Let us begin by recognizing that today's left-liberals are, at best, uncomfortable with any war fought in the name of national defense. Let us also recognize that left-liberals don't, at bottom, believe much in the nation either, except as a guilty party that owes an endless debt to all the racial and sexual minorities it has allegedly mistreated over the centuries, and as the Santa Claus-like guarantor of the economic security and personal fulfillment of all its citizens (and non-citizens as well).
For these reasons, the present misnamed war on terror puts left-liberals in an awkward position. The United States faces a worldwide jihadist movement that intends us the gravest harm, yet left-liberals (and most liberals today are left-liberals) have evinced little interest in coming to grips with this challenge, other than to smear President Bush for whatever he attempts to do about it. True, many liberals supported, or at least went along with, the invasion of Afghanistan, but that was such a direct response to the attack of September 11, and was so self-evidently necessary, that only hard-core leftists and fringe types (such as filmmaker Michael Moore and the Archbishop of Canterbury) actively opposed it. But a clear-cut case like Afghanistan is not the rule. We now face a long hard slog, an amorphous global struggle that could last decades, and it will require serious thought and long-range views on the part of our leaders to decide how we should go about it.
And this is where, as I said, liberal politicians and spokesmen find themselves in a quandary. As members of the political class, they are expected to contribute something to the national debate about the war. But, given their liberal beliefs,—in human solidarity and world peace, in the power of negotiation to solve all conflicts, in progress toward global governance, in the transcendence of national identities, and in the equal worth of all cultures and religions—nothing they have to say is remotely useful in planning and conducting a war against enemies who are followers of the most unappeasable religion on earth. From time to time, Democrats have put forward various formulae for opposing our Islamist adversaries, but these proposals tend to be knee-jerk liberal reactions that have little to do with the real world problems they are purported to solve. Reflecting the spectrum of liberal-to-hard-left opinion, sometimes these ideas are simply ludicrous; sometimes they are well-meant but counter-productive; and sometimes they are consciously intended to harm our national interests. The liberals' very contributions to the war debate prove how hopelessly alien to them the project of civilizational defense really is, and reveal the terminal crisis in which liberalism finds itself.
Nancy Pelosi, shortly after she assumed the post of House Democratic leader in November 2002, appeared on the Charlie Rose program and criticized President Bush's approach to the war on terrorism. Asked what she thought America should do to defeat the terrorists, Pelosi initially sidestepped the question, but Rose (most uncharacteristically) kept pushing her for an answer until she finally said that the way to fight Muslim terrorism was through (yes, she really said this) "education."
Pelosi's risible proposal is a perfect illustration of my point. Liberals have always regarded education as the panacea for all social ills, and as the gateway to all human progress. So, when pressed on the question of how to cope with a uniquely dangerous adversary, Pelosi reached into her storehouse of liberal bromides, and "education" was all she could come up with. And this is the top Democrat in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Kerry, the Democrats' standard-bearer, has taken a somewhat different tack from Pelosi's, one that appears at first to be less detached from reality. Throughout the campaign, he has intoned that the way to beat terrorism, or at least reduce it to a mere "nuisance" that can no longer harm us very much (as he said in his remarkable interview in the New York Times Magazine), is by building an international coalition. Unfortunately, the senator never lets on what this coalition would actually do about terrorists, except perhaps to deal with them as though they were big-time drug dealers, hardly an appropriate or confidence-building model given the unique nature of the terrorist menace. As far as one can glean from Kerry's own explanations, it is the coalition itself—embodying the sacred liberal values of consultation, cooperation, and transnationalism—that is the solution. The beauty and rightness of coalition-building supersede any actual purpose of defense for which the coalition is supposedly being built.
That this is Kerry's real attitude was proved by his pledge in the second presidential debate that he will "run a foreign policy that actually does what President Reagan did" in the Cold War, by building "alliances" and not going "unilaterally." Amazingly, Kerry seems to imagine that it was the NATO alliance as such that beat the Soviet Union, rather than Reagan's radical strategy of moral and political confrontation with the Soviets, which Kerry disdainfully opposed at the time. We should also note that Reagan obviously didn't build the NATO alliance, since it had been in existence for a generation when he became president. He used the alliance for purposes that his predecessors had never dreamed of. But Kerry, needing to portray himself to voters (twenty years after the fact) as a supporter of Reagan's victorious Cold War strategy, re-interprets that strategy as "coalition building."
