In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, a cavalcade of conservatives tapped open their sunroofs to profess love for democracy as the wheels slipped off their war plan and crushed countless thousands. In a time replete with scenes of grotesque carnage, this spectacle vied for a top spot.
Having unleashed hell on Iraq’s society, unearthed no weapons of mass destruction, and unmasked no al-Qaeda links, advocates of invasion were keen, even desperate, to emphasize their one surviving rationale for war: Saddam’s removal could herald the creation, however bloody and disjointed, of the first democracy in the Arab world.
Other, more believable motives, such as the desire to exercise revenge or secure Israel’s regional dominance, faded from public view as conservatives saturated the media with love poems to democracy.
But now, as millions of Arabs rise up against despotic regimes, the poets seem to have misplaced their lines.
Glenn Beck, the archenemy of America’s socialist tyranny, loudly laments the loss of Arab tyranny. The revolt against Hosni Mubarak, he warns, will inaugurate a new “Islamic caliphate,” which, allied with Google and liberals, will destroy America. Israel, the “only democracy in the Middle East”, as the slogan goes, is hyperventilating over the liberation of Egypt, joined as always by its Israel-first allies in the United States. Lead neocon John Bolton and Fox News buffoon Sean Hannity go a step farther, arguing that Mubarak’s demise should be used as a pretext to attack Iran.
Though conservatives have long maintained that they see America as a force that favors freedom, the hysterics over Mubarak’s ouster give us a glimpse behind the mask.
What motivates conservatives’ hatred of freedom? Why spill blood and spend billions with the putative aim of liberating Arabs only to now insist that Arabs not liberate themselves?
The answer, of course, is that freedom is to conservatives what a scabbard is to a swordsman: a means to protect and conceal the implement of choice.
For conservatives, that implement is a sword forged of religious fundamentalism and nationalist zealotry. Protestant and Jewish fundamentalists applaud Israel’s expansion as the fulfillment of God’s promise, Palestinian rights be damned. American nationalists believe terrorism is a product of violent Arab-Muslim culture rather than blowback for violent American policy. Neocon “theorists” assert that despotism and violence are inherent defects of Arab-Muslim thinking. Therefore, a largely peaceful Arab movement against despotism, led by secularists, joined by Islamists, and disinterested in appeasing Israel, must be vilified and denounced as sham.
Deviating from these conservative commandments is forbidden regardless of the harm done to our national standing or security. Best illustrating this mania is our awesome decision to pipe up as the lone enablers of Israeli colonialism at the U.N., a move made on the back of conservative pressure to “stand with Israel at all costs.” Thus, as conservatives bleat about the dangers of Islamic extremism, they encourage and incite Judeo-Christian extremism.
These past weeks have revealed a huge gap not just between the rulers and the ruled in the Arab world, but also between the rhetoric and reality of American conservatism. While no one can predict how the wave of democracy will recast Arab politics, the disapproval of America’s authoritarian-minded conservatives should serve as one reliable index of progress.