Tony Blair and the anti-anti-American right

Let’s consider more of the speech given to Congress last week by the Labor Party prime minister of Great Britain, a speech received with joyous enthusiasm by American Republicans and conservatives:

The purpose of terrorism is not the single act of wanton destruction. It is the reaction it seeks to provoke: economic collapse, the backlash, the hatred, the division, the elimination of tolerance, until societies cease to reconcile their differences and become defined by them.

According to Mr. Blair, terrorism is not bad because it harms a concrete country or society, namely us; no, it’s bad because it harms liberalism. Terrorism makes people less tolerant, less inclusive, more likely to be suspicious of the very group from whom the terrorists come. To Blair, the deepest danger of Islamic terrorism is that it will make us dislike Muslims.

In this next passage Blair gives the pure liberal credo: “freedom,” freedom without any moral order, just freedom:

As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible, but in fact it is transient. The question is, what do you leave behind? And what you can bequeath to this anxious world is the light of liberty. That is what this struggle against terrorist groups or states is about. We’re not fighting for domination. We’re not fighting for an American world, though we want a world in which America is at ease. We’re not fighting for Christianity, but against religious fanaticism of all kinds. And this is not a war of civilizations, because each civilization has a unique capacity to enrich the stock of human heritage. We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind—black or white; Christian or not; left, right or merely indifferent—to be free—free to raise a family in love and hope, free to earn a living and be rewarded by your own efforts, free not to bend your knee to any man in fear, free to be you, so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.

So, we’re not fighting to preserve our civilization and our power, because all these things are transient anyway. We’re not fighting to defend Christianity, but to oppose fanaticism, presumably including our own Christian, fanaticism (Blair is, after all, a member of a Church whose bishops regularly attack the “Christian right” from the pulpit). We’re not fighting to defend the West against Islam, because all civilizations are equally valuable. So, what are we fighting for? We’re fighting for “freedom.” What kind of freedom? The freedom to be “me”a freedom of nothing but one’s own desires, a freedom limited by nothing except the requirement not to interfere with the freedom of other people’s desires. This radical liberal notion of freedom is of course incompatible with the flourishing and long-term survival of any social and moral order. Yet this is what the Republicans in Congress, seconded by the conservative opinion apparat, lustily applauded, because in the minds of conservatives, “freedom”—regardless of the precise sense in which it is meant—is simply a metonym for America and everything that is good and true; while the Democrats, who should have loved Blair’s liberationist vision of freedom, clenched their teeth because he was celebrating America.

As an index of how far views differ on this, while I’m criticizing Blair’s speech for what I see as its underlying left-liberalism, Dennis Prager is lauding it for what he sees as its conservatism—and especially for the way he thinks Blair’s extravagant praise of American power and greatness and mission must have driven the anti-American Democrats in Congress to finger-biting fury.

It seems to me, however, that Blair’s “pro-American conservatism” is not unlike that of David Horowitz or Norman Podhoretz: a single, too emphatic virtue that in a variety of ways provides cover for an ongoing general move to the left, including the squelching of any serious opposition to that move. Let us never forget that Podhoretz in 1995 killed an important debate among conservatives on judicial usurpation—something he did in the name of stopping anti-Americanism; yet if mainstream conservatives had continued to confront that issue, it’s entirely possible we would not have had the atrocities of Grutter and Lawrence today. Let us also remember that David Horowitz defends every “mainstream” move to the left such as President Bush’s support for race preference policies and the campaign to normalize homosexuality—and he justifies this conservative surrender to the “mainstream” left as the only way of stopping the anti-American left. Blair for his part is a big supporter of America and American power, which makes him popular with American conservatives, while in every other area he pursues a left-liberal worldview. Of course, his support for America also gets him in trouble with the left, which has made anti-Americanism as much a substitute for leftist politics as the center-right has made anti-anti-Americanism a substitute for conservative politics. The left hates Blair for his apostasy from the purer, madder form of leftism that would leave Western nations helpless before Muslim terrorists. Their fury is childish, since Blair’s somewhat more qualified form of leftism keeps doing the left’s work of steadily dissolving whatever is left of British culture and Western civilization. Meanwhile, Blair’s actual leftism makes no impression on his American conservative fans. Blair is standing against the anti-American left, and the American conservatives keep cheering him …

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 22, 2003 02:28 AM | Send


But Blair’s “freedom” or “liberty” is only the freedom to support liberal dogmas. It’s rather like Henry Ford’s “choice” of color for the Model T. What about an English citizen’s ‘freedom of association’ to not have to live with hordes of Muslims and other immigrants? What about thir freedom to defend their persons and property? Sorry, that can’t be allowed, since it might offend one of the protected classes. I note that Cal Thomas is also out beating the drum for Blair along with Denis Prager. In the end, the West is just as vulnerable to the Islamists with Blair (and Bush) as it would be with leftists in control. Blair and Bush think they can turn the Islamists into fellow liberals, while the leftists wish to see them destroy what’s left of the West to prepare the way for Utopia. Either way, Western civilization as we know it is done. Thanks, Tony - you’re a real stand-up guy.

