Peter Beinart is very astute in his comparison of the “war on terrorism” to the “war on communism”. They are, has he points out, very similar. But it is bewildering to me that he fails to see what incredibly dangerous folly that the cold war was and the war on terrorism is. Both are tools of conservatives to scare the rest of us into doing what they want. Both have vague and shadowy villains and no real way to ever bring them to justice and no way to ever bring these wars to a conclusion. And why would they want to? A perpetual state of fear is required to keep us thankful for being alive and not concerning ourselves with the increasing disparity of rich and poor, the decimation of our environment and the degradation of our civil liberties.
In his defense of the war on terrorism, Mr. Beinart has suggested the cold war was a war “against totalitarianism”. In this I’m not sure if he is being child like in his naiveté or simply willfully ignorant. While the Soviet Union was to be sure, a totalitarian state, saying the cold war was “a war against totalitarianism" is tantamount to saying the civil war was a “war against slavery”. That being so vast an over simplification that it boarders so closely on falsehood and the two are nearly indistinguishable. While the cold war and the war on terrorism both stared as reactions to real threats, in the end, both have much more to do with the political necessity of a villain then safety of the American people. And so these wars live on, vastly extending the lives of the threats which bore them.
What Mr. Beinart also fails to recall is that his beloved cold war very nearly killed us all and every other living thing on the planet during the Cuban missile crisis. Such are the consequences of fear mongering. Yet, it is this same fear mongering that Mr. Bienart would have us employ for our own political benefit. He would have us set aside our morals and risk our very lives to take up the weapons of the fear and hatred in an attempt to win back a short lived political power. And what a hollow victory it would be. A victory much like that won by of those “liberals” of 1947 in which Mr. Beinart speaks so fondly. A victory that created a 50 year state of near war that occasionally flared into the real thing in Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua and many other places where liberals were defenseless to stand up to any demand of the carnivorous right wing wrapped in the cloak of “anti-communism”. Is that what America Mr. Beinart would have us a live in? The America of the McCarthyism? The America of Mi Lia? I can not and will not accept that solution.
The hard truth is that liberals should take up the mantle of making America live up to its ideals and teaching the rest of America that there is another way. A way in which extremist are isolated, not empowered. For that is surly what we do now. The war on terrorism has taken us from a world with great sympathy for the United States , to a world with great mistrust of the United States . It has united our enemies and divided our allies. It allows the extremist to grow stronger every day, transforming Al Qaeda from a tiny disorganized cult to huge organization with ten times it original members in a matter of a few short years.
But why should this be surprising? We did the same for the Soviet Union . The war on communism took a backward agrarian society handicapped by despots and turned them into a super power. All that thanks to a politically expedient policy of “us vs. them” that played well to voters back home. Pundits may point the fall of the Soviet Union as a great achievement of this same us foreign policy, but those who take the time to look learn that the fall of the Soviet Union had much more do to with the fact that communism doesn’t work, then any action we might have undertook. If fact, we greatly extended the life of the Soviet Union by giving the soviet dictators a convenient scapegoat to blame their failings on and ask even greater sacrifices of their people, just as our leaders were doing the same. And now, we are doing the same for Muslims all over the world, transforming Osama Bin Laden from fringe loony to great defender of their culture.
I can not say doing the right thing will be easy. I can not say that it will deliver a stunning political turn around in 2008. I can not even say that Mr. Beinart will not succeed, as his predecessors in 1947 did, in expunging the democratic party of people like myself and other moderates and intellectuals. But I can say, is that this time, when he comes to take my party from me, he will have to take from my cold dead hands.