The recent revelation that Saddam Hussein covertly paid for the pre-Liberation trip of U.S. Congress members Jim McDermott, David Bonior and and Mike Thompson, highlights a question that I think more leftists should ask themselves.
To whit: Why do the foreign-policy proposals of the American Left so often agree with and reinforce the naked self-interest of murderous despots and autocrats?
No one believes that the Congressmen knew of Saddam’s funding of their trip, nor does anyone imagine that the Congressmen approved of or supported Saddam’s mad reign in the least. Yet Saddam proved more than willing to fund their trip, no strings attached, and just let the Congressmen do what came naturally to them. He found them natural allies even though they seemed sincere in their opposition to his regime. We see this same dynamic repeated in the actions of leftists over and over again.
I have often asked leftist opponents of the Liberation to engage in the following thought experiment: How do their behavior and policy recommendations differ from those of someone working as a paid agent of Saddam, the Baath, jihadists or Iran? Phrased another way, would a paid agent argue any differently than they do?
After all, such an agent couldn’t just come out and say what a great guy Saddam is/was. Such a message would not find acceptance. Instead, the agent would need to argue circumspectly. The surest tactic avoids talking about the nature of the enemy and instead seeks to undermine public confidence in America itself. If people lose trust in American leaders, American institutions or American justifications, then they would not support the Liberation. By shifting the debate to one about America (or western liberal democracies in general) the agent accomplishes Saddam’s goal of preventing liberation without ever bringing Saddam into the picture.
I’ve never had anyone answer the question directly. They usually just act offended and go on the offensive. The only real defense I’ve gotten depends on the idea that Saddam (or Al-Qaeda, Iran, etc.) wanted us to invade as part of byzantine strategy to draw us into an elaborate trap. I usually point out that only comic-book super-villains try such risky strategies.
I think it clear that ever since WWII (and massively since the ’60s) the Left in the free world has done the dirty work of despot after despot. Every enemy of the free world has always been able to count on the Left’s energetic efforts to promote the very same policies in the free world that the despots would like to see.
Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Min, Pol Pot, Kim-il Sung, Castro, Kaddafi, Arafat, Khomeni, et al all found natural and (most important) uncoordinated allies in the western Left. Pol Pot could have never seized Cambodia and killed 1-in-5 Cambodians if American leftists hadn’t cut off all western support for those fighting him. Had the Left won the policy arguments over Iraq during the last 30 years, one could reasonably extrapolate that Saddam would today be the nuclear-armed ruler of a combined Iraq and Kuwait.
Why this accidental alliance? I think it has to do with the social and political role that leftists have carved out for themselves in the free world.
For complex reasons which I won’t address now, leftists now think of their proper role as being negative critics of western society and politics. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that they oppose the policy of America, whatever that policy happens to be at any particular time. They do not do so because they disagree with the details of any particular policy but rather because of their self-appointed role as critics and moral consciences. They don’t see themselves in any other role. They must either oppose or remain silent.
With this self-imposed restriction, they can only be a part of major events by mindlessly opposing whatever the rest of America wants to do.
We can see this pattern most clearly in the shifts that occur in leftist arguments that trail shifts in majority or rightist policies. When Mao ruled China and American policy was hostile to Mao, leftists urged engagement. They ignored or downplayed the threat that Mao poised to his own people and the rest of the world. No one talked about Tibet. After China reformed, and America began to engage, suddenly the Left grew very critical of China and suddenly discovered that China had invaded Tibet in 1962. Numerous other examples like this one exist.
Evil and despotic regimes eventually come into conflict with America (and the rest of the free world). When that happens, America enacts policies to contain or eliminate the despotic regime. The regime, of course, opposes those polices. Unfortunately, leftists, in their role as mindless, automatic critics, oppose those policies as well. The political interests of the despots and the Left naturally fall into perfect sync with no communication or even sympathy between the two.
Since Vietnam, the enemies of America have known that they could reliably plan on the Left’s mindless opposition to whatever response America made. They refer to the effect constantly in their public pronouncements, internal debates and training materials. They make plans based on the Left’s de facto assistance in the same way that a general plans based on geography. Modern terrorist strategy hinges on the key understanding that the more innocent people terrorists kill, the harder the Left will work to accomplish the terrorists’ goals.
When Saddam covertly funded congressman McDermott, Bonior and Thompson’s trip to Iraq he knew he would get the results he wanted, because he could easily predict the reflexive behavior of the American Left. He didn’t have to communicate with them or induce them towards any stance at all. He just needed to give them a highly visible platform and they would do his work for him. Today, those seeking to destroy Iraq’s nascent democracy likewise can plan on the Left to behave in the same clockwork manner.
A free society needs thoughtful and flexible critics but a Left whose responses have become as predictable as the salivation of Pavlov’s dogs cannot fulfill that role.