alien & sedition.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
  Don't Fear the Dolchstosslegende?

Check out the snazzy new American Scene. Not only does the site look great, but Reihan Salam has brought on board an excellent group of co-bloggers, ideologically diversifying the site in the process.

The new team includes neo-paleocon Daniel Larison (an opponent of the Iraq war), who suggests that liberals shouldn't be so worried about a revival of Dolchstoss politics:
A turn to Dolchstoss rhetoric would be the final act of self-discrediting by mainstream conservatives in this country. Not satisfied with their own handy knife work in the area of the national spinal column with the Iraq war, they will be only too happy to find scapegoats for a disaster in which they acquiesced and indeed cheered on through each stage of deepening failure. Instead of four or eight years out of power, the right would risk losing its chance at the White House for a generation if it engaged in the active vilification of two-thirds of the country. It would be the ultimate act of blaming America first, which, as they are only too well aware, is not a vote-winner. Watching progressives gird for the coming battle against Dolchstoss is rather amusing, when it seems clear from where I'm standing that nothing could better suit the cause of progressivism in this country than a perpetually imploding, paranoid and delusional conservative movement. Indeed, things would have come full circle, since it was in no small part thanks to the implosion of the left brought on by the excesses and absurdity of the New Left in the late 1960s and early 1970s that helped lay some of the foundations for later conservative success.
Larison also suggests that Dolchstoss is less likely to catch on in a situation where 1) it's effete AEI intellectuals, not the military, doing the complaining, and 2) millions of Americans (or even tens of thousands) haven't died.

Larison certainly has a point about the right's descent into paranoia, though it's something of an incoherent process (isn't it always), particularly in that even pro-war conservatives themselves are vehemently at odds with each other -- and often with themselves -- as to whether the Iraq war is a booming success or a plain failure. One almost gets the sense that they look forward to the days when they can be done with it -- just ditch the cognitive dissonance and settle on a nice revisionist fairy tale that blames the whole thing on the libs. But the paranoid style in America sells books but not candidates, not over the long run anyway, and if conservatives want to revert to a kind of John Birch mentality (and again, Johann Hari's experience suggests that the process is fairly advanced at this stage) then perhaps they'll ultimately settle into a John Birch-style marginality.

We can certainly hope that will be the case, anyway. In the meantime, progressives are intimately familiar with the potency of the conservative noise machine, having been beaten bloody by it on a regular basis over the past quarter century. And we're aware that Dolchstoss is being pumped through the machine at a considerable rate, with the usual message discipline across all manner of movement institutions. So I, for one, might be cheered by Larison's line of argument, I might even believe he's right, but in the meantime, I'll continue to gird.

Update: Ross Douthat makes the same case as Larison:
Myself, I think that liberals should be praying that the Right embraces the "stabbed in the back" theory of what went wrong in Iraq (and possibly Iran as well), because it will push conservatives toward political irrelevance.
Go read the whole post.

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Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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