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Saturday, June 10, 2006

An Aside: Politics

I have been known to tease friends on the left by saying, "Liberals are so damn self-righteous. I ought to know. I used to be one."

Just so you know, I have never voted for a Republican in my life, and have no plans to. But although I was once a ferociously committed liberal Democrat, I have in the last 10 years become completely disenchanted with nearly all political rhetoric, from both the right and the left. The pitiful state of affairs is typified by this week's vote on the anti-gay-marriage amendment, forced by the idiot Republicans for nakedly political reasons....and by the fact [reported on in this week's New York Observer] that neither of the Democratic senators from New York, one considered a leading presidential candidate, has anything coherent to say about Iraq that distinguishes them from the Bush administration. All is finger-pointing and name-calling, nothing is substantive.

Below is an e-mail I sent to a friend a short while back, after I had gotten one two many messages from him telling me how admirable he finds British and European 'intellectuals' [main, or at least loudest, example: Harold Pinter] for despising us warlike Americans intent on world domination. Like Senator Hillary, I supported the invasion of Iraq 3 years ago, ambivalently and uncertainly. Unlike her, I am willing to talk about that now in perspective. Here is the message:

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Those of us on the center and the left who ambivalently supported the war were not and are not, I think, looking for world domination. We naively hoped that a world in which Saddam did not rule a country would be a better one. The chaos that has followed may prove us wrong....or may have been preventable and caused by Pentagon incompetence. In any case, there is not just one simple opinion that covers this entire complex matter. Reducing the nuances of global politics to slogan-spewing does not improve anything.

If there are people styling themselves intellectuals who actually cheer on the Sunni insurgency [whose primary victims are other Iraqis], as described in the article, then they are morally [and intellectually] reprehensible. I hope Mr. Pinter is not among them.

Of course mass slaughter is horrifying – whether caused by American planes, Saddam's thugs, or insurgent guerrillas. But it's intellectually dishonest to pretend that one or more of the categories of slaughter is less awful or is irrelevant. They are all awful, they are all relevant.

Self-styled intellectuals possibly also can with a bit of effort make the distinctions between 300 million individuals, a country, and a government – which does not last more than 8 years in the US. The current government, in power for no longer than 31 additional months, currently lacks the support of at least 60% of the populace. These distinctions seem to me worth making – perhaps for the Euro-intelligentsia they are not. It's easier just to say all Americans are imperialist cretins – or at least those who disagree with the European left.
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