Daniel Larison

Giving Them a Run For Their Money

Back to the original question, I think—to no one’s surprise—that much of the best intellectually curious, non-partisan stuff on the right(ish) is coming from the libertarian writers; Wilkinson, Sanchez, Balko, etc, though the paleocons and religious traditionalists seem to be giving them a run for their (free-market loving) money. ~Peter Suderman

I am grateful to Mr. Suderman for including Eunomia in such independent-minded, intelligent company. But speaking of excellent intellectually curious, non-partisan writers, there are at least two from among the Radicals who deserve special mention: Clark Stooksbury and Daniel McCarthy, both of whom have been carrying the standard of independent-minded conservatism and libertarianism a lot longer than I have. Much of their best work can be found in print in The American Conservative and Chronicles, but their blogs make great contributions to the debate from the right.

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Alba Gu Brath!

At the Scene, Reihan draws attention to Niall Ferguson’s conversion to the cause of Scottish independence and his recognition that New Labour-style devolution is sham self-government. Jonah Goldberg, always two steps behind, will be stunned and amazed by this news, just as he was stunned and amazed to find that there is socialism in the land of Adam Smith.

There is some sort of weird irony in an open apologist for hegemonism and imperialism now advocating the independence of a small state. For some reason, this brings to my mind the line from the old Fenian ballad, The Foggy Dew:

‘Twas England bade our wild geese go/
That small nations might be free.

There is something very strange about a fellow-traveller of our own neo-imperialists embracing the sort of economic liberal, small-state solution advocated by the Vlaams Belang (formerly Vlaams Blok) in Belgium (where it is the largest single party), for example, since the VB proposes to create an independent Flanders that has precisely the sort of enterprising, free economy that Feruson wishes for Scotland. Perhaps Mr. Ferguson will begin his quest for a free Scotland by singing the praises of Flemish nationalists as an example to follow? Don’t hold your breath.

There is, however, something a little odd about desiring an independent Scotland expressed in terms of essentially wishing to create a free enterprise zone. Surely if Scotland’s interests broadly dictate independence (though the SNP would simply lead them to feed at the trough of Brussels directly), or if the Scots wish to have self-determination, these considerations alone should probably be more compelling than whether or not an independent Scotland follows the path of the Celtic Tiger. The Republic went along for a good seventy years before embracing the economics that have given it the booming growth of the last decade, so there is no telling what changes will happen after a nation separates itself from London.

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The Full Norwood

To make amends for my sloppy post that originally credited Rep. John Boehner with Rep. Charlie Norwood’s quote, here are Rep. Norwood’s remarks from the debate in full from his Congressional website:

Mr. Speaker, this rule will allow perhaps one of the most critical actions to date in the War on Terror.

This action is not military in nature – it is entirely political. But it will determine victory or defeat as surely as any battle.

Our troops can defeat any enemy on earth, under any conditions – if we have the will. That is what we debate under this rule – do we have the will to win.

Many – not all – of the other side of the aisle lack the will to win. The American public needs to know precisely who they are. If there are any on this side of the aisle who hold the same view this will allow them to be found out as well. Then the public can decide the course of this war in November, by throwing the defeatists out of office.

This debate, under the rule, is as critical a fight as any our troops could have on the battlefield. No one has any doubt our soldiers will win any fight we send them to. The world’s doubt is entirely over the backbone of this Congress.

Because of the statements of Members of this body and the Senate that have given substantial propaganda assistance to the enemy, this rule, this debate, is absolutely essential to preserving the victories our troops have won with their blood and their lives.

Time to decide – Al Qaeda or America? Let the voters take note.

This is hyperbolic nonsense, of course. This was a nonbinding resolution that has only symbolic significance. News accounts, such as the WSJ print article I quoted and this New York Times article, have quoted Rep. Norwood as having said, “It is time to stand up and vote. Is it al Qaeda or is it America?” But the meaning of that version and the one given by Rep. Norwood’s own site is the same: agree with standing Iraq policy, or be effectively counted a tacit supporter of al Qaeda.

