Monday, April 18, 2005

Michael Kinsley 

Michael Kinsley today fails to feather what he has tarred:

Ronald Reagan had swooned over a 1979 article by Kirkpatrick in Commentary, the neocon house organ, and he made her his U.N. ambassador when he became president. She gave the big speech at the 1984 GOP convention, leading the massed Republicans in a chant of: 'They always blame America first.'

Kirkpatrick's article, 'Dictatorship and Double Standards,' was a ferocious attack on President Carter for trying to 'impose liberalization and democratization' on other countries. She mocked 'the belief that it is possible to democratize governments anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances.' Democracy, she said, depends 'on complex social, cultural and economic conditions.' It 'normally' takes 'decades, if not centuries.' Kirkpatrick thought that American power should be used to shore up tottering but friendly dictators, like Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua and the shah of Iran. Her complaint was that Carter sat on his hands.

Now we have an administration that -- wisely or foolishly, sincerely or cynically -- claims to have the aggressive pursuit of democracy everywhere as the focal point of its foreign policy. And the Bush Doctrine is said to have the fingerprints of neoconservatives all over it.

This is quite a reversal by the most influential group of American intellectuals, yet it has received surprisingly little comment or explanation.
Apparently for Mr. Kinsley, this demonstration of reversal should be enough to convince all of us just how wrong today's "neocon" leaders are.

The problem is he ignores whether what they are doing is right or wrong. Instead, the accusation of policy reversal (gasp) stands on its own, a sort of teenage charge of hypocrisy aimed at parents who won't let Junior stay up as late as the grownups.

But what of this hypocrisy? Mr. Kinsley is sitting at his typewriter, holding his breath and turning threatening shades of blue, waiting for a neocon "admission of error", that their present course proves they were oh-so-very-wrong before. Or is it that they were right before and wrong now? Who knows? It's hard to tell exactly what he needs to hear before his brain gets its next whiff of oxygen.

Perhaps if the neocons actually believed an admission of error was appropriate, it might be given.

(Oh boy! Just so typical! Here comes the neocon arrogance. Good heavens, AbbaGav, you're one of them!).

However, those Mr. Kinsley chooses to label as neocons today owe no apology for not upholding the policies of those similarly labeled yesterday. No more so than they would have to apologize for not upholding policies of central planning and socialism if the tar had come from the brush of "Neo-Commie-Pinkoism" instead.

Rather, Mr. Kinsley himself ought to offer an admission of error, for having so totally changed his definition of the policies he stigmatizes with the label neocon. For if it is consistency he demands, all we find here is that he consistently stigmatizes the party that isn't likely to hire him as chief speech writer, regardless of their policies. Great leadership recognizes that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of oxygen-starved minds, especially when the rules of the game have changed.

Hopefully he can stop holding his breath now.
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