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12.02.2004

Beinart: Canny

Peter Beinart of The New Republic does some soul-searching about the future of American liberalism. I like Beinart and his magazine. Almost he persuadest me. Almost. He opens with a stark assessment of the left's response to the terrorist threat:
Today, three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not "been fundamentally reshaped" by the experience. On the right, a "historical re-education" has indeed occurred--replacing the isolationism of the Gingrich Congress with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's near-theological faith in the transformative capacity of U.S. military might. But American liberalism, as defined by its activist organizations, remains largely what it was in the 1990s--a collection of domestic interests and concerns. On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda--even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.
He compares this to the left's response to the communist threat during the Cold War. (Yes, Katrina, there was a communist threat.) While he underplays the ignoble aspect of the American left's involvement with Soviet communism (which stretches from, say, 1917 to, oh, 1989) he correctly sets Schlesinger, Galbraith, and other anti-communist liberals as the model for their ideological descendants.

He deals harshly with the left's failure to distance itself from dimwits like Michael Moore and organizations like Moveon.org. Case in point:
What they do not recognize, or do not acknowledge, is that Moore does not oppose Bush's policies because he thinks they fail to effectively address the terrorist threat; he does not believe there is a terrorist threat. For Moore, terrorism is an opiate whipped up by corporate bosses. In Dude, Where's My Country?, he says it plainly: "There is no terrorist threat." And he wonders, "Why has our government gone to such absurd lengths to convince us our lives are in danger?"
Rejecting the stupid elements within your own camp is the only way for American libeerals to rejoin rational society. Or, in Beinart's words:
The recognition that liberals face an external enemy more grave, and more illiberal, than George W. Bush should be the litmus test of a decent left.
Do read the whole thing. Registration is required, but don't worry, even though registering will put you on a terrorist watchlist, Ashcroft and his thugs are really quite polite. They wipe off their boots on the mat before they stomp on a human face, forever.

-D. Brown
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