THE NIGHTMARE BEGIN
is a nightmarish quality to this whole scenario, one that
I find particularly frightening.
you see, I just turned 50 the other day, the age at which
everything is supposed to come together and finally finally!
we're all grown-ups around here. And yet, suddenly, it seems
as if I'm going back, back, back in time, so that I'm forced
to relive (and re-fight) the controversies of yesteryear.
Except that, this time, instead of being exciting, the whole
thing seems about as interesting as reruns of the Smothers
Brothers Comedy Hour.
THEORY OF REINCARNATION
dreariness of life in wartime is multiplied a hundred-fold
by the oddly repetitive quality of the rhetoric. Now, in looking
to document this contention, I figured all I had to do was
go to Lucianne.com,
and I wasn't disappointed: the second posted item from the
top of the front page was a screed by one Lisa De Pasquale,
program director of something called the Claire Boothe Luce
Policy Institute, entitled: "Is Patriotism Dead on
America's College Campuses?" It
seems Ms. De Pasquale is shocked shocked! that
"more than 100 campuses in America have held anti-war demonstrations."
Furthermore, pro-war sentiment is supposedly being stifled,
and there follows a long litany of outrages De Pasquale seems
to think are so self-evidently horrific that she has only
to describe them.
Florida Gulf Coast University, faculty members were supposedly
told to take down their "Proud to be an American"
stickers because they might offend international students;
at San Francisco State University, the obviously subversive
"Students for Peace" has raised a typical pinko-commie slogan:
"Fight War, Not Wars!" And imagine this! at Wittenberg
College, in Ohio, "students are displaying the peace sign
rather than the American flag." The
problem, says De Pasquale, is all those pinko college professors.
that Dick Cheney or Spiro Agnew
I hear, denouncing those "nattering nabobs of negativism"?
Any minute now, Abbie Hoffman is going to leap back into
the spotlight, reincarnated, perhaps, in the body of the Wittenberg
College student who explained the peace sign is better than
the flag because its circular shape "promotes a more inclusive
atmosphere." Hey, Abbie, is it really you?"
OLD LADIES IN TENNIS SHOES
De Pasquale, for her part, could be the reincarnation of
whom? Perhaps those infamous little
old ladies in tennis shoes who, like Ms. De Pasquale,
were convinced back in the 1960s that American youth were
all in on some insidious commie plot, although, today, I guess
you might call it an "Islamist" plot. "These campuses," she
moans, "were once a haven for the exchange of ideas. But today
flags are being torn down, ROTC offices are being closed and
students are being silenced. Anti-American sentiments are
tolerated under the protection of free speech while ideas
on unity and patriotism are called 'intolerant' and 'oppressive.'"
What's next will "Up With People"
make a comeback?
the horror of it all! Just when it seemed the human
race may have made some progress, with the cold war
ended and Communism impaled on its own sword, we seem to have
been thrown back in time by the sheer force of the 9/11 explosion.
It's as if the shock of the extreme violence that occurred
that day tore open a hole in the space-time continuum,
and time went into reverse. We are now living, post-9/11,
in this retrograde reality, doomed to relive endlessly!
what has gone before, like characters in some
tiresome Existentialist play.
the height of the Vietnam War I was a rather precocious junior
high school student who had joined the major and the only
national right-wing youth organization, Young
Americans for Freedom (YAF). When I wasn't writing unpublishable
short stories and even worse poetry, I was churning out screeds
demanding that the US bomb Haiphong harbor. Among us young
rightists, for some reason, the whole solution to the Vietnam
war question seemed to be tied up with the utter destruction
of that commie harbor. If only the President would unleash
the military, and perhaps even consider the use of nuclear
weapons then and only then would the commies be defeated,
rolled back, and the South (and, perhaps, the North, too)
would be "liberated."
the course of my career as a right-winger, however, I soon
came to know better, in part due to my contact with libertarian
ideas, and specifically the worldview of libertarian theorist
N. Rothbard, but that was only much later. My conversion
to non-interventionism came, in even larger part, from the
mere sight of the war as it unfolded on national television.
