Wednesday, June 08, 2005

There’s dissent and there’s dissent.

Here’s my problem. I don’t always agree with my fellow citizens – who does? But sometimes even when I disagree with my countrymen on a particular course of action, I find dissenters more appalling. For example, in Gulf War I, given what I knew then, I wasn’t in favor of our going to war. But I had no sympathy for our critics – who vilified our involvement. I believed we were being too generous; they believed we were evil. Once we were committed, I was behind our guys and gals 100% and cheered their triumph.

I remember attending a concert at Carnegie Hall one January eve, right before the start of Desert Storm. Samuel Ramey, the bass-baritone, had programmed a mixture of opera, show tunes, and American folk classics. Carnegie Hall determines the program well over a year in advance. But it was with great pleasure that Mr. Ramey was able to introduce a rousing patriotic song already on the program by dedicating it to our troops in the Gulf. I was proud to be in the presence of this patriot so simple and unself-conscious in his respect for our great country.

Perhaps that would not be so odd elsewhere in America but I found it memorable because you rarely see anything like that in the city of the New York Times. We Americans are a diverse lot - we don’t always agree on goals or means. But when we are at war with a vicious dictator there is no moral ambiguity: America is honorable and worthy of every citizen’s respect. It is just common sense and common decency. Or it should be!

It was clear to me that while I preferred a different course of action I could never align myself with those opposing the war. This continually surprises people. “But you consider this wrong, why don’t you oppose it?” It seems so simple to the critics: oppose and demonstrate – the war must be stopped! Using Utilitarian logic, they argue if stopping the war is desirable, doing whatever it takes is right. Taking a cue from Pragmatism, they form ad hoc groups for the sole purpose of obstructing American efforts. "If it works now and we stop the war, nothing else matters," they argue.

What was wrong with this anti-war movement? Very simple – the values it reaffirms: America is a shameful country doing evil things. Their opposition to our involvement was meant to demoralize and demonize our country so that we would not have the spiritual strength to fight in the future. And this is the essence of the opposition today. Forget all the details that are offered – it isn’t about the practical advantage of having a few more troops from France. Forget all the arm-chair generals – it isn’t about effective post-war management. Forget all the conspiracy theorists – it isn’t some hidden motive of a secretive neo-con cabal. The driving force of the opposition is a deep moral antipathy to our country’s values and a desire to harm our ability to rally our people to fight for those values now and in the future.

In the Gulf War, as in today’s war on terror, even if I hold that a course of action isn’t prudent, I cannot join forces with those who would re-affirm such hateful notions about our country. Even if they gained a more prudent action today – which is not their purpose – it would leave us unarmed, unwilling, and enervated. The reason one proposes actions is more important in the long-run that what one proposes. Why? Because the principles and character one reaffirms determines one’s ability to weather the storms of the future time and time again.

Many Americans find this hard to understand. There is a narrow consequentalist mindset – be it Utilitarianism, Pragmatism, or other variant – that deals with problems on a case by case basis at the cost of establishing and reaffirming long-term principles, traditions, and practices. Cultivating character, maintaining a discipline, adhering to a tradition, all seem foreign to this “ends justify the means” mentality. And don’t even mention the word honor.

However, such movements are driven instinctually by a long-term agenda they refuse to explicate; their narrow consequentalist focus is meant to obscure the meaning of their program. It is not a prudential objection that drives the far left; it is a moral objection that cuts to the core of America’s identity. Prudential dissent is thoughtful; but dissent driven by a fundamental antipathy to our values deserves our contempt.


Blogger Always On Watch said...

What infuriates me is the msm's presumption that dissenters are correct in their mission and in their allegations.

Dissent (as in constructive debate) is part of our American heritage, but our Founding Fathers accepted dissent only when that dissent did not advocate the fall of our values system. When deconstructive dissent becomes the prevailing tone, a nation is in trouble. Any number of historical examples prove that to be a fact.

America is not perfect. But if this country is so "bad," why are so many clamoring to live here? As Beak pointed out, "Nationalist" should not be a dirty word.

