Victor Hanson on the lunatic fringes

My blogroll link to Victor Hanson takes you to his website, where you’ll find a ready supply of his columns and essays, which come along at the rate of two or three a week (or so it seems). Hanson does have an actual blog as well, at PajamasMedia, which I think isn’t quite as good as the website. The item below is from his June 21 blog postings and it’s about the lunatic fringes of the Left and Right.

Like Hanson, I grew up in a home where the memory of FDR was subjected to considerable reverence. My parents held him roughly on the level of a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. I’m assuming that the Birchers and the like referenced by Hanson were more common in California than in upstate New York (well, just barely upstate) where I grew up, because I don’t recall hearing much about or from them:

When I was growing [up] in rural California in the 1950s and 1960s, my FDR parents winced at the nut right-wing fringe. This was, remember, the era of bulk mailings on pink paper, crazy “Did you know?” unsollicted newsletters detailing the names of local and national communists, usually sent from strange addresses in the Sierra Nevada foothills. At seven and eight, we used to pick them up from the garbage and ask our parents, “Hey, Mom, are Lucy and Ricky really communists?”

My cattleman uncle Tango used to stop by with John Birch literature, warning us about the impending fluoride conspiracy to make us all impotent.

The boy-scout troop leader would stop by, trying to sell us his version of a metal bomb shelter (a septic tank with hatches), and preached how we could win a nuclear war against Castro et al.

A neighbor used to preach to us that Caesar Chavez was employed by the KGB, and that the UFW was controlled by Moscow. The local paper’s op-eds still fought over Social Security and the Minimum Wage as equivalent to the Revolution of 1917. And always [there] were the “hate the Jews” subtexts and allusions, alleging some sort of world banking conspiracy to rob us white rural folk who worked hard to send our peaches eastward only to have them hijacked and resold at ten times what they gave us by long-nosed crooks “on the East Coast”. You get the picture—the Right had a problem with its so-called wing nuts.

But over the years, conservatism came to terms with civil rights and anti-Semitism. Free markets, not socialism, enriched America and brought a level of affluence undreamed of it to the poor. (When I was seven, outhouses and unpaved roads were common in West Selma; today in the same neighborhood you see SUVS, new tract houses, and I-pods and blue teeth in the ears of illegal aliens.). And so the Klan, Birchers, and other assorted embarrassments were peeled off.

The left in the 1940s and 1950s had likewise gotten rid of its communist wing, and ostracized its fellow travelers. Henry Wallace was taken off the ticket. Dean Acheson and George Kennan had made liberal anti-communism logical rather than paradoxical.

But now the Left, still going on the fumes of the 1960s, has the greater problem with its extremists. Of course, the “base” can attack Bush on immigration, gay marriage, etc. but not from a position of sheer lunacy. The same is not true of the netroots or the Cindy Shee[ha]n/Michael Moore wing on the Left. They openly praise our enemies, whether in Syria or Iraq (“Minutemen”). They prefer the unfree world of Chavez and Castro to our own. And their language and methodology are as uncouth and repulsive as were the old tactics of the Birch Society.

I don’t think the Democratic Party will ever govern successfully until it does to its crazed extreme Left what the Republicans once did to the wacko far right. Collate what Sens. Boxer, Durban, Kennedy, Reid, or Howard Dean, or the Hollywood elite have said since 9/11 and you can see the practical problem in contemporary liberalism: anywhere, at any time, a Democratic liberal is apt to slur the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, declare a war lost even as it is being fought, praise a dictator, travel to a police state to conduct freelance diplomacy, or—Jimmy Carter like—compliment terrorists and killers. In short, even in the cynical sense, Dems need a series of staged Sister Soulja moments.


As for the provenance of the current “peace” movement, at last a subject that I know a little more about than Hanson.

I certainly don’t object per se to people opposing this or that war, or even to people who are constitutionally pacifist opposing all war (though perhaps a nice sentiment, that sort of pacifism has nothing to do with reality in a nasty world). And there’s no way that I would support a war simply because a president, any president, wanted to wage one. But I am always wary of anything that declares itself a “peace” movement, because it almost invariably has nothing to do with the real merits of or objections to a particular war.

More often “peace” movement means a “surrender” movement, as it does now with Iraq. Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore, both cited by Hanson, are not at the core of today’s “peace” movement. Sheehan is more a useful idiot than anything else, and Moore is just a guy who has figured out how to get rich off of Lefty pop-culture.

The current “peace” movement got started fairly soon after the 9/11 attacks by a group called the ANSWER Coalition (the initials stand for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). ANSWER was the sponsor of most of the big “peace” marches in D.C. and New York and many locations around the country before some other groups got involved in taking the lead.

ANSWER is a front group for the Workers World Party (WWP), a small fringe Communist party with apparently great organizational skills. But the WWP isn’t just an odd group of Marxists. It’s a heavily committed group of Stalinists, with a special affection for Kim Jong Il, the demented little creep who runs the brutal regime in North Korea. (And I’m not kidding when I emphasize affection.) So, that’s the group that stage-managed the “peace” movement and so obviously lent to it the irrationality (or that “special rationality” of the Communist mind, with its blame America first propaganda kit) that has leached upwards into the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

There were good arguments on both sides of the debate on whether to take down the Hussein regime in Iraq. They basically boiled down to “be very careful what you get yourself into in the Middle East” to “we’ve already let this go on too long.”

Amidst all the caterwauling from the “peace” movement, there’s a tendency to lose track of basic facts, like the case against the Iraqi regime having been the most thoroughly adjudicated case against a rogue regime in the history of the UN. Those who call the war in Iraq “illegal” should read United Nations Security Council resolution 1441 along with the preceding and underlying UNSC resolutions regarding Iraq. It’s easier to scream platitudes about “illegal war” than to read and understand the resolutions, something that the unlamented former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan himself apparently had no interest in doing. (Annan famously called the war in Iraq “illegal,” a remark much taken to heart by the “peace” movement though Annan neither had the authority nor the basis to make such a judgment.)

The antiwar rhetoric goes downhill from there. And it’s of unlimited variation and supply, as are all things that are principally the work of imagination. The failure to find WMDs in Iraq, for instance, overrides and confuses whose responsibility it was to account for Iraqi WMDs — not the “inspectors,” but the regime itself. Had it done so, Saddam Hussein would still be president of Iraq. Fortunately, in my opinion, the regime failed to meet those obligations and is no more. It was a revanchist regime with a thousand times the resources of a non-state terrorist organization like al Qaeda. After 9/11, an outfit like Saddam Hussein’s could no longer be tolerated, not when containment in the traditional sense no longer meant anything in an age of aggressive asymmetrical warfare. And not when that regime had refused to satisfy the conditions of the cease fire it had been granted in 1991 by the UN Security Council. Resolution 1441, you’ll recall, found the Iraqi regime in “continuing material breach” of those cease fire conditions and obligations.

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