- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007


Ideology has killed the myth that politics end at the water’s edge. For too many people, foreign policy is no longer about bolstering America’s position in the world. It is about how one “sees” the world through the lens of philosophy.

The “neoconservative” Bush administration has been criticized for trying to remake the Middle East on a democratic model, in accordance with an airy post-Cold War notion that “democracies don’t fight each other.” The popularity of illiberal regimes in many parts of the world, along with clear conflicts of interest between liberal democracies, cast doubts about the validity of that philosophy.

The so-called “antiwar” movement is even more the creature of ideology. Only an intense belief in a “higher truth” can lead people to turn against their own country during a war. The flowering of this strain of liberal doctrine goes back to the decades following the Napoleonic Wars. Intellectuals believed that after a quarter-century of European warfare on an unprecedented scale, a new stability had emerged favorable to peace. Even before Napoleon was defeated, liberal economist David Ricardo, objecting to how the war was being financed, complained,”parliaments have something more to do than furnish ministers with the means of preserving the greatness and glory of the country.”

The latter half of the 19th and the whole of the 20th century should have discredited this line of thought, as the scale of the new international conflicts made Waterloo look like a gentlemen’s duel. But the ideologue does not need to learn from experience — he already has a vision that transcends the facts (whether presented by Gen. David Petraeus or anyone else). In classical liberal circles, says historian Bernard Semmel, “Strategy, any plan for exerting or projecting military or naval power, was ipso facto wrong.” The end of the Cold War brought these ideas to the fore once again. They are clearly seen among those in Congress who reject any strategy with victory in Iraq as its goal.

This mindset appeared before Iraq was invaded. Liberals warned against “overreacting” to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Katrina vanden Heuvel, in the misnomered journal the Nation, argued, “The most promising and effective way to halt terrorism lies in bringing those responsible to justice through nonmilitary actions in cooperation with the global community and within the framework of domestic and international law.”

The early opposition to overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was that the United Nations had not given its permission. On the left, Washington cannot be allowed to find political solutions based on the use of force. The Iraq war must be “lost” to discourage any future military actions.

America’s enemies know the opportunities presented by the liberal ideologues V.I. Lenin called “useful idiots.” Both Hugo Chavez, a Castro-style authoritarian Marxist, and Osama bin Laden, an even older school despot of the Islamic variety, have cited prominent left-wing intellectual Noam Chomsky for insights into reaching those in America whose activism would help them defeat the U.S.

Mr. Chomsky sees the world as one of class conflict rather than international rivalry. Since he believes Washington only represents capitalists and corporations, there is no national interest worth defending. This dovetails with the classical liberal view that individuals should only think of themselves and feel no allegiance to the society in which they live. Osama advanced this argument in his videotape released just before the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The patriotic unity felt by Americans in all walks of life when the Pentagon and World Trade Center were attacked by al Qaeda had to be torn asunder as quickly as possible to conform with liberal-left ideology. Thus, groups like Moveon.org cranked up their partisan hate speech.

On the left, nationalism (patriotism) is denounced for being at odds with the ideologies of class division and hyper-individuality. It is denounced as the root of xenophobia and war. Osama’s dream of a Muslim caliphate that unites people across class and ethnic lines is exactly the kind of empire building (using exceptionally brutal tactics) that leftists reject in theory, but end up endorsing in practice because they cannot permit their own societies to unite to oppose it. Ironically, their defeatism confirms the utility of force — when used by the enemy.

The French philosopher Ernest Renan started out as a classical liberal but after his country lost its 1870 war with Prussia became an eloquent exponent of nationalism. He argued, “A nation is a living principle, a spiritual principle. … To have common glories in the past, a common will in the present, to have done great things together, the will to do the like again — such are the essential conditions for the making of a people.”

The American people have done great things throughout their history. They should have the will to do so again. But they must reject divisive, self-defeating liberal ideologies to be successful, in Iraq or anywhere else.

William Hawkins is senior fellow for national security studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council in Washington, D.C.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide