I've finally perused Will Marshall's essay
on "a new progressive patriotism" in everybody's favorite DLC house organ, Blueprint
. Yes, I know I've already posted an approving link
to a critique
of the essay, and I did so before I'd even read the damned thing, but hey, utter lack of knowledge about something has never stopped me from doing stuff before now. In that I share an endearing trait with our Dear Leader. And look how that's working out for him in Iraq.
But I digress.
taken batting practice
in response to Marshall's claim that lefties aren't effusively patriotic enough. Indeed, Publius has, I think one of the better approaches
to Marshall's assault on we bi-coastal elites.
But since I've now gone to the trouble of reading Mr. Marshall's arguments, I'll join in the fray to simply note it's one thing to have to swat away at the strawman attacks leveled at us by Karl Rove, DFF. Now we get to read stuff like this coming from the leadership of the DLC?
Such antics give Democrats an opportunity to expose what lies beneath the fulsome facade of GOP patriotism -- an atavistic nationalism in which the ruling passion is the will to power, not love of country. The right answer to GOP jingoism, however, cannot be left-wing anti-Americanism. Of course, progressives can criticize their country and still be patriotic. Indeed, one of the highest forms of patriotism is being honest about your country's flaws and taking responsibility for fixing them. But it is what's in your heart that counts. Are your objections rooted in a warm and generous affection for your country, or in a curdled contempt for it? Too many Americans aren't sure if the left is emotionally on America's side. And that's a big problem for Democrats.
Who is he talking about? Who, except for the lunatic fringe of ANSWER and the occasional nutcase on Kos's diary communicates curdled contempt for the ol' USofA? It is one thing to hear the hysterical attacks on so-called "Michael Moore Democrats" from the rotting gums of Ann Coulter and Sean InsHannity, but from "one of us?" And wasn't it indeed the lunatic, but not so fringe, of the Right who were the ones blaming the openness of our society and liberalism of the West for 9-11? Talk to the hand, man. Talk to the hand.
Curdled contempt for George W. Bush. Curdled contempt for Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and the rest of the architects of a disastrous war and divisive domestic policies. But for our country? Screw you, Mr. Marshall, to draw so wide a target and label it "Michael Moore Democrats," who hate America. I spent several hours with WWII vets this weekend, veterans of D-Day and Marines who crawled their way through the Pacific islands. I would not question their patriotism, if I were you. But ask them about George W. Bush and his "war leadership" and you'll hear nothing but curdled contempt from most of them.
But let's let Marshall continue, shall we?
Winning the war on terror. Democrats' most important task is to articulate a tough but smart strategy for winning the ideological struggle against Jihadist extremism. Yet many liberals remain fixated instead on Iraq. It's true that Team Bush has badly fumbled the occupation, but an anti-Iraq message alone won't reassure voters that Democrats can take charge of the nation's security. On the contrary, the conflation of partisan animus toward Bush with anti-war sentiment has shoved Democrats in a decidedly dovish direction.
That ignores the fact that George W. Bush began contemplating an invasion of Iraq on Wednesday, September 12, 2001. It has been the neocons who've been obsessed with Iraq at the expense of fighting real terrorists in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the United Kingdom. And the press has abetted that obsession by getting the hell out of Kabul as quickly as they possibly could.
Later in the essay he chides John Kerry for being unable to "bridge the gap between Tony Democrats" and those nasty Michael Moore ones. But then, not two paragraphs later writes,
Such attitudes aren't likely to allay voters' doubts about Democrats' resolve to make them safer from terrorist attacks. Neither are demands by left-wing Democrats and the anti-war group, MoveOn.org, that the United States withdraw its troops from Iraq. Rather than offering fresh fodder to Karl Rove, the party would do better to heed Sens. Joe Biden, John Kerry, Evan Bayh, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who have set an example for responsible, progressive patriotism. They have balanced blunt criticism of the Bush administration's blunders with concrete suggestions for relieving the strain on U.S. forces in Iraq, broadening international support for the Iraqi government, and speeding up the pace of reconstruction.
So is Kerry on the right side of this or the wrong side? I'm confused. Truth is though, those "concrete suggestions" were ridiculed throughout the election campaign and they continue to be ridiculed by Bush and his freeper chorus, all of whom are now whistling very loudly as the Cheney administration starts timing the troop withdrawal
And, Marshall continues, we should join the torture celebrations to prove we're "real Americans."
Democrats should also bring a sense of proportion to the prisoner abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. These sickening deviations from America's core principles have damaged our country's moral reputation around the world. True patriotism demands not denials and whitewashes, but a thorough, independent investigation, punishment of those responsible, and clear policies to prevent a repetition.
