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Top 10 Letters

Idealism on the left and right, our Saudi problem, and more.

11:00 PM, Dec 9, 2002
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THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.

*1*

Speaking as one who has abandoned the left screaming in panic, David Skinner has hit the nail on the head with his article ("No More Idealism on the Left"). The Left has lost its sense of purpose, its reason for being, and just generally, its sense and reason. I remember the days when it was easy to mock the meanness of the Republicans--Newt and his crowd were so vitriolic, it was impossible to hear any message. Today, it is the Dems who spew hate and meanness without any message behind it. The Republicans can count on me as long as they stay positive, focused, and intent on the freedoms of our country and spreading those gifts to the world. Amnesty International used to believe in that. I am an idealist, and I am a Republican now.

-Sara Carter

*2*

I think David Skinner has seriously misunderstood the basis of the "Left's" movement against the war on Iraq. Principled opposition to war is based on a belief that human life is of ultimate importance and sanctity. (I doubt even the "right" would disagree with this idea.) I place myself firmly on the "left" and condemn the abuses of Saddam Hussein as fully as I condemn the actions of the perpetrators of the attack on the World Trade Center. However, it is perfectly coherent and legitimate that I equally strongly choose to condemn the motivations of a corporate and oil-hungry government in its bombing of innocent civilians in a war that will do nothing to help the people of a repressive regime, and will serve only to ensure a free flow of gasoline to an over-privileged nation.

Would this war also "do" anything about Saddam Hussein's regime and offer relief to the people of Iraq? Perhaps. But could we pursue the same ends by other, diplomatic, peaceful means? Perhaps. Given the choice, I would support the option without the killing, violence, death and imperialist aggression. I think that the "Left" would have shown some degree of sympathy for an attack on Iraq based on the pure and noble motives of freedom for all. But, please ask yourself, Mr. Skinner, do you honestly believe that George W. Bush wants to start a war in the interests of the repressed women and minorities of Iraq?

Perhaps you do, and in that case I think that it is clear who the "dreamer" is here.

-Roberta Thomson

*3*

David Skinner is quite right when he notes that "the Left has given up principled opposition for the sake of mere opposition." The Left's boggling and senseless opposition to regime change in Iraq emerges mostly from a lack of options. Leftists face the choice of supporting Bush's push for a regime change or supporting the sovereign rights of a despot. The fact that many Leftists have opted for the latter suggests that they must find something uniquely distasteful about the former. What the Left just can't swallow is the idea that the Right truly has human rights in mind when it speaks of regime change. Instead Leftists speculate bizarrely that the Right seeks only to exercise fascist dominion over peoples it regards as inferior. Alternatively, Leftists assert that the Right is solely motivated by economic interests. This, of course, is part of the absurd thinking that there can only be one motivation for a course of action when in fact it is quite possible for Bush to have in mind the future security of the United States, humanitarian concerns for the people of Iraq, and yes, a recognition of potential economic benefits from regime change.

What the Left cherishes most preciously is its claim to moral righteousness. Jumping on board with Bush on the Iraq issue would require the Left to share that claim and, worse yet, to recognize that the Right too may act with moral concerns in mind.

-William Rohner

*4*

While I happen to support armed regime change in Iraq, I hardly think that opposing that policy amounts to condoning procedural rape, religious dictatorships, and repression of basic human rights. To not invade a nation is not to approve of its leadership. Indeed, the Right has had little problem affirmatively embracing dictatorships guilty of many of these sins when it is perceived that such an embrace furthers American interests, going so far as to train and then protect those that murder nuns and priests.

-Rick Fueyo

*5*

Great article by David Skinner.

As a middle-aged "liberal" of longstanding, I think about this quite a lot. I use quotes to modify "liberal" because since the Clinton administration I've been radically out of step with my peers. I'm so out of step that yesterday a liberal neighbor and good friend told me that she's able to be "tolerant" of my politics even though they're so "different."

Clinton's abuse of women put me off the boat in the first place. I became a devoted reader of The Weekly Standard in part because of its staunch willingness to say, over and over again, that having a president who is a rapist is unacceptable in every conceivable way.

