Monday, June 05, 2006

Democracy Defined

Liberals and only liberals can win the war on terror.

Marc Shulman at American Thinker lays out the liberal dilemma. On the one hand, Peter Beinart, the editor of the New Republic argues in "The Good Fight : Why Liberals ---Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again because only one viewpoint has the moral authority to win against Islamic extremism. But not just yet. Maybe those muscles will be exercised tomorrow. Shulman quotes Kevin Drum:

So what is it that Beinart [author of The Good Fight] really wants from antiwar liberals? The obvious answer is found less in policy than in rhetoric: we need to engage more energetically with the war on terror and criticize illiberal regimes more harshly.

Maybe so. But this is something that's nagged at me for some time. On the one hand, I think Beinart is exactly right. For example, should I be more vocal in denouncing Iran? Sure. It's a repressive, misogynistic, theocratic, terrorist-sponsoring state that stands for everything I stand against. Of course I should speak out against them.

And yet, I know perfectly well that criticism of Iran is not just criticism of Iran. Whether I want it to or not, it also provides support for the Bush administration's determined and deliberate effort to whip up enthusiasm for a military strike. Only a naif would view criticism of Iran in a vacuum, without also seeing the way it will be used by an administration that has demonstrated time and again that it can't be trusted to act wisely.

So what to do? For the most part, I end up saying very little. And Beinart is right: there's a sense in which that betrays my own liberal ideals. But he's also wrong, because like it or not, my words — and those of other liberals — would end up being used to advance George Bush's distinctly illiberal ends. And I'm simply not willing to be a pawn in the Bush administration's latest marketing campaign.

Now it might be the case that the voters elected someone besides Kevin Drum's preferred candidate to do the job in 2004, but maybe that's irrelevant. If a liberal candidate is elected in 2008 full cooperation will be expected. Because Liberals ---Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again.


Blogger wretchard said...

Roger Simon notes Michael Barone has entered the Beinart debate. It seems to me that the core of the liberal argument is essentially anti-democratic. How different is it from asserting the Divine Right of Kings? Where is Scaramouche?

6/05/2006 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

Damned Americo-centric view of Mr. Drum, ain't it? Getting his people into power in the US where it would change the fortunes of the US people maybe +/- 2% is more important than criticizing illiberal regimes that stand for everything that US liberals rally against. Bit of a scaling problem though. On one hand women make slightly less than men, on the other women are stoned to death for making eye contact.

I don't doubt that it's very important to Mr. Drum's personal fortunes that Democrats retake power in the US, but its damned selfish. And somehow party v. proles is less classist than rich v. poor, but I've yet to see it.

6/05/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

Additionally, perhaps if Mr. Drum and his ilk weren't so busy keeping their mouths studiously shut on such issues as Iran, there might be more options on the table than appeasement or militarism.

I personally think it is blatant racism to ignore or understate the literal Hell of Darfur, Iran, Somalia, and the like. But I've come around to Desert Rat's POV. Without most of the liberal 49.8% of the US on board, the military faces unrealistic and dangerous no-win situations. The UN is Useless. And still Mr. Drum and his ilk tell us that their fantasy world is better than our reality.

Well congratu-frickin-lations. My fantasy world is a much nicer place, too. But I don't expect my policy makers to live in it.

6/05/2006 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

It certainly is a silly conflation to assume that if you argue that Iran is 'bad' then that means we must use our military to attack them. Unfortunatley that seem to be the Zeitgeist in the US right now.

6/05/2006 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Isn't this another version of Bill Clinton's lament that he did not have a Big War to prove that he was capable of greatness?

In that view, Roosevelt had it so easy. A big war, really bad enemies that even liberals could hate - well, at least the Nazis - the Japanese were merely asserting their right to not have their civilization smothered by The West - and the Italians really did nt have their hearts in it.

And we got to be friends with Uncle Joe and ship bazillions of dollars worth of stuff to the noble commies!

Cool! They had it so lucky!

6/05/2006 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Jrod said...

Unfortunately, the same people who consider Rolling Stone a credible news source undoubtedly fall into this category.
And even if it's the right thing to do, never take a position that might put you anywhere close to the same camp as Pres. Bush. Must not deviate from the narrative afterall.
Forget Ohio, if only Gore could have come up with an algorithm to only count the votes he wanted counted in time, things sure would be different.

6/05/2006 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

Only Liberals can win against Islamic extremism because, well, they have the requisite moral authority.

Maybe in the same way the U.N. possesses a unique "moral authority" to deal with disaster?

