Thursday, June 22, 2006

I read a fantastic article in Harper's called: Stabbed in the Back! The past and future of a right-wing myth by Kevin Baker. It is a fascinating exploration of how the conservative movement in the US has adopted a myth of betrayal as their main weapon in the continuous culture war they have to wage in order to get elected and retain power. Its basic gist is that Democrats and liberals betray our troops and our country by their criticisms of war efforts and willingness to engage in diplomacy. Its most current manifestation is the characterization of Democrats as wanting to "cut and run" from Iraq. It's the old "soft on defense, who lost China" argument. Baker's article is extremely illuminating because of the historical perspective he takes, showing the contradictions and inanities of the argument.

So why bring this up now? George Bush just visited Hungary and toasted the anniversary of the 1956 uprising there, without (as the AP article says) mentioning the US's failure to help out. What the AP article fails to mention is that one of the reasons for not mentioning the US's failure to help out is that it was a Republican administration, one that won victory based on a campaign that pounded the Democrats on their betrayal of the Koreans and the troops who fought in the Korean War. Eisenhower was elected to office on a wave of accusations of appeasement of communism, treason, and betrayal, with pledges to fight communism everywhere... and then promptly did much of the same. The US's failure to act in 1956 to help Hungary is inconvenient for Bush, because unlike Yalta or Vietnam or whatever other bogeyman conservatives prop up, it was conservative Republicans that "betrayed" Hungary.

The moral of the story? Don't believe the hype. It's not betrayal or somehow being less supportive of our troops to demand that their sacrifices be for something more than national economic interest or in the service of some ideological mission. Supporting our troops does not mean blindly supporting those who send them to die. Betrayal is an easy accusation to throw around, but it does nothing but choke off reasoned, impassioned debate that makes democracy work.

1 comment:

The Eastvold Blog said...

Jack -

First, thanks for starting your blog. I look forward to reading more!

Second, on this article--an interesting link. I hadn't seen that article before. Thanks for your analysis.