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Tough Medicine for the Democratic Party

The New Republic's Peter Beinart thinks it's past time for liberals and Democrats to get serious about al Qaeda in a hard hitting piece in the December 13 issue (free registration required). Beinart points out that the willingness of the Democratic Party to reject communism during the cold war gave them the strength to advance a liberal domestic agenda (as well as, well, being the right thing to do).

Obviously, Al Qaeda and the Soviet Union are not the same. The USSR was a totalitarian superpower; Al Qaeda merely espouses a totalitarian ideology, which has had mercifully little access to the instruments of state power. Communism was more culturally familiar, which provided greater opportunities for domestic subversion but also meant that the United States could more easily mount an ideological response. The peoples of the contemporary Muslim world are far more cynical than the peoples of cold war Eastern Europe about U.S. intentions, though they still yearn for the freedoms the United States embodies.

But, despite these differences, Islamist totalitarianism--like Soviet totalitarianism before it--threatens the United States and the aspirations of millions across the world. And, as long as that threat remains, defeating it must be liberalism's north star. Methods for defeating totalitarian Islam are a legitimate topic of internal liberal debate. But the centrality of the effort is not. The recognition that liberals face an external enemy more grave, and more illiberal, than George W. Bush should be the litmus test of a decent left.

Today, the war on terrorism is partially obscured by the war in Iraq, which has made liberals cynical about the purposes of U.S. power. But, even if Iraq is Vietnam, it no more obviates the war on terrorism than Vietnam obviated the battle against communism. Global jihad will be with us long after American troops stop dying in Falluja and Mosul. And thus, liberalism will rise or fall on whether it can become, again, what Schlesinger called "a fighting faith."

Provocative, challenging stuff.


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I'm sorry, but Beinart's premise is bullsh*t from the git-go. With its recent campaign-season emphasis on finishing the job we started in Afghanistan and with making our ports and harbors safer, the Democratic Party has shown it is much more serious about al-Qaeda than the GOP, which seems bound and determined to do everything possible to strengthen al-Qaeda's appeal to Muslims/Arabs. Just to name the biggest and most obvious fact in support of this argument, a GOP serious about polishing off al-Qaeda would not have invaded Iraq when it did, and possibly not at all to this point.

'Course, I'm a Republican, so take anything I say with a grain of salt.