Reader John O’Malley offers these thoughts about Peter Beinart’s book:
I finished the book last night and would add the following points to the ones you made. The left, and this includes Beinart, is lost in moral equivalence. The theme is repeated throughout the book. We’re not perfect; they’re not perfect. Therefore, we (America) can not possibly occupy the moral high ground from which to take a position. Since we’re all the same we must all join together in our imperfection and let a world body lead us. His example of the Marshall Plan as the ‘proof’ of the efficacy of this approach is quite self serving. It conveniently overlooks how we dealt with Japan after the war. Circumstance and history dictated how we acted. Europe had a history and tradition on which to build. Therefore, it made all the sense in the world to give them more freedom in how they rebuilt themselves. Japan did not have this history and we imposed far more on the Japanese than we did on the Europeans for reasons of history and conditions on the ground, not because of the liberal theory that we must surrender to a world body in order to have moral authority.
Finally, Beinart and the left misread, intentionally, I believe, the way the right looks at America. The right does not say we are perfect and because we are perfect we have the moral authority to lead. The right recognizes and attempts to improve upon our failures ( N.B. a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for Civil Rights in the Senate in the 1960’s). What the right does say is that, while we may be imperfect we are better than any other system in history and have done more for more people than any other entity in history. We do not dictate to people, but we have the self confidence (something sorely lacking in the left) to believe in the righteousness of who we are and what we do. We are not paralyzed by our imperfections. We recognize them, strive to fix them and understand that in spite of our imperfections, we are comfortable in seeing and acting upon the difference between good and evil. We do not need world approval. The left needs consensus because it is unwilling to distinguish between good and evil. The left needs ’causes’ because they can form great coalitions to address (not solve) these problems. Solving problems requires one to take a position. The right will take a position; the left will not. Causes are far more useful than solutions, and they last far longer!
The left will never get to lead this country until it comes to believe in this country. Beinart is an articulate and intelligent spokesman for the left, but as long as their world view remains as it is and as it is envisioned by Beinart, the American electorate is not going to let them lead other than when world events don’t count (the Clinton years). World events are likely to count for a long time to come. The Republican ascendancy is safe.