My Left Behind

My Left Behind


Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” [Ambrose Bierce, “Devil’s Dictionary,” 1911]

The regular contributors here have made formal introductions of themselves. I’m afraid I’ve been rude, and simply waded into the fray. Belatedly, I’ll try to tell you a little about how I came to think as I do about current events. Those who have read my writing elsewhere will recognize a lot of this and should skip on lest you be bored. Some of you who haven’t read my other stuff may want to skip for the same reason. I’ll try to keep it brief. I’ll fail.

I grew up thinking that, and I identified myself as a liberal. What may surprise some of you is, I still do.

A liberal believes change can be good, especially when guided by a spirit of free inquiry and a firm sense of what is right and when it aims to increase human freedom and let people run their own lives. A liberal believes people are basically good, and they can, and want to, make their lives better. It’s a faith enshrined in Bobby Kennedy’s quote (nicked from G.B. Shaw) about “seeing things that never were” and saying, “why not?”

A liberal believes the values enshrined in the Bill of Rights are true human values, not merely cultural artifacts. The West has no gift from the gods, and our citizens are not better than those of other lands, but we’ve set up these principles as our collective guide and have committed ourselves to live by them, when right, and be corrected by them, when wrong.

Many commentaries have been written by the “Left Behinds” since Sept. 11, explaining how we haven’t changed, but our old party and peers seem to have abandoned the ideals we thought we held in common, for the sake of another set that we never realized were their true passion.

Such writing almost forms an online genre, and it has been mocked, sometimes deservedly. Messy break-ups acted out in public, plates flying, shouts of “I feel like I don’t know you anymore!” Possibly all this is no deep matter. The evolution of a mildly radical young man to a mildly conservative middle-aged one is among the oldest stories. Yet I feel neither “conservative” nor evolved. I still believe I’m upholding the values of my liberal youth, albeit in a different form.

I don’t blame George W. Bush, or even Sept. 11. Bill Clinton laid the groundwork for this. I was one of the reflexively “suspicious of military solutions” Americans whose change of heart took place over time, beginning in the death of Yugoslavia. I read the news wire day after day as a brutal thugs slowly strangled Sarajevo — the kind of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community we all supposedly aspire to in America. I saw the pictures of the young lovers gunned down on Vrbanja Bridge, and I thought, “somebody, do something.”


When the U.S. used its military power to stop Milosevic, at his next attempt, I cheered that, and I realized that not every extension of American power is a bad thing. Always innocent lives will be lost, always women and children will suffer most. In war, America loses its illusion of innocence. But that illusion is not our best quality. War is always a tragedy, but it’s not always the worst tragedy.

But when the Chomskyites and others on the Left embraced Milosevic as a victim of Yankee imperialism, I realized, I’m no longer on that side. For as long as I’ve been paying tax dollars, I’ve watched them being used prop up one megalomaniac rapist dictator or another. It’s been nice to see them used to bring those bastards down, for a change.


In Lower Merion High School in the 1970s,we were taught the U.S. was no better than Nazi Germany because we ran internment camps for Japanese while they ran concentration camps for Jews. Someone actually had the temerity (Latin for “chutzpah”) — the to say that in a public high school like mine, which was about 40 percent Jewish, in a class where many of the students’ grandparents had numbers tattooed on their forearms.

Maybe it helps if you read a bit, as I was doing then. If you just look at the sentence structure: “internment camps for Japanese/concentration camps for Jews,” why, yes, it does look the same. It seems to be saying the same thing in slightly different words.

This never stops coming in handy. The “Star of David = Swastika” flag got to be so tiresome at Palestinian demonstrations that they seem to have retired it, or maybe they lost it. (Now they just hold up their children, dolled up with fake guns and cardboard dynamite.) But in Europe, I read, it’s become so popular in intellectual circles to identify Israel with the Third Reich that it passes for a test of political correctness.

And you can still get an eye-full of the “Star of David = Swastika” banners over here in the U.S., in the hands of “non-conformists” who seem to regard this symbolic connection as an inspiration of wisdom, rather than what it is: a lie so absurd as to be puke-making.

