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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Giving 'Realism' a Bad Name

The whole turnaround by the Left on the issue of democracy and human rights promotion just puts the lie to the claim that they are actually interested in these issues. Their support was always tactical. It was always political. As should be self evident by the fact that large swaths of the American Left supported Stalin and Mao, who between them killed about 100 million people. People who lived in a REAL dictatorship. Not the Bush=Hitler imaginary type of dictatorship. The Long War is a progressive war against pre-modern killers who enslave their peoples. Note the distinct lack of giant paper mache puppets in the streets of Tehran these days.

But because it was waged by the "wrong people" we're now back "realism."

From the people who brought you September 11th... new and improved REALISM! Now with 60% more carnage!

Giving 'Realism' a Bad Name

Democrats were not always so tough-minded. For decades, they supported the causes of democracy and humanitarianism, regularly excoriating Republican presidents for coddling antidemocratic leaders. President Reagan was taken to task for his cozy relations with dictators like Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos (whom he eventually succeeded in moving aside), and the first President Bush was accused of fighting the first Gulf war to do the bidding of the Saudi king. Even George W. Bush, when it was politically convenient, was whipped with the lash of the Democrats' idealism. Almost all the Democratic contenders for the nomination in 2008 criticized his close relations to Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, with considerations of realism providing him no relief. Barack Obama was no exception

...But the Iraq war--and partisan politics--gradually changed the Democrats' calculation. As conditions deteriorated in Iraq, and as many finally accepted that President Bush was in earnest about his commitment to the spread of democracy, liberals flipped. They abandoned their previous commitment to principle, condemned Bush for idealism and ideological blindness, and embraced with fervor the position they labeled realism. Realism, if the word is taken at face value, seems to mean nothing more--or less--than seeing the world as it is, without blinders or excessive hopes or fears. But in the context of the debate in recent years, it came to refer to something much more specific: It meant a cessation of all principled talk about democracy and universal rights, including their philosophical foundations, and a willingness to engage with any and all forces that could claim to have created order. Democracy, realists say, is for the long run; in the short run our job is to deal with the forces of order.

Under the sway of this view, liberals were suddenly falling all over themselves to prove their manliness by dismissing Bush's naïveté. Among commentators and intellectuals, the passionate embrace of realism went further still. The real realists--no touch of sentiment or nostalgia here--took to ridiculing democracy itself. Hadn't democracy been promoted, to no good effect, in Palestine and Lebanon? (In the latter case, President Obama seemed last week to change his tune.) A Harvard professor even wondered out loud to me how much democracy was worth, even in principle, if it had elected George W. Bush. This was the cup of academic wisdom from which many of our politicians began to drink.

Totally tactical.


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