When Did Liberals Lose Their Spine?
It has been confirmed, once again, by the new Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, that Canada’s fighter jets which have till now been fighting beside our allies in Iraq and Syria will soon be withdrawn. Despite the butchery of hundreds of people these last few weeks in Lebanon, and France, and Nigeria and now California at the hands of ISIS and its sympathizers it would seem our new Prime Minister remains resolute in his conviction that the battle against Islamic State is simply not our fight. Oh, there have been some token comments that we are not withdrawing our commitment but rather shifting it to another role, but this is mere flummery. Even if Trudeau’s newfound enthusiasm for on the ground training of Pershmega and Iraqi militia fighters was genuine there would be nothing to stop us from doing so and still continuing our bombing runs. No, this is liberal cowardice plain and simple.
It is all the more distasteful because at the same moment our new government has committed itself to rescinding on our commitments our allies across the globe, strengthened in their resolve by the carnage of recent days, have redoubled their resolve and efforts to eradicate the plague known as ISIS, not the least of which has been the mother country of Great Britain, where the House of Commons recently authorized air strikes against ISIS in its heartland of Syria (previous efforts on behalf of the British having been restricted to Iraq). In that debate, a certain lefty by the name of Hilary Benn, the son of the notable Tony Benn, distinguished himself by breaking ranks with his pacifist colleagues to support the resolution. He was unrelenting in making the case for action against ISIS, laying out in great detail the Islamic State’s crimes. “We know that in June, four gay Syrian men were thrown off a building,” He began, “And we know that in recent weeks there has been a discovery of mass graves in the city of Sinjar, one found to contain the bodies of older Yazidi women murdered by Daesh because they were judged too old to be sold for sex…..We know they have killed thirty British tourists in Tunisia, two hundred and thirty four Russian holiday makers on a plane, a hundred and seventy eight people in suicide bombings in Beirut and Ankara, a hundred and thirty people in Paris including those young people in the Bataclan….if it had happened here they could have been our children and we know they have been plotting more attacks.”
Having laid out in such stark terms the pure evil of Islamic state, Mr. Benn concluded “We believe we have a responsibility to one another. We never have, and we never should, believe we should walk by on the other side of the road, and we are here faced by fascists, not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this chamber tonight, and all of the people we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt. And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated and it is why…this entire house stood up against Hitler and Mussolini…and my view, Mr. Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil.”
What was so noteworthy about this quite eloquent and forthright argument by Mr. Benn was how much of an outlier it is in modern times. For all his other faults, President Hollande of France deserves credit for having resolutely opposed Islamic extremism with both word and deed throughout his term in office, but when one contrasts that to the willful ignorance of Barack Obama or the outright terrorist sympathy of Jeremy Corbyn or countless other examples (such as the Prime Minister of Sweden’s recent contention that Palestinian attacks on Israelis are not “terrorism”) it becomes clear that Mr. Benn and Monsieur Hollande stand very much alone amongst progressives of the left today.
This was not always the case. For all the flaws of their ideology, leftists of the not even so distant past did have the capacity to both recognize evil and find the resolve to stand against it. Despite being an otherwise flawed and overrated President, Franklin Roosevelt had the courage to resist Hitler’s aspirations for global domination. Here in Canada, a Liberal named Mackenzie King (admittedly with some reluctance) did the same when our allies across the pond called for our aid. In World War One, the principle leaders of Britain, France and America all hailed from political parties that today are associated with the modern day left. John Kennedy had his share of personal faults, but when the time came to stare down Soviet aggression in Cuba he would not blink. However much I may disagree with their ideology, I cannot fault the aforementioned figures of the left for either their courage or the strength of their convictions in the face of those who would have destroyed them.
Such strength of convictions has sadly not been passed down to their modern day heirs, unfortunately (the exceptions of such few fine figures as Hilary Benn aside). The liberals of modernity seem utterly unable to even acknowledge the presence of evil in this world, let alone find the resolve to fight it. When not decrying confrontation altogether with pitiful pleas for safe spaces and trigger-free zones, they engage in morbid navel-gazing full of apologies to the aggressors and self-tortured queries of “what did we do to provoke this?”. Progressives find courage enough to bully soft-targets, whether it is surrounding an elderly man in a mob and hurling abuse at him or forcibly shoving a skinny Asian student-reporter away from their protests, but in the face of an enemy actually capable of fighting back they wilt. I cannot help wondering how this has happened; at what point did liberals utterly lose their spine?
In part this is can be seen as a symptom of the moral relativism of our times. No one is ever truly seen as evil these days. Every tween film depicts a bully as someone who is really a victim in disguise, and the villain of every major film always has “depth” in some way or other which is really code for making him or her relatable and understandable. This is not in and of itself a bad thing. No one but an utter sociopath actually thinks of themselves as evil. Everyone has his own story that casts himself as a hero, and ignoring that is to freely choose to be ignorant, and being ignorant about ones opponent is to invite disaster. To go too far in this direction, however, is to be just as erring. Just because ones enemy is understandable does not make him right. There are moral absolutes in this world, and this universe does contain monsters that must be fought to the very last.
One also can find the seeds of this modern mess amongst the origins of Liberalism itself, the philosophes of the Enlightenment. Rousseau, as always, is the principle guilty party. It was his theory of the blank slate, with a mythical idyllic man spoiled by modernity, which is most deserving of blame. If we are all tabula rasas completely moulded by our environments, then it is our environments that ultimately can be faulted for our actions not ourselves. Thus we see the origins of modern day progressives’ self-damnation. It’s not really the jihadis’ fault, they are only a victim of Western imperialism and capitalist oppression! Or so the refrain goes (never mind that Syeed Farooq, the San Baradino shooter, was a successful member of the middle-class like many of the hijackers behind 9/11).
Of course this is sheer and utter balderdash. However much our environment might shape us we all still possess a God given ability called free will. We are not simply marionettes on strings, manipulated by the puppet-masters otherwise known as our pitiful circumstances. The Dalai Lama likely has faced one of the most hostile environments a person can, having seen both his people and his faith brutally oppressed by Communist China, yet he is a renowned advocate for peace. Martin Luther King Jr. came from the segregationist South, yet preached nonviolent resistance to oppose it. Nelson Mandela triumphed over Apartheid South African and then showed the utmost mercy to his former tormentors. We ultimately choose how we respond to our circumstances, however unfortunate they may be, and those who choose violence and brutality must be met with such means themselves and ultimately stopped.
It is one of the tremendous ironies of modernity that increasingly progressives are only able to exist due to the protection of those they despise. I personally have little use for atheism, egalitarianism, equality, or social justice, but I do believe very much in the freedom others have to believe in those things, which puts me at odds with the Syeed Farooqs and Tashfeen Maliks of this world who would eradicate those who disagree with them through violence just as the modern day progressive seeks to do through less bloody means. The West as it is imagined in its final form by the advocates of the liberal consensus would be an entity neutered and powerless, ripe for conquest. It is a terrible problem when one half of the political process has utterly lost the will to assert its own defense. Therefore, I will heartily cheer on the Hilary Benns and even Francois Hollandes of the left, even as I despise the rest of their politics, for retaining enough inner resolve to stand up for those very despised politics and defend them with both words and deeds.