The left has been wrong for so long

Emmett Tyrrell
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Posted: May 08, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In September 2002, the Bush administration released a 31-page strategy statement that took cognizance of the new type of international conflict facing the civilized powers. It was this national strategy statement that got us to where we are today with two rogue nations, Taliban Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, disarmed and other rogue nations feeling the heat. Terrorists everywhere have sobered up a bit.

The Truman administration's policy of "Containment," proclaimed in 1947 and meant to contain the Soviet Union and its aggressive puppets, was replaced by the Bush administration in 2002 with a policy of "Pre-emption," for after September 2001 the administration's policy planners had noticed that "America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones." Coming to the point, the new national strategy statement noted that, "The gravest danger our nation faces lies at the crossroads of (religious) radicalism and technology." Thus in such a world, "We cannot let our enemies strike first."

The Truman administration's 1947 policy of "Containment" was opposed by much of the American left for decades, and a whole school of egghead thought rose up complaining that it was the Truman administration that had made Soviet communism hostile to America, not Stalin or communist ideology. Now, of course, that which passes for the American left today is carping that American recklessness and self-indulgence have set the terrorists against us.

Susan Sontag, the literary egotist, adumbrated the complaint immediately after Sept. 11, when in The New Yorker she sermonized: "The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality (!) and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this (the suicide attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon) was not a ‘cowardly' attack on ‘civilization' or ‘liberty' or ‘humanity' or ‘the free world' but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?"

Since Sontag's bull, the chorus from the left has grown against "Pre-emption" and led to many very stupid statements about the futility of opposing terrorism and rogue state's with military force. A memorable example came from Professor James Galbraith in the American Prospect just a few days into our forces' dance through Iraq, in which he pronounced the war practically lost and suggested that we salvage our "disastrous position" and "accept a cease-fire, which would lead to the withdrawal of coalition forces under safe conduct." Safe conduct from whom -- the Iraqi army then on the run?

The left's complaints against America -- its foreign policy, its economy, its culture -- have expanded steadily for five decades. With the presidential campaign of Sen. George McGovern in 1972, the left's influence has suffused much of the Democratic Party and many cultural institutions. In fact, many of the Democrats seeking the presidential nomination at this very hour intone the left's complaints against American culture and now even in this hour of vindication Bush's policy of "Pre-emption."

This colossal record of error makes one wonder. The left has been wrong for so long and about so much. Remember in the 1980s and 1990s the widespread claim on the left about how as an economic power America was kaput? Remember the claptrap about how we were running out of resources? Read the intellectually indispensable Paul Krugman in his New York Times column. He spouts this stuff even now.

The left has been wrong for so long that no knowledgeable observer even expects its pontificators to be right. I do not believe many members of the left expect to be right. Yet after all these decades of erroneous pronouncements, the American left remains both intellectually and morally superior to you and me.

The American left is the only intellectual force in Western history to gain moral superiority by being wrong. In world history, I can think of only one other movement that has gained moral and intellectual superiority in this way, the mullahs of Islamic fundamentalism.

I hope the monitors of Homeland Security keep this in mind. Be careful about allowing Susan Sontag to board an airplane. Do not be surprised if Paul Krugman is arrested for wearing a suicide vest. Professor Galbraith, you are right. The authorities have their eyes on you.