Rep. Norwood very clearly sets this question in the context of accusing members of the House of virtual treason (giving “substantial propaganda assistance to the enemy” sounds an awful lot like an accusation of giving aid and comfort to the enemy). He makes it absolutely clear that he considers this resolution a vote to prove one’s loyalty to the country. Defeatists support al Qaeda, and Rep. Norwood and his side support America–it doesn’t get any more blunt and obnoxious than that. That is the level of the debate on the side of the supporters of this war. Let the supporters of the war defend it, if they can.

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Politics 101

I agree with you that [Orwell]’s talking about power-worship which, I believe, resides at the core of all identity politics. The rise of identity politics in the United States — and the West — is ultimately an exercise in gaining power. Black power, and the enabling rhetoric that went with it, was all about power-relations. Identity politics arguments “empower” members of the Coalition of the Oppressed to trump reason and democracy by claiming positions of moral and political privilege. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg

Not to beat a thoroughly mauled and dead horse too much, but what would Goldberg think attachment to a creed or doctrine (his notion of patriotism) is except “identity politics”? It is an identity politics premised on ideology or shared propositions, but it is identity politics all the same. If you are an Enlightenment liberal, you are engaged in “identity politics.” What people often mean by “identity politics” is the politics of ethnicity, religion or race. This is a kind of politics that managerial elites tend to discourage because this sort of politics taps into resources and possesses authority that they cannot co-opt or eliminate. They cannot operate in that sort of political environment, and so it unnerves them more than a little. But is there any kind of politics that is not aimed at the acquisition of power? That is not all that politics is, of course, and the sorry state of our politics today stems from the reality that too many people assume that this is all there is to the affairs of the polity, but all political life consists of the contest for control and power.

Claims of identity are claims of power of one kind or another–there is power in solidarity, self-definition, the creation of myths, as well as using shared identity to organise a group of people to lay claim to political power. When you identify yourself with a political persuasion, you are engaged in “identity politics” as sure as if you joined MEChA. Obviously, the style and content of your identity politics will be as various as the different kinds of identity that exist, but it is part of a conceit deeply ingrained in the liberal tradition that liberal politics represent a neutral or more rational open space in politics upon which the old order and mass movements alike intrude. Just see how Goldberg frames the issue: identity politics seek to trump “reason and democracy,” which, of course, his “creed or doctrine” (i.e., his notion of patriotism) embodies more or less ideally.

Identity is often forged in the midst of contestation and sharpened by the struggle to acquire power. That is not all that identity is (power relations alone certainly do not define our identity), but it is an inescapable part of human existence, just as political contestation itself is inescapable here below. The kind of identity politics Goldberg objects to is not necessarily any old kind of identity politics, but probably only those based on religious or ethnic identity. These are forms of identity that are less pliable and more resistant to an ideology of homogenisation and consolidation. He is saying: “Do not identify with your place or people, which provide you with an identity over which I, Jonah Goldberg, have no control, but instead identify with the creed or doctrine with which I identify and submit to the identity of which I am a chief exponent at the moment.” That is not surprising–it is what everyone is attempting when he makes an argument in political philosophy. What is misleading is the distinction between the practitioners of “identity politics” (in which only the “Coalition of the Oppressed” participate) and the friends of “reason and democracy,” as if the invocation of “reason and democracy” was not itself the interested statement of the member of a particular political body.

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The Weimar Mentality of Jonah Goldberg

For the record, John Lukacs has many great observations about the differences between patriotism and nationalism. The difference, to me and I believe to him, is that nationalism is rooted in the mystic concept of a nation—most famously in blood and soil—while patriotism is rooted in adherence to a creed or doctrine. A patriot in the Weimar Republic was considered a traitor by most nationalists, for example. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg, The Corner

As already noted yesterday and earlier today, Goldberg doesn’t know his Lukacs very well. But what struck me this morning as I thought a little more on this bizarre quote is this strange example about the Weimar Republic at the end. There were both ideological nationalists and ordinary German patriots who regarded people in the SDP Weimar governments as traitors, but this was tied up with both nationalist and patriotic resentment against acquiescence to various provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. Resentment against the Ruhr occupation, reparations and the guilt clause, to which successive Weimar governments felt obliged to submit, fed the impression that the government of the Reich (as Germany was still constitutionally termed in the Weimar period) was not defending the people or interests of Germany. A patriot could be legitimately outraged at all these foreign impositions without therefore embracing an aggressive or revanchist nationalism. In some circumstances nationalists might regard patriots as traitors, but the Weimar example is the perfect case where this did not happen. Nationalists did not necessarily resent the Weimar Republic, whose institutional structures the Nazis maintained even after taking power, but did resent the policies of the government when it was ruled by other factions. Where Goldberg goes terribly wrong in this example is in the assumption that one’s positive attitude towards the government is a measure of one’s patriotism. Nothing could be more misleading or dangerous. It recalls Clinton’s line that you cannot love your country and hate your government–but, of course, you can do this, and in some cases to be a real patriot you must.

A key difference in the modern period between a patriot and a nationalist lies in his response to the state: the patriot is willing to see that the interests of his country and his government may diverge and conflict, in which case his loyalty belongs to his country and causes him to work against his government, whereas for most nationalists the state is an embodiment of the nation and a force for integrating the nation, which means that to be a nationalist is often to be a government loyalist virtually no matter what it does. Today both major parties are dominated by this sort of nationalism, and as Prof. Lukacs has observed often over the past several years, and again in Democracy and Populism, the GOP has enjoyed ongoing success because it has remained the more nationalist of the two major parties. (In that light, the GOP commitment to Big Government conservatism, the warfare state and an aggressive chauvinism is not so much a departure from form as a revelation of its true form.) We are, of course, still awaiting the rise of a patriotic Front Porch Party.

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O’Sullivan on Goldberg’s “Shaky” Argument

For that reason the Lukacs argument (as presented by Jonah) seems to me to be very shaky. Loyalty to an idea is another variant of Orwell’s power-worshipping version of nationalism and open to his charge that “it is most virulent” when attached to some other unit of humnanity (rather than one’s own country.) Loyalty to institutions transmitted by a common culture and shared historical memory seems to me to be a better definition of patriotism. People come to share a national identity, mutual loyalty, and sense of common destiny as the result of sharing the same language and culture and of living under the same institutions over a long period of time. sometimes those people will be ethnically united, but not always. ~John O’Sullivan, The Corner

It is important to note right away that Goldberg has Prof. Lukacs’ argument precisely backwards, as Scott Richert and I noted yesterday. It is Goldberg’s own confused understanding of patriotism, which he wrongfully pins on Prof. Lukacs, that is “very shaky.” It’s good to see that Mr. O’Sullivan seems to agree with at least part of Prof. Lukacs’ view and finds loyalty to a creed or doctrine (which is what Goldberg thinks patriotism is) to be a variant of “power-worshipping version of nationalism.” Exactly. However, it is a shame that no one at National Review seems to have even a remedial acquaintance with Prof. Lukacs’ works to know one way or the other what his views actually are.

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The Intractable, Invincible Ignorance of Jonah Goldberg

At The Rockford Files (Chronicles), Scott Richert delivers a withering rebuke to (yet another) facile Jonah Goldberg post:

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that Goldberg could not be more mistaken, both about Lukacs’s understanding of patriotism and his understanding of nationalism. Considering that this has been one of Lukacs’s chief preoccupations (if not the chief preoccupation) of his 60-plus years of professional historianship, there is simply no excuse for Goldberg’s ignorance. It is, after all, the chief theme of Lukacs’s 2005 book, Democracy and Populism.

Let’s assume for the moment, though, that Goldberg is behind in his reading. Surely, as an admirer of Lukacs, he’s familiar with “About Historical Factors,” the fifth chapter of Lukacs’s magnum opus, Historical Consciousness (first published in 1968, with new editions in 1985 and 1994). If not, perhaps he’d like to pick up a copy of ISI’s Remembered Past: John Lukacs on History, Historians, and Historical Knowledge, a remarkably inexpensive 900-plus-page reader which reprints “About Historical Factors,” as well as 66 other major essays.

What prompted this? At The Corner, Goldberg said this:

For the record, John Lukacs has many great observations about the differences between patriotism and nationalism. The difference, to me and I believe to him, is that nationalism is rooted in the mystic concept of a nation—most famously in blood and soil—while patriotism is rooted in adherence to a creed or doctrine. A patriot in the Weimar Republic was considered a traitor by most nationalists, for example.

Let’s just say for the moment that this stunning conceptual error does not bode well for the content and argumentation of Goldberg’s forthcoming book, Liberal Fascism (not that we expected very much that was worthwhile). What is a little surprising about this post is that it came in response to Iain Murray quoting Orwell (the same quote that Prof. Lukacs cites and which Scott also uses in his post) on the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Goldberg had at his disposal the exact quote that would have guided him to the correct conclusion and he still managed to get it wrong! More entertainingly, Murray’s post was a clarifying follow-up to Andrew Stuttaford noting with approval the revival of healthy expressions of German patriotism during the World Cup in Germany this year. Somehow, between Murray quoting Orwell’s affirmation of the patriotic love of place and Stuttaford affirming healthy national pride (German national pride, no less!), Goldberg still wound up scoring an own goal by misunderstanding the concepts entirely.

In the rest of his post, Scott delivers body blow after body blow to Goldberg’s comment, about which more in a moment, and if anyone should know Prof. Lukacs’ view on this and other matters it would be Scott Richert. Scott goes on:

In other words, patriotism is rooted in a particular place, and the people who live there, not in “adherence to a creed or doctrine.” By “a particular way of life,” Orwell (and Lukacs) mean just that: not abstract credal principles but the real life of real people in a real place—their language, their food, their religion, their manners, etc.

Nationalism, on the other hand, is, for Lukacs (and Orwell), an ideological phenomenon. It subsumes man in the nation; it divorces the nation from “a particular place and a particular way of life”; it defines the nation at least in part in terms of its opposition to the other.

This is an excellent summary of Prof. Lukacs’ understanding and a fine statement of the real difference between the two phenomena. This distinction is certainly a fairly old one circa 2006. It is one that the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (to return to another great man whose name Goldberg waves around to demonstrate superficial familiarity with the better minds on the Right, since such minds are so sorely lacking among his comrades) also stressed very strongly by way of correctly indicting (abstract) nationalism as a child of 1789 and a monstrous form of leftism and what he called identitarianism. The words themselves indicate the difference: the patriot loves his fatherland (Lat., patria, Gr., patris), something distinct and different from himself, while the nationalist identifies with and loves those like himself, which K-L maintained was more like self-love than real love.

K-L distinguished the two by tendencies towards natural diversity, such as one might find in various regions or local communities in the same country, and the deadening uniformity imposed across an entire people to fabricate a superficial unity. Toeing an ideological line to be a “good American” is as far removed from patriotism as can be. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I think K-L underestimated the importance of language and culture as natural and good things that do make a people’s identity that contributes to and makes up their love of country, but he inherited the revulsion that any sane man would have when confronted with the consequences of the abominations of Pan-Germanism and all other forms of abstract nationalism and formed his opinions accordingly.

Rather obviously love of the patria has more than a little to do with the soil, the land itself, since the word refers to the land. There is some disagreement among defenders of patriotism against the ravages of nationalism over whether loyalty to one’s “blood” (that is, one’s ethnicity) is a necessary component of patriotism, or whether it is something that coexists distinctly alongside love of country. Cosmopolitan men of the Right will tend to play down the importance of “blood” as less important and the potential source of political excesses, even as they reemphasise loyalty to “soil” and the living communities that are planted in that soil. But none of them would ever make the mistake of confusing patriotism with commitment to a creed, doctrine or ideology.

So why does Goldberg make this lamentable etymological and conceptual mistake? Ignorance must account for some of it, of course, but there is also a built-in bias among neoconservatives and their hangers-on against thinking of patriotism in terms of either “blood” or “soil.” Loyalty to place and people is not very useful for someone whose other commitments require him to affirm that America is a proposition nation, a “creedal” and ideological nation, so he must reverse the obvious meaning of the words to make loyalty to a shallow, ideological definition of American identity the essence of patriotism or else find himself on the wrong side of the patriot-nationalist divide.

Those who find that they cannot honestly pledge allegiance to the historic America, but only to the “ideals” that America is supposed to represent (on account of which much of historic America must be denounced or discarded) and the imagined community of this ideal America, have no choice but to define loyalty to place and people as the fictive and “mystic” loyalty, even though it is the primary and perhaps only grounded, natural and normal loyalty that men know in their political life. If Goldberg’s definition of patriotism were correct, it would surely be a badge of honour to be called unpatriotic. Fortunately for us all, his definition is as wrong as can be. Happily, we do not have to surrender speaking of the virtue of patriotism with its proper name; we can instead recognise the ideological nationalists for who they are by the ways in which they abuse and misunderstand this admirable term and noble love of country.

For the nationalist, the country and the people are only worth respecting to the extent that they live up to the imagined pure form of the nation, a supposed destiny of greatness, a world mission or some other ugly lie. When they fail to measure up, the nationalist has no use for them and will even turn against their best interests to fashion the nation with (the shedding of) blood and iron.

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The Unappealing Truth

Yet allowing all this, and allowing that a Christian or a Jew or a conservative liberal might increasingly doubt the wisdom of rights-talk as the foundation of political order, we are nonetheless citizens of a country in which rights-talk is basically the only kind of talk there is – and I have a hard time seeing the case for pro-lifers abandoning the idea of a “right to life” in favor of a language of duties and obligations that might be philosophically closer to the truth but would definitely be less politically appealing. In so doing, they would be giving up the one great arrow in the pro-life quiver right now, which is that abortion isn’t consonant with American liberalism as originally conceived, and the original interpretation of American liberalism still has a lot of purchase on our country’s political mind, in a way that arguments based on duties and obligations just don’t. Indeed, by abandoning a “right to life” language, pro-lifers wouldn’t just be giving up on any short-term hope of changing America’s abortion laws, they would be effectively giving up on liberalism altogether. Some people think that time has come (or that liberalism was a mistake from the beginning); I’m not persuaded. ~Ross Douthat

I appreciate Mr. Douthat’s link to my recent post and the generous quote from it. We are in considerable agreement on the problem of conceiving of people as autonomous selves invested with “rights,” so on the substance of the truth of this particular matter I think there is relatively little to argue about. Mr. Douthat should probably also be in substantial agreement with this statement in Dr. Fleming’s The Morality of Everyday Life:

Believers in the theory of rights take exactly the same point of view. Asked where rights come from, they will either refer to a mythical story (such as the wondrous tale of the social contract), or, following Calvin, they will dismiss all criticism by saying that everybody knows what rights are. If the believer in rights is Catholic, he will quickly proceed to confound the liberal theory of rights with the rather different teachings of St. Thomas on natural law, or he will refer loftily to a divine origin of rights, though there is nothing in scripture and very little in the traditions of the Church to justify such a notion.