I don't see this argument persuading many, especially when so much of the evidence goes against it.

6/05/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...


Don't you have to have defined (ie non-relativistic) morals before you can derive authority from them? I guess that's my big problem and question: "What exactly is the primary moral principle of the US Democratic liberal?"

That seems to be where Beinhart and Drum diverge.

6/05/2006 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger the patriarch said...

Eh. When a there is a Democratic president, the same chorus exists on the Republican side. Nothing new here.

6/05/2006 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

For most of the Cold War both parties were remarkably consistent in support of a single broad national policy. Truman fought Korea. Kennedy campaigned on the Missile Gap. Sent a man to the Moon. David Horowitz has a theory that the postwar consensus began to break apart in Chicago in 1968 and maybe we're finally seeing the explicit acknowledgement of that. Too early to tell.

6/05/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...


Do you mean to say that simply having more "compassion" and "feeling" and "empathy" than the other guy isn't--by itself--enough?

6/05/2006 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Maybe that's why some people still think it's 1968.

6/05/2006 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/05/2006 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger rich said...

Wretchard, Did you mean to refer to the American Future? I think this is Marc Schulman's home.

The American Thinker is an excellent blog and right next to the AMerican Future on my blog reading list.

6/05/2006 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...


Well, they aren't claiming "sympathetic authority". They can take their feelings, fold them 'til their all pointy, and shove 'em. It doesn't matter how you 'feel', or what you 'intend'. Actions and their consequences are the only measures. Thus the old saying: 'The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.'

At least I know where those 'feel-gooders' are going.

6/05/2006 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

Drum says: "Beinart is right: there's a sense in which that betrays my own liberal ideals. But he's also wrong, because like it or not, my words — and those of other liberals — would end up being used to advance George Bush's distinctly illiberal ends."

What Drum is really saying is, my words (my feelings) are superior to GWB's "distinctly illiberal" actions.

I guess yo pays yo money and takes yo choice.

For some, the quality of moral superiority is, like love, never having to say you're sorry. (Darfur? Erm, sorry about that.)

6/05/2006 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Perhaps Liberals can only "win" because only they can define "victory."

After the triumph of Desert Storm, Eleanor Clift said the victory parade in DC should be cancelled because of Saddam's supression of the Shia uprising. If it had not been that reason it would have been because Presdient Bush was wearing the wrong color socks - or that the U.S. military had not achieved victory while employing the requiate percentage of homosexuals - or you name it. They gotta million of 'em.

If it ain't their version of victory it ain't victory.

6/05/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Well Shucky Friggin Darn, what a quandry, sell out your party or sell out your country, what to do?

6/05/2006 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger geoffgo said...

It's simple. Anything the Bush administration happens to get right, is only by accident.

No good liberal can condone anything done by an adminstration that's so obviously accident prone.

6/06/2006 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger thegenrom said...

"And yet, I know perfectly well that criticism of Iran is not just criticism of Iran. Whether I want it to or not, it also provides support for . . . Bush"

Hmmm. It seems that Drum and the Left are perceptive. They recognize the fact that criticism of Iran aids Iran's foes (i.e. the U.S.). Surprisingly though, they fail to recognize that criticism of the U.S. in Iraq aids our foes there, the most illiberal lot imaginable. This selective blindness is infuriating. When it is brought to their attention that their kvetching is weakens our ability to achieve victory in Iraq they shout "Censorship" and become indignant that their patriotism is called into question. To the Left, it seems that it is better to indirectly aid Osama's cause by attacking Bush than vice-versa.

6/06/2006 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Long story short: condemning Iran's "repressive, misogynistic, theocratic, terrorist-sponsoring state " is less important than defeating Bush's "illiberalism".

And there you have it, really.

6/07/2006 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger dueler88 said...

If wars were won only by use of words, then Beinart is right. Too bad they're won by one side beating the crap out of the other side.

Words have paralyzing effect on action that will yield positve results. The U.N. is a perfect example. It seems that liberals really DO want people to stop hurting each other - they just don't want to ACT on that idea.

Not that I want to jump in to any place I don't like and start killing people that make it a horrible place. But we have to decide that when action is required, action that actually accomplishes the disarmament of those that would harm and oppress others should take place - not just action that does a half-assed job of standing in the way of people being harmed. Jumping in front of the guy pointing the gun either gets you or you and the protected killed; removing the bad guy's capacity to kill is the only truly moral course of action.

6/07/2006 11:09:00 AM  

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