Saturday, August 16, 2008

Antiwar Leftists and Unpatriotic Conservatives

One of the most amazing things surrounding debates over the Iraq war, and now also with Russia's invasion of Georgia, is the odd antiwar alliance between the extreme left and extreme right in American politics.

The coalition of antiwar left and right has recently been in the news with its "Strange Bedfellows" efforts seeking revenge
against centrist Democrats who voted for FISA reauthorization in June. Recall, as well, a few years back Cindy Sheehan, the America-bashing antiwar activist, was found posting her attacks on alleged Bush administration warmongering at the homepage of Lew Rockwell, a widely recognized advocate of "right-wing libertarianism."

The latest example of this unprincipled extreme left-right alliance is in
Newshogger's anti-neocon hysterics over Robert Kagan's new piece at the Weekly Standard. According to Newshoggers:
Eight years ago I would not have believed that I would ever think Pat Buchanan could be a voice of sanity. But as neocons like Robert Kagan can hardly contain their enthusiasm when they see an opportunity to fire up the cold war again it is Buchanan who comes across as sane. Now the neocons never did like the "War on Terror". Their attempts to turn it into a "real" war have for the most part been dismal failures. Over at Pat Buchanan describes how hypocritical the neocon's outrage over Russia's response to Saakashvili's blunder really is.
Buchanan, of course, is the publisher of the American Conservative, a down-market journal of paleoconservative ideology and leading purveyor of the left-right antiwar alliance. The magazine regularly features articles from prominent far-right Iraq oppenents such as historian Andrew Bacevich and political scientist Michael Desch.

In 2003, David Frum identified the far-right antiwar activists as "
unpatriotic conservatives":

You may know the names of these antiwar conservatives. Some are famous: Patrick Buchanan and Robert Novak. Others are not: Llewellyn Rockwell, Samuel Francis, Thomas Fleming, Scott McConnell, Justin Raimondo, Joe Sobran, Charley Reese, Jude Wanniski, Eric Margolis, and Taki Theodoracopulos.

The antiwar conservatives aren't satisfied merely to question the wisdom of an Iraq war. Questions are perfectly reasonable, indeed valuable. There is more than one way to wage the war on terror, and thoughtful people will naturally disagree about how best to do it, whether to focus on terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah or on states like Iraq and Iran; and if states, then which state first?

But the antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation's enemies.
This left-right antiwar alliance seems impossible from the perspective of political theory.

Yet, if we recall that antiwar conservatives are essentially political reactionaries, found on the extreme right-wing fringe of the political continuum, their hostility to strong-state military power is understandable. Indeed, this anti-statism is where the radical left and reactionary right find common cause. Both elements seek far-reaching change, and some within each side advocate violence to bring about a fundamental transformation of political institutions. The left-right antiwar alliance can be understood, in a sense, by bending the straight-line left-right continuum up into a circle, which brings the two fringes, left and right, together as an anti-American bloc of radical-reactionary commonality.

The Newshoggers are well-know revolutionary socialists. They regularly cheer insurgent attacks on American forces in Iraq, and they routinely demonize neoconservatives who advocate mainstream foreign policy positions on war and peace. By forthrightly joining with the paleoconservative attacks on America's response to Russian aggression, they're furthering the left-right tradition of hating the Bush administration, the GOP, and the country.