Sunday, January 22, 2006

"Progressive Opinion" Then and Now

Ever since 9/11, conservative commentators have tried to make analogies for the new struggle against Islamic terrorism with aspects of the Cold War, or of World War II. None of the parallels are 100% exact, to my mind. The military balance is overwhelmingly one-sided, the enemy is more or less stateless, and there is no possibility of detente--Osama's recent offer of hudna notwithstanding.

But one element is, if not identical, following a similar pattern as in the past. The dissenters from national policy, with a sprinkling on the Right but mostly congregated on the Left, are holding true to form. The jihadis will kill them as quick as they will the next Westerner, but progressives in particular have been in a furious froth to deny the blunt facts of the war we are in.

It satisfies some need of self-identification in progressives, to view themselves as lone, besieged voices of reason and conscience, struggling against a mass of conformist, right-wing pod people, pointing the way into the golden future, glimmering just ahead. No one likes to think of himself as a carping, weak reed of a fault-finder, who's just along for the ride. Yet it is striking how often their "consciences" leads them to cheerlead for civilization's enemies.

Dissent contributing editor Paul Berman wrote this about the swelling left-wing support for Palestinian suicide bombers, in his 2003 book Terror and Liberalism:

And those events in the spring of 2002--the chanting marchers, the applauding intellectuals--typified a hundred other events all over the United States and even more in Europe, not to mention Latin America and other places. A cold cloud seemed to have gathered, and the plunge in temperature was obvious, and out of the cloud dribbled sinister droplets of appreciation for suicide murders--a perverse appreciation expressed by civilized people who, not two or three months earlier, would never have imagined themselves expressing any such opinion.

And three quarters of a century earlier, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote this, about Western progressives' love affair with Stalin's Soviet Union:

There were earnest advocates of the humane killing of cattle who looked up at the massive headquarters of the OGPU with tears of gratitude in their eyes, earnest advocates of proportional representation who eagerly assented when the necessity for a Dictatorship of the Proletariat was explained to them, earnest clergymen who walked reverently through anti-God museums and reverently turned the pages of atheistic literature, earnest pacifists who watched delightedly tanks rattle across the Red Square and bombing planes darken the sky, earnest town planning specialists who stood outside overcrowded ramshackle tenements and muttered: “If only we had something like this in England!” The almost unbelievable credulity of these mostly university-educated tourists astonished even Soviet officals used to handling foreign visitors.

Analogies don't prove anything, of course. But they sure are eerie sometimes.

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