Posted by: Carl on July 22, 2003 5:00 AM

“Blair and Bush think they can turn the Islamists into fellow liberals, while the leftists wish to see them destroy what’s left of the West to prepare the way for Utopia. Either way, Western civilization as we know it is done. Thanks, Tony—you’re a real stand-up guy.”

But I think Bush has given up on the assimilationist project of turning them into fellow liberals, hence his 2000 speech praising the cities in America where English is no longer spoken and which seem more and more like South American cities; hence his support for racial group rights.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on July 22, 2003 5:08 AM

As Bush welcomes Spanish-speaking (and Arabic-speaking) cities in the United States, so does Blair welcome Urdu-speaking cities in England and Scotland. There is no difference worth mentioning between them when it comes to preserving their countries. They have already surrendered.

Blair may be playing a deeper foreign affairs game, however. I suspect Blair’s current cheering of American interventions is because he believes the U.S. government can - with blandishments - be maneuvered into making the U.S. armed forces available indefinitely to police UN (and eventually EU?) human rights mandates. This seems to run counter to European conventional wisdom that sees the Bush administration as dangerously unilateralist, but if I am right Blair seeks not to promote U.S. power but to confine it within the multilateral constraints he prefers.

The more influence Blair has with the United States, he may think, the more he can restrain the Americans from acting in America’s interest and instead use our military as a sort of PC WorldPolice. As he surely knows that he is widely viewed in the UK and Europe as Bush’s poodle over Iraq, he may think this possibility is worth the high price to his reputation among his usual milieu, the Left. It would be naive to take his expressed concerns about the Iraqi threat too much at face value. HRS

Posted by: Howard Sutherland on July 22, 2003 10:37 AM

Like Howard Sutherland, I, too, suspect Tony Blair’s motives in taking part in the Iraq campaign concern entangling the United States in a web of international institutions. In fact, I seem to remember that Blair himself said something along these lines right after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, promising that a strong British-American alliance would keep the US from running amok and smashing the world all to bits. I’ll check to see if I can find the quote, later.

By the way, something else to think about, regarding the Bush enthusiasm for Mexamerica. Without going too far into the realm of silly conspiratorial thinking, I do note that Jeb Bush’s family is biracial, with the children looking decidedly “Hispanic”. A real Bush dynasty? King Georges stretching down through the middle of the 21st century? How depressing to think that Americans are so easily manipulated that marginal intellects such as the Bushes could establish a reign of caudillos.

—If only the men who fought and died at Saipan, Tinian, Guadalcanal, Tulagi, the Rapido, Pellilieu and all the others could see what they gave their lives for.

Posted by: Paul on July 22, 2003 2:57 PM

“If only the men who fought and died at Saipan, Tinian, Guadalcanal, Tulagi, the Rapido, Pellilieu and all the others could see what they gave their lives for.”

Except that the men who fought in those places and lived, as well as the rest of their approximate generation of Americans, were the ones who allowed all this to happen. They were the ones running America in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on July 22, 2003 3:02 PM

In replying to my tagline, Mr. Auster makes a good point. Indeed, it’s one that I’ve made myself at other times. It does bring to mind, of course, the fundamental weakness of America in the 20th century: softness. Softness towards enemies means it’s better to be an enemy than a friend. Softness in moral attitudes has meant the triumph of cultural nihilism. And, even today, softness in Iraq means that mostly white, working class soldiers are being picked off like so many turkeys, because our elites would rather have Muslims love them than fear a Christian America.

Still, when I talk with those veterans of World War II who remain among us today, almost all remark upon how this country bears no resemeblance to the one they went to war to defend. They had no idea what being “nice” would lead to. The thin end of the wedge, eh?

Posted by: Paul on July 22, 2003 3:12 PM

Blair’s speech to Congress:

“We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind … to be free … free to be you, so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.”

If I had been taught when I was 12 years old that the “freedom to be me” was what America was about, I would not have found that inspiring and uplifting, but weird, alienating, and demoralizing. Can anyone today actually claim that they find this notion inspiring—that freedom, our society, is not about anything larger or higher, but just about ourselves? What utter decadence this represents. And not a single conservative commentator that I’ve seen has had anything negative to say about it. Conservatives used to be opposed to the ideology of Total Personal Liberation. Now they vigorously applaud it. What is left of conservatism? What is left of America?

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on July 22, 2003 3:15 PM

“Conservatives used to be opposed to the ideology of Total Personal Liberation.”

But they didn’t used to be libertarians in disguise, using “conservative” as a way to market themselves and ideas that otherwise would be considered fringe lunacy.

Posted by: Paul on July 22, 2003 3:34 PM

I’m not sure what Paul means by libertarians in this context. I’m speaking of regular mainstream conservatives and conservative-leaning Republicans. Up through the ’80s and at least part way into the ’90s, most conservatives would have recognized Blair’s comment for what it was and objected to it.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on July 22, 2003 3:38 PM

“Im not sure what Paul means by libertarians in this context.”

