Friday, April 15, 2005

Always And Forever

One of Liberals Against Terrorism's Grist-led veterans posted yesterday on a certain call to arms from Cicero, himself posting on the neoconservative blog Winds of Change, in reference to a recent spate of riots in rural areas of China sparked by the dismal environmental condition in these regions. Here is Cicero via praktike:

I would like to see people calling themselves environmentalists take a stand on this. Stopping seal clubbing is not going to change the world. Signing on to feel-good accords like Kyoto accelerates environmental destruction in places like China. Taking a stand with the villagers of Huaxi -- if only a symbolic gesture -- would be a step in the right direction. In the end, we should all do business for child and survival.
Praktike correctly takes note of the shoddy insinuation about what Cicero derisively describes as "people calling themselves environmentalists":

But if Cicero is implying that American environmental groups aren't paying attention to China, however, he's dead wrong.
Our LAT compatriot goes on to list just a fraction of the evidence of US-based, and international, environmental groups that are actively taking a stand on environmental issues in China while - miraculously - also addressing other issues of concern. As if one group (or a collection of groups) could not simultaneously have a policy on clubbing seals or Kyoto (which according to Cicero accelerates environmental destruction in places like China???) while also working on the environmental "catastrophe" in China.

This, unfortunately, is a tactic often employed by the neoconservative movement's adherents - many of whom are caught in-between schools of foreign policy thought. On the one hand, they are born out of a tradition of narrowly defined realism complete with its dedication to realpolitik and, if necessary, a ruthless pursuit of national interest, but at the same time they are growing accustomed to a new normative approach to policy (or at least its description) complete with liberalesque musings on freedom, democracy, human rights, and, in this instance, environmentalism.

This internal conflict has led some to whitewash history in order to quiet the tension in the two schools' often disparate imperatives and to smooth out any wrinkles in the narrative or unsavory policies of certain political heroes. In the instance praktike flagged, Cicero goes out of his way to try to claim the mantle of "real" environmentalism for the Right, while dismissing the Left's long and impressive tradition in this field. To do so, he makes uninformed and incorrect claims about silence on key issues when in fact there has been action and effort on the Left (or from "environmentalists" who may be politically neutral) while the Right has been the mute observer, if not collaborator with business interests in their struggles with regulation. But for Cicero and his fellow travelers, it must be that the Right is, and always was, the moral actor on the issue of the environment while the Left has been hypocritically silent and quixotically distracted, if not outright counterproductive.

These types of repair and revise efforts are also frequently employed vis a vis our policy in Iraq now, and over the past half-century. Saddam's numerous documented human rights abuses are frequently cited as evidence supporting the case for his violent removal, but few are comfortable acknowledging the extent of the relationship the Reagan administration had with Saddam during the commission of many of those same heinous atrocities. An article in
profiled here). It was groups like this that were protesting the cozy relationship between the Reagan administration and so brutal a despot as Hussein. But somewhere along the way, that dynamic has been subtly shifted. Now it is the Left and human rights groups that are, and were, silent about Hussein's abuses while the Right alone has the moral fortitude to see the black and white of human suffering.

For example, a
recent post on the right-leaning blog Daily Demarche, run by two Foreign Service Officers, sparked a conversation in the comments section in which one of the site's authors, Dr. Demarche, made the following claim about torture occurring at Abu Ghraib and the Left's reaction to it:

I do not seek to excuse them by saying Saddam did worse - rather I am asking where was/is the outcry over what he DID do...? [emphasis added]
Another commenter, whose normally thoughtful criticisms I have engaged numerous times on TIA, took the argument one step further:

And, the world didn't react to Saddam. Human rights groups reacted to Reagan but not Saddam. People marched against Bush and Iraq, but they said nothing about Saddam and Iraq.[emphasis added]
Both these claims are obviously wrong, and there is a long record of groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch addressing Saddam's crimes. Unfortunately, for many on the new Right it's not enough to be taking a moral stand today, or incorporating normative concepts in a new foreign policy outlook. No, your opponent must be completely discredited and stripped of any similar sentiments, while your past heroes completely rehabilitated and exonerated. Always and forever vs. none never.

(cross posted on LAT)

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