One day last year, a co-worker insisted I listen to a Celtic-accented “folk song” called “When Oppressed Becomes Oppressor” (or something like that; that was the repeated line in the chorus, anyway) in which, yet again, a parallel was drawn between the genocide of the Jews in Europe in the 1940s and the hardships of Palestinians today.

Let’s just take half a second and do some comparisons.

Bulldozers do not equal gas chambers. A concrete barrier does not equal a crematorium. The false claim that Jews burned the Reichstag does not equate to the blood and bone strewn on the pavement after bombings of buses and discos in Tel Aviv.

But Jews leaving all their property behind in a desperate bid to escape the Third Reich, to any country that would take them, offers an interesting parallel to the Palestinian Authority’s insistence on a “right of return,” for its people to live under the yoke of the despised “Zionist entity.” Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not recall Jews lined up every morning on the borders of 1939 Germany, clamoring to get in for construction jobs and medical care.

All this nonsense usually comes, of course, from people who cherish their democratic right of vocal and public dissent, who like to live in a country where you can be openly gay or atheist or flaunt your belly-button ring. Try that anywhere in the Middle East except Israel; see how long you last.

If reading helps, travel does, too. In my youth, during the Cold War, “left” and “right” generally stood for “communist” and “anti-communist.” But this was a false dichotomy and I got an early education in that.

Communism never attracted me. I skipped Marx and read Rousseau, Kropotkin, Godwin, Paine, Gandhi, Paul Goodman, that sort of thing. I decided I was an anarchist (by which I mean a follower of political anarchism, not a shop-window-smashing pursuer of anarchy), or at least that description came closest to what I felt. I embraced the romanticism and somehow overlooked the silliness of it. You can do that when you’re 18 and there’s not a shooting war on.

Twice, in the late 1970s, when I was a teen-ager, I lived in West Berlin and spent some time across the wall in East Germany. It was the most “conservative” place I have ever been. Nothing changed. Ever. No one experimented. It lacked color, even on a sunny day; no discos, no pool halls. The neon decadence of the Ku-damm in West Berlin might have been on another planet, not just across the wall. In the company of other students, I took a tour of historic sites in the East — Potsdam, Frederick the Great’s palaces. Our tour guide was an employee of the state. No doubt she was chosen particularly to lead this cluster of young Americans. Perhaps the bureaucrats thought they had picked someone to convince us of the virtues of the People’s Republic.

A few of us, including our American teacher guide, spent a lot of time up at the front of the bus between stops, chatting with her. She was a matronly woman, to all appearances good-natured and honest. We probed her about life in the DDR. She said she would never want to live anywhere else. It suited her just fine. In upholding the virtues of her system, she said something I’ll always remember: “when my children go out of the house, I don’t have to worry about where they are.”

At one of the palaces on this tour, we happened to pass a line of Hungarian students of about our own age (guided by their own government-supplied minder). They practically broke through the velvet ropes to get to us and pepper us with questions about life in America. They scrawled down addresses and pressed them on us. By the time our respective guides had herded us all on, we on the U.S. side got a clear impression of their restlessness and their hunger for a way of life we took for granted.

This was odd because, back in the U.S., all the anti-com-ya-nists I knew were grumps and blue-hairs who saw the Beatles and blue jeans as evidences of socialist corruption, and all the self-professed communists were layabout bohemians with “Che” buttons on their ratty army surplus jackets. It was easy to see which of them would have found life better in the Worker’s Paradise of East Germany.

I didn’t see at the time how much of the “liberal” view was simply an anti-American one. Many of the people advocating it didn’t really care about Marxism-Leninism, except insofar as the idea of their advocating it pissed off their parents. Many of them also didn’t really care about North Vietnamese or South Africans, except insofar as those people were shaking their fists at the company daddy runs.

In Europe, I also met Kurds. I met them in taverns and hostels in Nuremburg, because, for some reason, the small town of Fürth, near there, was a center for black market passports. They were refugees who had escaped ahead of Saddam’s death squads after the U.S. had pulled its support from them. This was the moment Iraq shifted from Soviet satellite to U.S. client in containing the Ayatollah. These Kurds weren’t bitter against Americans. They understood war and politics and betrayal. They wanted to come to the U.S., too, to bide their time and live the life.

