WMDs, Conservatives, Liberals

A reader writes:

That the psychology behind why the WMD propaganda was so obvious and so enraging to liberals, and so opaque to conservatives, has been one of the more interesting elements of the past 6 years (for me).

Orwell wrote:

"The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action ... He [H.G. Wells] was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity."

Orwell nailed the dynamics boiling under the surface of the current political environment.  Liberals are instinctively opposed to racial pride, nationalism, religious bigotry, and leader-worship--and we saw it in spades with George Bush and Bushism. Umberto Eco's "Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt" were on parade and it set our hair on fire.

Have you considered why you were blind to this?

I think I have. I trusted a president after a national catastrophe in a time of war. I had become completely inured to the evidence of Saddam's WMDs, and mindful of our under-estimating his WMD potential in 1990. I assumed that no president would launch a war without sufficient troops to keep the peace therefater. I was unaware we had effectively withdrawn from the Geneva Conventions. I was deeply suspicious of the motives of those who opposed the president, many of whom, I suspected, would have opposed him under any circumstance.

I love this country and was deeply angry at what had been done to her.

Was I or am I a nascent fascist? No more than any of us are, I hope. Do I feel racial pride? Nah. I do feel pride in the West, though. Religious faith? Check. Leader worship? Nah. Trust and misplaced hope are not the same as worship, but I do confess to lionizing Bush after 9/11 arguably because I desperately wanted to believe we had a president who could rise to the occasion. And the September 20 speech was remarkable. Love of war? I hope not. But I was less respectful of the benefits of a poisonous peace than I should have been in retrospect.

The key, I think, and Orwell is a model in this, is not to lose those passions that make us human, but to subject them to constant scrutiny and to evaluate the facts as best one can as they emerge. This is neither bloodless liberalism nor authoritarian conservatism. It's an attempt at balance.