Wednesday, July 25, 2007


This Is What We Talk About When We Talk About War --
Zippy Catholic put up this interesting quote:


It occurs to me that the reason why antiwar activists are so strongly attached to the mantra of “Bush lied” (besides the reality that he and his officials did lie on numerous occasions) is that they are attempting to square a nation that embraced a manifestly unjust, unnecessary war with their confidence in the functioning of our system of government.


I find that it comes from some musings on lessons learned from the Iraq war by paleoconservative Daniel Larison. I want to highlight this passage:


As someone who opposed any invasion of Iraq from the day the idea was first floated (Jan. 29, 2002), I did not make many of the same mistakes that war supporters did, but I regret them all the same, since my failure to understand the political reality of my own country led me to make arguments in my letters and conversations that were not going to be very persuasive. Antiwar activists were often effectively arguing past, or rather above, the public. We were arguing the impracticalities and immorality of such a war; the other side could tap into a visceral desire for revenge and payback, regardless of the target. War advocates understood the irrationality of democracy (including the crowd-pleasing lie that democracies are naturally peaceful) very well and exploited it for all it was worth. Antiwar activists have been labouring for years under the delusion that popular attitudes can be affected by having better policy arguments and superior command of knowledge about a region. Current war supporting pundits have much in common with this approach, since the standard refrain of pro-war commentators is something like, “The American people will never approve of a policy of surrender,” just as some antiwar commentators might effectively claim (as I know I did) that ”the American people will never approve of a policy of aggression.” I was wrong then in my judgement of the public mood; they are wrong now.


There's a lot here that I agree with. I do blame the left for ineffective antiwar arguments based on a faulty understanding of human nature. However, this is also where I part from conservatives. The traditional conservatives look at the apparent stupidity of the masses and think that we must embrace aristocracy or some other elitist form of society to safeguard us from the ignorant many.

But the postmodernist in me embraces the irony of democracy, that we theoretically hand over power to those who are at times least in knowledge. As a student of the social sciences, I understand that ignorant doesn't mean incapable. I don't buy into the progressive myth that we can built a highly-educated and activate citizen democracy, so I don't plan action based on that flawed premise. I believe in leaders leading, not in populist uprisings.

So I find myself with a peculiar brand of liberalism where I don't really believe with the rank-and-file lefties that you might find at a place like Daily Kos in that I don't agree with some of their underlying assumptions about society.
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