August 31st, 2005

Freedom fighters

The picture alone is enough to make you weep: the five Sullivan brothers, all of whom were stationed together on the USS Juneau, and all of whom died together when it was sunk in November of 1942.

Varifrank has posted the photo as the springing-off point for his thought-provoking essay on the nature of sacrifice, noble causes, the military, and the attitude of the left towards all three.

I agree with a great many of Varifrank’s points, although not all–although perhaps our differences are merely a matter of emphasis. He writes:

The left has decided that democracy is not worth fighting for, much less dying for, all the while protesting at the top of their lungs those who are bringing freedom and liberty to those who were once oppressed…We live in an interesting time. We stand within a generation of living in a world where not just the lilly-white privileged people of the western world but all mankind can be free of oppression and live in some form of democracy. There are those who are working to see that day soon come into being, and there are those working to see that it never comes. Don’’t let the left and Cindy Sheehan fool you, they couldn’’t give a damn if the rest of the world is enslaved or not. Remember–they don’’t believe in freedom and democracy in the first place.

I see this a bit differently, because I think the left is not a unitary group. I would make a distinction between what, for want of a better expression, I will call the “hard left” and the “soft left,” and certainly between the hard left and most liberals I know. The hard left is a much smaller and more vocal group than the liberal/soft left, but it’s the latter who constitute the bulk of Americans who oppose the war. Many on the hard left probably fit Varifrank’s description of their position, but those on the soft left and those who are liberals (the two groups shade into each other) are operating somewhat differently, in my opinion.

Most liberals and those on both the soft and hard left have acquired an attitude of great cynicism and distrust towards their own country and the motives of its politicians. This has led them to have a virtually automatic assumption that the government (especially any Republican government) is guilty until proven innocent. Motivated by this belief, which is held as an article of faith, most on the liberal/left side of things totally discount all the rhetoric of the Bush Administration as just that–rhetoric–and believe that the real motivation for the war is greed and power, rather than freedom and democracy.

This belief system of distrust (the template of which was formed, for a great many people of Sheehan’s generation and older, during the Vietnam and Watergate eras) is the operative one for most liberals and soft leftists, rather than any real antipathy towards the concepts of freedom and democracy themselves. The government (again, most particularly Republican governments) is not seen as allied with those abstract notions, but as deviously and clandestinely antagonistic to them, and thus betraying them.

Of course, there are some, mostly on the far left, who really don’t believe in freedom and democracy. But it’s not my impression that they constitute the majority of the opposition, although they may at times be the ones pulling the strings, and the ones most in the media (I’m not yet clear whether Cindy Sheehan is one of them, or is simply someone whose strings they are pulling at the moment).

In addition to this distrust of the government and its motives, there seems to be a knee-jerk negativity towards military action in general on the part of many liberals. Most people–even on the right–tend to see military action as a last resort; but those on the right regard the military as a necessary and integral part of keeping us free, rather than an incidental one. How is it that liberals, on the other hand, can believe (or believe they believe) in freedom and democracy, and be so reluctant to fight for it?

In addition to the aforementioned distrust that freedom and democracy are what we are fighting for, I think that many liberals have a sort of a blindness to the way that freedom and democracy actually work. The hard truth of the famous quote (often attributed to Orwell but whose origins are actually unclear), “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf,” is one most liberals and leftists, as well as all pacifists, would prefer to deny–too messy, tragic, sad, and morally compromising. The quote is, once again, considered to be “mere rhetoric”–and inflammatory, bloodthirsty rhetoric, at that.

What is the sort of war a hard leftist might support, if a leftist was going to support a war? Again, the answer flows from distrust of our government (and in the case of hard leftists, the west in general), so the answer is pretty simple: any war waged by a third-world nation against a Western one, especially the US or Israel, with the leftists taking the side of the third-world nation.

But a liberal is different; liberals sometimes support US military action, provided it is waged by a Democratic administration (inherently more trusted by liberals to be telling the truth about its motivations for the war) and is waged for strictly and solely humanitarian aims, and thus presenting less messy moral ambiguity.

I believe that Varifrank’s analogy of soldiers in this war to police or firefighters is a correct one. But firefighters, police, and soldiers are distinct from each other. To liberal eyes, each occupies a different point on a morality continuum, with the firefighters the most “good,” the police next, and soldiers much less “good.” Why? It has to do with how much killing each group is expected to do in the service of their supposedly worthy and selfless causes–in other words, how morally “pure” their actions are.

Firefighters only rescue; they never kill, although they do sometimes die in the act of rescuing others. That makes them the most “pure” in the minds of the liberal, and the least morally compromised. Police don’t kill all that often, but it is a part of their jobs, and they have to know they may be called upon to do so. In addition, although the work police do is certainly protective, it is less clearly and directly involved with rescue than that of firefighters, and more connected with the taint of possible corruption. (At times, the radical left has not been averse to regarding police as the enemy. Anyone who was alive during the 60s and early 70s is well aware of name-calling–the oft-used epithet “pig”–and politically motivated attacks on policemen during that era.)

