Saturday, August 12, 2006

Thinking about Political Labels

Are political labels useful? They can be, but the way that they are referenced by many bloggers and other political commentators is often not particularly informative. Labels help when they are used to describe a person's broad political philosophy or to show where a group or set of ideas fits on the larger political spectrum.

They are not useful when they merely serve as a means for avoiding meaningful arguments. Unfortunately, pundits frequently use labels in this way. For some people, calling an idea "liberal" means that no further discussion is necessary. If it can be called liberal, then it must be wrong. For others, a statement that a position is conservative is by itself proof that no reasonable person could ever support such a thing. End of conversation.

In these types of instances, labels aren't tools to facilitate thought; they are substitutions for it. This is the sort of opining that works for people who don't get out much beyond the particular intellectual confines, whether liberal or conservative, in which they move about. It is the modus operendi for those who only know how to preach to the choir.

It enables them to imagine that they have refuted something that in fact they have never even bothered to address. It also allows them to pontificate based on stereotypes. The Oracle has been told many times over the years that because he is a conservative that he therefore believes all sorts of things and has all sorts of motives that have never crossed his mind. Some have even become angry when I have denied believing things that they are quite sure that I must.

Lately, it seems that the term of derision used by both leftists and those on the right who style themselves paleoconservatives, is the term "neoconservative," which has more or less become the nom de jure for anyone suggesting the need for a continued American presence in Iraq. Thus, it is being said nowadays, that Democrats in Connecticut have rejected Joe Lieberman because the once distinguished Senator has had the temerity to go along with the neoconservatives.

There is no doubt that Lieberman's support of the war was the reason for his ouster. However, most of this discussion misses the point that not all those that either supported the American invasion of Iraq in the first place or who oppose withdrawal schemes in the present are neoconservatives. In fact, even those of us who were less than enthusiastic about the lead up to the war are nevertheless dismayed that those supporting an immediate withdrawal don't seem to understand that the results of that would be disastrous for the Middle East and ultimately for the United States.

That is a position that may be disagreed with, and commenters are welcome to take it on. Such debate takes place too infrequently in a world in which names such as neocon, liberal, isolationist, and so forth can be thrown around in the place of genuine arguments based on the nuances of the present situation.

3 Comments:

Blogger John H said...

Good commentary, as usual, MCO.

I know there are people who have supported the war in Iraq (and some who still do) who would not and could not be described as neo-cons (Tom Friedman springs to mind), just as there are plenty of conservatives who don't support the war in Iraq.

What I do wonder is this: Is there anyone who describes themself as a neo-con who does NOT support the Iraqi war? Not that a person should be dismissed summarily just because they are a 'neo-con', but I'm thinking that the circle of neo-cons would be almost, if not entirely, be circumscribed by the circle of folks who support the war.

No real disagreement with ya here on your major point..just some thoughts.

I do disagree with the protracted stance of our troops in the Iraqi conflict nee' sectarian war. How are we curtailing terrorism by our presence in Iraq at this point in history? I think we gave it a good shot (or shots) and had noble intent, but it seems to me, it just ain't working.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Jeffraham Prestonian said...

In fact, even those of us who were less than enthusiastic about the lead up to the war are nevertheless dismayed that those supporting an immediate withdrawal don't seem to understand that the results of that would be disastrous for the Middle East and ultimately for the United States.

Well, the immediate "stay the course" doesn't seem to be going so well, either. What good purpose is being served with our troops in the middle of a civil war? We're slowing it down, making it last longer?

What "adaptation" (to borrow a Mehlmanic phrase) is going to happen in Iraq, with our troops there, that makes for a good outcome?

Answer? There isn't one. Now, the choice is between bad, and worse. And right now, between 60-70% of Americans think staying beyond 2007 is "worse."
.

5:22 PM  
Blogger MCO said...

John and Jeffraham, I respectfully but strongly disagree with the notion that leaving Iraq at this time is a viable option, and I think that fairly recent history provides a compelling reason why.

When the Soviets left Aghganistan, they left behind a vacuum into which the Taliban entered, allowing that country to become a de facto terrorist state. Regardless of whether the initial foray into Iraq was justified or not, it is essential that we make a continued effort to establish some level of stability there. To do otherwise would be an enormous mistake.

9:55 PM  

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