saul singer 88.
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The question posed by Wilfred M. McClay in an essay in the January issue of Commentary , "Is Conservatism Finished?" is a fair one. He notes the defection of some Republicans and conservatives from the war in Iraq, and Democratic electoral successes, but concludes: "The fissures and conflicts within conservatism are getting so much attention now because conservatism is still, intellectually speaking, where the principal action remains."
Yet the truth is that, when it comes to addressing the central challenge in the world today, both liberalism and conservatism are in crisis.
The Bush policy is stalled, and under attack not just from liberals, but from "realist" conservatives like James Baker and from neoconservatives who argue, as I do, that he has swerved off his original course.
But the conservative crisis is a tactical and management one, magnified by the fact that conservatives are in power. The liberal crisis is deeper, since it goes to the heart of what this camp stands for.
Luckily, some liberals are beginning to realize that conservative disarray should not lead them to become so carried away with proving what they are not that they forget what they stand for.
This is essentially the message of a group of British intellectuals who launched "The Euston Manifesto" in March, and a similar group of 200 prominent Americans who joined this effort in September (see www.NewAmericanLiberalism.org "Some of us" the American statement says of radical Islam, "view this ideology ... as the third major form of totalitarian ideology of the last century, after fascism and Nazism, on the one hand, and Communism, on the other. Others regard it as having a history in the Arab and Islamic world that eludes the label of totalitarianism. We all agree however that it fosters dictatorship, terror, anti-Semitism and sexism of a most retrograde kind. ..."
"We understand that the United States must continue to take the lead with our allies in confronting this danger. ... Anger at the Bush administration, however justified, should not trump opposition to all aspects of jihadism," says the American liberal statement.
'CONFRONTING" has become a bit of a dirty word for liberals, at least with respect to Islamofascism, if not George Bush. Whichever side, or both, is to blame, the fact remains the same: the "war against terrorism" has become a partisan issue, rather than a consensus one.
The Democrats' takeover of the Congress, though it followed a bitterly divisive election, should provide an opportunity to change this situation.
Now that the Democrats have promised to flex their new political muscles in foreign policy, they will share responsibility for the results of Bush's emasculated policies. As Colin Powell reportedly warned Bush about Iraq, you break it, you own it.
Both for political reasons and to salvage their own identity, liberals need to resist their instincts, hold their noses, and form a new consensus with Bush on foreign policy. Liberalism, for its own sake, cannot be seen to be soft on the greatest totalitarian threat of our age.
If anything, liberals have grounds to blame Bush for not doing enough to confront Islamofascism.
ONE SUBTEXT of liberal opposition to the war in Iraq is the contention that that war distracted from the more serious threat from Iran. This argument cannot be credibly made, of course, if liberals themselves show disinterest in the Iranian threat.
In her first major interview since becoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi spent much time emphasizing that Bush would not have automatic support for a troop increase in Iraq. She was neither asked, nor did she volunteer, what the Democrats would do about Iran.
Iran may not be on the American journalistic radar screen, but the Democrats should not wait for Bush to put it there. It is they who should be working to identify themselves with the need to confront Iran. If Bush is fighting the wrong war, what is the right one?
The answer that there is no right war will not work morally or politically. It does not square with the entirely rational sense of insecurity felt by Americans and elsewhere.
We all, liberals included, know that the world will be a much more dangerous place if Iran is allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.
The Iranian regime stands for, and is working actively to propagate, everything liberals are supposed to be against: dictatorship, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and terrorism. What do liberals want to do about it?
Liberals also say they believe in international law and multilateralism, rather than the unilateral use of force. So why are groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch indifferent to recently launched campaign to indict Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide under the Genocide Convention? Why doesn't Speaker Pelosi lead a Congressional delegation to Europe to push for draconian economic and diplomatic sanctions on Iran?
Nancy Pelosi led the fight against granting Most Favored Nation trade status to China, and did so against her own president, Bill Clinton. "Unlike China's authoritarian rulers who choose to forget the massacre in Tiananmen Square, we do not," she explained. "We are emboldened by the sacrifice thousands have made to freedom and democracy in China, and live to fight another day."
Iran squashes freedom with no less of an iron fist, and in addition has been fomenting terrorism from Baghdad to Beirut, Gaza, and Buenos Aires. American liberals knew how to fire up their righteous indignation not only against Chinese despots, but others in South Africa, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Chile and even Iran under the Shah. They need to rediscover that passion now.
If they do, and they join Bush in applying it to the Islamofascists in Teheran, they will remove their main political Achilles' heel going into 2008 and, by the way, save the world.