Feb 7th, 2011
My closer friends and enemies alike may just have done a spit take upon reading this headline. However, I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Yes, I am praising Bill Kristol, a man about whom I have written some fairly unpleasant things. That said, his column on the re-ascendancy of Birch-style absurdism within the ranks of the American Right is dead on:
"It’s understandable that conservatives should be wary of people taking to the streets—even when they are entitled to do so. It’s also reasonable for conservatives to warn of the unanticipated consequences of ostensibly hopeful developments."
"...in the last quarter century, there have been transitions from allied dictatorships to allied democracies in Chile, South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, to name only a few. The United States has played a role in helping those transitions turn out (reasonably) well. America needn’t be passive or fretful or defensive. We can help foster one outcome over another. As Krauthammer puts it, “Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.
Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it’s a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.
But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.
Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it’s a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.
It was not so long ago, after all, when conservatives understood that Middle Eastern dictatorships such as Mubarak’s help spawn global terrorism. We needn’t remind our readers that the most famous of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, was an Egyptian, as is al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al Zawahiri. The idea that democracy produces radical Islam is false: Whether in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, or Egypt, it is the dictatorships that have promoted and abetted Islamic radicalism."