You didn't hear liberals saying that.

Throughout those years it was shocking to hear the same people who were appalled by the tiniest hint of sexist behavior in any shape or form actively excuse and even, sometimes, embrace Clinton's sexual behavior in the White House. I spent the Clinton years sitting around listening to some of the most politically correct people on earth open their mouths and say things like, "Women lie about rape" as if that were a normal and highly moral point of view we all just naturally shared. My point isn't that women don't lie about rape, by the way; sometimes they do. My point is that within the academic Left it was illegal to say women-lie-about-rape right up to the very moment we had a Democratic president who was a rapist. Then suddenly it was a perfectly reasonable and even good thing to say.

With the Bush presidency it's deja vu all over again. I favor regime change; I'm as horrified as I possibly can be by the horrific abuses of his regime and I would favor regime change even if Saddam weren't pursuing WMD. This position puts me so far beyond the pale there's no turning back.

But here again, I'm wondering: "What has changed, really, about my politics and values?" I've always been against dictators and dictatorships; I've always been in favor of freedom and democracy, and I've always been in favor of acting to make the world a better place. I've loathed Kissingerian realpolitik forever, although as I've grown older I've grasped the fact that there may be bargains you have to make with the devil. So it's thrilling to see the end of what I think of as Republican realpolitick and the advent of Bush-and-Woflowitzian idealism. Thrilling is the only word for it.

No one I know shares this view. Not remotely. My husband, an academic liberal, tells me constantly that he doesn't trust America to carry out these ideals; he doesn't trust American foreign policy; the historical record is terrible, etc., etc. This is a universal view. Everyone I know who thinks about these subjects at all believes that pessimism should serve as a formal basis for American foreign policy. All of these people see me as having become a "right-wing," "extreme" conservative (although I must say, I've hammered my husband so hard on the "Scoop Jackson Democrat" concept that he's starting to come around).

But when I look at my beliefs and politics, I don't see any that have changed substantially when it comes to my support for Bush. It's true that I'm more conservative on numerous issues; my friends are right about that. But that's not the basis of my support for Bush. My support for Bush grows directly out of the "liberal idealism" I've held for many, many years.

It's lonely out here.

-Catherine Johnson

*6*

Thanks for David Skinner's article. The "Bush-bashing 'statement of conscience'" issued by Not in Our Name, however, can be interpreted as hyper-idealism. "We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers." I would paraphrase that statement as, "Saddam is good people and if we would just leave him alone, everything would be okay." This is exactly the same idealistic position vis a vis the Viet Cong in the '60's and the Soviets in the 70's & 80's.

-Jeff Minter

*7*

I read David Skinner's article in The Daily Standard and found myself appalled at his take. Is he really that stupid? Is he blind?

Does Skinner really think that Amnesty International cherishes its leftist credentials more than it does human rights? Or is it just easier to be dense than note that it took the British government 15 years to recognize facts about which Amnesty International has long tried to inform the world?

Skinner seems to want to disregard the fact that Amnesty International has been talking about the crimes of the Iraqi regime even while the British Government continued to work with it and even aided it.

How does Skinner disregard the fact that the British did not come out with such a report till the eve of a war with Iraq? Why do we not see such reports on Syria? Are the people of Syria free? Has there not been political repression there? Have not thousands been killed there? What about a report on Iran? Myanmar? Vietnam? Indonesia? Malaysia? What about reports on our allies such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Eygpt?

The report by the British government was factual, and if it had come out 2, 3, 5, or 10 years ago it would have been hailed. There was no misreporting of Amnesty's research, just cold hypocritical, political misuse.

I am a neo-Wilsonian, and I do want to see the world a better place. I do want to see the United States take on its obligation as a leader in the world order, and I want to see an effective United Nations, but the actions of the current administration in the long run are bad for this, and will come back and haunt this nation.