Soldiers are far more closely and frequently involved in the act of killing than even the police–there is simply no way around that fact–and, although they are often involved in rescue and rebuilding efforts (as Varifrank quite rightly points out), this is not their main job description. Whatever rescuing and protecting they may do (and, once again, they do plenty), these motives are less clearly and obviously related to their main activity of waging war. Unless the military is engaged in a response to a direct attack and invasion of this country, those protective and defensive functions of the military can be easily denied, ignored, or twisted by those on the outside looking in.

The hard left is, in my opinion, playing against the soft left and attempting (quite successfully, so far) to manipulate it. For those on the hard left who don’t want people to support the war and thus give the Replubicans, or the US government, any credit at all, all hint of defensive and protective war activities must be suppressed or minimized, or we run the danger of having these “soft” leftists/liberals crossing over to support the Iraq war effort.

These hard left groups who want to prevent that support from ever occurring were handed a great gift in the failure to find WMDs. The WMD argument was considered by many on the soft left to be the only proper defensive and protective argument for the war, and therefore their absence is so important, underscoring this group’s pre-existing sense of governmental betrayal. It’s also why the word “lie” is used so often in relation to Bush and the WMDs–it’s important that Bush be portrayed as mendacious (a la Nixon and the secret bombing of Cambodia) rather than merely mistaken, in order to make sure there is no sympathy for his efforts.

The failure to underscore the rebuilding efforts in Iraq is another example of the a suspicion that, were the public to know the extent and success of such efforts, sympathy for the war and the military would increase among those on the liberal/soft left side of things. So it’s all-important to the hard left that such news be supressed.

Maybe I’m naive and giving liberals too much benefit of the doubt–after all, I used to be one, remember? But I truly believe that most, if they knew some of these protective/defensive facts, would be more sympathetic to the war effort. I also believe that the hard left (and some hard left supporters in the MSM) is well aware of that, and acts accordingly.

[Linked to Mudville Gazette's open post.]

30 Responses to “Freedom fighters”

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  3. Ymarsakar Says:

    Most people–even on the right–tend to see military action as a last resort;

    Those people on the right probably see war as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of the solution. Cause once war is waged, the other side should just disappear if we win.

    The left, in terms of both apathetic people and geared up activists, see war as a last resort because they think anyone that has to resort to the last thing has already failed and therefore further action is just moving a dead body.

    The problem always occurs when war is neither the end of the problem nor is the continuance of the problem. It always occurs when the war is ongoing and the fate of it is determined by how it is viewed.

    Therefore wars that should have been won easily, are lost traumatically. Therefore wars that never should have occured, are won easily. Kosovo. But winning for us isn’t the same as winning for the UN occupied Kosovorians.

    Motivated by this belief, which is held as an article of faith, most on the liberal/left side of things totally discount all the rhetoric of the Bush Administration as just that–rhetoric–and believe that the real motivation for the war is greed and power, rather than freedom and democracy.

    The problem with liberals and left wingers is that they just aren’t curious enough to find out whether what they espouse really is true or not. In addition to the fact that they really don’t understand human nature, neither that of Bush or of themselves. And that is the critical hit spot, they are too uncurious to find out people’s motivations, and they are unable to analyze people’s motivations even if they did find it out.

    If they don’t understand why they hold the beliefs that they do, they ain’t never going to find out what beliefs someone else holds.

    This belief system of distrust (the template of which was formed, for a great many people of Sheehan’s generation and older, during the Vietnam and Watergate eras) is the operative one for most liberals and soft leftists, rather than any real antipathy towards the concepts of freedom and democracy themselves.

    That’s not an entire timeline, however. Once someone goes on the road of the uncurious and the lack of understanding about motivations in the War on Terror, one of several things, then they have to find justifications. So whenever the oppressed are helped by the Bush administration or America, they must beat that effort down, rhetorically and/or physically, or they risk internal combustion.

    Since they don’t want to change their beliefs or find out whether their beliefs are true or not, their only option to remain sane is to come up with rationalities and justifications, and it doesn’t matter what they have to do, so long as those goals are met.

    It doesn’t matter if their intentions are to help democracy, when their actions do the direct opposite, each and every time an opportunity presents itself.

    A small and insignificant thing such as voting for Kerry would have doomed the Iraq project, and the entire Middle Eastern spring of hope.

    Wishes are not enough, and they never were.

    The government (again, most particularly Republican governments) is not seen as allied with those abstract notions, but as deviously and clandestinely antagonistic to them, and thus betraying them.

    The keyword i believe is “clandestine”. If people really believe the evil doers are hiding their actions from the public, then they have their rationale for why they don’t need to go and find out the truth themselves, cause it is just going to be “covered up” like in X-Files. Another self-justification, and another rationalization that allows them to survive epistemologically for another day.

