A blog entry I made a few weeks ago discussed The De-Evolution of The Left in Foreign Policy. Idealist, missionizing foreign policy goals were once the bastion of the "interventionalist Left" in the '50s/'60s who espoused them against the isolationist & Realist Right.
Now, we see messages about universal human values, liberation of peoples from their dictators, and integration into global norms far more likely to be espoused by the Neo-Con right.
David Skinner, writing for the Weekly Standard argues that the new Left position in Foreign Affairs is dominated by "cynicism" and "partisan enmity". Skinner first points at the curious reaction received by the British Foreign Office's report on the systematic murder of 100K Kurds by Saddam and the torture of thousands:
Saddam's regime, the report said, shows a "cruel and callous regard for human life and suffering." One would think such a report would receive standing ovations from human rights groups. Wrong. Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International, called the report "a cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists."
Since when did the (formerly) venerable insitution Amnesty International abandon it's guiding principle to expose political prisoners and repression wherever possible? We now have an AI more concerned with ExxonMobil's human rights record rather than Saddam's? Skinner provides a theory --
Given a choice between Saddam Hussein and his enemies, why in the world wouldn't Amnesty International prefer Saddam's enemies? Amnesty is, after all, a human rights organization. It is not a question of the honesty of the Foreign Office's report. Khan alleged no misreporting of Amnesty's research. The British government didn't make up the stories of torture, rape, and execution. What is it then? Well, to be of the Left is to be anti-American and to oppose America's allies. So it appears that Amnesty International cherishes its leftist credentials more than it does human rights.
Cynical party-based opposition is trumping the pursuit of principle. Skinner asks --
...why can't a Left that built its domestic agenda on equal rights for women and minorities oppose a dictator who licenses the procedural rape of dissident females and kills minorities? Why can't a Left that supports an absolute separation of church and state find the strength to oppose religious dictatorships abroad? Ditto for economic opportunity, the freedom of speech, and the right to vote. Why can't the Left be passionate about these ideals when it comes to the most pressing political events of the day?
And I'll answer. The Left's Foriegn Policy idealism of the past has both been destroyed and transmuted into something that barely registers as a value. The position of the Left, when questions of Foreign Policy are concerned, collapse into:
- PostModernism -- that ideals embodied in the Constitution are merely cultural artifacts of the Western experience and have no basis for being proselytized externally. Even worse, ideologies with a non-Western origin are automatically elevated to a peer status regardless of their inherent qualities. This elevation necessitates a systematic denial of any tools / techniques to make rational comparisons between the 2. The race card and religion cards amplify the power of this shield from inquiry. The UN's one-nation, one-vote system is a particularly graphic representation of this.
- National Legitimacy -- The NeoCon / Libertarian notion of the legitimacy of the state is that it derives from the consent of the governed and that it's primary goal is securing a basket of inviolable rights. By contrast, the new Lefty notion of legitimacy has an almost academic/Ivory Tower flavor. A national government gains legitimacy via recognition by other nations in the community -- much like the way a university department invites a new professor to the table. Once recognized, the nation is automatically granted a form of tenure that insulates it from external criticism of its legitimacy.
- Might makes wrong -- Might doesn't axiomatically make right but it doesn't axiomatically make wrong either. For lefties, the power discrepency between the West and the rest is viewed as it's own moral indictment. This is merely domestic victim politics elevated to the international stage. Western military/economic power is viewed as an accidental result in the face of a perceived moral/cultural/social hollowness. By contrast, the NeoCon/Libertarians tend to view the economic world within the sphere of cultural values and therefore more naturally see how Western Civilizational structures directly created that might. A NeoCon sees in the military a representation of Western cultural values.