When I read about Kurdistan today, I wonder if any of the young men I met in Nuremburg in 1979 survived and are now among the leaders of that reborn land. I was on their side instinctively in 1979; I’m on their side now. An indigenous secular-Islamic people, victims of decades of official repression, fascist attempts to eradicate their culture and literally wipe them off the face of the earth. Brutally murdered with the complicity — at least — of the U.S. government. This ought to be a no-brainer for a true “liberal.”

But instead the liberals I know have no interest at all in the Kurds, because the Kurds made the unforgivable mistake of liberating themselves with the help of American military power. That makes them the bad guys, because the only indigenous people too many modern liberals approve are those that burn American flags.

Back in the day, plenty of wingnuts on the right simply opposed anything that the U.S.S.R. embraced, whether the thing itself was good or bad. But it also seems to me the John Birch types largely have been marginalized in the “conservative” wing, while the “loony” contingent has claimed a lot of core ground in the intellectual circles of the “left.” Think of Chomsky denying the Cambodian holocaust because, well, any indigenous power that rises up to oppose American military hegemony must, de facto, be a good and benevolent thing. (Hell, you don’t have to go to Cambodia: just think of a turgid, tenured professor at MIT being held up as the champion of the world’s oppressed.)

A few years ago, Christopher Hitchens (in NYT Book Review) pointed out that the true, best heir of the 1960s youth Revolution is Vaclav Havel. Unlike the Western hippies, his revolution — wrapped in blue jeans and non-violence and rock music — really did overthrow a repressive, dour authoritarian state. Yet the heirs of the ’60s in the West have little use for him. They cling to Castro.

[To be continued. Lucky you.]

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  • MaxedOutMama


    Incredible. Not invective, just truth. Chomsky has lost any connection with the reality of today’s world. I still believe you are a liberal! Somehow the liberal political movement lost its creative energies and has been making itself a zombie for the last few decades.

    But liberalism – liberal values – WILL NEVER DIE!

  • Michael Totten

    Wonderful piece. Two nitpicks, though. Lose the last line. (“They cling to Castro.) Most don’t anymore.

    Also, you can be a gay atheist with a belly-button ring in Lebanon. It’s a remarkably open place. Beirut has gay nightclubs, and outside the Hezbollah areas it is extremely secular. Even Hezbollah is “liberal” compared to other Islamists. They don’t mandate the hijab and they banned the bloody Ashura “festival,” for example.

  • goy

    Fascinating, Cal’. I’d wondered why some of your posts sounded like me thinking out loud (or into electrons, as it were).

    I grew up in a Hasidic section of Chicago, and then a predominantly (like 90%) Jewish suburb thereof in the late ’60s. Many of my schoolmates’ parents also had numbers on their arms. Took decades to sort out that experience, as my folks were clueless about the whole thing and neither my schoolmates nor their parents talked about the past much. Understandably.

    And I also spent a couple of years in Berlin – West only, since our faction of the military wasn’t allowed into the East. But I remember how threatening and suffocating the Wall felt, and remember thinking how godawful a place would have to be to need a 14′, conduit-topped barricade and 30 meters of guns, mines and electric fencing to keep its people INside.

    Your mention of the lack of interest in the Kurds, and their liberation with the help of U.S. forces, reminded me of my father-in-law’s funeral. He was in the 6th Marine Division (and precursors) from 1942 until finishing as part of TF-31 in 1945. To my surprise, a Chinese-American colleague of mine, whom I really barely knew, showed up. His reason for driving 50 miles on a rainy night for a ten minute visit was to pay respects to a man whose actions had been part of what gave him and his mother the chance to live their lives. His father and sister weren’t as lucky, as I recall. As far as I know, it was the only time anyone had ever expressed gratitude for the sacrifices Pop made. Today, my wife tells me that the only acceptable topic of college course discussion regarding WWII in the Pacific revolves around American “atrocities” in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

    I completely agree with (and have written about) the self-marginalization and attendant neutralization of the far-right to date, as contrasted to the way in which the far-left has hijacked the Democrat party voice.

