Marty Peretz, the Bush foreign policy, and the future of liberalism

There is so much to admire in Peretz’s TNR piece that it is hard to know where to begin. For starters, the analysis is densely-packed, and the prose appears almost sculpted. Perhaps this is because he expects so much criticism from fellow liberals for his praise of the Bush administration.

If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn’t share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn’t have the resources or the bold–perhaps even somewhat reckless–instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids?

Peretz admires the clear thinking of Bush, surprising to him, and his willingness to go it alone against the conventional wisdom of the Euros, the 41 crowd, and the prior administration:

What the Bush administration gradually came to realize was that fighting the Muslim terrorist international could not be done in a vacuum. If the Islamic and Arab orbits were to continue to revolve around sanguinary tyrannies, there would be no popular basis in civil society to rob the cult of suicidal murder of its prestige. So, rather than being a distraction from the struggle against the armed rage suffusing these at once taut and eruptive polities, confronting their governments was actually intrinsic to that struggle. The Bush administration recognized that removing the effect means removing the cause.

He predicts on Iraq and is cruel to the fey Left:

In any case, this churlish orthodoxy tells us that the Sunnis need to be enticed into the political game lest it be deemed illegitimate. In this scenario, it is the murderers who withhold or bestow moral authority. John F. Burns, the defiantly honest New York Times journalist in Baghdad, who has consistently reported the ambiguous and truly tangled realities of the war, now sees the Baathist and Sunni warriors in retreat, if not actually beaten. What will probably happen in Iraq is a version of what endured for decades in Lebanon: a representative government rooted in sect–argumentative, perhaps even corrupt, but functioning. Lebanon was never perfect, but it worked reasonably well, until the aggressive Palestinian guests took to commanding Shia turf to establish a “state within a state.” (This was a phenomenon that the nimble Thomas L. Friedman did not much report on in the first leg of his journey From Beirut to Jerusalem, confiding that fear for his life and livelihood kept him from deviating too far from the Palestinian story as they wanted it told. Eason Jordan avant la lettre.)

He ends with a hope for liberals, ot is it merely a wish? Or maybe even considered despair.

Some liberals appear to have understood that history is moving swiftly and in a good direction, and that history has no time for their old and mistaken suspicion of American power in the service of American values. One does not have to admire a lot about George W. Bush to admire what he has so far wrought. One need only be a thoughtful American with an interest in proliferating liberalism around the world. And, if liberals are unwilling to proliferate liberalism, then conservatives will. Rarely has there been a sweeter irony.

Once again we are reminded of how great the Democratic Party once was. It is sad that parts of this incisive analysis by Marty Peretz read more like an obituary than a birth announcement.

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