Friday, August 18, 2006

Leonard Fein: A Word Liberals Dare Not Speak

Quotes from another good essay in The Forward,
Left-liberals are loath to deal with the scourge of terrorism. By and large, they see the people others label “terrorists” as merely malcontents. Enemies? People are, after all, intrinsically good, even if they have, through no fault of their own, turned bad somewhere along the way. Everyone — well, nearly everyone — can be redeemed, no? Call them “militants,” call them “insurgents,” “guerrillas,” go all the way and call them “freedom fighters,” but no, do not call them “enemies.”

There are layers upon layers here. We are dealing with fundamental notions of sin and virtue, of good versus evil, and these are concepts largely absent from the vocabulary and the worldview of the contemporary left. We — yes, I am a confirmed left-liberal — bristled when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” we snicker (or shudder) at George W. Bush’s Manichaean view of the world, that view that holds that “you are either with us or you are with the terrorists,” a view that simply deletes the vast middle ground, all the gray areas of moral ambiguity. We see that Pat Robertson is in Jerusalem praying with Ehud Olmert and that Dick Cheney is suddenly Israel’s best friend, he and his acolyte hawks who want to make war against Iran. (And, of course, prefer that it be Israel that does the actual fighting.)

But the core of the matter remains, I believe, the reluctance of the left-liberals to accept as a part of our new situation the hard reality of terrorism. Even if we worry privately that Samuel Huntington may have been prescient with his “Clash of Civilizations,” we cling to a rosier view. We remain more concerned with civil liberties than with national security.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Well, I suppose Fein's description could apply to some DailyKos-types, but it surely doesn't apply to mainstream Democrats or "left-liberals" generally. (Although I guess the fun of making up a label is that you can tailor it as narrowly as your purposes require.) Dem politicians overwhelmingly supported Israel's campaign again Hezbollah--the kidnapping of their soldiers clearly couldn't be allowed to pass. More to the point, the notion that we left-liberals "see the people others label 'terrorists' as merely malcontents" is just an outrageous strawman.

Terrorists are evil, are our enemies, and should be destroyed. If brute military force were enough to accomplish that goal, well then I for one would surely favor brute military force at every turn. But what if it isn't? Our mission in Iraq has been a near-total failure. Israel's campaign failed to achieve its objectives against Hezbollah, to the point that many are calling for Ehud Olmert to step down. The distinction here isn't between force and pacifism, it's between reflexive bellicosity and military force intelligently deployed in concert with soft power, diplomacy, hearts-and-minds work), etc. Let's use every weapon in our arsenal, not just our guns, because that will make our war on terror more effective.