    I believe a lot of the polarization we see is created by over-the-top hyperbole and ridicule (think Durbin’s contemptible remarks about Guantanamo, Hillary’s “Alfred E. Neuman” crack, Dean’s hatred of Republicans, etc.) that seeks to equate all non-left-of-center thought with those factions of the right that have already been neutralized. This rhetoric is all-too-willingly broadcast, analyzed and rehashed ad nauseam by a conflict-seeking and mostly left-liberal media as though it’s actually ‘news’. For some, seeing this stuff in print and on TV must validate it somehow. The rest of us just shake our heads. Sadly, it’s destroyed faith in the press we rely on to mind the store, and it’s also destroying the balance of our two-party system. Electoral trends, as well as polls of confidence in media, would seem to support this.

    Anyway, I look greatly forward to reading more!

  • tommy

    well done.

  • Justin Gardner

    Wonderful piece. Two nitpicks, though. Lose the last line. (�They cling to Castro.) Most don’t anymore.

    Just Oliver Stone, right?

    I loved nearly everything about this until I got to the ending. And then I felt let down.

    First, I agree with Michael. The last line sounds like a comdenation and although that’s probably the attempt, it feels like way too much of a broad generalization to be helpful to your point. It also reads like you’re trying to pick a fight, and I don’t know if that’s even needed in such a powerful piece. The story speaks for itself.

    Also, I love your story about the Kurds, but I don’t think liberals say that the Kurds are making some sort of “unforgivable mistake” by wanting freedom. Instead please understand that the way Bush went into the war, the way his administration seemingly pushed and pulled the evidence to fit the neocon’s ideology, bothered a lot of people and made them speak out, including me.

    Now we’re seeing more evidence that there was possibly more of a connection between Osama and Saddam. Fair enough. But don’t confuse dissent for a war that was sold on what seemed like shaky ground with liberals wanting people to suffer under a dictatorship. There are countries in the world right now whose people suffer worse conditions than the Kurds and you don’t really see us rushing in to save them.

    And the whole flag burning thing…come on. I say this because it just feels like a talking point. That’s not to say it isn’t true in some cases, but you say “modern” liberal. I feel like I’m a modern liberal. So are you talking about me?

    In closing, again, I want to express that I did really enjoy your story, but the summation of Part One left me cold.

  • Justin Gardner

    Even still, I can’t wait to read part two. 😉

  • Callimachus

    You’ve got your liberals to deal with. I’ve got mine. I don’t know if mine are representative or not. I just know they’re mine. They inhabit my office and walk my streets. I’ll trade them any day for a pack of old baseball cards.

  • JorgXMckie

    I’m in Academia, and believe me, the Progressives around me are not just clinging to Castro, they’re still holding him up as an ideal. My tenured comparative government colleague and my tenured political philosophy colleague are unabashed in their admiration for Castro and the Cuban system. They also admire Hugo Chavez but don’t think he’s moving fast enough.

    I once dumbfounded both by asking if they would be willing to impose the Cuban system on the US on the condition that George Bush get the Castro position as El Jefe.

    They’re not the only Castro embracers, just the most vociferous. They still consider themselves “liberals and progressives.”

  • Justin Gardner

    Fair enough. It just seemed like a very broad generalization that covered people I know and love who don’t share those views and would not be considered moderates by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Michael Totten


    Where do you live?

    I live in a left-wing unreality bubble neighborhood of Portland. It’s Berkeley without the college attached.

    Liberals and Democrats in other places – even in different parts of the same city – are much more reasonable than those who live around me. I think the difference is that I live in a place where conservatives do not really exist and there is little or no reality check on left-wing opinions.

    Liberals in my conservative home town (45 minutes south of here) are more like you and not really at all like the people Callimachus describes. Most of my liberal friends are from my home town, and that probably at least partly explains why they tend to be pretty moderate. I’m surrounded by leftist lunatics, though, who really do think they live in a hijacked police state. That’s one reason I vent about the left more than the right. I am never exposed to right-wing nut jobs unless I go looking for them. I cannot escape the left-wing nut jobs unless I pick up and move.

  • Justin Gardner

    Good point. That might be it. I live in Kansas City, MO, which is pretty much the very middle of the country (heart of america?)

    However, I guess I’m exposed to the right-wing hallucinations too since I monitor the blogosphere and see the venom that’s passed around in the name of freedom and democracy. And it certainly doesn’t help that Bush’s adminstration leans on these hacks to spread their talking points to the faithful. And the same is true for the Dems and the liberal fringe.

