a great society in the middle east...A conservative columnist, on the website of a conservative magazine, writes this week that the bold application of state power produces significant and positive transformations in society:
Every time the United States the last quarter century had acted boldly — its removal of Noriega and aid for the Contras, instantaneous support for a reunified Germany, extension of NATO, preference for Yeltsin instead of Gorbachev, Gulf War I, bombing of Milosevic, support for Sharon's fence, withdrawal from Gaza and decapitation of the Hamas killer elite, taking out the Taliban and Saddam-good things have ensued. In contrast, on every occasion that we have temporized — abject withdrawal from Lebanon, appeasement of Arafat at Oslo, a decade of inaction in the Balkans, paralysis in Rwanda, sloth in the face of terrorist attacks, not going to Baghdad in 1991 — corpses pile up and the United States became either less secure or less respected or both.This seems like an argument with problematic implications for conservatives; if the state produces positive results by acting "boldly," being "daring," and working against the global "status quo," then why should it not do the same domestically? Does the law of unintended consequences work as advertised, or doesn't it?
So it is also in this present war, in which our unheralded successes far outweigh our notorious mistakes. A number of books right now in galleys are going to look very, very silly, as they forecast American defeat, a failed Middle East, and the wages of not listening to their far smarter recommendations of using the U.N. more, listening to Europe, or bringing back the Clinton A-Team.
America's daring, not its support for the familiar — but ultimately unstable and corrupt — status quo, explains why less than three years after September 11, the Middle East is a world away from where it was on the first day of the war. And that is a very good thing indeed.
The second problem is for the political left, which has largely rejected Bush's democratization strategy as hubristic. Call it what you want, Bush is clearly using state power to engage in social engineering; the rejection of that kind of plan as arrogant and overambitious has, again, implications that have not yet been worked through.
So to sum up: Conservatives are people who favor the unrestrained application of state power for massive projects of social engineering; leftists favor the restraint of state power and the abnegation of social engineering.
I now return to drinking beer.