A nonbeliever–a libertarian, for example, who cnanot have recourse to any supernatural arguments–will attempt to deduce his theory of “rights” from other unprovable principles he happens to believe in, such as the principle of nonaggression. This tactic resembles that of some neo-Darwinists who, confronted with the apparent impossibility of life spontaneously originating on earth, take refuge in the extraterrestrial theory that life arrived on earth in the form of spores, as in the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If there is convincing proof of the existence or origin of rights, I have never read it in a book or article and never, in discussions with true-believing philosophers, heard anything persuasive, much less convincing. Rights, one has to conclude, are to be taken on faith–but only by those who profess to have no religion. (p. 197)

Where Mr. Douthat’s post goes awry, aside from the curious statement of ambivalence about the language and theory of rights duly noted and criticised by Michael Brendan Dougherty, is in the claim that even if the language and theory of rights are less philosophically true (which is to say, they are false) they are more appealing and useful to advance the practical goal of outlawing and preventing abortion. Advocates of the right to life have hung all of their credibility on the claim that the right to life is a truth of human existence, one of the basic aspects of human dignity, so can we really wink at the use of this sort of argument if rights do not exist and thinking in terms of rights significantly distorts our understanding of the person and ethics? This would be very much like someone who does not really believe in the Resurrection, to use a more significant example, but thinks it will be more acceptable and popular to pretend to believe it. Surely the better, truer argument is the one that ought to be used. Setting aside the truer argument for the allegedly more useful or appealing scheme has been the essence of the failure of Bushism.

To continue to play the game of using the language and theory of rights to define our understanding of what is just and good is to perpetuate something that, as far as I can tell, both Mr. Douthat and I regard as being untrue in large measure. So long as the debate is framed in terms of “I’ve got a right!”, those with the relatively greater power will consistently win every contest. In all likelihood, framing the debate in terms of competing rights will not hasten the day when the brutal savagery of abortion is punished and, one hopes, largely prevented, but will probably ensure that the public continues to view attempts to prevent this crime as an intrusion on some special protected individual space.

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Dougherty Reviews Coulter’s Godless

Coulter’s prose style is reminiscent of exiled National Review editor Joe Sobran who is quoted in the book and thanked in the acknowledgements. Like Sobran, Coulter’s gift as a polemicist is the counterpunch. Responding to Howard Dean’s statement, “I don’t have any objection to someone who is pro-life, if they are really dedicated to the welfare of children,” Coulter responds, “Conversely, I suppose, if you are pro-abortion and you hate kids, Dr. Dean would be cool with that, too.” ~Michael Brendan Dougherty, Brainwash

Michael makes another important point in remembering that Enlightenment liberals and their fellows since the late 17th century have sought to replace traditional religion, which has invariably meant Christianity in their mind, with a vague theism, “rational religion” (which often amounts to rationalism combined with social do-gooding) or a loopy kind of humanistic ethics such as the substitute religion of Positivism or Tolstoy’s watered down gospel of labour and simplicity.

In that light, the persistent effort of our own Freisinnigen to make liberalism their working equivalent of religion is nothing new. Realising this should have consequences for how conservatives in this country understand their own relationship to the liberal tradition, and should drive home why the liberal and Christian heritages coexist so awkwardly in Western culture and within the conservative “movement” as well.

But we should also pause to consider whether the Intelligent Design movement itself is not another sort of this kind of vague theism that may discomfit the dedicated materialists among us but does nothing to affirm the living God Whom liberals have consistently sought to dethrone or displace. The safe, mechanistic God of Deism and ID does not command, does not act and does not love–this is the god of the philosophers, who may serve as a necessary cause, but who relates to his creatures as an engineer relates to a complex structure, and not as the Lord of glory. Aside from the problems of introducing ID into science classrooms, ID as it is conventionally argued concedes the sort of minimal deity that liberals have sought to fashion in the minds of men.

