Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why They Hate the Neocons

Neoconservatism is something that I've flirted with for a long time (along with Libertarianism). Like most Neocons I'm an ex-leftist. To my great shame I once handed out literature for Walter Mondale in the vain hope that he would defeat a guy named Ronald Reagan. Over time though, my views evolved and by 1988 I was campaigning for the current President's father.

Like many Democrats in those days, I was quite conservative on social and foreign policy issues. What made me a democrat was my somewhat leftish views of economics coupled with a certain amount of traditional familial allegiance. I came from working class people and it seemed impossible to align myself with a bunch of country club Republican types. Even today with my conversion complete, I roll my eyes when the wife talks about having a maid, hiring a gardener or going to dinner at the country club. I think to myself: People in my family don't have maids or gardeners, we are the maid or gardener.

As time passed two trends would strongly influence my political allegiance. Beginning in the 1980's economics as a discipline began to shift dramatically to the right. This change has been so complete many haven't noticed. By the 1990's we had a Democratic President who governed (in economic terms) as a moderate Republican. Today the left may well argue for some new program because it will further the cause of social justice, but it is rare to hear someone say that such a program will help the economy. Such programs are now almost universally understood to be a drag on the economy not a benefit. The only real question is how much of this stuff do we need in the name of fairness.

This was not always the case. Not so long ago it was widely believed that the free market was wildly inefficient at allocating resources and that government planning would produce optimal results over time. The fundamental problem with this approach is that planned economies have an appallingly bad record when it comes to making economic choices. They are unresponsive to consumer demand and wind up being massively inefficient. A glance at the economic shambles that was the Soviet Union should provide a small amount of intellectual clarity on this point.

The other major change was the radical shift to the left on foreign policy by Democrats. From Woodrow Wilson's election in 1912 until Lyndon Johnson's Presidency, it was the Democrats who embraced idealistic internationalism. They believed in American greatness and the importance of helping other nations secure the blessings of liberty. They spoke of paying any price and bearing any burden in the struggle against totalitarian darkness and they meant it. They sent our best and brightest to places like Belleau Wood, Bastogne, Chosin Reservior, and Hue. Many of them are still there. I still believe in those things but they've gone out of fashion on the left. I'll never forget watching an interview with John Mellencamp (musician/anti-war activist) a couple years after 9/11. He argued that not only were our campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq evil, but so was all war. The interviewer to his credit, pressed him "What about World War II?" Surely here was a war worth fighting. Not according to Mellencamp. Hitler should be left as master of Europe and the final solution would be completed. The interviewer, by now a bit shocked, threw him a lifeline "surely after Pearl Harbor the United States had no choice about fighting Japan." Wrong again. The United States should have used that opportunity for a dialog with Japan in hopes of finding a common understanding.

I realize most Democrats don't think this way. For what it's worth I'm not really convinced that John Mellencamp thinks this way. There's a strong possibility that having staked out an absolutist position (ie. war is always wrong) he simply stuck to his guns no matter how absurd rather than reverse himself. Still, it serves to illustrate an important point: the Gandhi/Martin Luther King approach is a fine thing, but it only works against a basically decent government which has failed to live up to its own high ideals. Against brutal dictatorships, things don't go nearly as well-just ask those monks in Burma. Unfortunately, far too many people on the left seem to be unable to understand this. It has become an article of faith that all problems can be solved through negotiation and if they aren't it must be our fault. We've gone from "My country, right or wrong" to "My country, always wrong". This is repulsive and I have no tolerance for it. The family I grew up in was unabashedly patriotic and proud of this country. I don't question the patriotism of most Democrats but I do question their intelligence. You can keep company with people like Cindy Sheehan, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn for only so long before begin to wonder if you don't share their views.

1 comment:

Dan said...

3 words:
Right on, brutha