I remember seeing the famous execution of a hapless Vietcong
sympathizer by one of our noble South Vietnamese allies: the
gun put right to the side of the guy's head, and BLAM!, his
brains were blown out as cameras clicked and whirred. Is this
what we're supposed to be fighting for? I thought and so
did millions of Americans, who turned away in horror from
that monstrous sight.
INTERVENTIONISM TO ISOLATIONISM
own evolution from traditional conservative with libertarian
leanings to a consistent advocate of a noninterventionist
foreign policy is not really the subject of this column: I
bring it up only to illustrate a point about the evolution
of foreign policy ideas in general. For the reality is that,
at least up until 9/11, the conservatives had long since given
up their reflexive belligerence and adopted a policy often
derisively referred to as "neo-isolationism."
hebephrenic hyper-interventionism of the Clinton years, combined
with the growing realization that the cold war had led to
the creation of a Welfare-Warfare State, inspired many conservatives
to take a noninterventionist stance. It had suddenly dawned
on many of them that, with the cold war over, the Right could
get on with its original mission: reducing the size and power
of government and unleashing the power and productivity of
the free market economy. Furthermore, they began to understand
the intimate correlation between freedom at home and peace
on the international front: the great leaps in the power of
government, they noticed (albeit in retrospect) had always
occurred during wartime. As liberals like Al Hunt triumphantly
declare that the era of antigovernment activism is over, these
conservatives are having the peace-and-freedom correlation
shoved in their faces even as President Bush and the Senate
Republicans capitulate to the left and federalize the airports,
while John Ashcroft tramples the Constitution underfoot.
PEACENIKS, TODAY'S WARMONGERS
post-cold war Left, on the other hand, evolved in the exact
opposite direction, becoming increasingly militaristic. Many
former leftists, having "converted" to the Rightist cause,
repented of their sins and jumped on the neo-conservative
bandwagon. Post-9/11, these former peaceniks are now the biggest
warmongers on the block. The paradigmatic example is David
Horowitz, the former leftist turned rightist, who once
blasted the Vietnam War from the pages of Ramparts
magazine, and is now libeling the antiwar movement as "traitors,"
"fifth-columnists," and "anti-American" becoming a parody
of what he used to hate.
Horowitz was marching against the Vietnam War, Pat Buchanan was on the
other side of the barricades, advising
Richard Nixon on how best to discredit the commie-peacenik-Black
Panther popular front that filled the streets with protesters.
Today, they are still on opposite sides of the barricades,
but have switched
positions: Horowitz, the former antiwar writer and activist,
ceaselessly agitates for extending the Afghan war to Iraq
and beyond. Buchanan, on the other hand, denounces
the War Party and avers that declaring war against 1 billion-plus
Muslims is not putting
evidence of Saddam's collusion in the terrorism of Sept. 11,
an attack on Iraq would be seen as an unprovoked, unjust war
that could bring Arab and Islamic mobs into the streets from
Morocco to Indonesia, risking the survival of Egypt, Jordan
and Saudi Arabia. What would it profit America to march to
Baghdad, only to have Cairo fall to anti-American mobs?"
the specifics of the story-line are different, and many of
the players have switched sides, what we're seeing is the
sixties scenario reenacted in all its essentials. Once again,
the War Party is intent on launching and, this time, winning
an unwinnable war in Asia. On the other hand, we have a
Peace Party that sees the threat of a wider war poses to civil
liberties at home, as well as our real interests abroad. Once
again, the War Party charges the Peace Party with "treason,"
and raises the specter of state repression. The weird sense
of déjà vu is heightened as all this takes place
against the backdrop of an economic downturn and looming social
and political upheaval. Those who fail to learn from history
are doomed to repeat it this is an old aphorism that advocates
of yet another invasion of the Asian landmass would do well
to keep in mind.
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