Friday, March 23, 2007

What right-wing Dems are guilty of

This line pretty much captures exactly the problem I have with Tom Friedman and all the other Dems who tried to make nice-nice with Bush in his first term:
Centrist pundits'... past wrongness is partly responsible for our current state of affairs, [in] that they successfully marginalized early liberal anti-Bush voices as extreme while simultaneously blinding themselves to the genuine extremism of the party running the entire Federal government, thus helping land us in the current mess.
The point is that these centrists have shown incredibly poor judgment, both in the domestic politics of trying to compromise with the Bushies, who played them like fiddles, and in the policy arena, where they have played the role of enablers in the worst policy debacles of the past forty years. These are the people Carville and Begala are referring to when they say that the problem with the Democrats "is not ideological, it's anatomical. We lack a backbone."


chris said...

Right on. So much for the opposition party (and so-called 'liberal media') these last 5 years. The fact that it has taken this long to see any sign of genuine opposition is rather disheartening, but better late than never, I suppose.
I found your blog after reading your 'Mandarins of the Future' - I am working on an MA thesis trying to connect MT with the intellectual climate of the 50s (consensus history, end of ideology), and have found the book to be invaluable. Also came across your Katrina and Racism essay - excellent work.

zachawry said...

As an avowed liberal who supported the war because I thought it would turn the country around better for the Iraqis if nothing else (boy was that idea shot out of the water!), I guess this is target at (people like) me.

I do have to ask one question, though, and I really don't know the answer: up to the buildup to the Iraqi war, had George Bush been in office long enough and done enough for people who loathed and distrusted him then to have come by those opinions based on his actual record?

If so, then that means that people like me were just naive "useful idiots." If not, however, then the fact that people like Nils were right is really nothing more than luck.

Can you point to a handful of things that GB had done while in office before the invasion of Iraq that made accusations of incompetence and malfeasance justifiable at that time (I'm all to willing to acknowledge them at this point in time)?

purpleprose said...

Zak, the premise for your question is fundamentally off. This is not about George Bush personally. The point is not that "we should have known 43 would F things up" because that implies that if a different, more competent, less corrupt President had been in charge of the Iraq invasion then it all might have worked out great. That's the ongoing lie that liberal hawks and neocons alike tell themselves in order not to have to reconsider their basic assumptions about what force can achieve.

The simple fact of the matter is that any invasion/occupation of a country in the Global South by a country in the Global North is doomed with virtual certainty to disaster. There are two basic reasons why such efforts are doomed. The first is ideological: the postcolonials are no longer cowed or intimidated by the First World; they refuse to defer, to accept formal occupation and rule. The colonial ghost has left the imperialist building. The second is technological: the amount of firepower available to small groups or individuals is such that assymetric warfare can destroy the functional fabric of a society, and that if the regime cannot command basic respect, small groups can undermine the legitimacy of any occupying authority.

zachawry said...

I think you are basically right, which is why I am chagrined at my own support of the war. However, I have to say that most of the anti-war arguments I heard were not similar to those you outlined above, but more along the lines of "Bush sucks."

Assuming this is true (and maybe my memory is skewed), I wonder if, even though we have evidence for the assertion "Bush sucks" now, how much we had in early 2003.

chris said...

The fundamental point, I believe, is that GWB is not the biggest problem. The lack of critical examination of the stated policy rationales (WMD, al-Qaeda connection, establishment of democracy in ME) is indicative of a deeper failure across American society to examine deeper assumptions – namely, that all countries/societies really want (or ought to want) to resemble contemporary America, and that we have the right (duty?) to make this happen, by military means if necessary. The problem is with us.

purpleprose said...

Exactly right, Chris.

Now, I might be willing to accept the notion that the world would be a better place if more people did want to be "like us." But what is absolutely clear is that we're never going to convince people of that proposition by invading their country. Soft power might be a fuzzy concept, but what's certain is that sending Louis Armstrong on a world tour was way better for America's standing in the world than the Vietnam War, and also way better for convincing the world that they should want to be "like us."

Where I think Zak is right that there is a Bush problem in this equation is that the Bush version of "like us" is fundamentally abhorent: superstitious, selfish, deceitful, stupid, venal, corrupt... who would want to emulate an America that embodies those characteristics? Someone like Bush could never have run an effective foreign policy.