Thursday, August 14, 2008

Liberalism and Not Liberalism

Recently my reading list has included an interesting book on neoconservatism’s roots in the political thought of Leo Strauss. In this book Shadia Drury contends, among other things, that modern neoconservatism consists of the “three pillars of…religion, nationalism and economic growth” (149). It is the nationalism that most concerns me because, as Drury points out, that nationalism “invites an aggressive foreign policy, it also destabilizes domestic politics” (p. 153).

It is in that context that we are forced to confront two recent news items; the crisis between Russia and Georgia and the murder (potential political assassination) of Bill Gwatney, the Chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party. Within these two events we see the potential impact of neoconservatism’s nationalism.

It is, admittedly, only conjecture, but it does not require too great a leap in logic to see the potential political implications of Gwatney’s murder. One need only turn to Ann Coulter to find a member of the mainstream of conservative thought advocating violence against liberals. Is it possible that a maniac who owned fourteen guns walked into Democratic headquarters and just randomly chose Gwatney to kill? Certainly. It is also possible that this is the rhetoric of the likes of Coulter being taken to its logical conclusion.

There is a violence and nationalism present in neoconservatism that is not present in liberalism. Neocons attempt to define “out” liberalism from the American identity. A similar tactic is not present in liberalism. The transformation of these words into violence against "others" has already happened; it is entirely probable that it has happened again; it is also probable that it will continue to happen. This is the destabilizing impact that neoconservatism has on our domestic politics.

Our foreign policy is not much better after two terms of Neocon rule. It should be said more often by Democrats, one Democrat in particular, that neoconservative policy has weakened America both diplomatically and militarily. Is there anyone who honestly believes that Russia would be doing what they’re doing if we weren’t still working on our time horizons? Meanwhile the neoconservatives are reverting to their cold war posturing. In the twilight of the Bush presidency they get what they really wanted: another fight with the Russians. We can all look forward to an overabundance of “Reagan single handedly won the cold war” film clips at the RNC convention.

And in our current state it’s not too far fetched for the Russian public, and much of the rest of the world, to accept the conspiracy theory claim that Dick Cheney is personally involved in creating the Russia/Georgia conflict in order to boost the candidacy of John McCain. This quote exemplifies the current divide between the U.S. and Russia:

In the old days under Soviet rule we didn't believe a word of our own propaganda but we thought that information was free in the West and we longed for it,” said Katya, a middle-aged Muscovite. “But we have learnt since that the West has its own propaganda and in some ways it is more powerful because people believe it.
This brings me to an internal debate I’ve been having. Political philosophy has become a debate between liberalism (that is free market, libertarian liberalism) and everything that isn’t liberalism. As Drury points out, neoconservatives themselves, a very illiberal bunch, have made allies with anyone and everyone who opposes true liberalism.

This may be a false choice, but it’s the choice that liberalism has created through its use of political debate. It’s a debate that we see in the quote above; it’s similar to how Siebert, Peterson and Schramm explained the contrasting views of liberalism and Soviet Communism. It’s a debate that is happening once again between the Russians and the U.S. More importantly, it’s a debate that we’re currently having internally, with the neocons on one side and liberals on the other.

1 comment:

grantwasgreat said...

I have to disagree with the way you conflate free market libertarianism with the modern American left. The American left is opposed to free market libertarianism, preferring social market/welfare state construction. The reality is that neo-conservatives are really neo-(classical)-liberals who favor deregulation, an aggressive foreign policy, and just enough government to make sure that the 'right' people make money. This is fundamentally no different than China.

The problem of American political discourse, is that since the Founders, all the U.S. has had are variations of classical liberalism, which at its heart argues that a)people can be perfected and b)the right people can be trusted to know what the right thing to do is. The only real debate is over how to perfect people, i.e. education vs. religion, and who the right people are to run things, i.e. the intellectual elite vs. the economic elite. Neither group acknowledges that people are basically both stupid and selfish, meaning they really can't be trusted to do much of anything on their own besides eat paste. But this whole in American political philosophy explains why outside observers see so little difference between the two parties, and why the neo-cons have been able to draw such support. They are essentially fascists cloaking themselves in the flag and then using the fear of outsiders to drum up support for their policies which don't really work, but can't be challenged for fear of looking weak or un-American.

I completely agree however that the level of violence one finds in Conservative circles is unmatched on the Left. But when I mentioned this observation to Blas, he immediately told me I was wrong, of course, and cited a really obscure example about Planned Parenthood making an online game where you cold throw condoms at protesters to "make them disappear."

Which is exactly the same as saying I hope all the Republicans in the country get murdered by black muslims after they are forced to watch their daughters and wives raped.

A comment I found on conservative blog a few months ago.

Yeah, those two statements are exactly the same.