Kerry's re-writing of Reagan's foreign policy shows how liberals, in order to relate positively to any idea, must fit it into a liberal template, even if that template is irrelevant to the problem at hand, or, as with Kerry's coalition proposal, positively harmful to our own efforts. To have to coordinate our national security decisions with "allies" such as France who are not only hostile to the U.S. but, as Bat Ye'or points out, committed to a policy of submission to the Muslim world, obviously cannot help us carry out a serious campaign against Islamism.
Billionaire activist George Soros applies not a liberal but a radical template to the war on terror. When Ralph Reiland of The American Spectator asked Soros how he would fight terrorism, "Mr. Soros stated that we should start by correcting our own behavior, by looking at what we've done wrong. One thing he sees as wrong is that George W. Bush is Commander-in-Chief. Another wrong, he explained, is that the United States isn't yet signed up with the Kyoto treaty or the International Criminal Court in The Hague."
Now think about that for a moment. Soros, who is a Holocaust survivor as well as a speaker of the internationalist language Esperanto from his youth, has previously called the Bush-led war a dire threat to freedom and democracy, and he has compared Bush's rhetoric and leadership to Hitler's. But what does Soros advocate in place of Bush's Nazi-like policy? He advocates that the U.S. sign a binding international treaty by which the we would cede control over our domestic environmental policies in the name of a speculative and unproven theory about global warming; and that it legitimate a transnationalist court, one of the primary goals of which will be to hamstring America (by prosecuting U.S. peacekeepers for war crimes, for instance). From Soros's leftist perspective, the paramount danger in the world today comes not from Islamic jihadists but from America, and the way to meet that challenge is to subordinate America's strength and independence to various transnational authorities operating as the nuclei of an emerging global government.
Soros's proposals for America go beyond the well-meant if mindless nostrums of Pelosi and the ambiguous, appeasement-like urgings of Kerry, and take on a deliberately punitive air. For Kerry, involving America in international structures is the way to make America "right." But for Soros, it is a way to put America down. For Soros, the confrontation with global jihadism is not an occasion to defend America, but to indict and disarm her. He barely pretends to be on America's side.
And now we can understand why Soros sees Bush as the equivalent of Hitler. It's not because Bush has done anything objectively Hitler-like. It's because Bush's policies stand in the way of the globalist agenda favored by Soros, an agenda that would have absolutely no bearing on the war against Islamic terrorism except to destroy our ability to wage it.
Of course, leftists have always described people on the right as Nazis or potential Nazis. But now they've gone further. Now they say that if you believe in national sovereignty, if you refuse to surrender your country's autonomy to a global world order, if you use force to defend your nation from its enemies, if, in short, you're George W. Bush, then you're a Nazi.
The absurdity of this idea is further underlined by the fact that Bush's own approach to the war is also liberal. True, it is not the modern liberalism of do-goodism, relativism, and moral surrender to others, but the older, Wilsonian liberalism of a universal democratic idea seen as valid for all mankind. Bush is convinced that Muslims will give up their hard-line Islamist beliefs if their societies become "free." But why should they? As someone said recently, Muslims don't believe in freedom, they believe in religion. Bush's own liberal ideology may thus turn out to be as silly and impractical as Pelosi's or Kerry's. The crucial difference between the two sides is that despite the liberal aspects of Bush's position, there are conservative aspects to it as well. At bottom, it is not Bush's democratic universalism—an ideology that many conservatives including myself oppose—that most enrages the left. It is the fact that Bush forcefully asserts America's political leadership in the world, that he insists on the importance of military force to protect our nation from its enemies, and that he resists any surrender of the U.S. to the globalist system that the left would like to impose on us.
There are plenty of good reasons to be unhappy about this war—its terrible costs in life and limb, the bitterness it has engendered at home and abroad, the mistaken intelligence that was used to justify it, and the increasingly ideological and detached-from-reality manner in which Bush is waging it. But people on the left loathe the war for a bad reason, namely that it confirms traditional values of sovereignty, patriotism, and national defense that are the contrary of everything the left believes in. In fact, the left hates our war against militant Islam far more than it hates the Islamists' war against us. Islamism only poses a threat to Western civilization, a heritage toward which the left feels at best an ambivalent loyalty. But the looming, years-long struggle against Islamism, by calling on principles and virtues that the left not only lacks but regards as alien and repugnant, poses a threat to the survival of the left itself. And that is why Soros thinks Bush is a Nazi.
Lawrence Auster is the author of Erasing America: The Politics of the Borderless Nation. He offers a traditionalist conservative perspective at View from the Right.