exactly zero...As National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh put it yesterday: “In truth, Obama and Romney are far closer in mindset and philosophy than anyone is willing to acknowledge just now.”
If folks like Greenwald want to promote Ron Paul as the spokesperson for anti-war, then my question is "what does he propose as an alternative?" If its simply that we mind our own business, I find that nothing short of naive.
There is pretty good consensus in this country that invading Iraq was a stupid and despicable act. But should we have just ignored al Qaeda after 9/11? That's where most of us - including me - would suggest naivete. Perhaps we didn't need to invade an entire country, but stopping people who had killed thousands (not just in this country, but the Middle East, Europe and Africa as well) and wanted to continue to do so is something that required a response.
I would gladly welcome anyone to the conversation who wanted to talk about these issues in a way that both recognized the realities in the world and offered pragmatic solutions that minimized the killing of innocent people. Neither Greenwald nor Paul have done so.
The truth is that this is a question that has plagued liberals for generations. I don't expect it to go away anytime soon. For the time being, I suspect that it is the fact that we struggle with it - and will continue to do so - that sets us apart.
UPDATE: If you've gotten this far, please take a few minutes to read the comments. Some regular readers have added profoundly to the discussion.