I received a thought provoking email from J. R. Muller today and wanted to post his thoughts on democracy and liberalism. Thanks J. R. and here goes…
I’ve been thinking about democracy and liberals. In the past, liberals have harped upon the USA’s failings in foreign policy because we put Realpolitik ahead of democratic movements, in their eyes at least. (I don’t know how democratic the Sandinista’s were, but I digress) This is a nice-sounding position, a bit idealistic, but at least it is a principle in line with American values (freedom, democracy, etc.).
Then there comes Bush, who post 9-11, has completely reversed the rhetoric and the logic of American foreign policy, i.e. that democracy and freedom are the driving forces behind it. Many conservative writers have asked why, then, when Bush is aligning himself more with a traditionally liberal position, liberals are going positively apoplectic and yearning for the good ole days of Kissengerian deal-making devoid of human rights concerns and focused primarily on stability.
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My answer is this… liberals really don’t care and never really cared about human rights and democracy except as it offers a bludgeon to use upon the USA. Notice how the rhetoric emanating from the Left never uses the word “freedom.” To those of a Classically Liberal bent, that word is paramount amongst all, but to a Leftist, words such as democracy and human rights are substituted. They are not one in the same and this demonstrates why liberals will never get on board with Bush’s foreign policy re-orientation.
The liberals value institutions they can use to further a left-wing agenda (democracy can be very useful for this, as can concern for Human Rights not coupled with a love of freedom), but absolutely abhor the abstract notion of freedom. While we conservatives/Classical Liberals applaud those in Georgia and Ukraine and Lebanon striving for their freedom, they smugly sit by and complain because they cannot control the process.
It has been the same for a long time and it is why appealing to liberals to own up to their own rhetoric will never succeed. Freedom is the word, the ideal, the Platonic perfect that motivates conservatives and makes us rejoice in democracy around the world. Without it, all talk of democracy and human rights is empty rhetoric devoid of meaning, at best, and a cynical tool at worst. Maybe one day liberals will realize that a democratic middle east is a worthwhile goal, but I don’t expect them to ever admit it, or give Bush any credit.