Monday, May 23, 2005

"Leaving the Left"

Courtesy of Roger L. Simon, comes this fascinating essay by Keith Thompson in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Thompson forcefully explains why he is "Leaving the Left":

I'm leaving the left -- more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.

I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode.

My estrangement hasn't happened overnight. Out of the corner of my eye I watched what was coming for more than three decades, yet refused to truly see. Now it's all too obvious. Leading voices in America's "peace" movement are actually cheering against self-determination for a long-suffering Third World country because they hate George W. Bush more than they love freedom.

For my money, the most powerful and accurate part of Thompson's essay is this:

I look back on that experience as the beginning of my departure from a left already well on its way to losing its bearings. Two decades later, I watched with astonishment as leading left intellectuals launched a telethon- like body count of civilian deaths caused by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Their premise was straightforward, almost giddily so: When the number of civilian Afghani deaths surpassed the carnage of Sept. 11, the war would be unjust, irrespective of other considerations.

Stated simply: The force wielded by democracies in self-defense was declared morally equivalent to the nihilistic aggression perpetuated by Muslim fanatics.

Susan Sontag cleared her throat for the "courage" of the al Qaeda pilots. Norman Mailer pronounced the dead of Sept. 11 comparable to "automobile statistics." The events of that day were likely premeditated by the White House, Gore Vidal insinuated. Noam Chomsky insisted that al Qaeda at its most atrocious generated no terror greater than American foreign policy on a mediocre day.

All of this came back to me as I watched the left's anemic, smirking response to Iraq's election in January. Didn't many of these same people stand up in the sixties for self-rule for oppressed people and against fascism in any guise? Yes, and to their lasting credit. But many had since made clear that they had also changed their minds about the virtues of King's call for equal of opportunity.

(emphasis added-DD)

Thompson brilliantly sums up the problem with the worldview of most leftists and even many liberals: the idea that, no matter what, America is always in the wrong. At best, the USA is considered no better than al-Qaeda or the Baathists. At worst, America is the evil aggressor and the jihadists are "freedom fighters". Regardless, the use of American power is an unalloyed evil that must be unconditionally opposed.

One need only visit any blog or Web site with an active comments section (you mean unlike this one-ed.) to see an example of this "logic" in action. Mention any of the numerous terrorist atrocities committed by radical Islamists, and immediately the cry comes back "what about Abu Ghraib?" When you point out that the abuses at Abu Ghraib, while reprehensible, pale in comparison with what happened there under Saddam, the response is "so now we're using Saddam as our benchmark?" In other words, comparative analysis should only be used when it makes America look bad, and the US is only deserving of support if its record is immaculate.

The point of such circular logic is not to achieve moral and intellectual clarity, but rather to argue that because the US fails to live up to some imaginary standard of perfection, its war effort is hence immoral and illegitimate. Pointing out that no nation in history has ever met such a criterion, and that whatever transgressions we have committed in the struggle against Islamist terrorism pale in comparison to our conduct in previous wars, let alone the behavior of our enemies, makes no difference. The idea that the world would be a far worse place if Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein wielded the kind of power George W. Bush does is one that much of the left either cannot or will not comprehend.


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