by Victor David Hanson
Saturday, Nov. 09, 2002 at 9:01 AM
The End of An Era
We are witnessing a fascinating period in American history — not the resurgence, as proclaimed, but the decline of an entire culture of dissident leftists. The last year has revealed all their old shibboleths for what they were: lies and half-truths. Examine, for example, some of the positions voiced at recent demonstrations — and decide whether there was any morality or consistency to them other than anti-Americanism?
"No blood for oil" implies that the United States is attacking Iraq to ensure a low price for petroleum — a plot purportedly to allow SUV-driving soccer moms to buzz around at the world's expense. But such a platitude is full of logistical inconsistencies rarely discussed. The argument instead can be made that a fascistic Iraq currently pumps far less than its natural capacity or its national interests would otherwise demand — perhaps as much as a million-barrel shortfall. And such an artificially created dearth helps the price-gouging Russians and the Gulf States by reducing world supplies at the expense of billions well outside the borders of the United States.
A consensual government in Iraq would not distort the market, but would restore its output to be in line with what the people of Iraq would desire. If anything, other oil producers prefer the present contrived and induced shortages. And liberation would allow oil revenue to be shared by the people, not diverted to the palaces, anthrax labs, or Swiss bank accounts of a tribal elite. So a more apt protest slogan should be "No fascism for rigged oil prices" or "Oil for the people who really own it."
The dream of 1960s radicals was supposedly that someday the United States might use its vast cultural influence and military power to be on the "right side of history." That meant — instead of Pavlovian opposition to idealistic socialists and occasional Communists in preference for odious figures like Pinochet, Somoza, or Franco — we would try to topple just those regimes and implant democracies in their place. Few then lectured that the Nicaraguans should be left to handle their own dictators or that we had no right to tell the Spanish what to do with Franco. Instead, support for revolutionary movements was voiced and action demanded.
Well, with the end of the Cold War, those days of hope have at last arrived. Noriega, Milosevic, and Mullah Omar not only were fascistic and bloodthirsty, but they are also all gone thanks to the United States military. Rather than seeing protestors chanting to ignore Saddam Hussein, I would have expected that the refrain would be "Solidarity with the brave Iraqi people in their brave struggles against a fascist mass murderer."
The mantras of the 1960s and 1970s were "coalition governments" and "free elections." The United States was supposed to predicate its support on representation of all spectra of views under democratic auspices, i.e., anything other that what had emerged for a time in Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Brazil, Greece, or Argentina. Such right-wing autocracies were corrupt, authoritarian, and murderous. In other words, like the present Palestinian Authority, they brooked no opposition, lynched or shot dissidents with or without show trials, and embezzled foreign aid. Yet today a democratic Israel — with a vociferous press, an antiwar movement, a plentitude of parties, regular elections, and a civilian-controlled military — is as demonized as Mr. Arafat is praised by Western intellectuals. Do we see protest signs that say "Support the democratic peoples of Israel in their struggle against sexist, homophobic, and fundamentalist reactionaries"?
If I could summarize the antiwar movement's traditional view of the military, it ran something like this: Anyone who came of age during the draft and combat abroad had a constitutional duty not to serve the imperialist war aims of the United States, especially in Vietnam. The military were slandered as innately fascistic and its officers not to be trusted — veterans who were said to have the blood of innocent civilians on their hands. Only the brake of civilians — intellectual and principled — could save us from a dangerous militarism. Or so it went on the campuses.
Now, however, those in their mid and late 50s in government who did not go to Vietnam are slurred as "chicken hawks" in the manner that those same accusers once tarred veterans as "baby killers." That the top brass is wary of going into Iraq is suddenly proof that such military experts, not their civilian overseers, should be heeded as wise and reasonable. Are there petitions, then, that suggest that serving in the ground war in Vietnam between 1965 and 1972 was an act of patriotism, coupled with proclamations that military minds are in general more responsible to gauge the morality of war? If so, the protesters in D.C. should have placards proclaiming, "Listen to our brave generals and rally behind our Vietnam vets." And since dissidents also apparently think that in this war it is safer to be in the fleet than in the path of terrorist bombers, their placards should read: "Chicken-hawks: Leave your sanctuary in the Pentagon and safe high-rises of New York and get into harm's way on a submarine."
After the murderous aftermath of 1975 in Southeast Asia — boat people, summary executions, the piled skulls of the killing fields, reeducation camps, over a million refugees in the United States — the antiwar Left claimed that its efforts were aimed only at stopping the United States from fighting in Asia and that it had been led astray by the phony rhetoric of the Viet Cong. Thus the myth arose that radical dissidents were more pacifist than anti-American. Suspicions that many favored the eventual Communist victory as part of a general hatred of things America were discounted as absurd, if not libelous. But their stance against the present war with fascists has finally caught up to them, and revealed a large number for what they really are: deductive anti-Americanists. There are various conventional explanations for this week's election results; but unmentioned has been the Democrats' failure to condemn loudly and publicly the ravings of the lunatic Left.
The post-9/11 animus from a Norman Mailer (the Twin Towers were like ugly buck teeth), Noam Chomsky (America planned to kill "millions" in Afghanistan), or Michael Moore (there were few Bush voters at the World Trade Center) — followed by gleeful predictions by others of U.S. failure against the Taliban — is now come to logical fruition over the toppling of the odious Saddam Hussein. And what one has to conclude from the present venom is that anti-Americanism is neither logical nor empirical. Indeed, it is a fundamentalist secular religion, not a reasoned stance, one entirely inconsistent and unpredictable in its choice of friends and foes — except for one constant: Whatever America does, it hates.
We are learning that resistance never really entailed opposition to fascism at all, much less the need for intervention to support democracy, but was simply a strange desire to vent displeasure with our own culture. That so many of these ideological teenagers mad at their opulent and indulgent parents are affluent suburbanites suggests the deleterious effects of leisure and wealth; that so many enjoy the appurtenances of nice cars, houses, and travel denotes abject hypocrisy; that so many mindlessly repeat cant and fad reflects the power of belonging to a clique that promises status by being more "sophisticated" and "subtle" than ordinary Americans; that so many demand utopian perfection reminds us that their god Reason is an unforgiving totem; that so many are shrill and angry suggests that they seek global causes to assuage personal unhappiness and anger at a system that has not met their own high demands upon it.
So we have at last arrived at Cloudcuckooland: A hierarchal United States military is more tolerant of liberals in its ranks than liberal universities are of their critics on campus. Republicans support dangerous interventions abroad to remove dictators and free oppressed peoples, as leftist dissidents agitate for hands-off mass murderers and medieval theocrats. A democratic Israel is slandered as imperialistic and fascistic while an authoritarian Palestinian regime is given a pass for theft, murder, and torture. And liberals, women, and homosexuals are saved in Afghanistan thanks to the work of Air Force pilots and special forces, as reactionary fundamentalists and thugs seek to hold onto their autocracy in part by finding solace with anti-American leftists. Who would have ever thought that democratic Iraqis would seek our military's help, while agents of Saddam Hussein would line up to find solidarity with those now marching?
Face it: Slobodan Milosevic, Mullah Omar, Yasser Arafat, and Saddam Hussein — not the ghosts of the thousands of their innocent dead — all prefer Ramsey Clark to George Bush. We are seeing nothing less than quite literally the end of an era — witnessed by the intellectual suicide of an entire generation, who in their last gasps are proving they have been not very moral people all along.