Um, Will. Let me explain something to you. Democrats -- and certainly not lefties -- are not in charge here, right now, ok. So if we didn't express outrage at those "sickening deviations from America's core principals," then nobody would. Certainly not the U.S. Army. Not the Bush administration. Not Congress. Indeed, it is questionable if those responsible have been punished, and clear policies have most certainly not been put in place. On the contrary
Moreover, to express outrage at U.S. troops violating all conventions of conduct in the treatment of prisoners does not preclude us from being outraged by the murdering terrorists who are killing their own people as well as our troops. Why is that an either/or proposition?
What it does mean is that we are fearful of what such conduct will mean for our own troops should they be captured (and yes, I realize that if they're captured by the murderous "insurgents" they will likely be tortured and beheaded; I'm talking about future conflicts with other nation states). What it does mean is that by whitewashing Abu Ghraib we are playing into the very logic that has led to quiet approval by many Muslims of the London bombings -- that we are profoundly upset by such acts against our own people while we ignore the deaths of civilians in Iraq. Christ, do I have to paint a picture?
But enough of such displeasing topics as torture and the humiliation of prisoners/future terrorists. Let's take a look at the villains of the essay who appear in the section "Democrats and the military:"
Conversely, the military is not always held in high esteem in what might be called the European wing of the Democratic party -- secular liberal elites in the deep-blue Northeast and West Coast. Frank Schaeffer, a Boston writer, tells the story of how shocked his upper-middle-class neighbors were when, in 1999, his high-achieving son joined the U.S. Marine Corps rather than follow his peers to elite universities:
"Why were I and the other parents at my son's private school so surprised by his choice? During World War II, the sons and daughters of the most powerful and educated families did their bit. If the immorality of the Vietnam War was the only reason those lucky enough to go to college dodged the draft, why did we not encourage our children to volunteer for military service once that war was done?
Why, indeed, did George H.W. Bush not "encourage" his sons to follow his path to military heroism? And, when I read the near daily account of the U.S. dead in Iraq, why do I so rarely see anyone coming from such wealthy Republican outposts as Greenwich, CT? I too, frankly, would be surprised to learn of any upper middle class high-achieving young person deciding to join the war in Iraq right now, what with the rationale of WMD and al Qaeda put to rest (I think, hopefully, put to rest; maybe Dick Cheney moans WMD and "bin Laden connection" when he's rubbing up against Lynn). To join an occupation that is, to borrow a phrase, "in its last throes" would be fool-hardy indeed. And given the recruitment figures of recent months, I don't think that shock would be limited to we members of the "European wing of the Democratic party (WTF does that mean, anyway?)."
[And, as an aside, the story mentioned is from 1999. While I commend him for willing to brave the unknown to protect our country, that was an era ago. In 1999 that young Marine had never hear of Fallujah. Post 9-11-01, many young men and women, from all walks of life, were inspired to join the armed forces. Post 2004...not so much. An I wonder where that young man is today, during these "stop-loss" days.]
OK, but enough with the attacks on us brie-eaters (and don't start any stereotypes about chardonnay when it comes to those of us in the European wing, we drink only pouilly fuisse, merci very much). Let's hear this muscular democrat's policy prescription, just what will show the rest of America our cast iron cajones.
Democrats ought to insist on a major expansion of the military, by as many as 100,000 troops. Some of these troops should be channeled into the post-conflict and nation-building specialties that we have been chronically short of in Iraq: linguists, special forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, and economic reconstruction. Rather than add to Bush's budget deficits, however, Democrats should insist on paying for a larger force by rolling back the administration's unconscionable wartime tax cuts. This would neatly frame the real choice facing patriotic Americans: a stronger military versus tax cuts for the privileged.
Well, I think we've been saying that since the start of Bush's war. Nay, since the Fall of 2001. And again, I remind the members of the DLC, WE'RE NOT IN CHARGE HERE! But I would also point out that in the face of a war that grows more unpopular every day, a campaign promise of DRAFT plus TAXES does not equal VOTES, unless you're FDR.
And so we come to the conclusion, the real point of Marshall's brilliance.
Patriotism is the ultimate values issue. Democrats need not be embarrassed by it. And they ought not to let Republicans monopolize the emblems of national pride and honor. Democrats need to be choosier about the political company they keep, distancing themselves from the pacifist and anti-American fringe. And they need to have faith in their fellow citizens: Americans will accept constructive criticism of their country if they know the critic's heart is in the right place. [emphasis added]
All that, because he doesn't like some of the commentors on Daily Kos. Whew. I guess it's okay for those parliamentarians on the Right to thoughtfully discuss
a U.S. Congressman's suggestion that we nuke Mecca and Medina in retaliation for the next terrorist attack on U.S. soil. But pacifism? Heart's just not in the right place.
Glad we cleared that up.
UPDATED to repair some damaged syntax.