The peril of ideology

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, Sep 10, 2006.

  1. America’s Ideologue in Chief
    by Patrick J. Buchanan - September 9, 2006

    “The war we fight today is more than a military conflict,” said President Bush to the American Legion. “It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.”

    But if the ideology of our enemy is “Islamofascism,” what is the ideology of George W. Bush? According to James Montanye, writing in The Independent Review, it is “democratic fundamentalism.” Montanye borrows Joseph Schumpeter’s depiction of Marxism to describe it.

    Like Marxism, he writes, democratic fundamentalism “presents, first, a system of ultimate ends that embody the meaning of life and are absolute standards by which to judge events and actions; and, secondly, a guide to those ends which implies a plan of salvation and the indication of the evil from which mankind, or a chosen section of mankind, is to be saved. … It belongs to that subgroup (of ‘isms’) which promises paradise this side of the grave.”

    Ideology is substitute religion, and Bush’s beliefs were on display in his address to the Legion, where he painted the “decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century” in terms of good and evil.

    “On the one side are those who believe in the values of freedom … the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism, the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest.”

    Casting one’s cause in such terms can be effective in wartime. In his Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural, Lincoln converted a war to crush Southern secession into a crusade to end slavery and save democracy on earth.

    Wilson recast a European war of imperial powers as a ” war to end war” and “make the world safe for democracy.” FDR and Churchill in the Atlantic Charter talked of securing “the Four Freedoms,” but were soon colluding to hand over Eastern Europe to the worst tyrant and mass murderer of the 20th century.

    The peril of ideology is that it rarely comports with reality and is contradicted by history, thus leading inevitably to disillusionment and tragedy. Consider but a few of the assertions in Bush’s address.

    Said Bush, we know by “history and logic” that “promoting democracy is the surest way to build security.” But history and logic teach, rather, what George Washington taught: The best way to preserve peace is to be prepared for war and to stay out of wars that are none of the nation’s business.

    “Democracies don’t attack each other or threaten the peace,” said Bush. How does he then explain the War of 1812, when we went to war against Britain, when she was standing up to Napoleon? What about the War Between the States? Were not the seceding states democratic? What about the Boer War, begun by the Brits? What about World War I, fought between the world’s democracies, which also happened to be empires ruling subject peoples?

    In May 1901, a 26-year-old Tory member of Parliament rose to issue a prophetic warning: “Democracy is more vindictive than Cabinets. The wars of peoples will be more terrible than the wars of kings.” Considering the war that came in 1914 and the vindictive peace it produced, giving us Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler, was not Churchill more right than Bush?

    “Governments accountable to the people focus on building roads and schools — not weapons of mass destruction,” said Bush. But is it not the democracies — Israel, India, Britain, France, the United States — that possess a preponderance of nuclear weapons? Are they all disarming? Were not the Western nations first to invent and use poison gas and atom bombs?

    Insisting it is the lack of freedom that fuels terrorism, Bush declares, “Young people who have a say in their future are less likely to search for meaning in extremism.” Tell it to Mussolini and the Blackshirts. Tell it to the Nazis, who loathed the free republic of Weimar, as did the communists.

    “Citizens who can join a peaceful political party are less likely to join a terrorist organization.” But the West has been plagued by terrorists since the anarchists. The Baader-Meinhoff Gang in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, the Puerto Ricans who tried to kill Harry Truman, the London subway bombers were all raised in freedom.

    “Dissidents with the freedom to protest around the clock,” said the president, “are less likely to blow themselves up at rush hour.” But Hamas and Islamic Jihad resort to suicide bombing because they think it a far more effective way to overthrow Israeli rule than marching with signs.

    What Bush passed over in his speech is that it is the autocratic regimes in Cairo, Riyadh and Amman that hold back the pent-up animosity toward America and Israel, and free elections that have advanced Hamas, Hezbollah, the Moslem Brotherhood and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

    In Iraq, we see the inevitable tragedy of ideology, of allowing some intellectual construct, not rooted in reality, to take control of the minds of men.
  2. Pat seems to be getting considerably more astute in his old age.
  3. The problem with ideological thinking, is that a system of justice and laws then take a back seat to the mission of the ideology.

