Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Left's Insensitivity to Danger

Conservatives take a sober view of human nature. They admit and celebrate the human capacity for good, but cannot bring themselves to ignore the practically limitless human capacity for evil. They cannot dismiss the lessons of history, especially the awful lessons of the 20th century, the lessons of Gulag and Vernichtungslager. They know that evil is not a contingent blemish that can be isolated and removed, but has ineradicable roots reaching deep into human nature. The fantasies of Rousseau and Marx have no grip on them. Conservatives know that it is not the state, or society, or institutions that corrupt human beings, but the logically antecedent corruption of human nature that makes necessary state, social, and institutional controls.

I used the word ‘know’ a couple of times, which may sound tendentious. How do conservatives know that evil is not a contingent blemish, or that human beings are so fundamentally flawed that no human effort can usher in utopia? They know this from experience. But although experience teaches us what is the case, and what has been the case, does it teach what must be the case? Here the lefties may have wiggle room. They can argue that failure to achieve a perfect society does not show that a perfect society cannot be achieved. But I would argue that experience can sometimes teach us what must be the case. We have a posteriori knowledge of the essential (as opposed to accidental) properties of some things. These are tough epistemological questions that I mention here only to set aside.

What I really want to say is that the Left is insensitive to danger because of their Pollyannish view of human beings as intrinsically good. Thus they tend to downplay serious threats. They are blind to the radical evil in human nature. This attitude is betrayed by their obfuscatory use of the phrase ‘Red Scare’ to refer to the very real menace the USSR posed to the USA in the 1950's and beyond. It wasn’t that conservatives were scared, but that the Soviets were making threats. This is now particularly clear from the Venona decrypts, the Mitrokhin archives, and other sources. I especially recommend reading Ronald Radosh on the Rosenberg case.

The Left’s insensitivity to danger is also betrayed by their attitude toward the terrorist threat. They just can’t seem to take it seriously, as witness their incessant whining about the dangers to civil liberties after the 9/11/01 attacks. There is something deeply perverse about their attitude. It is as if they think that conservatives want to curtail civil liberties, and have seized upon the 9/11 attacks to have an excuse to do so. This is absurd: it is precisely conservatives who aim to conserve civil liberties, including the politically incorrect ones such as gun rights. Terrorists and the rogue states that sponsor them pose a very real threat to our security, and this threat must be faced and countered even if it requires a temporary abridgement of certain liberties. Leftists ought to admit that it is precisely their insensitivity to the threat posed by such Islamofascists as Osama bin Laden that led to the 9/11 attacks in the first place. If a proper response had been made to the 1993 World Trade Tower attack, the 2001 attack might never have occurred. We were attacked because we were perceived as weak and decadent, and we were perceived as weak and decadent because leftists in the government failed to take seriously the terrorist threat.

It must be realized that liberty without security is worthless. Genuine liberty is liberty within a stable social and political order. I may have the liberty to leave my house any time of the day or night, but such a liberty is meaningless if I get mugged the minute I step out my door. So if the Left were really serious about liberty, it would demand adequate security measures.