Entry from December 12, 2014

As Charles Lane points out in today’s Washington Post, of the many problems with the American security services revealed by the Senate Intelligence committee report on torture by the CIA, the biggest may be the one that hardly anyone is talking about, namely that security itself has become irrevocably politicized. The CIA, I fear, cannot avoid its share of the blame for this in view of its own history of leaking and briefing against elected authority during the Bush years. But the biggest share of the blame must accrue to Senate Democrats who have allowed themselves to become captives of the anti-American left, egged on to it by the media, whom they know they can trust not to modify the full monty of scandal treatment by any mention of the partisan nature of their conclusions. Now we know that there is nothing in our public life, not even national security, that can be treated as being above partisanship.

Democratic politics is founded on the principle that reasonable people are bound to differ about all kinds of things in the public sphere as they do in the private, so that it is necessary to devise political mechanisms for the peaceful and rational resolution of these differences in order that the government of the country may be carried out. Majority rule is the chief of these mechanisms, but that machinery won’t work unless there is also respect for the rights of minorities, since minorities have a habit of turning into majorities and vice versa. This respect of the majority for the minority takes many forms, all of which have come under assault during the Obama years, conceived as they were in a messianic fervor that expected its majority to be permanent. It’s ironic then that, just as this expectation would seem to have been definitively disappointed, the soon-to-be minority Democrats have lashed out with the worst example yet of majority arrogance.

The patriotic principle of bi-partisanship in foreign policy has never been set down in any document or list of rules, but it has been fundamental to the conduct of war and diplomacy since the foundation of the republic, as it has been in other democratic countries. We may disagree about what policies serve or don’t serve the national interest, but we have always been at one that the national interest must be paramount. That is no longer the case. Democrats since the anti-war movement of the 1960s have been prone to abandon such patriotism in favor of what they regard as a higher loyalty to universal moral or ideological principles, though they usually make the cant claim that these constitute the "true" patriotism. In the same spirit, they now release as a "report" what is in fact the purest propaganda, condemning those in the security apparatus on partial and tendentiously chosen evidence, gathered without even the pretense of bi-partisan truth-seeking.

They can justify such patently corrupt behavior to themselves because unlimited partisanship has taught them that they must be in the right, just as those they now see as having served not their country but their political enemies must be in the wrong. That’s also how they manage to exonerate themselves from any blame when in fact they were complicit from the beginning in the actions they now condemn. But the media don’t notice this because they have adopted the same anti-patriotic, moralistic approach to political life. In the media, as in Democratic talking points, reasonable people may no longer be permitted to differ. All questions of national security, as of other political matters, must be reduced to right and wrong, good and evil, "science" and ignorance. Accordingly, the media not only won’t report the intellectual corruption of the left; they can’t even recognize it when they see it.

Mr Lane is likely to find that complaining of the inevitably disastrous effects that will ensue upon this politicization of national security will get him dismissed as a "torture apologist." As always, politics has to be represented as being about good guys (the highly moral anti-patriots) and bad guys (those who supposedly sink to the terrorists’ "level" by putting their country first) and not about — as Hillary Clinton put it in her laughably mistitled memoir — "Hard Choices." It’s just because the choices are hard that small d-democrats must recognize that they owe a certain forbearance to those who have made different ones. The capital-D Democrats in their moralistic fever have forgotten this fundamental principle of working democracy, but they get away with it because the media have abandoned their own task of acting as a check on the otherwise unchecked power of the majority — at least so long as their own allies are in the majority. It’s a nice question as to which of these forms of corruption is worse.


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