Skinner is correct that it is tough for those on the left who do not want war but hate Saddam with every fiber of our being. What Skinner and the Right wish to ignore is that Saddam could be defanged without war. That change can be brought to Iraq without war. Yes, it would take longer. It would be harder to point to success, and it would not look good on TV, but it could be done.

The administration has built Saddam into a bigger boogie man then he ever truly was, so please excuse the Left if we do not want a war that could be avoided.

-Richard J. Rolsen

*8*

I was delighted to discover in David Skinner's article "No More Idealism on the Left" that the Right has become a breeding ground of crusaders for human rights and world peace. And I thought that "compassionate conservatism" was an oxymoron! I despair, however, in learning from Skinner that those on the left have become moral truants and cynics and that "to be of the Left is to be anti-American and to oppose America's allies." I think the best way the Right can help the Left overcome its cynicism is by proving that the Right is more moral and idealistic than the Left when it comes to human rights.

Of course the Right could not rely on past actions as proof. It would be nice to say that when confronted with Saddam's human rights atrocities in the 1980s, Reagan immediately withdrew financial and military aid to Saddam and worked to overthrow the regime and helped support a democracy in Iraq that would be a beacon of freedom in the Mideast. This cannot be said, however, because human rights or even democracy have never appeared to be an objective of the Right. As long as a dictator was responsive to the economic or strategic desires of the United States, human rights or democracy was not an issue.

So now it is up to George W. Bush to prove that those on the right are the moral standard-bearers in the struggle for human rights and democracy. His big chance comes in two parts: postwar Iraq and the consistency of his administration's foreign policy. If a pro-American government with little popular support, like the Shah of Iran, is installed in Iraq, Bush won't succeed in dispelling the cynicism of the Left because this will re-enforce the notion that human rights are an afterthought and a pretext for war after the administration's attempt to link Saddam to al Qaeda proved to be embarrassingly untenable. If the administration uses our resources and influence to help create a vibrant democracy in Iraq, it will go a long way to prove Skinner's assertions. To really prove to the Left, and indeed the world, that the Right is commited to peace, democracy, and human rights, the administration needs to apply these principles consistently, even when there is not such an obvious economic and strategic interest as friendly control of a third of the world's oil. Consistent support of these principles would include an even-handed approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict, leading the world in ending Africa's nightmare of disease, tyranny, and starvation, and outlawing American companies' exploitation of third world citizens. If Bush pursues these objectives, not only would the Left lose its cynicism, but anti-Americanism would no longer be a badge of honor among the worlds have-nots.

-Peter Baker

*9*

Our nation, our government, and our future are being held hostage to the Saudis due to our dependence on imported oil (Terry Eastland, "A Problematic Ally"). If we want to force the Saudis to end their support of the most radical elements of Wahhabism, we must first address our own dependency on their oil. Our government has failed for many years to develop a coherent energy policy. We must wean ourselves off of Saudi and other imported oil so that we may be free to voice our opinions and pursue our foreign policies without fear of economic retaliation. In the short term we ought to be drilling in the Arctic and in the Gulf of Mexico. In the longer term, our government needs to adopt a vision of an alternative fuel to oil, support its development, and then support its deployment. The obvious solution is hydrogen. Our government should adopt the goal of achieving the full conversion of all new gasoline engines to hydrogen by the end of the decade. Vehicle engines, with relative ease, can be modified to run on hydrogen rather than gasoline. Whatever technical barriers standing in the way of this goal can be solved. It's not rocket science. All it takes is a vision.

-Richard Brook

*10*

Protecting Eli Lilly from being sued for the known neurotoxic effects of thiomerasol, which they have added to their vaccines, and which have permanently injured many thousands of children, is simply not acceptable (Katherine Mangu-Ward, "Of Pork and Patronage"). Hiding it in a bill for Homeland Security; sneaking it in with no chance for public debate and disclosure is not acceptable behavior. Who will protect the public from thiomerasol if not the trial lawyers? I am a Republican activist, and a conservative, and I am ashamed of this sleazy bit of paying off a large campaign contributor at the expense of American children and adults harmed by thiomerasol.

-Milton Fried, M.D.