    But still, we have our own brand of clueless liberals who try to say there was a connection between Bush and 9/11, etc. They were out during the campaign season waving their signs and it angered me because I knew that these were the people conservatives were associating with liberalism. Ugh.

    In any event, my point was to make sure we’re not cutting wide swaths in the ideological spectrum with phrases like “too many modern liberals.” But I trust Callimachus when he says he was making points about the liberals he knows.

  • Callimachus

    I think what we’re uncovering here is an effect of landslide counties, places where one party or the other holds a thumping majority. People who are the minority party in a place where they are outnumbered 3 or 4 to 1 are likely to have little experience in practical politics (for the practical reason that they never get elected). They’re also more likely to see themselves and others like them as beseiged defenders of what is decent against a horde of robotic opponents — the kind of fight that makes you more extreme as well as more smug.

    The upshot is, a liberal in Kansas, or in my very red Pennsyltucky county, is likely to be more of a pain in the neck than his typical counterpart in coastal Oregon. People who live in deeply liberal enclaves can tell me whether the reverse holds true.

  • TomGrey – Liberty Dad

    Great post. I really loved your
    “not every extension of American power is a bad thing. Always innocent lives will be lost, always women and children will suffer most. In war, America loses its illusion of innocence. But that illusion is not our best quality. War is always a tragedy, but it’s not always the worst tragedy.”

    I think most criticism of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo is based on silly expectations of Unreal Perfection.

    I thought you were going to end with “Che,” the idealistic dreamer — who really IS on so many T-shirts. Ignorantly, for the most part.

    “Many of the people advocating it didn’t really care about Marxism-Leninism, except insofar as the idea of their advocating it pissed off their parents. Many of them also didn’t really care about North Vietnamese or South Africans, except insofar as those people were shaking their fists at the company daddy runs.”

    I note that Peter Gabriel and Bono, for instance, are pretty quiet about their prior support for Mugabe in Zimbabwe — anything better than white rule by Ian Smith. It’s anti-capitialism, anti-Christianity, anti-America, anti-parents … because none of them are Perfect.

  • Callimachus

    P.S.: I was sort of hoping Lebanon hadn’t been tainted by navel rings. I hate the damned things. They hang a useless gaudiness on that which nature made well and which needs no improvement. I suppose I have a classical puritanism about the body as a temple. Or maybe I just dig pretty girls’ belly-buttons. ‘S OK, though; I don’t intend to slap a fatwa on the body piercing biz.

  • Justin Gardner

    TomGrey, your points on Mugabe are founded…however…

    I think most criticism of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo is based on silly expectations of Unreal Perfection.

    How exactly do you define perfection?

    The president already apologized for Abu Ghraib and the Supreme Court said that the enemy combatant distinction was untenable. How can you, being the religious man that you are, support positions like this?

    I’m not saying detention isn’t warranted, but when we say that we can abduct anybody from any country and hold them for as long as we want, don’t you think that goes against our Constitution?

  • Jabba the Tutt

    A liberal believes change can be good, especially when guided by a spirit of free inquiry and a firm sense of what is right and when it aims to increase human freedom and let people run their own lives. A liberal believes people are basically good, and they can, and want to, make their lives better.

    This reminds me of liberals reading the dictionary definitions of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’. It has nothing to do with today’s political reality. This description may apply to pre-1960 liberals.

    Today’s ‘liberals’ are totally reactionary and fear any change. Today’s liberals hate free inquiry and cling to the most absurd beliefs which make them strangers to reality. Today’s liberals have a firm sense of what is right, but their ‘right’ can only be described as perverse by the Normalo-American. Today’s liberals support limiting personal freedom and believe if people ran their own lives, they’d make the wrong decisions without the firm guidance by the liberals. Today’s liberals are compassion fascists, they have a monopoly on morality and they’re going shove their morality down everyone’s throats and make them comply.

    30 years ago, I was a Democrat supporting clean government, cleaning up the environment, civil rights and more personal freedom. Today’s Democrats celebrate government corruption, expanding government power without it doing anything to clean the environment. Today’s Democrats support racism, race-baiting, identity politics and government classification by race and for race. Today’s Democrats support the rich and powerful over the little guy, they support every effort to limit personal freedom and to lock their perverse ideology into granite, so that people can’t change it.

