Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The World Turned Upside Down, or Vice Versa

A fine funny fellow named Paul Campos would have us understand that Bush is a disastrous president because he's a secret liberal. Hear his words, oh my brethren and cistern, and tremble:

"The irony is that the administration's Iraq policy exemplifies what classic conservative political theorists have identified as the fundamental weaknesses of the liberal worldview. Specifically....Conservative political theory has always emphasized that human cultures are by nature immensely complex things, and that each culture has its own organic logic and structure, which will be difficult for outsiders to understand. In particular, conservative thinkers deride the liberal delusion that imposing one culture's laws and institutions on another will automatically transform the latter into something that resembles the former.

"Conservative thinkers have made particularly devastating criticisms of liberal thought by pointing out the extent to which liberalism has failed to grasp that religious belief and nationalist sentiment remain overwhelmingly powerful forces in human affairs."
Now, if Campos must clamber so laboriously to such a precarious ledge, before he can perceive that Bush is a dreadful president who took us to war for foolish reasons--and botched the job into the bargain--that's fine. God bless him for it. At this point, I welcome any dissent from BushCo, no matter how flimsy its justification or erratic its presentation may be.

But I'm shocked at his accusation that liberals have "failed to grasp" the roadblocks that, say, nationalist sentiment present to what Campos elsewhere calls "utopian interventionism." Unless I'm misled by my own conceit (and it does happen), it seems to me that the Left's critique of imperialism is based on precisely the understanding that Campos says is beyond the comprehension of lefty dolts like yours truly.

At best, I can suppose either that he thinks the far-right architects of US intervention in South and Central America were actually a pack of bleeding-heart liberals; or that the type of interventionism conservatives favor is a dystopian model, wherein appropriately autochthonic fascists rule a huge underclass for the benefit of US interests, while remaining "conservatively" within the boundaries of local cultural traditions--except, perhaps, as regards the popular aversion to raping and killing nuns--and there's no silly talk (cynical or otherwise) of "improving" things for people.

It'd help if his article included some sort of philosophical timeline, so that I could know who the "real" conservatives are...the ones who understand that it's not always possible or desirable to impose one's own culture and institutions on other societies (and no, segregationists don't count). Without that, it's hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that Campos is completely out of his mind, or has been in a cocoon since 1946 or so.

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