What patriotism is not

Dana Milbank defends the patriotism of Samantha Power which, he says, was publicly questioned the other day by Frank Gaffney, Allen West, and others. The quotations Milbank cites do not use the word “patriotism,” but they scathingly imply that Power lacks that attribute.

Milbank assures us, however, that he knew Power in college and “was unaware that she was un-American.” I wouldn’t put much stock in this, though. John Hinderaker was my best friend in college during the late 1960s-early 1970s, and I was unaware, back then, that he was pro-American (and he certainly could say the same thing about me).

On a more serious note, Milbank claims that Gaffney and the others are conflating the advocacy of policies one opposes with lack of patriotism. But Milbank’s analysis is too facile.

There are some policy disagreements that bear on one’s patriotism. If one were to argue that the U.S. should give up its independence to a foreign power, that position would be unpatriotic.

There might, in the future, be defensible policy reasons for such a move (we might be financially broke and the foreign power might offer us a great deal; see the former East Germany), just as there seemed to be defensible policy reasons for disagreeing with the first American patriots when they fought for independence from Great Britain.

But it would still be unpatriotic to want to cede control over our lives and national destiny to foreigners.

Samantha Power hasn’t called for the U.S. to become subordinate to another nation. But to the extent that she wants the U.S. to cede to an international body the right to decide (not to influence, but to decide) matters that Americans now decide, she is — other things being even close to equal — considerably less patriotic than those who want Americans to make their own decisions.

And the same would be true of President Obama, who plucked Power from academic obscurity.

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