Neocons attack Obama for doing to America’s national defense what they did to America’s national culture

Dorothy Rabinowitz writes in the Wall Street Journal:

To hear Mr. Obama speak now on matters like the national defense is to recognize that the leader now in the White House is in every respect the person he seemed on the campaign trail: a man of immense moral certitude, prone to an abstract idealism, and pronouncements that range between the rational and the otherworldly.

Gosh, sounds like Busheron to me!


Rabinowitz continues:

That’s not counting the occasional touches of pure rubbish. Having, on the second day of his presidency, issued executive orders effectively undermining efforts to extract (from captured al Qaeda operatives) intelligence essential to the prevention of terror attacks—and in addition seriously hampering the prosecution of terrorist detainees—Mr. Obama argued that it was just by such steps that we strengthened our security. In his own words: “It is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world.”

What can this mean? What moral high ground, exactly, would have enabled us to deter the designs of the religious fanatics in search of martyrdom and the slaughter of as many Americans as possible on September 11?

So much had happened in Washington that week—so much speechifying and celebration—it was easy to tune out that pronouncement, particularly since we’d heard its like so often during Mr. Obama’s presidential run. It was of a piece with those assertions, emphasized the length of his campaign, that it was not our strength in arms but our principles that had made us a great nation.

I am not at all diminishing the damage caused by Obama’s airy leftism that Rabinowitz is anatomizing here. I just want to point to the amazing irony that Rabinowitz attacks Obama for saying that it’s not our strength in arms but our principles that make us a great nation. Well, who has been teaching the American people for decades that they are not a real people, that their country consists only of abstract principles, that it’s a “Proposition Nation,” not a concrete nation? The neocons and the Wall Street Journal types. And now the neocons and the Wall Street Journal types are attacking Obama for going one step further and saying that our national defense consists of abstract principles.

The neoconservatives defined America’s culture out of existence, so that the only things left to care about were the economy, spreading democracy, and national defense. After 9/11, John Podhoretz, major sitcom fan and now the editor of the leading neoconservative journal, Commentary, emitted a vulgar cheer because now we could forget about that damned culture war, i.e., the defense of America’s existence as a distinct culture and way of life, and just focus on a war against an external enemy. Now the neocons are upset because Obama has applied the same universalist solvent to our national defense that the neocons applied to our culture. He is doing to neocon America what the neocons did to traditional America. He and the neocons are at different points along the same liberal continuum in which our nation is progressively undone by being redefined as nothing but a set of principles. But the self-deluded neocons see Obama as their opposite, rather than as leur semblable, leur frere.

Rabinowitz continues:

The generation of Americans who had faced down fascism and communism understood, Mr. Obama further explained on Inauguration Day, that power alone could not protect us. They understood that our security came not just from missiles and tanks but from “sturdy alliances” and “enduring convictions”—it emanated from “the tempering quality of humility and restraint.”

It’s impossible to know what kind of history Mr. Obama has been reading but this much at least is true—the generation he describes knew the importance of sturdy alliances all right. There was that one, for instance, between the American leader, Franklin Roosevelt, and the British, Winston Churchill. Both of them, along with their countrymen, were driven by one enduring conviction—that fascism should be eradicated from the face of the earth and a total war of destruction waged on Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany until their surrender. It would be hard to find, in their pursuit of that purpose, any hint of that tempering quality of humility and restraint. Not that it isn’t entertaining to imagine Roosevelt extending the hand of friendship and conciliation to Hirohito, or Churchill proposing to raise a glass and talk things over with Hitler

Again, I do not dismiss the threat posed to America by Obama’s foreign policy of “humility and restraint” in the face of outspoken enemies.He appears to be an appeaser who is out to weaken our country. But he wasn’t elected president in a vacuum. To repeat, over the last 30 years, in the name of conservatism, the neoconservatives redefined America as nothing but an empty abstraction, lacking any history or identity other than subscription to a universal idea. They somehow thought that a country that had given up any allegiance to its historic culture and peoplehood would still have the will to defend its national security. But that’s not the way it works. For a people to have the will to defend themselves, they must first BE. And to BE means to be something distinct and particular. The historic project of the neoconservatives was to strip the American people of their particularity, by telling them, in article after article, decade after decade, that they consist of nothing but a belief in universal freedom, plus the normal complement of material desires. But once a people are without a concrete identity, once they have no identity other than “we believe in democracy, equality, and capitalism” they are also going to lose the will to defend their national interests abroad and their national security at home. They are going to be drawn to leaders who prefer mushier arrangements, of the left-liberal variety.

Norman Podhoretz once gave a talk in which he bemoaned the fact that Americans had “lost their tongues,” and no longer had the ability to stand up to the cultural left. I said to him, in the only face-to-face conversation I ever had with him, that it was neoconservatism that had deprived Americans of their tongues.

The election of a leftist president indifferent or hostile to national defense is the inevitable result of the neocons’ work. It is the predictable act of a people without an identity.

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Tim W. writes:

Have you ever noticed how neocon book titles often flirt with utopianism? There’s “An End To Evil” where Frum & Perle see evil ending if we can just defeat the Islamofascists. There’s “The End Of Racism” where D’Souza assures us we’re on the verge of a new age where race won’t matter. And, of course, there’s “The End Of History” where Fukuyama asserts that liberal democracy is the obvious best form of government for everyone, so there will be no more ideological conflicts disputing it.

Such utopianism is normally a leftist impulse, something one would never see from a realistic conservative mind. It’s not really any different than Obama’s pledge to change the world.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 03, 2009 09:15 AM | Send

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