September 27, 2003


The Terror War Needs Liberal Democrats, Too (Richard Brookhiser, NY Observer)

Why should liberal Democrats interest themselves in the Terror War? One reason I would think is national liberation. Over two decades of political gladiatorship, I have often found liberals taking that side of controversial issues. They wanted the black majority of South Africa to have equal rights. They lost no love on pro-American strong men like Pinochet, Marcos or the Shah. And whatever they felt about the Cold War, they didn’t seem sad when Communism lost. Leonard Bernstein conducted a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth in Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Terror War has already burst open jails, real and metaphorical, in two countries. Men in Afghanistan can shave their beards, women who wish to can show their faces. Iraqi soccer players are no longer tortured for missing goals, Kurdish children are no longer stuffed into mass graves.

Indifference to the fate of dusky peoples used to be the property of the right, especially its satirists. The classic expressions of such sentiments are the African farces of Evelyn Waugh, Scoop and Black Mischief, filled with comic savages and their jabbering intelligentsia. (Waugh’s white people don’t come off any better, but it his depiction of the Other that stings.) The Tory view of the world acknowledged that people and cultures are different, and that they cannot be homogenized by mere decrees. But in its extreme form it treated different races as different species, and consigned some to eternal darkness. Liberals should not want to be in that role.

Liberal Democrats’ chief interest in the Terror War, however, should be what it means for us. Ordinary Americans, including ordinary liberal Americans, are precisely what the terrorists and their patrons hate most in the world. The Islamist utopia has no room for minorities, deviants, independent women, religious freedom or intellectual expression. Islamists enforce their tastes with murder on their ascent to power, and with capital punishment once they have achieved it. Secular terrorists in the Muslim world may drop a few clauses of this agenda. Iraqi women could wear skirts; they just couldn’t speak, vote or read.

Paint John Ashcroft as black as you please, and stick demon horns on his head. He will not murder his enemies. If his party loses, he will go home. That is why the proper arena for liberal Democrats who quarrel with him is the ballot box.

Imagine for a moment that Scoop Jackson had to listen to a Democratic Presidential debate. He'd be physically ill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 27, 2003 12:15 PM

Here are two explanations for the lefty positions Mr. Brookhiser mentions and many others he doestn't: the left stands up for the world's oppressed peoples; the left hates the United States and wishes it ill. Purely descriptively, which explanation has greater power?

Posted by: David Cohen at September 27, 2003 1:00 PM

Even Lyndon Johnson, as repulsive as he could be, and as driven by guilt and fear as he was, would wipe up the floor with the 10 echoes.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 27, 2003 2:57 PM

Nah, he only ever won by stealing elections.

Posted by: oj at September 27, 2003 6:18 PM

C'mon it was only 46 votes. Kennedy made sure that when he ran, the margin was bigger.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 27, 2003 7:16 PM

The liberal democrats I know are totally hung up with Bush hatred. They have no worldview except to see him defeated.

My own way of talking to them is to concede all their points and then say to them, "Now what? Should we reinstate Saddam?" And then we hit a stone wall as they turn everything over to the UN.

The real discussion that is not being pressed is the future of the UN. Most people are too young to see that the UN is the League of Nations in modern dress.

Posted by: Ted Miller at September 27, 2003 11:11 PM

Oh, great, now Brookhiser is reading even Evelyn Waugh out of the modern conservative movement.

Posted by: Steve Sailer at September 28, 2003 3:10 AM


They both do.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 28, 2003 7:55 AM