    (I’m not yet clear whether Cindy Sheehan is one of them, or is simply someone whose strings they are pulling at the moment).

    Mutual exploitation from what I’ve seen. She was a far left winger, now she can become “Mother Sheehan”, and the media will then be her weapon to make a difference.

    In addition to this distrust of the government and its motives, there seems to be a knee-jerk negativity towards military action in general on the part of many liberals.

    From personal experience, which is my years of being a liberal from 6 to 18 (I got out by being exposed to the real military and the real world), the negativity towards the military is integrated from Hollywood and the media. The only things I ever saw of the military was that they were brutal towards civilians, that they treated people like things and tools, and that they loved killing and were corrupt.

    If you see that image enough times, and you don’t see an alternative image, then you start to believe that this is what the military was and is. I found out the truth, but if I hadn’t, I would fear the military, distrust it, and want it out of the picture as soon as possible.

    Exactly as liberals do. Except I got curious enough to find out the truth about the “other”.

    inherently more trusted by liberals to be telling the truth about its motivations for the war)

    Which is problematic considering how historically, Democratic Presidents have lied consistently and almost constantly. The only notable example, and perhaps the only one needed, is Roosevelt.

    Another problem when people are uncurious about the truth.

    Whatever rescuing and protecting they may do (and, once again, they do plenty)

    That is because, in the real world, killing and protecting people are one side of the same coin.

    There will always be a “power gap” between your power and someone else’s. If your power is greater than that of anyone else’s, then it is part of your responsibility to protect the weaker so long as it does not prevent your survival. The point is to survive being attacked by a more powerful person, by acquiring allies and doing good deeds.

    Nobody is going to help you when you need it, if you’ve proved that you’ll squash anyone you have power over.

    So it’s all-important to the hard left that such news be supressed.

    The results of this action has been that those who were curious as to the truth of the matter have already picked up on the “game” and have crossed the line. Former Democrats who voted for Bush. What this basically means that the Republican big tent got real big, and that the soft left lost most of its ‘softness’.

    Maybe I’m naive and giving liberals too much benefit of the doubt–after all, I used to be one, remember?

    That is the point after all, if mass migrations occur from the left to the right, who gets left on the left? The hardcore or the softcore?

    But I truly believe that most, if they knew some of these protective/defensive facts, would be more sympathetic to the war effort.

    Unfortunately for the fighters among us, Bush is not a good propaganist nor will he hire a good propagandist like Dick Morris, and so Bush will always be a divider, never a uniter. An advantage in peace, a disadvantage in war.

  4. Telesonic Says:

    As to implementing socialism, I thought that – according to Marx, anyway – socialism was inevitable. That is, nobody would have to implement it because it was part of the natural evolution of economies/societies. Is that correct?

    I’m still wondering, though, about the origin of leftist “morality,” as well as its vehemence. Cotton Mather, in his highest dudgeon, had nothing on Mother Sheehan during a typical press conference.

  5. Stephen M. St. Onge Says:

          Neo-Neocon, I think one thing most people don’t understand about the Left is it’s history.

          Go back to the Enlightenment philosophers who are at the roots of Leftism (I strongly recommend THE RISE OF TOTALITARIAN DEMOCRACY and its two sequels here), and you find this strange belief that at a deep level, everyone REALLY wants the same thing.  Therefore (notice the invalid reasoning? The other premise of the syllogism hasn’t been stated) someday everyone will agree about everything.

          Of course, certain people were evil oppressors, and they would have to be eliminated so that the perfect future of universal agreement would come about, but after that, there would be no violence.

          This, I believe, explains the Left’s love of Islamofacists, and hatred of our military.  The terrorists wish to destroy our society, and the Left basically approves of that goal.  The military wants to keep the old society intact, and therefore is engaged in a fundamentally evil act.

          This is not new.  Socialists were bitterly against the war in 1917 & 1918.  World War II was different, because the Soviet Union was attacked, and that rallied the Left behind the war.  But ever since the Paris Commune, the normal impulse of the Left has been anti-military.

          The utopian belief in universal agreement also explains the Left’s ambiguous stand on democracy.  If there is universal agreement, then elections are pointless, civil rights don’t need to be protected because they won’t ever be violated, and perfect “liberty” will coincide with total “dictatorship,” because since everyone agrees on everything anyway, you’ll never be ordered to do anything you don’t want to.

          Of course, universal agreement isn’t here yet, but the Left believes it will be here oneday.  Meantime, the people who know best should take over and re-educate the public, by force. The same people who are anti-military when it comes to defending the country dream of killing their political opponents.  They spew vitriol on those they disagree with because they don’t believe it’s possible for sane, intelligent. knowledgable people of good will to disagree.  Agreement is the natural state, so those who oppose them are ignorant, stupid, crazy, or evil, and probably all four.

