by Austin Bay
September 17, 2003
One of the more ironic facets of contemporary politics in Europeand America is the left's rejection of liberation.
It's not entirely unexpected. The arch-left's concept ofliberation always included government-enforced shackles on social andeconomic liberty. Still, the language of liberation and revolt againstdespots was a constant monolog from mouths like Gore Vidal and magazineslike The Nation.
"Monolog" is the appropriate word. The arch-Left's "lib talk"exhibited a high degree of self-absorption, to include moral grandstandingand absolutist demands that smacked of the same narrow certitude hobblingall religious fundamentalists.
It's a form of self-inflation, which helps explain the Americanleft's continuing fascination with Bill Clinton. Recall Clinton said after9-11 he wished the tragedy had occurred on his watch so he could havedemonstrated his great leadership. (The tragedy was about him, see?) Never mind that Osama bin Laden attacked the United Statesand its facilities while Clinton was president. History will deal harshlywith the critical three years from 1998 to 2001, when the U.S. governmentfailed to take bin Laden's February 1998 declaration of war with the gravityit deserved. Clinton hagiographers may spin in their graves, but the truthwill be told.
The Bush administration won't escape hard knocks, either. DonaldRumsfeld's remarks during his Senate confirmation hearings in January 2001will cut for and against. Rumsfeld specifically named intelligence failuresas the biggest worry confronting America's defenders.
However, the Left's post-9-11 return to excusing dictators whiledamning the West's defenders will deservedly earn an enduring contempt.
Author Ian Buruma, in Britain's Financial Times (Sept. 13, seewww.ft.com) offers a trenchant analysis of Western leftist fecklessness.Buruma asks "what to do, as citizens of the richest and most powerfulnations on earth, about dictators who commit mass murder or happily starvemillions to death. Why are our left-liberal intellectuals so hopeless atanswering this vital question?" The leftists "profess to care aboutoppressed peoples in faraway countries. That is why they set themselvesmorally above the right. So why do they appear to be so much keener todenounce the United States than to find ways to liberate Iraqis and othersfrom their murderous Fuhrers?"
Buruma demonstrates how today's left carries the heinous baggageof the "old right." "Anti-Americanism, by which I don't mean criticism ofU.S. policies, but a visceral loathing, has a rich history, more oftenassociated with the right than with the left. To prewar culturalconservatives ... America was vulgar ... a threat to high Europeancivilization."
For the radical right, "the combination of capitalism, democracyand lack of ethnic homogeneity was anathema to everything they stood for:racial purity, military discipline and obedience to authority." Leftistdislike of capitalism "goes back at least as far as Karl Marx. But the leapfrom right-wing ... anti-Americanism to the left-wing variety really cameonly after the second world war."
The left supported liberation movements in the Third World aslong as they were Marxist. But the Soviet Union lost the Cold War. "Thesocialist debacle," Buruma notes,"... contributed to the resentment ofAmerican triumphs. ... Left and right began to change places. The expansionof global capitalism ... turned leftists into champions of cultural andpolitical nationalism. ... So the old left has turned conservative."
Reactionary is a more apt description.
Though Buruma focuses primarily on Europe's lefties, the essayechoes au courant voices in American domesticpolitics. Howard Dean's presidential campaign plays to the same loopyresentment of American success Buruma fingers. Dean criticizes the Bushadministration's War on Terror but stutters with choleric rage when asked toarticulate a rational alternative strategy. Recall Dean "supposed" gettingrid of Saddam was a good thing.
Tony Blair -- a classic liberal and a man Harry Truman wouldback -- said it well. We can't eliminate all the dictators instantly, butwhen we can, we should.
In Iraq, the true liberators offed a fascist dictator. The Iraqipeople face a difficult struggle for freedom, but instead of supporting themwith muscle and money, the snide and reactionary frumps on the hard left sipchardonnay and nip brie then viscerally loath that vulgar cowboy liberator,George Bush.