Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The odd squad?

"The time eventually comes when you have to join the side you’re on" The unfortunately named Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things, muses on the new alliance at the center of the US Right: neocons and pro lifers.
Down somewhere in the deepest understanding of what America is for—somewhere in the profound awareness of what it will take to reverse the nation’s long drift into social defeatism—there are reasons that one might link the rejection of abortion and the demand for an active and moral foreign policy. Things could have fallen into different patterns; our current liberal-conservative divisions are not the only imaginable ways to cut the political cake. But neither are they merely accidental. The opponents of abortion and euthanasia insist there are truths about human life and dignity that must not be compromised in domestic politics. The opponents of Islamofascism and rule by terror insist there are truths about human life and dignity that must not be compromised in international politics. Why shouldn’t they grow toward each other? The desire to find intellectual and moral seriousness in one realm can breed the desire to find intellectual and moral seriousness in another. ... At the level of political theory, there’s a reasonable connection between what we do at home and what we do abroad—or, at least, between the attitudes that cause us to enact certain domestic agendas and the attitudes that drive our foreign policy. A nation that cannot summon the political will to ban even one particularly gruesome form of abortion is unlikely to persevere in the grueling work of building international democracy simply because it seems the moral thing to do. And a nation that cannot bring itself to believe its founding ideals are true for others will probably prove unable to hold those ideals for itself. The abolition of abortion and the active advance of democracy have more in common, I believe, than is usually thought. But even if they are utterly separate philosophically, this much is true: They both require reversing the failure of nerve that has lingered in America since at least the 1970s, and success in one may well feed success in the other. The goal in either case is to restore confidence in—well, what, exactly? Not our own infallible rightness, surely. But neither can we live any longer with the notion of our own infallible wrongness. We need to restore belief in the possibility of being right. There’s a reason the leftist Christian magazine Sojourners started life in the 1970s as something called the Post-American. Many religious activists in those days seemed to have reached a point where they couldn’t tell an admirable patriotism from the murderous ideologies of nationalism—and, besides, if you squinted hard enough, social defeatism looked like a secular version of the Christian doctrine of Original Sin. The result was hardly what they hoped for: a cynical policy of Realpolitik abroad and a culture of death at home.

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