Sunday, February 18, 2007

Noteworthy Observations from Eunomia


Daniel Larison has made a couple of observations recently that, in my current state of blogging lethargy, I'll pass off as a blog post.

On conservatives who advocated for war in Iraq under the apparent or professed belief that reinventing that country as a liberal democracy would be easy:
People are mostly skeptical of social engineering efforts and jaundiced about revolutionaries who promise to herald a new dawn. Iraq has revealed what human beings do without a strong order-imposing state. ~David Brooks
Well, if by “people” Brooks means “people who didn’t buy into the crazy revolutionary rhetoric of the Second Inaugural,” this is true. If by “people” he means “everybody, especially including me, David Brooks,” I will have to disagree, and not for the first time. As we were reminded just the other day, those who were jaundiced about a promise of a new dawn in Iraq (or was that the ”birth pangs of a new Middle East”?) were accused more or less openly of various horrible moral and political evils, including racism, treason and support for despotism. How could we doubt that Iraqis could pick up in a matter of a few years political institutions and habits that took us centuries to develop? We were accused of a lack of confidence in the universality of “freedom and democracy” and were mocked for doubting the equality of man. Why? Well, we were under the funny impression that abiding cultural and religious identities would trump vague appeals to “freedom and democracy” every time and that a people’s particular history was far more relevant to its political constitution than vacuous bromides about how freedom is God’s gift to mankind. Brooks and company took the other view. Now they would like to rush back and claim the mantle of traditional conservative wisdom that they threw into the gutter and spat upon. I, for one, am sick of this.
On conservatives who try to depict Democrats as "the real racists":
When you grow up reading a lot of conservative commentary as I did during the ’90s, you find that the ever-so-cute and amusing attempts to show that Democrats and liberals are the “real” racists got old about ten years ago. It served the purpose of trying to hoist the race-hustlers and exploiters by their own petard, but it was, had to be, purely tactical and a way to puncture liberal claims to moral authority on these things. As of five years ago, they became really tiresome, because you began to sense that some of these people were deadly serious. “No, really, we’re the true anti-racists! I’m so not racist, you can hardly believe it!” Now I consider them an embarrassment of sorts, a kind of irrepressible tick that conservative writers feel the need to express every once in a while to get it out of their system.

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