The Mind Of Modern Liberals

This is the last section of the article by Jason Lee Steorts, from the July 9 Edition Of National Review Online, it’s well worth the US$21.95 annual subscription fee.

Of course, if anyone should need no convincing that withdrawal would be unethical, it is modern liberals. For it is they who, in their rhetoric, advocate the most sweeping ethics-based restrictions on the conduct of foreign policy. The record of modern liberalism is another story, as witness its penchant for defending tyrants, from totalizing ideologues such as Stalin and Mao to machete-wielding, “anti-colonialist” jungle thugs. Where war is concerned, however, liberal impulses are consistently pacifistic. The post-Vietnam Left looks upon all war as morally suspect for the reason that it maims and kills innocent people. So deep does this feeling run in liberal bones that the Left has opposed using force even against regimes which flagrantly violate human rights, and even when overwhelming strategic reasons to topple these regimes have emerged. (The most obvious recent case is the adulteress- and homosexual-murdering Taliban.)

If liberals took their rhetoric seriously, the politicians aligned most closely with the pacifist Left — Nancy Pelosi being the paradigmatic example — would suffer insomnia each night as they contemplated the probable human cost of U.S. failure in Iraq. They would recognize that their moral opposition to starting this war — or even a universalized opposition to starting any war — is consistent with the view that there are compelling moral reasons to continue it. More: that if the war was unjust, we have a unique interest in minimizing its harms, just as one feels a special obligation of kindness toward a person one has offended. Instead we have Mrs. Pelosi voting with the majority of her caucus for immediate withdrawal.

These votes would be defensible, and consistent with liberal principles, if it were true either that the U.S. could do nothing to win the war, or that pulling out of Iraq would — cue deus ex machina — improve its security. In the latter case, withdrawal would be morally and not just strategically desirable; in the former, we would have no alternative but to withdraw and feel a guilt commensurate to the weight of the resultant catastrophe. Neither of these claims is plausible, or borne out by recent events (there is a reason the Iraqi government is begging us to stay). This may be why Pelosi and her Democrats make no argument for them.

Their apparent indifference to the consequences of their votes only highlights their immorality: for the case that withdrawal would destroy Iraq is a compelling one, and in any event it is the advocate of the new policy who must prove that it will not come at an unbearable cost. The most charitable thing that can be said of the Democratic majority is that it is morally thoughtless, in which case it is committing the political equivalent of criminal negligence. If it has its way and Iraq survives, it will have been lucky, not good. And if, as is more probable, our worst fears come true, then it will have been something else altogether.

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