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Robert Farley and the Party of Defeat By: Donald Douglas
American Power | Monday, September 29, 2008


I'm reading David Horowitz and Ben Johnson's Party of Defeat, so I found Robert Farley's review of the book rather odd (even oddly unbalanced):

I found it impossible to engage with this work as serious scholarship, and impossible to take it seriously as polemic. The book is unlikely to convince anyone who has not already been convinced of the perfidy of the Democratic Party. Indeed, in tone and approach Party of Defeat would be more appropriate as documentary film or perhaps podcast; both formats encourage dramatic flow over reflection. The most significant problem is thus; the American people, by and large, do not appear to agree that Islamic terrorism is as grave a threat as Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Johnson believe. It is this fact, rather than the ongoing treachery of the Democratic Party, that substantially explains the decline in support for the Bush administration and the Iraq War.
This is a troubling statement.

First, it's not true. On the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks,
nearly two-thirds of Americans were worried about a terrorist attack on the U.S., with 18 percent very worried. The same survey found more than 6 in 10 Americans agreeing that "the nation is now safer than it was before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," so it could be that the decline in terrorism fears is a direct response to the possibility that the Bush administration has made the country safer. Note, too, that in 2006, one of the bloodiest years of the war, a majority of 54 percent agreed with the administration's description of the nature and challenge of the terrorist threat facing the country, while at the same time even larger majorities said it was "a mistake" to send troops to Iraq, and that the United States was "losing" the war. Thus, support for the war was declining amid continued majority perceptions of substantial terrorist threat, which casts further doubt on the Farley's argument.

Second, one of the antiwar left's most common attacks on the Iraq war is the claim that Saddam Hussein had absolutely no ties to al Qaeda (a point in itself that has been
substantially rebutted), so for leftists the claim of terrorism as a legitimate casus belli is unsustainable. It makes no sense, then, for Farley to argue that Democratic Party differences on the nature of the terrorist threat explain why public support in Iraq has declined. If Democrats don't believe terrorism was a cause of war, it's illogical to suggest that an absence of terrorist threat explains declining public support. Besides, among scholars on the left, the most widely accepted hypothesis for the decline of public support for the conflict in Iraq holds that an erosion of support is explained by an increase in combat fatalities: as casualties mount public backing for the deployment should decline.

Farley might at least make a reference to either data or theory before laying out such a criticism.

Perhaps more importantly, Farley's essentially dishonest in his review. According to Horowitz and Johnson,
in their response to Farley's critique:
We note that while Professor Farley has not served in the military – at least so far as we can tell – he is ready to advocate military policies that would be harmful to American troops on the field of battle. “I wholeheartedly oppose the summary field execution of Afghan civilians, a position which, Horowitz and Johnson suggest, led directly to the deaths of nineteen US soldiers in Afghanistan.” But Horowitz and Johnson did not “suggest” this. Marc Lutrell, the lone survivor of this al-Qaeda massacre, escaped to this story to his countrymen. Farley has no evidence or authority to declare that the betrayers of Lutrell and his comrades were simply Afghan civilians with no link to the al-Qaeda savages who murdered them. Forgive us for regarding as this sloppy reading as typical of some critics of the war, who care more about scrubbing their moral scruples and constitutional rights than protecting the brave warriors who defend them.
Horowitz and Johnson offer a number of other scathing rebuttals to Farley, but the paragraph here captures perfectly the kind of antiwar ideology common among academics, activists, and bloggers on the left of the spectrum.

This is not, for example, just "sloppy reading" on Farley's part; it is nihilist epistemology. Today's left is completely hostile to the use of force in American foreign policy.
As Ronald Brownstein reported today, MoveOn.org, since the first days of the war on terror, has been the "point of the spear" for Democratic Party foreign policy. The group not only opposed the war in Iraq, but campaigned against Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001. The organization led the attack on David Petraeus' testimony to Congress in 2007, as well, with the full endorsement of radical activists on the Democratic Party's left-wing.

Robert Farley (and his allies at the American Prospect and
Lawyers, Guns and Money) epitomizes the contemporary pacifism of the hard-left of the Democratic Party.

This is the ideology now taking hold of much of the Democratic Party leadership, and this is the ideology that's delegitimized and repudiated in Horowitz and Johnson's Party of Defeat.

[Editors' note: We offer our pages to anyone from the American Prospect who would like to engage in this dialogue. And all anti-war critics take note: we are offering $500 to any of you -- who have written for a reputable publication -- to write a critique of Party of Defeat and its main thesis. Contact Frontpage Managing Editor Jamie Glazov at jglazov@rogers.com to sign up.]

Donald Douglas runs the blog American Power and is an Associate Professor of Political Science teaching in Southern California.


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