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Friday, February 18, 2005

The Death Of Liberalism

Martin Peretz tells us that liberalism is nearing its end:

Peter Beinart has argued, also in these pages ("A Fighting Faith," December 13, 2004), the case for a vast national and international mobilization against Islamic fanaticism and Arab terrorism. It is typologically the same people who wanted the United States to let communism triumph--in postwar Italy and Greece, in mid-cold war France and late-cold war Portugal--who object to U.S. efforts right now in the Middle East. You hear the schadenfreude in their voices--you read it in their words--at our troubles in Iraq. For months, liberals have been peddling one disaster scenario after another, one contradictory fact somehow reinforcing another, hoping now against hope that their gloomy visions will come true.

I happen to believe that they won't. This will not curb the liberal complaint. That complaint is not a matter of circumstance. It is a permanent affliction of the liberal mind. It is not a symptom; it is a condition. And it is a condition related to the desperate hopes liberals have vested in the United Nations. That is their lodestone. But the lodestone does not perform. It is not a magnet for the good. It performs the magic of the wicked. It is corrupt, it is pompous, it is shackled to tyrants and cynics. It does not recognize a genocide when the genocide is seen and understood by all. Liberalism now needs to be liberated from many of its own illusions and delusions. Let's hope we still have the strength.

The New Republic is in my opinion one of the last bastions of traditional liberal thought. Sure their content drifts around a bit but for the most part their opinions are well thought out and logical.

Between Peretz and Beinart it seems that even liberals are starting to see that their philosophy has run its course. A philosophy doesn't lose it's relevance overnight. It takes years for a way of thinking to wear itself out. One could also claim that the original liberal objectives have for the most part been accomplished and that liberalism has gradually lost its relevance.

Regardless, the demise of liberalism has coinsided with the presidency of G.W. Bush which in many ways explains the appearance of a sudden liberal collapse. The acceptance of conservative positions, at least in the United States, in many ways follows Arthur Scholpenhauer's 'three phases of the truth'.

Before September 11, liberals ridiculed G.W. Bush (and by association his policies), implying that he was inept and dim-witted (the ridicule stage). After September 11, the extreme liberal left in the United States became unhinged in its condemnation of American actions and motives (violent opposition stage). And finally, we have Peretz and Beinart accepting the fact that conservatism is the accepted truth in American politics (self-evident stage).

So what does this mean for Canadian politics? Personally I have no idea. I do believe that liberal thought in Canada is just as hollow and empty as in the United States, but I'm not sure if that will lead to conservative positions being dominant here. The first reason I have my doubts is that many Canadians have an instinctive reflex to position themselves against American opinion. The second reason is that perhaps Canada has gone too far down the path to socialism. Canada might simply have too many people whose livelihoods depend on the good graces of government.

If only I had a crystal ball...

crossposted to canadiancomment

Posted by Dana on February 18, 2005 in International Politics | Permalink


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Posted by: maz2 | 2005-02-18 8:28:43 PM

"The New Republic is in my opinion one of the last bastions of traditional liberal thought."

The New York Review of Books is still going strong.

I think Peretz's analysis is wrong. Something like 10% of the US population opposed the Afghanistan war; think of them as the hard core of anti-Americanism. On the right, one third of the US population supported the Vietnam War right through to the bitter end, and presumably the same proportion will continue supporting the Iraq counterinsurgency in the same way. But there's plenty of people in the middle, not all liberals by any means, who doubt the wisdom of the Iraq war. The military analyst Anthony Cordesmann, for example, described the idea that Iraq would unleash a wave of democratization in the Middle East as crossing "the line between neo-conservative and neo-crazy."

Posted by: Russil Wvong | 2005-02-21 12:32:00 PM

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