    Oh, one more thing, today’s Democrats hate America and hate Americans. Yeah, I’ll vote for them soon. Not.

  • James Stephenson

    Except Abu Ghraib was just a bunch kids acting stupidly.

    However, people who fight soldiers out of uniform are lucky they are not shot on the spot. WW2 battle of the bulge, those Germans in American like uniforms, shot on the spot. Any spy caught, shot on the spot.

    Anyone fighting Uniformed Soldiers without wearing some kind of Insignia are allowed to be shot according to the Geneva Convention. Maybe we should just do that instead eh Justin. Just shoot em. But then we will not get Information out of em or maybe find out they are just innocent people being locked up. They would just be dead. I guess to some people that might be better than 3 hots and cot, air conditioning, Soccer in the open sky, freedom to pray as you like.

    I guess you are right, lets get on this, tell the Military to shoot those bastards, after all a 20 cent bullet is cheaper than housing them in Gitmo. Good Idea.

  • pst314

    Very good essay. It got me to bookmark the blog.

    Your closing paragraph “…They cling to Castro” speaks directly to my experiences, and I grew up in Milwaukee, not Berkeley.

  • TomGrey – Liberty Dad

    Justin, let me challenge you — where are YOUR criticisms of the US handling of non-Gen. Conv. covered terrorists (not in uniform)? What imperfections in the US treatment do you consider tolerable?

    Can you name any other prison system where Muslims get better treatment? (link, please)

    The US pres. apologized, the SC said combatant distinction was untenable — what position do you think I support, or not?

    I support detention for suspects; I support firm — not torturous — interrogation, especially sleep deprivation and constant video surveillance.

    I think most are guilty, without enough proof “beyond reasonable doubt” to convict them. Every justice system has two errors:
    innocents wrongly held/ punished; guilty wrongly set free.

    The mistake of holding innocents is reduced when their main punishment is merely segregation. I think Gitmo is the most humane prison system that has more than 100 Islamic prisoners, but I’m pretty ignorant on this — but I do notice comparisons with other prisons is NOT a big media interest.

    I’ve posted on this before. And I notice the critics, like Totten, are usually unwilling to say what imperfections they accept. If you can’t own up to the REAL errors of your chosen balance, you’re advocating Unreal Perfection.

  • Justin Gardner

    Oh, one more thing, today’s Democrats hate America and hate Americans. Yeah, I’ll vote for them soon. Not.

    Again, if you’re on this site and you’re saying things like this you’re completely missing the point.

    And Abu Ghraib was not just a bunch of kids acting stupidly, and that’s been proven since the same tactics have been used at Gitmo and other U.S. detainment centers around the world. Two people died (one by blunt force trauma) in an Afghanistan detention center. We really need to start getting honest about this topic because it certainly isn’t helping us win the hearts and minds.

  • ford4x4

    Very informative. I conisder myself to be center-right. I find the part of the left run by Howard Dean/Hillary Clinton to be disgusting (for lack of a better word), and I found myself beginning to hate all that the left stands for. After reading this post, along with some of the other posters/commenters on this site, I find that it is possible to respect, and sometimes even see eye to eye, with those “sane” members of the left.

    This site is now required lunchtime reading for me every day. (But you’ll never get me to accept Universal Health Care!)

  • Thomas


    Well, I’ll mention to you what I said to Michael. If you stick around (re: don’t go back to the partisan dem fold) we conservative types don’t mind change. We’d just like to do it without making the government larger and keeping people from being dependent on it. Also, some business regulation is good… the other side has this caricature of us that is pretty different than the reality…

    Example, instead of ‘universal’ healthcare (government taking over healthcare, either overtly or covertly via single payer), how about the government buys [private] insurance for people who can’t get it….

    That kind of stuff…

    Otherwise, I hear you. Except as someone who has always been in the anti-commie camp, there were cool non blue hairs all along. You just didn’t seek them out probably.

  • Pouncer

    Thomas: “we conservative types don’t mind change. We’d just like to do it without making the government larger and keeping people from being dependent on it.”

    That’s not conservative, that’s Whiggy. Or Burkean, if you prefer the term.

