Monday, February 17, 2003
On David Frum's blog at National Review Online, there's a fascinating interview with Mona Charen about her new book, Useful Idiots. I don't really care for the broad brush with which "liberals" are tarred in the interview (sure, Carter was the most useful of idiots, but would JFK be considered part of the club? What about LBJ?), but most of the interview is good and worth noting. Especially useful are the parts about presumed moral equivalence; very useful for the "U.S. sponsored Saddam" folks.
Yes we [the U.S.] allied ourselves with some unsavory characters though often for less time and with less enthusiasm than the left tends to recall. (We did support Somoza in Nicaragua, but we also orchestrated his ouster.)

But we did it for sound geopolitical and ultimately moral reasons. We were fighting to defeat an evil that was far worse than anything most petty despots could imagine. Cambodia's Lon Nol for instance was surely corrupt. But the corruption of his regime was a paradise compared with what the Khmer Rouge had in store... But there is quite a distinction between doing what conservatives supported -- taking allies where we found them in the larger struggle against the Soviet empire, and what liberals did which was to present us as being in the wrong. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., CT) when he responded to Reagan's speech on Central America in 1983 announced that we were "on the wrong side of history." And that's pretty much the way Cyrus Vance and the rest of the liberal establishment saw it. They didn't excuse the evil of communism for some larger purpose. They refused to acknowledge it.
Emphasis mine. I think this is crucial: support for the likes of Pinochet or Pahlavi from the right wasn't done out of some grand principle; if anything, Kissinger & Co. held their nose as they supported thugs against much more dangerous thugs. By contrast, support of "revolutionaries" from the left was a matter of principle: they actually espoused and supported their cause, not just their fight. You can see this today in all the admiration that, for instance, Castro gets: when was the last time someone on the left at least acknowledged him as the lesser of two evils, instead singing praises to his "first-rate medical system" or some other such tripe? Yeah, the U.S. looked the other way when Saddam -- useful to us against the Iranian Mullahs -- eradicated entire Kurd villages, but no right-winger that I'm aware of actually cheered him on, sang his praises, or hung up posters. How does this compare with Chomsky's defense of Pol Pot, or Carter's outright volunteering to help Arafat's PR?

Finally, there is this word of warning:

...[T]he left can thwart our self-defense as it did successfully throughout the 1970s. Thirteen countries fell to the communists in just one decade, and it would probably have accelerated had Jimmy Carter been reelected. There was nothing inevitable about our victory in the Cold War. And today we have a significant minority that doesn't have the heart to fight the terrorists. We must defeat them too.
I quite agree, with the caveat that there is a Left, and there's a Lepht!!!™. Believing that, say, the rich should pay a higher tax percentage, or that medicine should be made universally accessible via government involvement, does not make you a fifth-columnist or a thug's useful idiot. That said, plenty of people seem to be lining up and volunteering for the positions.

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