Liberalism & The Nature of Sacrifice

by on March 21st, 2008

We’ve spent countless hours trying to divine the modern liberal sensibility, from its atavistic embrace of noxious racial politics to its perennial preoccupation with victimhood. Perhaps the most vexing and inscrutable issue is their apparent incapacity to appreciate the geopolitical implications of the war in Iraq.

For a prototypical example, we turn to Leonard Pitts, whose piece on Iraq in the Miami Herald covers every counter-intuitive paradox in the liberal play-book. Although it’s largely a ‘cut and paste’ editorial cobbled together from the left’s book of received wisdom, it’s still instructive to peer inside the dark inner-workings of their arguments, if only to try to fathom the curvilinear nature of their reasoning.

Pitts rounds up the usual suspects: No WMD, we weren’t greeted as liberators, no connection to 9/11, Iraq’s become a recruiting station for Islamic terrorists, infrastructure problems, and, their latest complaint, the costs of the war. We won’t succumb to the temptation to pick these off like so many ducks at a carnival shooting stand because most people understand what might be kindly referred to as the frailty of their arguments.

The deeper, which is to say, more profound question is why the left seems incapable of seeing the broader, longitudinal implications of a stable–i.e., nominally democratic–Iraq in the Middle East? Part of the answer lies in the left’s obvious disinclination to sacrifice for a greater good, which forces us to view the politics of defeat as a prime motivator.

Simply stated, in order for liberalism to be successful in the arena of foreign affairs, America must lose in Iraq, which would prove the folly of the incursion in the first place. They won’t tell you that, but why else does the mainstream media, academia, and the entertainment moguls remain in ideological lockstep, exploiting every opportunity to tell voters how we’ve failed there? Or, to turn it over, why is the success of the surge–which really can’t be denied with a straight face–the political equivalent of kryptonite for the left?

No one, regardless of political affiliation, is immune from horror of imagining a family’s reaction to the loss of a loved one in war. But sacrifice, whether for freedom and stability in Iraq or to free Europe in World War Two, exacts painful costs. You can choose virtually any battle in that war, be it Guadalcanal or Midway in the Pacific or the Battle of the Bulge or Normandy in Europe, and the losses were staggering in comparison. The difference then was not only a defined enemy in identifiable theaters, but an America that understood what was at stake.

Indeed, the other salient feature of the modern liberal is a dim, obtuse appreciation of the meaning of 9/11–the horrendous capstone of nearly three decades of attacks on the U.S. and her global allies and interests. Rather, the left cavils about the absence of WMD in Iraq and the lack of substantive connections between Iraq and 9/11. It’s that kind of skimming of evidence that illustrates the purely craven nature of their motivation.

As Senator McCain has correctly observed, it’s not the length of time we’re in Iraq, it’s the casualty rate. We have troops in dozens of countries world-wide, with South Korea and Germany being the most notable examples, and the left doesn’t call for their withdrawal because they implicitly understand the strategic role they play as counterweights to unstable regions.

If we can achieve a measure of political stability in Iraq, the implications for avoiding war with Iran are substantial. If we leave prematurely, it’s almost guaranteed we’ll be drawn into war with Ahmadinejad. Moreover, a stable Iraq would lay the groundwork for urging meaningful reforms in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, as well as better control over the Israeli-Palestinian internecine.

But for reasons best left to cultural psychologists, the Pitts of the world seem incapable of understanding that nothing of lasting value comes without sacrifice. It makes one wonder whether there’s anything–save raw political power–they would fight for.

Mella is editor of

Philip Mella