I was referring to those members of the Congress who call themselves “conservative” and rose to applaud Tony Blair at every opportunity. For the most part, they may call themselves conservatives, but they actually are libertarian Republicans, of the Wall Street Journal type. Most of them have bought into “personal liberation” just as many of their constituents have bought into “self-realization” manuals, feminist tracts admonishing women to “find themselves”, and other books, programs, and magazines devoted to self discovery.

This type pop psychology is the handmaiden to the theme of consumerism Mr. Auster identified in Blair’s speech last week. A culture adrift, with nothing more than the “freedom” to consume as its core identity will allow no constraints on the self. Republican and mainstream “conservatives” realize this. That’s why it was so easy for them to discard the “culture war”. When you get right down to it, their only real concerns are cutting taxes and placating these same constituents fed since the 1970s on a steady diet of liberation ideology/theology.

Posted by: Paul on July 22, 2003 3:57 PM

Paul’s post brings up another theme we’ve discussed here at VFR: The left’s seemingly contradictory program of total liberation form moral constraint - especially in matters pertaining to sexuality and family - coupled with a desire for a totalitarian control over political discourse and related areas. As Mr. Auster, Matt, and others have explained, it’s not really a contradiction in light of leftist goals. Tony Blair’s “Cool Britannia” is a great example. A morally degenerate culture existing within a soft-totalitarian regime, complete with Orwellian “Diversity Directorates”, cameras everywhere on the streets, and police powers being used against anyone who speaks against the leftist dogma. I expect the “conservatives” over at the Wall Street Journal would be every bit as outspoken in their criticism of an American Diversity Directorate as they have been with the Grutter decision.

Posted by: Carl on July 22, 2003 4:29 PM

“It is not monarchy or aristocracy against which the modern spirit fights, but LOYALTY.”

— Orestes A. Brownson

Posted by: Paul Cella on July 22, 2003 10:50 PM

I mentioned elsewhere that I feel a certain sentimental affection for Blair, but the philosophy of enervation underlying his words, and the near-total abasement of mainstream conservatism to that philosphy when it comes out of Blair’s mouth (both phenomena so well-analyzed here), leads me to doubt my sentiment ever more.

Posted by: Paul Cella on July 22, 2003 10:54 PM

Mr. Auster:

You wrote above: “Let us never forget that [Norman] Podhoretz in 1995 killed an important debate among conservatives on judicial usurpation.” I think that assertion is a bit too strong. Oh, Podhoretz certainly TRIED to kill the debate, but I don’t think he was altogether successful. Fr. Neuhaus never (to my knowledge) backed down from a word of what was written; he’s made of sterner stuff than that. Nor did First Things as a whole back down (though I seem to remember Robert Bork distancing himself in a letter to the magazine.) And the debate ramified through intellectual circles, both right and left, for quite awhile.

Podhoretz’s guilt in the matter is unquestionable; his success, notably more questionable.

Posted by: Paul Cella on July 22, 2003 11:02 PM

The media is a major cause of what happened to the WWII generation. It is hard to see how the impact of a pervasive hypnotic liberal media is less than a major reason why America is as it is today. Ann Coulter’s book Treason is further evidence of this. Everyone has been told for fifty years (as Ann pointed out tonight) nothing but that McCarthy and his actions were mostly evil. Few do not believe this fable. I am not sure it is a fable. Ann contends it is fable, and she is a credible person.

The WWII generation had their weapons taken from them after the war. They had no media to fight with. All that existed was media that pretended and believed itself to be their friends. If the media did not convince them it was their friend, it told them they were wrong relentlessly. It told them things while they were hypnotized. It brainwashed them.

Brainwashing is emptying a mind and filling it with ideas. They were hypnotized more than most people can be hypnotized by a skilled hypnotist. They were hypnotized as in “now relax and look at the swinging chain”. They were relaxed in the comfort of dark movie theatres and in the relaxing security of their living rooms and bedrooms. Everyone knows how the mind is emptied and filled while watching television and movies. Their minds were filled with the idea that common sense and normal thoughts were evil, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti-American.

Sure they knew a lot of the stuff was hogwash, but they had no media to fight with. Most don’t have the interest or know how to operate a computer and find Websites like this one. They felt helpless, feel helpless, and now are hopeless. They believe they cannot beat liberal ideas so they might as well accept or not oppose them. They are neoconservatives and so are most of their children, for the same reason.

To avoid ending on a dark note (which can cause despair), recall that Winston Churchill did not give up merely because he faced almost certain defeat at the hands of a horrific foreign culture at Dunkirk and during the Battle of Britain. So symbolically stick your head out the window and yell, “I’m not going to take it anymore.” Defend yourself by tuning out of the liberal media and tune in to media that supports your views.

Posted by: P Murgos on July 22, 2003 11:59 PM

To Mr. Cella,

Sadly I can’t agree that Fr. Neuhaus emerged intact. True, he did not formally back down. But he and others did not really revisit the issue either. Neuhaus was in after years hamstrung and somewhat weakened by that attack, though he has kept up a certain independence of the Jewish neoconservatives. All in all, though, I feel that Podhoretz was successful in stopping that debate, and he has earned a black page in history for it.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on July 23, 2003 1:51 AM
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