"In the United States a disturbingly large minority of people - polls suggest around 40% - remain willing to accept Bush's assertions that Americans and their allies, which chiefly means the British, are faced with a single global conspiracy by Islamic fundamentalists to destroy our societies.* josh:
In less credulous Britain one could nowadays fit into an old-fashioned telephone box those who believe anything Bush or Tony Blair says about foreign policy. Many of us are consumed with frustration. We know that we face a real threat from Muslim fundamentalists, and that we are unlikely to begin to defeat this until we see it for what it is: something infinitely more complex, diffuse and nuanced than the US president wishes to suppose.
Bush has chosen to lump together all violent Muslim opposition to what he perceives as western interests everywhere in the world, as part of a single conspiracy. He is indifferent to the huge variance of interests that drives the Taliban in Afghanistan, insurgents in Iraq, Hamas and Hizbullah fighting the Israelis. He simply identifies them as common enemies of the United States.
The madness of Bush's policy is that he has made a wilful choice to amalgamate the grossly irrational, totalitarian and homicidal objectives of al-Qaida with the just claims of Palestinians and grievances of Iraqis. His remarks on Saturday invite Muslims who sympathise with Hamas or reject Iraq's occupation or merely aspire to grow opium in Afghanistan to make common cause with Bin Laden.
If the United States insists upon regarding all Muslim opponents of its foreign policies as a homogeneous enemy then that is what they become. The Muslim radicals' "single narrative" portrays the entire course of history as a Christian and Jewish plot against Islam.
It is widely agreed among western governments and intelligence agencies that, in order to defeat the pernicious spread of such nonsense, a convincing counter-narrative is needed. Yet it becomes a trifle difficult to compose this when the US president promulgates his own single narrative, almost as ridiculous as that of al-Qaida."
"I was going to start by saying that what's changed for me is that the country I know and value is under attack. But that's not quite it.
I live in Manhattan and have a certain perspective on the country. Folks in Oklahoma or evangelicals in South Carolina have a different one. And that's fine. It's their country too. What I think is that a certain political movement has taken over the country -- call it movement conservatism in its late, degraded form -- and wants to govern it by all or nothing rules.
The Bush presidency is in so many respects an example or embodiment of this. The president twice took the presidency with a divided electorate -- first a minority president, then a 51% president. And he proceeded to govern as though he had a mandate to completely remake it, often in what appeared to be profoundly destructive ways geared to short-term political benefit and intended to consolidate power. The folks who've made efforts toward bipartisan compromise have again and again, in this era, been played for chumps. And that's one of the reasons President Bush has had a much harder time in his second term (one among many): he made it too clear too many times that he'll take anyone who'll give him an inch or lend him a hand and use them up and toss them when he's done.
Our policies abroad are a whole other matter. They're related to what I've described above, part of the same story. But there's more there. President Bush and his acolytes and enablers deserve all the blame in the world. But it's not sufficient. As Americans I think we need to grapple with what's happened. And it goes beyond President Bush. He did after all win reelection. He marginally expanded his congressional majorities. In the rough and tumble of the political moment, the fight needs to be taken to the president and his party. But we also need a more probing consideration of the forces that have made all this possible.
In any case, this is all a way of saying that in this all-or-nothing crisis the country has been passing through, I think it's made sense to line up with those who say, No. I guess I'm one of those partisanized moderates Kevin Drum has spoken of (not sure that's precisely the phrase he used.) That leads to a certain loss of nuance sometimes in commentary and a loss in the variegation of our politics generally. As a writer, often it's less satisfying.
But I cannot see looking back on all this, the threat the country is under, and saying, I stood aloof."
* a couple of days ago, I mentioned the apparent swiftboating of Bernie Sanders. Today, Sirota writes:
"Lieberman Viciously Attacks Bernie Sanders; GOP Rewards Him With Cash"