          Universal agreement is also why Marx never wrote about the implementation of socialism.  Everyone was going to agree anyway, so the question wasn’t important.

          The belief system of distrust you talk of is part of all this.  The government must be untrustworthy, because it isn’t doing what all good people know should be done — that is, what the Left wants.

          And this is why there’s so little point in arguing with hardcore Leftists about the war.  When you say that USAmerican modern society should be preserved, that conflict is inevitable, and that some questions can only be settled by force, you attack their deepest beliefs.  I’d as soon walk into a Southern Baptist convention and start telling them that anyone who believed in God was a fool and a moron.  The Baptist religion is just as firmly held as the Leftist, but the Baptists are rather more polite with dissenters.

  6. john moulder Says:

    Tatterdemalian said:

    “The left has the media.”

    “The most dangerous people are those with enough knowledge to destroy the world, and not enough sense to realize it.”

    Wise words. A couple of months ago when I first entered the blogosphere, esp. this blog, I experienced euphoria centered around the thought that the blogs would counter the MSM’s message. In the long run that may be so. BUT – there are a hell of a lot of lefty blogs, too. AND – the MSM still controls most of the news.

    Review this in your minds:

    We’ve not suffered even one defeat in Iraq, but the public tires of the war.

    Casualties, both military & civilian, are comparatively low in Iraq, but the public’s enthusiasm wanes for the war.

    Iraq has the chance to become a prosperous Middle Eastern democracy & valuable US ally in a troublesome region, but the public grows weary of the war.

    All the jihadists have to do is keep planting bombs, keep sniping & wait. The MSM & the left will win the war for them. I wish I could be optimistic. I hope I’m wrong but all the signs are there.

    What’s more I’ll bet that when the US leaves & all hell breaks out the MSM & the left will finagle the blame onto – guess where?

  7. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “What’s puzzling to me, though, is that while the religious Puritans had a righteous/vengeful God to decree and enforce their laws, the left would seem to have no entity to fill the same “paternal” role.”

    The left has the media.

    They are much more dangerous than most people, and even they themselves, realize. The power of propaganda is great, among people insulated from both the beauty and the horrors of the real world. People can be driven to kill if they recieve the right motivation from a sufficiently trusted source, and few will refuse to trust the media. The ramifications of the media, the source of all knowledge that we cannot personally witness, being corrupt are too terrifying. Rathergate, more than anything else, has shown that even media giants with internal checks and balances and a reputation for upholding the purest of journalistic standards (remember Walter Cronkite?) are all too willing to cash in their credibility for a grab at power. That forgery was discovered, due to its sheer incompetance, but how many better constructed forgeries have they tricked us into accepting?

    The most dangerous people are those with enough knowledge to destroy the world, and not enough sense to realize it.

  8. Telesonic Says:

    I’m glad somebody used the “P” word – Puritanism. Although the word is more commonly used to describe extremists, the characteristics associated with Puritanism are evident in the beliefs and behavior of the supposedly humanistic left. Start with their favorite response to just about anything the C-in-C says or does: “Shame on you, Mr. President! Shame!” Like they caught him looking at a girl’s ankles or something.

    What’s puzzling to me, though, is that while the religious Puritans had a righteous/vengeful God to decree and enforce their laws, the left would seem to have no entity to fill the same “paternal” role. Puritans had the Bible to tell them they were right. On what authority do leftists base their moral certitude? If a Puritan failed to live up to God’s expectations, he was in peril of hellfire and damnation. To what “hell” is the backsliding leftist condemned? Plenty of people have noted that politics can be a substitute for a religion. My question is, why such a strict, stern, judgemental, militant religion?

    My first cut at an answer is just to chalk it all up to big ideas and weak egos. Any other thoughts?

  9. Jim Says:

    “Nice essay but I think you are quite wrong on a very basic point. The left of all shades likes government, a lot. “

    Paul,
    You are heaed in the right direction, but Neo is still right. The left does not so much like government as believe that it is all-powerful. This is why they believe only government can solve problems, and so they expect it to do that, and blame it when it fails and attribute the failure to sinister forces. This child-like worldview is also why they hate and distrust government – they are in adolescent rebellion, and they stay there because they love the way it makes them feel forever young.

    This child-like worldview has another corollary. Both the socialist and social conservative movments have a real big Puritan streak in them. This is typical of middle-class social movements, and that describes both socialism and the religious right. This accounts for their enthusiasm for moral purity and their disdain for real-world compromise, the kind of thing thatreal aadults have to deal with. you see this attitude on both the left and the right here and there.

  10. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Neo. I was commissioned an Infantry officer 9 DEC 69. That gives you a timeframe.
    My father, of the same name–some confusion there–was commissioned an Infantry officer in late 1943.

    I watched this stuff happening in real time, and I knew, partly by having been in the service, and partly because I talked to other guys who’d been in, better. I was incandescent at Kerry’s lies during the Winter Soldier era. I never met anybody who I thought actually believed him, but many who, I thought, were delighted to pretend it was so. Perhaps they would eventually come to believe it, it being so delightful.