6/8/05, 9:06 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey Perren said...

Bravo and bravo forte!

6/8/05, 2:34 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

I have done many blogs on this subject. Utopian leftists use front groups to shift the dialoge way to the left via front groups

6/8/05, 5:59 PM  
Blogger onehouse said...

the issue is never the issue.
the issue is the revolution

6/8/05, 8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

War is not a horrible thing, it is among the most horrible things. Any one who has experienced it, never wants to experience it again. That is as it should be. War should not be something that is started lightly, and it should be the very last act of diplomacy. But once war has begun, our democracy assumes that those who love their country more than they love themselves will step forward, take up the sword, and do their level best helping to win it.

The "assumption" mentioned above is based on the concept of classic civic virtue; there are two aspects of this: (1) That virtue that we believe exists, and (2) the reality. There are those who step forward, to answer America's every call, and then there are those who do not. There are all kinds of reasons for not stepping forward -- not that I agree with them -- and they can range from simple cowardice, to a genuine belief that all war is bad and should be avoided.

It is not a bad thing to hate war; sane people do. But for me personally, I respect the man who has experienced it, and hates it, much more than I do the man who has never experienced it, and loves his own safety more than he loves the security of his country.

John Stuart Mill said it better than I ever could: "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse."

I think that a person who runs away to Canada to avoid war will live with his cowardice for the rest of his life; he can never run away from himself. On the other hand, the man who is afraid, but who never the less steps forward, is a man who deserves my respect and accolades from his fellow citizens.

Each individual has to decide these issues for himself. If a man demonstrates against war as a matter of (genuine) principle, fine. As with every decision, there are consequences. He may live a long time and never regret such a decision, or he may live a long life and realize that when it came time to be counted, he was found lacking.

Today we have an "all volunteer" Armed Force. I like it better than in the days when we had draftees; I would much rather be standing next to a Marine who shared my patriotism, than to be worried that he'll desert me when I need him most.

I'm sorry for going on so long about this . . . let me conclude by saying that when America needs her stout of heart, they will always step forward. The weak, the cowardly, the self-centered will always hide; they will always be quite content to be parasites of our democracy, our grand experiment. BUT, they will also ALWAYS know what they are.

Here are two of my favorite quotations from Shakespeare:

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me, Shall be my brother; be ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in England now abed, Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhood's cheap whiles any speaks, That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

"Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste death but once."

Semper Fidelis, Jason.

6/8/05, 8:13 PM  
Blogger Warren said...

A lot of it isn't dissent at all.

When organizations that are actually front groups for Socialist International, et al, are involved dissent becomes subversion.

Stalin had a term for these people, "useful idiots". We would do well to remember; that's what they are.

Willful or not the result is the same.

6/8/05, 9:14 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...


I agree and state that on my blog often but I am troubled by liberals who don't understand the problems with front groups.

6/8/05, 11:32 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Here's a disturbing story about a bill which has been defeated twice before. Will this bill again be defeated? :
UK: Freedom of speech in grave peril as religious hatred bill is unveiled

"Controversial plans to make incitement to religious hatred illegal are being unveiled by the government.

"Critics say the re-introduced bill - which bans insulting words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up religious hatred - will stifle free speech.

"But ministers have pledged the new law will not affect "criticism, commentary or ridicule of faiths".

"If it mirrors racial hatred laws, the maximum sentence for those found guilty will be seven years in prison.

"The bill will apply to comments made in public or in the media, as well as through written material.

"Freedom of speech

"The government says the legislation is a response to the concerns of faith groups, particularly Muslims.

"The Muslim Council of Britain has welcomed the move, arguing that the courts have already extended such protection to Sikh and Jewish people."

6/9/05, 8:38 AM  
Blogger Rancher said...

Well said, it’s one thing to oppose war and another thing entirely to undermine the war effort. Those who for instance are impeding recruitment, such as many Universities, are giving aid to the enemy. Those who parade around calling our leadership murderers, no blood for oil, etc. are giving comfort to the enemy. It’s called sedition.

6/9/05, 12:57 PM  

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