The Wall Street Journal has begun a momentous retreat. Unfortunately, the editorial writers for that bastion of free market conservatism are just not quite up to admitting it, or put more collegially, they haven’t yet recognized it as such. Thus, in its editorial of February 27, 2006, the editors ask by way of a challenge “amid some recent wringing of hands” about newly formed democracies in the Middle East “succumb[ing] to illiberal temptations”: if the argument is that democracy-building is not the best solution to win the war on terror, “does someone have a better idea?”
It is clear to those who have followed the Journal’s path that the question posed was intended rhetorically. The reason is not because these are stubborn or arrogant men and women who pose questions stylistically as if to say that once they have staked out their position all discussion effectively ends. Rather, what we see in this literary style is an implicit admission that anyone who begins the intellectual journey from the starting point that the highest good is modern, liberal (i.e., free market) democracy, all else is meaningless commentary. In other words, if one’s grounding is not the preservation of America and its national existence, but rather the “policy” that a rights-based, libertarianism is a panacea for the ills of the world, to contemplate anything but democratic nation-building even in the face of mounds of evidence to the contrary is futile. And, of course, the Journal is correct in this.
In effect we have fully answered the editors’ challenge and deserve the prize. But, lest we be accused of being a bit too cute, let’s examine in more detail the retreat to which we point. The high ground from which the Journal editors begin their retreat is modern, rights-based, democracy. For the Journal, while America’s constitutional republic is by far the greatest example of such democracies, it holds no monopoly. The call of liberty, limited government, the freedom to do as one pleases (as long as the exercise of such freedom doesn’t illegally restrain another’s freedom to do likewise), open borders to pursue free trade and amass wealth, these are the positions staked out over the years by New York’s high-brow business paper. All in all, pretty innocuous, or so it seems.
The problem, however, is that the Journal wishes to convert these libertarian policies into some kind of human order of being. The Journal’s editors actually envision America’s greatness not in its national existence and its peoplehood, but in a kind of crafted liberal, democratic ontology. For the Journal, what makes America great is not what is unique to America but a state of nature that demands that man live in a politico-economic order that recognizes no absolute good or truth other than the individual’s own personal choices unbounded. America is great, goes this logic, because it conforms best to human nature, which is to say that man has no nature but the desire to make choices freely. All else, his Christian faith, his unadulterated patriotism and national pride, his understanding that his country, not his neighbor’s, is uniquely blessed, are at best historical remnants of quaint Old World beliefs and at worst dangerous opinions that blind man to the truth that there is no truth.
Of course, what the Journal has done is to miss the fact that America’s greatness, its call to liberty and dignity, its constitution, is a unique product of its founding national make-up. A unique Judeo-Christian consciousness, coupled with an undaunted spirit, unfailing work ethic, and abundant kindness, resulted in the greatest modern republic the world has seen. Our politico-economic system works to the extent that it hasn’t been warped by ideologues, because America works. We have survived revolutions, slavery, civil war, world wars, depression, impeachments, natural disasters, and domestic and international terror not because we are a liberal democracy but because we are America. Is that national chauvinism? You bet it is.p> FROM THE JOURNAL ‘S HIGH GROUND, which we now suspect is not high at all, the paper’s Weltanschauung comes into focus. Thus, a mere 17 days after 9-11, the Journal published an op-ed by a college law professor who wanted to tell us that Islam is really not such a bad religion. If you look hard enough into its history, you will find the Murji’tes, the Mu’tazilites, al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes, all reasonable West-like voices of rationalism, tolerance and enlightenment. All of this is nonsense of course because none of these “voices” or “traditions,” if in fact they were rational or tolerant even in their day, ever came close to defining Islam or surviving to this day. They died childless and homeless as it were. But, we turn to the bottom line of that essay, typically in Journal commentaries literally the bottom line, and we find: br> /p>
It is not for us in the West, of course, to define what “true” Islam is, especially when Muslims dispute it among themselves. But we can all stand against evil, and we can oppose an evil that Islam itself experienced and turned away from in its early days. More important, we can begin to appreciate the varied voices that Islamic civilization offers to the world.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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