A Fighting Faith

Beinart, Peter
December 2004
New Republic;12/13/2004, Vol. 231 Issue 24, p17
The article presents the history of the rise of anticommunism and an argument for a new liberalism. Two of the most influential journals of liberal opinion, The New Republic and The Nation, both rejected militant anti-communism. Former Vice President Henry Wallace, a hero to many liberals, saw communists as allies in the fight for domestic and international progress. As Steven M. Gillon notes in "Politics and Vision," his history of the group Americans for Democratic Action, it was virtually the only liberal organization to back President Harry S. Truman's March 1947 decision to aid Greece and Turkey in their battle against Soviet subversion. But, over the next two years, in bitter political combat across the institutions of American liberalism, anticommunism gained strength. Today, three years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not "been fundamentally reshaped" by the experience. There is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda. When liberals talk about America's new era, the discussion is largely negative--against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America's worsening reputation in the world. Bush's war on terrorism became a partisan affair--defined in the liberal mind not by images of American soldiers walking Afghan girls to school, but by John Ashcroft's mass detentions and Vice President Dick Cheney's false claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The war on terrorism diverts attention from liberalism's positive agenda, which is overwhelmingly domestic. Islamist totalitarianism--like Soviet totalitarianism before it--threatens the United States and the aspirations of millions across the world.


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