    The end justifies the means is the mission of an ideology, unless the ideology itself is to have and hold fast to the system of law and justice.

    Following 9/11, there was an opportunity to frame the situation in ideological terminology or legal terminology.

    Legally, 9/11 was a criminal act, and reasonably in my mind to respond with law enforcement and justice, within the rules of our law enforcement and justice system.

    That system of ours, the rules of our justice system, both domestically and foreign, has rules that need to be followed...or if not, we ourselves are engaged in criminal acts, we violate law in the name of justice...which is a most slippery slope, especially when driven by an executive branch.

    The payoff, and the reason that Bush framed the situation is ideological terms, in "You are with us, or you are with the terrorists" and "Axis of Evil" is that there is a concept ideologically, if one is good, then any action that follows is also good...or at least excused by proxy of goodness.

    The thinking becomes we kill, we terrorize, we torture, which by ideology is good, because we kill the evil. There is never any violation of law or rules, as long as we are good fighting evil. Everything they do, even if good, is also evil, because they are evil. Every means is rationalized as good because the projected end is goodness fighting for goodness.

    This simplistic black and white type of ideological thought is as old as history. It appeals to simple minded thinking, and those who want to blame the other, and think that we never do anything wrong, or that we are part of the overall problem in our policy. It appeals to the sense that the enemy is all bad, so that we can do whatever is considered bad by the name of good, therefore, we can do no wrong. We need not change at all, we need only to silence anyone who doesn't agree with us.

    Since we paint ourselves as good, and those we disagree with as evil...there is no need to examine the actual goodness or lawfulness of our actions. We can ignore international law, Geneva conventions, our own Constitution...because we are good, they are evil, and everything we do is matter how unlawful it may appear.

    There is absolutism and dogmatism, and fundamentalism in this good vs. evil framing of the situation. Even if we never say we are good, by labeling them as evil, we are automatically thrust into the roll of good by the nature of polarizing a situation.

    Those who question the Bush's actions are labeled by the Bush ideological lackeys as siding with the evil doers.

    It is all or nothing thinking, in a situation where we have seen historically some essentially good people, become quite evil in their actions...all in the name of good as they define good. The fundamentalist radical Islamists do the exact same thing. We see in the Israel/Palestine conflict that both sides do this as well. There is no middle ground, no room for negotiation and compromise...only good vs. evil, with both sides claiming they are good and their enemy evil.

    I would have preferred the U.S. to have taken a course following 9/11 as labeling the terrorist as criminals, and laying our foundation for our actions on the basis of law and justice...not cowboy jingoism and neocon ideology.

  4. What you are describing is just another ideology. In a perfect world, it would be great to be able to apply ordinary due process to the 911 terrorists. But, this isn't a perfect world, and those terrorists cannot possibly be "arrested" in the sense of a typical criminal arrest, while they reside in foreign jurisdictions which do not recognize any justice delivered with other than the point of sword.

    Frankly, I think that the terrorists will understand us just killing them off, wherever they reside, much more thoroughly than they would our capturing them, trying, sentencing and imprisoning them with our system. They view our legal system as a weakness, not a strength. Whereas they view overwhelming force and total humiliation as a demonstration of superiority and strength.

    And, this is what I think Mr. Buchanan was getting at with his column. We make far too much of ideology, and we would be better off just "cuttin' heads."
  5. That wasn't his main thrust at all. What the article was really about is summarize in this line: "The peril of ideology is that it rarely comports with reality and is contradicted by history, thus leading inevitably to disillusionment and tragedy. "

    Neocons are convinced that they can remake Muslims into good little liberal democrats. But can they? One look at Iraq ought to cast doubt at least on their confidence, if not the entire theoretical case.

