16 September 2005

On Bacevich and the hypocrisy of current liberal and conservative movements

I've been reading Andrew Bacevich's book The New American Militarism. Bacevich has an interesting background. In addition to having spent his life in the military, he has a doctorate in history from Princeton. Ideologically, he was (is?) a conservative. In this book, he provides an excellent analysis of the new militarism. While I personally gravitate to the view that it's all essentially about money and power with cultural attitudes as a consequence (the substructure/superstructure sort of perspective), Bacevich delves more into the history of attitudes within various cultural spheres such as politics, the church, and the military. His discussion of the latter is especially insightful; he possesses, after all, the ideal credentials to discuss it. After I finish the book, I'll provide my own full critique, but until then I'd like to quote a passage discussing conservatism and liberalism since I think he really gets it right in noting how both have departed from their historical antecendents:

Much of the counterculture had hijacked what had once been mainstream liberalism . . .

This is, I think, one fatal flaw in the current "liberal" movement. I think Glen over on Nashville Truth touched on this in one of his tirades, but if you go to a liberal protest, you end up listening to a panoply of stirring speakers, all championing a completely different cause. Everyone claps and cheers, wishing the person well in their concerns, but there's no convergence of forces fighting for a central issue, and more importantly, no analysis of power and its misuse. Liberals need to figure out what they're really about, and whatever this is, it should be something that can appeal to almost any well-intentioned American living anywhere.

. . . neoconservatives set out to infiltrate a conservative movement that for decades had languished on the margins of American politics.

. . . The conception of politics to which neoconservatives paid allegiance owed more to the ethos of the Left than to the orthodoxies of the Right. Their ultimate ideological objective was not to preserve but to transform. They viewed state power not as a necessary evil but as a positive good to be cultivated and then deployed in pursuit of large objectives. (p. 71)

* By "Left," Bacevich seems to refer to the liberal movement (I personally don't use "liberal" and "left" to mean the same thing.)

So here we have the rub. The sworn enemies of big government love government and virtually believe it to be the right hand of God. Yet amongs these same neocons who are butressed by the religious right, the military, and the average working Joe, it's hard to find a single one who truly has a religious background (compared to Carter or Gore, for example), has done much of anything in the military, or has worked a real job. I think it's time for both liberals and conservatives to turn off the damn TV and look deep into their hearts and figure out just what they're about.

1 comment:

Glen Dean said...

The thing is though that in a republic, the two ideologies are so interested in getting that "swing" voter, that they are willing to compromise there beliefs. The true conservatives and liberals have to kind of hold their nose on election day.