    I gave you my extraordinarily undistinguished bio, short form.

    I repeat: If I knew/know this stuff, what about all the smart people, which is pretty much everybody.

    The alternatives were harder to find, but not so hard there weren’t lots and lots and lots of us.

  11. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Aubrey: I don’t think I was “typically” liberal re the military, as I think I said. I never thought they were bloodthirsty killers, etc. etc. So I absent myself at least partially from what I’m about to write.

    If you have read my “change” pieces, I hope you’ll have gotten the idea of how formative Vietnam (and, in particular, the picture the MSM painted of Vietnam) was in shaping liberal ideas of the decisions the government made to send people to war, and the moral compromises made by some when they were there (in the most extreme case, My Lai, for example). Since I’ve gone into all of that in exhaustive detail in my two final Vietnam “change” pieces, I won’t bore everyone by doing it again here.

    As for knowing veterans: part of what I’ve written is how the Vietnam War (and its coverage) changed people’s minds about US military action–at least for a while. Those who were raised, as I was, with WWII as the template for US military action, of course knew about that war and others before it. But Vietnam, especially as portrayed in the media, seemed very very different. Once again, if you read my lengthy “change” pieces, you’ll find out much more about the process.

    As I mention in my “change” series, I indeed knew someone in the military very very well at the time who was in combat in Vietnam, and I always supported him. But afterwards he never would talk about his experiences there, except to tell one or two anecdotes. This was not at all unusual at the time–the silence, I mean.

    I believe that the mindset of most liberals towards the military in Vietnam was formed by My Lai and the Winter Soldier investigations, as well as Kerry’s testimony before Congress. I don’t recall how old you are and whether you are old enough to remember those times yourself, but if you don’t, it may be difficult to realize just how few alternatives to the MSM existed then, and many many people there were who received all their knowledge from sources that were not giving a full and complete picture.

    As for the present situation, all I can say is that it’s my impression that, for most people, the good news from Iraq comes as a surprise. No, you don’t need Chrenkoff to follow the good news, but it surely helps. And if you get most of your information from the MSM, you may indeed think there is almost no good news at all, even if you are not willfully closing your eyes.

  12. TerryH Says:

    Richard Aubrey: “How hard is it to follow the news?”

    For the average Joe Sixpack who follows world events as told by the MSM this may be a little harder than your question implies. If Joe tunes into ABC/CBS/NBC/PBS/Apwireservice does he get a full exposure to all the known facts placed in proper context? Obviously not, but this same mainstream media, in spite of Rathergate, still enjoys a near monopoly as the source of information to the general public.

    A similar argument can be made with respect to the academy that trains the journalists of the future.

    I keep hoping that forums such as this one will force reform in the MSM/academy, but I see little evidence that it is taking place.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    The Belmont Club is considering another possible reason for the liberal / Islamist alliance. Faced with the disconnect between their unshakable faith in a fundamentally rational universe, and the existence of thoroghly irrational people in that universe, they have resolved the issue by denying the existence of irrationality. The head-chopping fanatics MUST have a rational reason for their actions, even if one must be made up. It doesn’t help that the head-chopping fanatics are very willing to adopt the reasons the left invents for them, as their religion literally demands that they tell whatever lies are necessary to conquer the kuffar. The whole thing has turned into an enormous feedback loop, that will most likely end with the obliteration of liberal civilization.

    And all that will be left of the civilization that gave the world cures for nearly every disease, space flight, and the internet, will be more graffiti scratched on the walls of the Arab equivalent of the Soviet gulags… “What for?”

  14. Goesh Says:

    I bet many of the Left, especially the yonger men, stay glued to the tube when combat footage is shown. And I bet they have a real fascination with the technology associated with war. Go to any bookstore and there is a proliferation of books on Iraq. I can’t believe those on the Right are the only ones reading this material. Many Leftists have, in my opinion, a morbid fascination and revulsion of violence – sort of like having a bi-polar disorder.
    Some on the left sent up a hue and cry that looters in New Orleans were but poor, oppressed people out to get some food, saying in affect they should be left alone. Now there is muteness as looters are seen taking guns and jewelry and hijacking a senior citizen van and using a forklift to get into a drug store and menacing a children’s hospital. Now there is a silent, tacit endorsement of the police taking action, which is essentially violent, i.e. arresting people, scuffling with them, pointing weapons. There is not one word of thankfulness from the Left that the police are starting to respond, not a damn peep. See what I mean with a bi-polar analogy? Take Kosovo for instance, a “good” intervention that produced loss of civilian life despite high tech missles. No protestors from the Left came out over that loss of life at the hands of US forces, now did they?

  15. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Neo and Nik.

    Thanks for answering what was mostly a rhetorical question.

