One mark of ideological thinking is a strong strain of rigid consistency. All the facts must fit. The past must be re-written to reflect today’s goals. If the Catholic Church committed some evils in the priest scandal, it was evil back to the time of Christ. If the Iraq War is wrong, so was WWII, WWI, the Vietnam War, and even the War of 1812. Bad means in the pursuit of a noble goal, well-meaning mistakes, incompetence rather than malevolence, and all forms of moral complexity and human error are consigned to either the realm of the elect and the damned.
A nasty strain of this has emerged among the anti-war right. The left, of course, has long had a large body of supporters whose criticisms of the western world and the United States are intemperate, because the philosophy is rooted in an anti-western fetishization of the Other. But now the anti-war right, frustrated perhaps by the support received by Bush among a fairly large constituency, has undertaken to extremes of rhetoric, culminating in 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Lawrence Auster exposed this nonsensense quite trenchantly in a piece he wrote some time ago in Front Page Magazine where he wrote, inter alia, about the strange turn of Antiwar.com to anti-Americanism after its initial, powerful condemnation of the Kosovo campaign:
But then something very strange happened with Szamuely, and with Antiwar.com itself. Not content with merely opposing the U.S.-led war on Serbia, he began retrospectively attacking America’s entire effort in the Cold War against the former Soviet Union. He did this by denying that Communism had ever represented a threat that needed to be stopped. It was as though, once he had switched into an oppositional mode against what he saw as the unjustified use of American power in the case of Serbia, he was compelled by some mysterious dynamic to see any use of American power abroad as wrong or imperialistic, even when that power had been used for such a righteous and necessary cause as resisting the spread of Communism, and even though he himself had previously been an anti-Communist and a supporter of the Cold War.
This came as a shock to me. And the shock didn’t end there. I soon noticed a similar adversarial stance among other antiwar rightists, a wild denunciatory quality that did not confine itself to particular wrongs committed by the United States, but eagerly embraced any assertion against America, no matter how ridiculous.
I strongly recommend the article. Auster correctly notes that significant numbers of the paleoconservative right, resentful perhaps over their lack of influence and professional success, have turned into nihilist haters of all things American. It’s ridiculous, of course, and far out of kilter with what should be conservative instincts, particularly when natural patriotism and unease with the paranoia of the fringe left is why so many normal people remain encamped on the right side of the spectrum.