    What Buchanan wants is for America to just leave the Muslim world the hell alone to fashin its own destiny (and at the same time distance itself from Israel). Buchanan understands that battling terrorism is fundamentally a border control and policework issue; it doesn't require crusades for democracy. If anything, such crusades only compound the existing problem, because at same time the US is launching wars in Muslim countries it is welcoming ever more Muslims into its borders - a recipe for disaster.
  6. Perhaps you're right that this wasn't the column's thrust at all. But, it's mine, nevertheless. To me it's not about ideology. It's just about survival.
  7. saxon


    Very nice piece, Z10. :)

    It is devilishly tempting to paint one's adversary with the most negative veneer possible in an effort to make one's point. You certainly have pulled no punches with your critiques of the Bush administration. But as far as W's speeches and statements that I have read, it seems like he has gone out of his way to draw a distinction between the car bombing freelancers, and the general Islamic population. Perhaps TOO much of a distinction...inasmuch as the 'moderate' Muslims of the world have been so silent about the atrocities perpetrated in the name of Islam.

    Re: the Buchanan piece...

    What's the big deal about a discussion of ideology? OF COURSE that's what the human struggle is about at this point..."how shall men live" (the obsession of Greek philosophy).

    The religious perspective dovetails with the secular aspects of that concern in that it might help to provide the necessary mindset to rise above the "might makes right" rut that humanity cannot seem to extricate itself from.

    The religious tradition that I am most familiar with is Christianity, but this could apply to many different faiths: I could imagine Jesus' message of brotherhood and love being--not a quaint prescription for eternal salvation--but a requirement for the survival of the species.
  8. Bush has admitted that he made a mistake in the beginning with his tough cowboy talk, the bravado, the macho BS crap.

    I agree that he is now trying to tone it down, but the problem is credibility.

    Who really believes him now? Polls show that Bush has lost the marvelous credibility he had right after 9/11, of both the American electorate and world wide. Sadly, he appears as pathetic, weak and lost as his old man did.

    Do people really see him as a reasonable and thoughtful man, acting reasonably and dispassionately...or do they think of him actually as a crusader doing the "will of God" to purge the evil doers?

    Bush has burned too many bridges in my opinion, and is now failed...and even many in his own party shun him, as evidenced by the number of repubs running in November who are not soliciting his help with their campaigns.

    Geez sax, just look at the man! The presidency is a killer, especially if the second term doesn't go well...

  9. ( Oh well, then again... )

    Bush Tells Group He Sees a 'Third Awakening'

    By Peter Baker
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, September 13, 2006; A05

    President Bush said yesterday that he senses a "Third Awakening" of religious devotion in the United States that has coincided with the nation's struggle with international terrorists, a war that he depicted as "a confrontation between good and evil."

    Bush told a group of conservative journalists that he notices more open expressions of faith among people he meets during his travels, and he suggested that might signal a broader revival similar to other religious movements in history. Bush noted that some of Abraham Lincoln's strongest supporters were religious people "who saw life in terms of good and evil" and who believed that slavery was evil. Many of his own supporters, he said, see the current conflict in similar terms.

    "A lot of people in America see this as a confrontation between good and evil, including me," Bush said during a 1 1/2 -hour Oval Office conversation on cultural changes and a battle with terrorists that he sees lasting decades. "There was a stark change between the culture of the '50s and the '60s -- boom -- and I think there's change happening here," he added. "It seems to me that there's a Third Awakening."

    The First Great Awakening refers to a wave of Christian fervor in the American colonies from about 1730 to 1760, while the Second Great Awakening is generally believed to have occurred from 1800 to 1830.

    Some scholars and writers have debated for years whether a Third Awakening has been taking place, although some identify other awakenings in U.S. history. Bush aides, including Karl Rove, have read Robert William Fogel's "The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism."

    Bush has been careful discussing the battle with terrorists in religious terms since he had to apologize for using the word "crusade" in 2001. He often stresses that the war is not against Islam but against those who corrupt it. In his comments yesterday, aides said Bush was not casting the war as a religious struggle but was describing American cultural changes in a time of war.

    "He's drawing a parallel in terms of a resurgence, in dangerous times, of people going back to their religion," said one aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was not open to other journalists. "This is not 'God is on our side' or anything like that."

    The White House did not release a transcript of Bush's remarks, but National Review posted highlights on its Web site. On another topic, Bush rejected sending more troops to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas to find Osama bin Laden. "One hundred thousand troops there in Pakistan is not the answer. It's someone saying 'Guess what' and then the kinetic action begins," he said, meaning an informer disclosing bin Laden's location.