'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Knights of the New Republic 

I've been following with some amusement last week's hubbub surrounding Peter Beinart's New Republic article, "A Fighting Faith". Nothing in all of political discourse beats liberal on liberal in-fighting for pure comedy value, although the funniest exchange so far was a traditional conservative on liberal smear: Jonah Goldberg referring to Atrios as a blogger "on the hard left". By the end of Bush's second term, Goldberg will be comparing Kevin Drum to Chomsky.

"A Fighting Faith" is deeply troubling in that it indicates the height of popularity and influence to which a certain political philosophy has climbed, a political philosophy that was once considered radical and relegated to the lonely corner of extremists in policy debate. The criticism of Beinart's manifesto from his fellow liberals seems to miss this crucial point.

The word "neoconservative" appears nowhere in "A Fighting Faith", which is odd because the essay is basically a veiled explication of the neoconservative world view. During an interview a couple of months ago, Christopher Hitchens gamely described Wolfowitz as a "a real bleeding heart." It was an amusing characterization that in a certain sense is accurate, and it is precisely that sense of bleeding-heartedness or liberalism that Beinart is discussing. Change all references from "liberalism" to "conservativism" and Beinart's piece could have been written by Paul Wolfowitz.

Beinart wants the moderate left to make "the War on Terrorism" the central concern of liberalism and the Democratic party. We know, however, that his call to arms is broader than fighting fundamentalist Muslim extremists given that Beinart supported the invasion of Iraq. It is this fact that makes Kevin Drum's question to Beinart -- Why should I believe that fundamentalist Islam is such an important threat? -- irrelevant. Here's a more important question: Do you, Peter Beinart, support the goals and means of achieving those goals advocated by the Project for a New American Century?

Although he shies away from directly advocating the use of military force to expand "zones of democratic peace", to use the language of the PNAC, it's clear that that's what Beinart's talking about. For example, he discusses the need for an "updated Marshall plan" for the Muslim world. So Beinart's vision of the future of liberalism is to conquer undemocratic nations and then pour money into the rubble? There is a deafness in this sort of thinking to what advocates of rational foreign policy are actually saying.

No one's against freedom, no one's against democracy, but when you discuss "democracy-promotion" in the context of a discussion of the "War on Terrorism" and the Iraq War, and you color your discussion with appeals for a new Marshall plan, I'm sorry but what you are calling for is military adventurism. Fostering democracy through military action, even if magically performed with the smartest of all smart bombs and killing not a single innocent human being, leads inevitably to the construction of oppressive institutions that are antithetical to the values of the left and I hope to the values of liberals: colonies, puppet governments, foreign military bases, proxy armies, occupations -- in a word, empire.

If this is the future of the party, then why don't the Democrats just nominate Paul Wolfowitz as their candidate in 2008?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?