Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Failure is an orphan. So are hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis.

Kevin Carson has a post on remarks made by Matthew Yglesias, in which Yglesias said:

My ideas really are basically the ideas that were at the core of the bipartisan, establishment consensus throughout the Cold War years. And they're ideas that could and should have been the key ideas of center-left think tanks in the post-9/11 world. But that's not what actually happened. Instead, a set of ideas that originally existed as a fringe right-wing position wound up being espoused not only by nearly the entire Republican Party but by a huge swathe of the broader establishment.

One of the annoying things about modern American liberalism is that it is a very powerful ideology that pretends to be powerless or even oppressed. As Carson points out, to a great extent neoconservatism is the “the bipartisan, establishment consensus” of Cold War liberalism (with some liberal Wilsonian crusading idealism thrown in), seeking a new purpose and excuse now that the Communists have had the bad manners to stop being a global menace.

It’s a fact that many people are ignorant of, and one that many others would desperately love to flush down the memory hole, and so cannot be emphasized enough: neoconservatism is an outgrowth of liberalism, not the “fringe right-wing.” It is a commonly repeated cliché among the first generation of neocons that, “I didn’t leave the Democrats, the Democrats left me.” This is quite true: the first neoconservatives were good technocratic liberals (or a bit further left) who became disenchanted with a Democratic Party that they felt had grown insufficiently militaristic and interventionist, insufficiently Zionist, and too tolerant of New Leftists who were gumming up the works of the regulatory/welfare state and against “the bipartisan, establishment consensus” beloved of the neocons and liberals like Yglesias alike. And on the homefront, of course, George W. Bush did not invent the idea of civil liberties abuses himself, as much as many liberals seem to believe or want to believe that he did.

The more I observe it, the more liberal rhetoric of the Bush II era- and especially the hysterical demonization of Bush himself as a unique evil whose policies just sprang forth ex nihilo- strikes me as less an expression of any coherent political philosophy and more a vast collective reaction-formation response. Liberals have been desperate to deny the paternity of their monstrous offspring- and considering what they’ve spawned, it’s hard not to feel a bit of sympathy.

Hard, not impossible.

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