    The goal is to put Parliment, (or deliberative bodies like it) between the capriciously changing demands of the mob-ocracy and the intrinsic desire of kings, tyrants, and Dick Nixon or Joe Stalin for criticism-free stability, order, and obedience. Change, but in good ways; change, but slowly; change, sluffing off the obsolete past while keeping the best of what has demonstrated its value; change, but …

  • Callimachus

    “Conservative” is really about as meaningful as “liberal” anymore. You can folow the “Burke” school up through Russell Kirk — my personal favorite among the writers who have worn the “conservative” hat. But how many who call themselves “conservative” nowaqdays have even heard of him?

  • TomGrey – Liberty Dad

    Justin: “We really need to start getting honest about this topic because it certainly isn’t helping us win the hearts and minds.”

    So how about being honest — where in the world are 100 or more Islamic prisoners getting BETTER treatment than Gitmo?

    If you can’t find one, and you continue to claim Gitmo isn’t good enough, why can’t I accuse you of wanting Unreal Perfection?

    The critics don’t have a realistic standard; that’s honestly my problem with the critics. See the Stanford Prison Experiment, especially the sexual humiliation, and tell me again Abu is not kids — and see how you bait & switch from Abu to Afghanistan to find some killings.

    Some 100 in custody; 26 being investigated? Quite a few US soldiers being punished for not treating prisoners good enough. Any other military force in the world in the last 50 years that have punished more of their own soldiers? If you can’t tell me about a BETTER force, you’re expecting unreal perfection from ours.

    That seems often the case with Bush critics; Glenn Reynolds calls it Bush Derangement Syndrome.

  • http://none Chris Williams

    The assertions set forth in this piece are entirely based on anecdotes. The author universalizes individual encounters he has had with liberals and claims that this applies to the entire democratic/liberal paradigm. While it is true that certain elements of liberal culture manifest the repugnant passivism the author describes, such passivism (passivity?) is by no means universal. I consider myself a centrist liberal, and I do not recognize the boogymen the author conjures up. This is the modus operandi of the right – take one idea or orientation expressed by the left, and universalize it to all democrats and liberals. It is a BS tactic. Rove does it, and many others do it as well.

    Let me ask you, author – how would you react if I asserted that because you are trending to Bush and the republicans mindset on specific issues, you believe that gay marriage is the number one threat to America, as Santorum said? Or, if I attributed the Colorado congressman’s words to you, who said that if we were attacked again with bio/chem/nuke weapons by terrorists, we should bomb Mecca? How would you react? I suspect you would say BS, I am smarter than that, and I dont agree with that nonsense. You would say, hey, Im a republican, but I dont believe that insanity. This is precisely what these people do – take one example, and universally attribute it to the entire half of the country who know understands what a stupid debacle this war is, and who reject the illusions, inflexibility, and radicalism of Bush.

    Examples from the piece:
    (1) many liberals approve of burning flags. Look at a poll. Nonesense. This is true for the “America haters” accusation – take a poll. Liberals will tell you they love America.

    (2) liberals dont care about Kurds. Hello? Where does the author get this? It is a fabricated boogyman. What the hell? This does not describe me or many many other people who call themselves democrats.

    (3) liberals approve of Castro. Hello? What the hell? What unaduletrated BS. I suspect that the author is dealing with the ghosts of his past, with the culture wars that existed decades ago, when in fact there were some leftists who thought the Soviets were right on. That is an element of the left, somewhat shameful, but by no means representative of the mainstream.

    (4) The author assumes facts not in evidence. Iraq is, in the deluded minds of many who need war as a force to give meaning, a war on the “roots” of terrorism. BS. Thats a played out debate, but I dont consider the concept valid at all, and I perceive the question as settled.

    Jean Michel Basquiat, a great painter, used to sign his early work “Samo.” That stood for same old shit. That is exactly what this article is. Once again, author, I ask you: do you believe that gay marriage is the #1 threat? Santorum does. Santorum is a republican, and so are you, so thus you must believe it too. The flaw in the syllogism is beyond obvious. Dont fall for it.

  • Callimachus

    Chris: You liked your comment so much you posted it twice, eh? Nice use of bandwidth. My answer to you is on part III. No need to hog the discourse.