Emmett Tyrrell

On that both presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush seemed to agree until the 2004 presidential elections drew nigh. Then what had been a small anti-war movement composed mainly of cranks such as Noam Chomsky began to gather up liberal Democrats until it now comprises much of the Democratic leadership. How do we explain it?

In a thoughtful and timely Wall Street Journal column Bret Stephens offers this: "Here's a puzzle: Why is it so frequently the case that the people who have the most at stake in the battle against Islamic extremism and the most to lose when Islamism gains -- namely liberals -- are typically the most reluctant to fight?" They have also been the first to bug out of Iraq, which one would think does not put liberals in a good light. Stephens advances several reasons, none of which diminishes the irony of his point. He offers the liberals' "instinct for pacifism," their moral relativism, their weakness for appeasement and their confusion of Islamism with opposition to materialism and to the corporate world.

But I have an additional explanation. The liberals are uncomfortable being on the side of bourgeois conventionality. Some see this as anti-Americanism. Actually it is something more amusing.

It stems from the liberals' only unwavering political value, the political value that now stands alone at the heart of liberalism. That value is a misdemeanor in the criminal codes of most civilized countries. It is disturbance of the peace. Drop a liberal into a community where conventions have been established and where civility reigns and our liberal friend will find some triviality to protest. Our liberal friends are congenitally alienated. Thus for a few months, perhaps even a year, they opposed the Islamofascists and favored bringing down Saddam. Then they noticed whose side they were on. Yuk, and so they oppose this war, while offering no alternative -- unless it be Pelosi in a burkha and rotund Teddy on the wagon.

Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
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