Friday, April 15, 2005

The Berlin Wall Has Fallen On Us

As former chief of staff of the the Australian Labor Party's leader, Kim Beazley, Michael Costello could be expected to be less than sympathetic toward George Bush (hat tip: Glenn Reynolds).

It is entirely understandable that the Left is viscerally anti-Bush. His political strategy is not based on the democratic approach of seeking the middle ground, but on sharpening differences and divisions, of defaming and intimidating those who do not support him as appeasers, immoral and weak. His and his cabinet officers' contemptuous treatment of allies and the international institutional framework could not be better demonstrated than by his nomination of John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN. I have had direct experience of how Bolton works. He believes that when the US says "jump", others should ask "how high?" He tolerates nothing else.

But Costello goes on to note that Bush is nevertheless right in pushing for democracy around the globe. He ruefully says that his ex-chief has been wrong about the Iraqi elections and much else in the unfolding drama in the Middle East.

Some say, as did Kim Beazley, that the elections in Iraq have not had any influence on promoting democracy elsewhere in the region -- for example, in Lebanon. This is incorrect. The Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said recently of developments in Lebanon that "this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it." 

For some reason, George Bush and his chimpoids have been unaccountably lucky. "Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Bolton - they too will pass." What is important, Costello argues, is for the Left to reclaim its rightful place in the vanguard of history, so accidentally usurped by the Neanderthals in Washington. "What will go on is the great human desire to be free, which should be at the core of our foreign policy." It would be interesting to see which personalities in the Left Costello can convert to his view. Christopher Caldwell wrote a retrospective of the great French political writer Raymond Aron. (Hat tip: MIG) He particularly understood the problem with the Left's ideal of "freedom".

A key theme in much of his work ... is that until very late in the 20th century, people were judging events according to 19th-century conceptions. Particularly intellectuals, who had an understanding of socialism that time had already shown to be largely mythological. "In theory," Aron wrote, "a revolution is defined as a liberation. Yet the revolutions of the 20th century seem, if not revolutions of enslavement, at the very least revolutions of authority." ...

Costello's notion of "freedom" is curiously identified with "the democratic approach of seeking the middle ground" as if the essence of freedom was the willingness to compromise. Raymond Aron understood the fallacy. As the Nazi menace began to rise in Europe, Argon argued that the Left made the fatal mistake of believing that the exercise of freedom lay in compromising with the aggressor. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Caldwell wrote:

In March 1936, Blum's government opposed Germany's re-occupation of the Rhine by calling it "unacceptable." This is a word that Aron held in particular contempt. As he put it, "To say that something is unacceptable was to say that one accepted it." Again, Aron deeply admired Blum. But he noted with dismay that he seemed proud of putting up no resistance. After the German re-occupation, Blum said, "No one suggested using military force. That is a sign of humanity's moral progress, and the socialist party is proud to have contributed to progress." Aron added: "This moral progress meant the end of the French system of alliances, and almost certain war."

We hear an echo of Blum's words in the self-congratulatory speech that Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero gave on the first anniversary of the March 11 Madrid bombings, which brought his Socialist government to power and caused the pullout of Spanish troops from the Iraq coalition. In the course of a speech in which he praised his government's "inimitable integrity," Zapatero condemned those who questioned his decision, warning that they would be forgotten. "We reserve our memory for those noble and beautiful things that unite us, that make us rise up and advance in the worst moments, and that earn the admiration of other peoples. Because anyone who looks at us with just and objective eyes cannot fail to recognize the merit of Spain's actions."

And there is a faint re-echo of Zapatero's oblationary speech in Costello's strange critique. The chimpoid may have lacked the ability to compromise; but that defect was trivial beside the blindness that has afflicted the Left through history. Freedom is ultimately inherent in man, as Costello noted. It is independent of the foreign policy of the Left.