    Although I think your responses have merit, I still have a problem.
    For example, Nik, you may be ignorant of current US activities (doing reconstruction and taking care of kids and so forth) but those have been a feature of US military activity since forever. Any soldier, especially those having served overseas, has stories.

    My point is, this information, either in the specific or the general or both, floated past your eyes, the same as it floated past mine and everybody else’s. You took history in high school.
    You knew veterans–your father, or the fathers of your friends, or teachers–just as everybody else did.

    The same is true of any other area of knowledge that differentiates the left from the right.

    I’m getting cognitively disconnected here.
    I used to, after a bit of back and forth, come to the conclusion that nobody, nobody on God’s earth, was this stupid and so they had to be lying.
    Maybe they really were this stupid.
    Naw. They KNOW better on one level. It pleases them to believe otherwise.

    I went to a middle-class high school, where I managed grades good enough to get into Enormous State University, where I managed a modest gradepoint in pursuit of a generic BA (needed a degree for OCS). Then I was a grunt. Now I peddle insurance.
    If I know this stuff, how about all the smart people, which is mostly everybody else.
    “This stuff” is the difference between left and right.
    How hard is it to follow the news? You don’t need Arthur Chrenkoff to know some good news. It’s nice, and all, and mostly it’s a way of having it all together so that a lefty has to work really, really hard to pretend it isn’t happening. But he’s not absolutely necessary.

    I have a friend–we go back to jump school–who had a friend whose son was an Abrams gunner in the invasion of Iraq. I was invited to go out to dinner with the kid and half a dozen other ancient warriors and hear about it. Not everybody has that opportunity, and some would have a fit if offered it. More to the point, if they were the kind of people to have a fit, they wouldn’t be offered it. Self selection.
    And this split preceded Bush Derangement Syndrome, although it was pretty clear who would have BDS as it came along and who wouldn’t.

    Well, it’s amazing to think people wandering around in the same world can see such different aspects of it, or not see, which I guess is more accurate.

  16. Nikolaides Says:

    As a former soft liberal myself, I second the explanation in Neo’s response to Richard Aubrey of the thought processes by which many soft liberals manage to avoid acknowledging the “defensive/protective facts.” In my case, it was a combination of genuine ignorance and willed ignorance or denial. I got my information from NPR, the NYT, and my friends. I believed every word in every article in the NYT, which had, in my family, nearly the same iconic status as the Bible. And as for facts I couldn’t avoid knowing, I managed for a while to practice a kind of denial similar to what I imagine alcoholics might use. I tried to explain away, or simply to ignore, anything that might shake my profound wish to believe that the world and the human beings in it were not quite so hostile and dangerous as they often looked. After a while, in my case, the ability to deny reality wore off — but apparently this doesn’t happen to everyone.

  17. IndCoup Says:

    -A country should only go to war when attacked or seriously threatened. The US invasion of Iraq was illegal.

    -The US invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with democracy. The US has supported many undemocratic and higher brutal regimes for its own interests in the past: in Iran, Indonesia, South America etc. When the US leaves Iraq, Iraq will be taken over by a strongman dictator or the religious fundamentalists will get in.

    -The US invaded cos little Bush wanted revenge on Saddam and for the oil motive.

  18. Rick Ballard Says:

    strcpy,

    Nope, I haven’t a clue to the difference between a P and NP problem. I do know, however, that your description of the difference between a functional in reality algorithm and a functional in theory algorithm is quite close to a perfect metaphor for the differnce between conservative political philosophy and leftist political philosophy. To my knowledge Marx never wrote a single word about the practical implementation of communism. He left the “implementation details” to Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

    I became interested in reading political philosophy through exposure to a book by Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science which I highly recommend to anyone approaching political philosophy from an empirical POV. That book, coupled with Mises Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis provide all the ammo you’ll ever need to refute leftist claptrap.

    Btw, “Leftist can easily distinguish and know many philosphies” ain’t necessarily so. They know some names and some of them can give a synopsis (which is about all that I can do any more with the Hegelian branch) but “talk about” and “know” aren’t the same thing. Think “implementation details” again. The motor may be humming but the clutch is burned out.

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Aubrey writes: Neo, what on earth makes you think soft liberals don’t know the defensive/protective facts?

    A good question, Richard. Perhaps my answer is naive, but here it is. Remember, that almost everyone I know is a liberal, with some soft–and even a couple of hard–leftists thrown in. I just can’t demonize these people. From conversations with them, I believe that most of them have gotten so deeply into kneejerk distrust of Republicans and of almost all military action that they simply reject out of hand the idea that the Iraqi war could have a defensive or protective function. They don’t believe it was part of the war on Islamofascism, and are simply not aware of the good our armed forces are doing there. For example, if I ever did succeed in getting any of these friends to listen to me for more than a moment, and I mentioned all the “good news” from Iraq that the mainstream newspapers weren’t covering, they were pften astounded and amazed (and often distrustful and skeptical of what I was saying). Why wasn’t this stuff in the NY Times, they’d ask? I don’t think you can underestimate the extent to which many liberals still believe that the NY Times has all the news that’s fit to print, quite literally, and that anything that doesn’t appear there either does not exist or is a conservative lie.