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Elites and Populism

As many of you will have seen elsewhere, David Brooks has written an article in The New York Times, “Changing Bedfellows” (which, in appropriately elitist fashion, is available only to NYT Select subscribers), that has generated more than a little comment and conversation among some prominent bloggers. In the latest Brooksian revision of our political taxonomy, he presents us with the divide between “populist nationalists” (henceforth pop-nats) and “progressive globalists” (prog-globs) and apparently gives the Iraq war (and foreign policy more generally) as one of the decisive issues separating the two camps. According to Rod Dreher’s description:

Populist nationalists (PNs) would be “liberal on economics, conservative on values and realist on foreign policy.” The gist of their politics, in Brooks’ words, is: “We are the ordinary, burden-bearing people of this country. We are the ones who work hard and build communities. It’s time for us to come together and recognize that our loyalty to our fellow Americans comes first.”

On the other side are the progressive globalists (PGs), who “would be market-oriented on economics, liberal on values and multilateral interventionists in foreign affairs.” Brooks cites John McCain, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Mark Warner as examples of this orientation. PGs are inspired by economic globalism, “technological dynamis and cultural diversity.” They want to build international institutions to share the prosperity. Trade needs to be opened up, not shut down, and new policies must be put into place to manage the flow of people across borders, not close them off. We have to make our economy more flexible, and work together internationally to solve global problems.

Note how Brooks has defined determining trade policies in the light of national interest or maintaining a domestic industrial base (the sorts of policies that he, as a prog-glob, despises) as “liberal” economics (as Brooks is relying on the phrase “liberal on economics” to scare the well-to-do to side with the prog-globs), whereas policies dedicated to shoring up the interests of the extensive bureaucratic machinery of multinational corporations and international governing institutions are allegedly “market-oriented.” You don’t need to think on that much to see that the prog-glob embrace of “market-oriented” policies is a corrupt and distorted one that aims to use certain mechanisms of “the market” to expand their control.

Leon Hadar makes the basic good points poking holes in Brooks’ idea (many opponents of the war don’t begin to fit the pop-nat mould and, he might have added, plenty of pop-nats who oppose mass immigration and outsourcing are also some of the staunchest administration supporters on Iraq), and elaborates on his comments in a second post. There he makes the excellent and all-important point that this new terminology is really just another attempt to shut up critics of the war.

Derision is not just for “unpatriotic conservatives” anymore–the entire constituency of a “closed” American society must be challenged by the prog-globs. Of course, the entire discourse of “open” and “closed” societies is a polemical one designed to make a social democratic, capitalist seem to be the self-evidently correct alternative–it defines its “openness” by all the ways in which it is unlike, and therefore automatically more desirable than, all other regimes and so precludes the possibility that anyone should regard the allegedly “Open Society” as stifling and constricting in its exceedingly narrow range of permissible opinion, its dogmatic commitment to what Mr. Bush might call the “single model of human progress” or its relentless drive to squeeze out every bit of local, ethnic or cultural distinctiveness from the societies “the Open Society” corrupts.

The greatest flaw in Brooks’ description of the pop-nats is the identification of their position with realism. As others have noted many times, the pop-nats reflect what is often called the Jacksonian foreign policy tradition, which has traces of a realist view, but which would tend to see things in terms of national interest and national prestige, but which might define national interest and national prestige in very different terms from realists in today’s foreign policy circles. Fundamentally, contemporary realists are all internationalists, more or less committed to the same international institutions and conventions that the prog-globs are, and are in many ways in agreement with the idea of the “Open Society” and the blessings of “free trade” and globalisation. Their realism stems from their willingness to take account of the hard realities of strategic interest, power and resources, while a great many prog-globs engage in delusional wishful thinking (neoconservative democratism) or sappy humanitarian interventionism. Needless to say, a pop-nat brand of foreign policy realism would be almost unrecognisable, and certainly unwelcome, to a Chuck Hagel.
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