Jonah Goldberg

And there are some who wouldn't mind a real military defeat for the United States. Long before the war, a Columbia University professor openly hoped that America suffered "a million Mogadishus." Novelist Tom Robbins told the Seattle Weekly that "intellectually, emotionally, and physically, (America) has been exhibiting all the characteristics of an adolescent bully, a pubescent punk who's too big for his britches and too strong for his age. Someday, perhaps, we may grow out of our mindless, pimple-faced arrogance, but in the meantime, it might do us a ton of good to have our butts kicked."

More recently, the press has been exhibiting considerable glee at America's setbacks. Toby Harnden of the (London) Spectator reported that he met an "American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials" who explained how essential it is that America fail in Iraq so as to ruin our "evil" president's political prospects. She said her editors on the East Coast were giggling over the Iraqi setbacks and how "Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out." Hence she didn't mind the prospects of thousands of more deaths, so long as those corpses ringed the road to failure, not success.

This is defeatism, but not merely the defeatism of the dispirited or pessimistic. This is often the jubilant "revolutionary defeatism" of Vladimir Lenin, Trotsky's buddy, boss and founder of the Soviet Union.

The Russian form of defeatism, Lenin's "porazhenchestvo," demanded the willful and, if need be, bloody defeat of your own country if it would further the political ambitions of your own side. "The defeat of Russia has proved the lesser evil," Lenin wrote in Pravda in 1915, "for it has tremendously enhanced the revolutionary crisis and has aroused millions, tens and hundreds of millions."

Now, I don't think that very many of the folks cheering America's defeat in Iraq are crypto-Leninists any more than I think Paul Wolfowitz has a secret shrine to Leon Trotsky in some corner of the Pentagon.

But it's worth noting that Lenin's logic applies far more forcefully to the motives and views of many of the war's critics than Trotsky's views applied to its proponents. The funny thing is that when you disagree with the left these days you get called a Bolshevik. When you agree with them, you're called reasonable.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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