    Hard to believe a person could feel that way. But most of the liberals I know (most, not all), although intelligent and well-read in many areas, are not particularly interested in politics or world news, and take their information on those topics in in a somewhat lazy fashion, from one newspaper (the Times) or another (the Globe), and a bit of NPR and CNN. I know the genre, because, as I’ve described in my “change” series, I was one of these people once upon a time (although I think I always was somewhat more pro-military than the typical liberal, perhaps due to my personal history during Vietnam).

    To paul: I think you make a good point. You are right that the left likes government in some ways. But I think those ways are limited to domestic issues that they see as benefitting the poor or championing the underdog or diversity. In that sense yes, they are indeed in favor of more government. But in most other ways I think they are against it, and I was specifically thinking of any sort of muscular foreign policy when I wrote that, although I did not make myself clear enough.

  20. strcpy Says:

    “There are plenty of conservatives, especially among those identified as neo’s who cannot distinguish between Strauss and Hayek”

    I get your point, though I sorta disagree with one thing. I may know who some of the above people are but I can’t distinguish between them (well, not off the top of my head, I can compare them). Just as you, most likely (I figure that you are not a comptuer scientist based on what you wrote above), can’t tell the difference between a P and NP problem (again, unless you had them side by side and knew anything about what that meant). I’m not sure if you are using that as just an example of not thinking things through, or that you are being very specific – one must know about them in specific.

    But, in my experience, the lefty’s are better at distinguishing the people you said than the vast majority of the conservatives I know. But I think to them it’s more of a mentally interesting thing. They are interested only in thier little slice and everything else is “implementation details”.

    In computer science it would be like academic vs industry – in academia publishing a paper about how wonderful your algorithm, and only that little part, is is a “success”. In the real world that may or may not be a working product. Heck, they sometimes never do more than a model and then, once implemented, fails to work because thier model didn’t take some external fact outside of a clean environment into consideration.

    For example, in my last job I worked a govt research lab, we sorta straddled the line, we had to both publish and get downloads in the private sector.

    In one of my projects we were trounced in academic circles by a competing algorithm. On the same data mine had a transfer time of about 4 hours, thiers about 45 mins. The difference being that my algorithm included everything and thier academic algorithm only the parts being questioned (from a philosophical standpoint – yes we all have equal wealth, never mind that our purchasing power isn’t enough to survive – the point is we are all equal). If you implemented a working version and timed the whole thing (startup, algorithm time, and verfication) thiers took about 8 hours, mine still four.

    From a specific narrow point of view, thiers was better. It took a great deal of knowledge to make the comparison, those professors were much more skilled/knowledgable than most people in industry. Just thier focus was so narrow that it made much of what they did irrelevant outside of themselfs.

    Leftist can easily distinguish and know many philosphies, trends in literature, all sorts of fuzzy academic things. That’s where much of thier talents usually lie and where most of the liberals come from. They just don’t really seem to be able to bridge that gap into the real world, either because they choose not to or can not (personally, I think most choose not too – not having that amount of control over your life is kinda scary).

  21. Cutler Says:

    A very good post.

    I myself talked more about the “hard left” here. Unfortunately, I think our own domestic left is becoming harder the more that it interacts with its European counterparts and inherits their anti-Americanism.

  22. Paul Says:

    Nice essay but I think you are quite wrong on a very basic point. The left of all shades likes government, a lot. There is always a government solution to every ache and pain. They like socially active government. The left is the part of government. But, and this is a very big but, they do not like the basic responsibility of government to protect its citizens from harm, particularly if it means using deadly force. You’re dead on with your analysis on that point.

  23. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Neo, what on earth makes you think soft liberals don’t know the defensive/protective facts?

    Are they not in the same world as the rest of us?

    What brick wall is between them and what has been obvious to generations?

    They know. They just don’t care.

    Acknowledging that would require them to change their self-image and nothing imaginable will force them to do that.

    I talked last year to a woman who blamed Bush for not extending unemployment insurance.
    I said that was a failed vote in the Senate. (I didn’t say that if Kerry had returned from campaigning it would have passed).

    I still think Bush did it, she said.

    It’s not that she doesn’t know intellectually that it was a Senate vote. But hating Bush works on a separate level.

    You can imagine how discussing something complicated goes.

  24. Rick Ballard Says:

    Nikolaides,

    You may be reiterating NNC’s first point, which I would state slightly differently than she does. There is no coherent identifiable philosophy underlying the spectrum of feeling (not thought) that encompasses every description from liberal to hard left. All that remains of the left of center is reactionary memes loosely based on Hegelian materialist dialectic embracing ‘master/slave’ (oppressor/oppressed) themes. Kevin Drum might be able to distinguish Comte from Condorcet, Rousseau from Mill or Foucalt from Sartre but his commenters are totally oblivious to the intellectual underpinnings of the mush that they spout.

