Stabbing and Backs


Brian Beutler gives Jonah Goldberg a good fisking. Jonah seems upset that when I complain that American conservatives are perpetuating a "stab in the back" theory of the war in Iraq to explain away their own hideous errors of strategic judgment without bothering "to make a tight link between the National Socialist reaction to German surrender at the end of WWI." Kevin Baker's already lay it out in Harper's at some length, so I haven't bothered personally because it wouldn't be a Very Serious, Thoughtful, Argument That Has Never Been Made in Such Detail or With Such Care if I did it.

Suffice it to say that I think the main point of analogy is that mainstream contemporary American conservatism, like inter-war Nazism, believes that military defeats are primarily due to failures of national will. They believe this in part because they massively overestimate the significance of will in determining outcomes of this sort. They also, like Nazis, seem to deny that it might ever better serve the national interest to abandon a military adventure than to continue it. These beliefs serve to foster the further belief that several constitutive elements of liberal democracies -- committed to free speech, to unfettered political debate, the existence of active political opposition movements -- are a source of national weakness.