Thursday, May 25, 2006
Wretchard at the Belmont Club offers an exceptional set of observations around the painful divide within the Democratic Party on issues of war and security, or what he calls the "direction of modern liberal politics." I credit Wretchard with his particularly sharp observation, quoted further below, that the West may have won the Cold War economically, but it surrendered on a large number of cultural issues that are of enormous import in today's War on Jihadism:
One unintended effect of the September 11 attacks is that it put a defining question to different modes of American political consciousness. Until then it was possible to treat many ideologies respectable since the 1960s as harmless forms of iconoclasm, posing "provocative" but fundamentally hypothetical views. But when attacks on the US homeland made it categorically necessary to answer the question: 'are you willing to fight our assailants', many sincere ideologues paused, shook their heads and said: 'No. In fact I am morally obligated to help our assailants'. When Noam Chomsky went out of his way to support Hezbollah it wasn't inexplicable, it was logical. His long articulated hypotheticals have simply become actuals.
The murky concept of sedition, with which freedom of speech must uneasily coexist, is founded on the notion of a threat. Radical Marxist thought derives protection from its status as a defeated mode of political action. The Cold War was fought against armed Marxism on every continent and clime for half a century. But when the Cold War was over, or in places where Radical Marxists did not actually take up arms they were allowed to keep their narratives and tolerated, as the Muslim Ottoman Empire once countenanced Jews and Christians for as long as they posed no threat. No physical threat. But although Marxism was defeated by the largely economic process of Globalization it flourished -- even dominated -- in the cultural institutions of the West at a time when Islamism was triumphing over secularism in the Middle East. From the Marxist perspective at least, the Cold War ended not in defeat, but in a negotiated armistice; with surrender on the economic front offset by a capitulation to it by the West on cultural matters. People might have to work in private companies, it's true, but all the accompanying baggage of traditional culture like religion, sexual mores, notions of objectivity, etc were forfeit; and that was more than compensation. That was the tacit 'deal' and the EU, UN and cultural institutions were going to carry it out. By slow degrees the Western world was going to be politically corrected, multiculturalized and transnationalized. "Imagine there's no countries/It isn't hard to do". And as the 1990s drew to a close it didn't seem all that far away.
September 10, 2001 was the last day on which which hypothetically incompatible modes of thought could coexist in a kind of "don't ask, don't tell" environment. When the planes smashing into the Twin Towers forced everyone to nail their colors to the mast Marxists no less than the conservatives indignantly found themselves facing an unanticipated rebellion. Liberal rage over Bush -- and maybe Lieberman and McCain -- for behaving "illegitimately" and "turning back the clock" is incomprehensible until one realizes that from a certain perspective it represents a double-cross. The West was supposed to die; slowly and comfortably but ineluctably. And we were supposed to buy off the Islamists until we could finish the job ourselves. Bush declaring his intention to fight for the survival of the West was just as logical as Chomsky's pilgrimage to Hezbollah and just as infuriating to his enemies.
Until September 11 it was possible for the more "enlightened" segments of society to regard patriotism, religion and similar sentiments with the kind of amused tolerance that one might reserve for simpletons. Nothing that a little institutionalization and spare change couldn't straighten out. The problem for the Democratic Party is that the Great Polite Silence is over. People like Chomsky and President Bush have stopped being hypothetical and become all too real. Bring it on.
It is worth reading the whole thing.