Thursday, September 01, 2005


How To Ignore The Obvious

A question that returns to puzzle me, now and again -- why have the anti-war crowd, many of whom proudly describe themselves as liberals, descended to the levels of standing by dictators and terrorists?

It doesn't have to be that way. It's perfectly possible to disagree with the war in Iraq, for example, without defending or condoning terrorist attacks against Iraqi civilians and American troops. One can question whether the war was the best means to an end, without having to defend Saddam Hussein. Similarly, one can disagree with the policies of the State of Israel and her government, without supporting terrorist organizations and their actions.

But that's not the sort of anti-war argument we see much of. I have to wonder: where, amid all the shrill cries of "No Blood For Oil" and "Bush Lied" and "Free Iraq and Palestine", have all the thinking liberals gone? The ones who abhor tyranny in any form? The ones who learned, not just from Gandhi, but from Bonhoeffer?

Some of them still exist, certainly, and I'm very glad they do. But they're not the ones making their voices heard. The voices we do hear are the shrill cries of Cindy Sheehan and her fellow travellers. How on Earth did they find themselves condemning their own democratically-elected leaders, and praising despots like Saddam?

Wretchard of Belmont Club has a thoughtful discussion of this today; as you might expect, it is fascinating and disturbing. He cites Paul Berman, for example, as follows:
The anti-war Socialists of France did not think they were being cowardly or unprincipled in making those arguments. On the contrary, they ... regarded themselves as exceptionally brave and honest. [...] But the political arguments rested on something deeper, too -- a philosophical belief; profound, large, and attractive ... that, in the modern world, even the enemies of reason cannot be the enemies of reason. Even the unreasonable must be, in some fashion, reasonable.

The belief underlying those anti-war arguments was, in short, an unyielding faith in universal rationality. ... And, stirred by that antique idea, the anti-war Socialists gazed across the Rhine and simply refused to believe ... in a political movement whose animating principles were paranoid conspiracy theories, blood-curdling hatreds, medieval superstitions, and the lure of murder. At Auschwitz the SS said, "Here there is no why."
(emphasis added)

What is it that causes someone to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that there is no one who cannot be reasoned with? It's a sobering thought... one to which I have no answer.


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