    There are plenty of conservatives, especially among those identified as neo’s who cannot distinguish between Strauss and Hayek but I believe that one definitely finds less total ignorance to the right of center than on the other side.

    Of course, I might be slightly prejudiced.

    Never mindlessly reactionary though.

  25. Nikolaides Says:

    Just before I read this thread, I was reading the comments on Kevin Drum’s blog in response to a post in which he asked both lefties and righties to try to set aside political partisanship in discussing Hurricane Katrina, just for a day or two, as an act of humanity. Wouldn’t you think that at least some of his commenters would have agreed with him? But no! Almost nobody did. Instead, his commenters responded by calling him names, insulting him, telling him how wrong he was, and stepping up their Bush-bashing. Much of the commentary is barely literate and studded with four-letter words. It is such a relief to come over here and read Neo’s thoughtful, beautifully written, balanced analysis followed by such calm, intelligent comments. I just want to say, thank you!

  26. strcpy Says:

    One distinction that I think you and varifrank are making differently is what it means to not want democracy.

    The left (all of it, hard, soft, liberal) right now act as if they do not want democracy and freedom. Not just Iraq, but in most of thier policies. They may feel that the chickenhawk can’t vote idea is promoting democracy, may feel that outlawing certain speech is freedom, and many things they are after. But, it’s not (thier problem is that they are anti-Republican with no real thoughts of the implications of what they are saying). If we go by that then Pol Pot and Hitler were some of the largest humanitarians in history – they were doing what they did to user in a new era of unbridled peace and prosperity and took huge personal sacrifices to attempt to achieve it, or at least they thought so in thier deranged mind.

    Nor do I think that simply letting the good news out will help – it’s already out there. Go to message boards, blogs, even many local newspapers and the information is out there. Enough so that even people who read none of those have heard it from others talking. How many minds have been swayed by that? I know of none, though I suppose there are probably a handfull.

    It comes back the overriding (and convenient for never being wrong) idea you talked about – anything can be a lie attributable to Bush. With that you can be comfortable in your beliefe and there can be no callenge.

    Try sometime on a message board or real life to point that out to a liberal or soft-left person – it’s just propaganda from the military. They know very well that four soldiers died last month and that is all there is – everything else is propaganda to sugar coat that. You will, everytime, get some form of that response back even if you can prove what you say is true – if you can not to thier satisfaction (and sometimes that requires so much that you can never prove it true) then it is simply a lie that the administration has set up.

  27. chuck Says:

    It’s a genuine Orwell quote from sometime back in 1940/1941, bar a few words here and there. I’m at work, so I can’t locate the exact reference at the moment.

  28. Pastorius Says:

    A excellent analysis. Your blog is just too cool.

    I have a Kabbalah bracelet site, for all of you who are into Kabbalah bracelets.

    Anyway Neo, that really was a great analysis. I particularly like the way you demonstrate the lefts abhorrence of force, by explaining their relative like/dislike of firemen, policemen, and soldiers.

    You hit the nail on the head there.

    I, being the good lefty that I used to be, used to HATE cops. Now, I recognize that they have one of the toughest jobs on the planet, and that most of them get into that line of work out of a sincere desire to help make the world a better place.

    I can’t believe how childish my world view used to be. You explain that many on the left are obsessed with purity. True.

    One of the first things we learn when we set out into the world is the Syllogism of Adulthood:

    1) we need to learn to compromise in order to work within a system. And,

    2)if we ever want to accomplish something bigger than ourselves, we need to work within in a system.

    3) Therefore, we need to learn to compromise.

    This means we can’t be pure. Only lunatics and children at play can be pure.

    My Pastor always says that if you want to work with people, you have to realize you’re going to get people all over you.

    You have to wonder if this is the reason the Left rejects Judaism and Christianity in favor of a religion like Buddhism. Judaism and Christianity are both messy religions, filled with blood, and sacrifice, and compromised heros.

    Buddhism, on the other hand, with it’s emphasis on learning to let go of desire, is a religion (at least theoretically) of purity.

    But, the idea of not desiring, or of not jumping into the mess and helping out, just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me from where I sit now.

    Pastorius

  29. Carolynn Says:

    Interesting your take on the lefts squeemishness over “moral ambiguity”. It is always the Republicans who are cast as being the ones only capable of seeing the world in black & white.

    For a long time I have felt its the other way around.

    Lets concede something to the left, war is always going to be messy, tragic, sad, and mean death to innocents (not necessarily on purpose, and not necessarily due to OUR soldiers).

    But while all wars are “bad” not all peace is good.

  30. onlineanalyst Says:

    Amen! You make an apt distinction.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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