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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Note To Liberals: Stop Distrusting
I have two finals tomorrow, but...
This op-ed in the Washington Post articulates perfectly the problems that face the more liberal elements of the Democratic party and how their self-righeousness has led them astray. It is titled, "Blinded by Bush-Hatred," and it argues basically this point: that many anti-war liberals have failed to move past their disdain for the President and that they blindly object to anything that he, and his adminstration, proposes. While this certainly isn't the whole of the anti-war argument, I think it, unfortunately, explains quite a bit of the underlying skepticism.
As the latest argument goes, the war skeptics are jumping on the fact that the weapons of mass destruction that seemed to be a large motivation for war in the first place, have not yet been found. Those liberals who reluctantly supported the war feel betrayed, and those who never believed a thing the administration said about the war in the first place have jumped all over this lack of destructive hardware.
So should we have given Blix more time? Most certainly not. If we can't find these weapons after weeks of intense searching, how could it be expected that Blix's small team of light blue-clad Swedes could find these needles in the massive haystack that is Iraq?
"The reason U.S. troops haven't yet found anything is that Hussein worked assiduously to hide his proscribed weapons. Iraq moved weapons around the country in tractor-trailers, buried them in out-of-the-way places and so on. The lesson is that finding Hussein's weapons isn't as simple as pulling over to the side of the road and peering into suspicious-looking buildings. It requires cracking open the elaborate secrecy apparatus surrounding them. That's something Blix was never going to be able to do. The difficulty of locating weapons of mass destruction doesn't prove that inspectors should have been given more time. It proves that inspections could never have worked while Hussein remained in power."
Die-hard anti-war liberals will no doubt summilarily dismiss this notion and insist that there was some sort of conspiracy to trick the American people into war. I don't buy that. There's a reason conspiracy theory shows are on on late night cable and this goes right along with that. Look, I'm no Bush sympathizer by any means, but what many of my fellow liberals have worked the argument down to is a simple lack of trust for government in general. I honestly don't think government has changed quite as much as they say since the Clinton years. And, if liberals are supposed to be the ideology that seeks solutions through bigger, stronger government, this lack of trust will be tremendously damaging for the future of liberalism. Or maybe it's just that government is only to be trusted when we run it, in which case we've got an entirely different, and potentially more dangerous problem.
So, liberals don't trust Bush about the weapons. OK, fine, be like that. But do they also dismiss the intelligence of the U.N. and (gasp!), Germany, one of the staunchest opponents of war?
"So Bush's claims should never be taken at face value. But accepting the fact that Iraq had an extensive and continuing program for weapons of mass destruction doesn't require taking Bush at his word. The U.N. Special Commission, when it finished its work in 1999, concluded the same thing. So has Germany's intelligence service. So has the United Kingdom's. Indeed, the only people who seem to doubt it are either allies of Hussein or those who distrust Bush so much that they automatically assume everything he says must be false."
This is not, as liberals, where we want to be. Juxaposed with Ba'ath loyalists will not get us into the White House. You hear that Howard Dean?
We need a little trust. If liberals can't trust Bush, which they are certainly entitled not to, then they should at least trust our critics who say the same thing. Distrusting Bush is taking American liberalism in the wrong direction. There are ways to be thoughtful critics and be honestly skeptical of the administration's positions and actions. But this, my liberal friends, is not the way.
I think it probably began as a procrastination tool in the last days of finals last year, and I have tried to resist that temptation this time around. Two out of five finals are done, and by friday night I'll be done. Then, when I get home to the newly installed cable modem, I'll be back to posting.
No matter how much it pains him, Thomas Friedman today admitted that the only way for Democrats to succeed is to stop complaining and to start critiquing in a beneficial way. It seems that a large segment of the party has not moved beyond the slanted decision of Bush vs. Gore. Many liberals have fallen into the mindset that they can not possibly support anything that Bush does, for it will only detract from their ability to hate him.
Why do we see so many posters at anti-war rallies of Bush with a tiny Hitler mustache? Sure, that insult has been tried for probably every president since that tyrant, but I'd be willing to bet that it has come into its own with this administration, and not just because of the issues. Hatred of Bush has been at the wheel for the liberal cause - a dangerous position from which to ever mount a campaign to actually defeat him.
If Democrats want to win back the White House in 2004 and gain a majority in the House and Senate, the blatant attacks and unjustified opposition to this president needs to stop. I see this from the college student protester in the streets all the way up to the Senate Minority Leader, Tom Daschle. As the nation went to war, Daschle's opposition became crass and immature. It did not wax of reasoned argument against an unnecessary war, or one that was carried out too abruptly, but rather his dissent relied on nearly personal attacks.
Friedman sees that this route of dissent will never produce results for Democrats:
"One senses, though, that liberals so detest Mr. Bush that they refuse to acknowledge the simple good that has come from ending Saddam's tyranny — good for Iraqis and good for America, because it will inhibit other terrorist-supporting regimes. Have no doubt about that. If Democrats' whole analysis of this war is determined by whether or not it helps Mr. Bush, then they are never going to play the role they must play — constructive critics of how we rebuild Iraq."
Sure the war helped Bush, but that doesn't mean it can't help Democrats as well. These two are not mutually exclusive. Democrats just need to see that these are issues that America confronts, not just issues that the President deals with. They abandoned their opportunity to stand up to a tyrant and instead cowered from the opportunity to free a people. They hid in the corner and took pot shots at the President instead of questioning the strength of his argument and offering a successful alternative. They shrunk from their responsibilties and, as a result, have fallen into a position of digging their own grave.
Democrats need to see that their digging is not taking them to the top, but is making their own grave. The sooner they see this, the sooner they can work towards addressing the issues that confront America and that the President has thus fair failed to tackle. Helping the President does not always equal hurting yourself. Our nation isn't split that much quite yet. Until we get to that failed moment, Democrats need to work with the President for the future of Iraq and for the future of America.
There's much work to be done. Don't reduce to the lowest common denominator already.