Skip to comments.A squeamish namby-pamby European wimp joins the Washington war debate
Posted on 07/16/2005 12:31:02 AM PDT by Frank T
Washington, according to some reports, feels like a city at war. A few days in the US capital are enough to reveal the splits, not just between Democrats and Republicans, but also the various factions on the right, squabbling for the president's fickle attention. Much depends on the outcome of these struggles.
Several people I met, none of them even vaguely on the left, were convinced there would be no war. The president, they assured me, was backtracking. Others told me, with equal conviction, that Bush certainly would go to war. Then there are those who talk as if the war is already over.
I was invited to take part in a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute about Iraq after Saddam. The AEI is a neo-conservative outfit, whose members are imbued with a revolutionary mission to bring democracy to the world, backed by American force. Our discussion, in which several prominent Arab liberals took part, was on the whole reasonable and interesting. We argued about the future role, if any, of the Baathist party, of the Iraqi armed forces, of the Sunnis, and of the Kurds. We talked about possible lessons to be drawn from the US role in postwar Germany and Japan.
But on the merits of the war itself, there could be no question. That was settled. Scepticism on this score was met with the kind of eye-rolling impatience with which committed Marxists treat people who still fail to understand the laws of history. In the course of this eye-rolling, I learned a new expression for the word "aesthetic", as in: "Oh, you're only against the war for aesthetic reasons."
The assumption here is that one is a namby-pamby European wimp, too squeamish for the necessary task at hand. Sure, a few tens of thousands may die, but what is that compared to the glories of democratic revolution? This goes beyond anti-European prejudices. It is where the neo-conservative ideologues reveal the now distant, but still unmistakably Trotskyist antecedents of their dogmatism. One cannot afford to be sentimental if one is to change the world. To a true believer the means to an essential end are indeed a matter of aesthetics.
This is quite different from the more cynical attitudes of traditional conservatives, whose interests are in every respect more businesslike. Order and stability are the aim. If our man is a brute, at least he is ours. And if that means violent oppression, well, as that great bourgeois character, Mr Peachum, says in Brecht's Three-penny Opera, "that is the way things are in the world." This is the attitude of Republican conservatives who don't believe in democracy in the Middle East, and see no point in trying. They may favour a war, but only for practical reasons.
There is, in fact, a parallel here with the occupation of Japan after the second world war. The Japanese prime minister, Yoshida Shigeru, divided the American occupiers into realists and idealists. The realists were rightwing conservatives, who worked together with Japanese conservatives to maintain an authoritarian, pro-business regime, governed by old bureaucrats, some of whom had been war criminals. The idealists were Democratic New Dealers, who encouraged trade unionists, socialists and Japanese liberals to establish an American-style democracy.
The idealists managed to push through many necessary reforms in the early years of the occupation, and Japanese democracy, such as it is, owes them a great debt. But once the cold war began, realism prevailed, war criminals were released from prison, leftists purged, and Japan became a conservative, bureaucratic, de facto one-party state.
My point is that the neo-conservatives today, as far as Iraq is concerned, are the idealists, and if their revolutionary ideals have any chance of succeeding, they will have to prevail over the realists, the oil men and the country-club Republicans, who will surely stand in their way. The irony here is that what is left of the left, on the whole, shares the views of the old right. Few believe in a democratic revolution in the Middle East, and even fewer think it is up to America to enforce it.
So there we are, on the cusp of a war which may or may not happen. If it does, the results in Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East, are not likely to be very aesthetic, but the future will depend less on battles fought in Baghdad, Basra or Tikrit, than on the wars which will rage in Washington DC.
One of these people is a professor at Bard college, Ian Buruma. He has a good quote:
"When Indians kill Muslims, or Africans kill Africans, or Arabs kill Arabs, Western pundits pretend not to notice or find historical explanations, or blame the scars of colonialism...But if white men, whether they are Americans, Europeans, South Africans, or Israelis, harm people of color hell is raised...One could claim this is only right, since we can only take responsibility for our own kind. But this would be a rather racist view of world affairs."
While the Left ostensibly wants to "speak to power" and stop non-white people from getting hurt, it's really from a position of holding their own to account, and not really doing anything that would help non-whites.
But anyways, I had a look to see what articles Buruma has written, and came across this 2-year old article from the Guardian.
For those of us, such as myself, who not well versed in the occupation of Japan post-WWII, and who were not around at the time to read the press on it, what do you make of these comments by Buruma?
He seems to believe that the only good in Japanese democracy were put there by the ideals of socialism. Doesn't history show that socialism tends towards one-party control, and the bureaucratic state that he attributes to Right-wingism? And wasn't the party that was in control of Japan for all those decades a Liberal one?
You can see part of the problem we have with the Left, today, if this is how they see the motivations of conservatives, and of themselves. Idealism from New Deal welfarists??
I'd hate to read what he attributes to the American Revolution. The founding Fathers were *not* socialists, pretty damn far from it.
Story is 2 years old!!!
Is it necessary to go that far back to find examples?
I think this (false) premise explains everything. The squeamish namby-pamby European wimp called Buruma creates a straw man, heroically struggles with him, achieves a glorious victory - and never comes even close to the real problem.
How very typical...
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