Jonah Goldberg notices that liberals used to advocate American intervention overseas for purely altruistic missions, but now they have stopped even that. They are obsessed with one thing, bringing America home, even it will mean genocide abroad.
Liberals used to be the ones who argued that sending U.S. troops abroad was a small price to pay to stop genocide; now they argue that genocide is a small price to pay to bring U.S. troops home.
(I gather from the article that Goldberg is a neoconservative altruist who holds American sacrifice and nation building abroad as moral. Setting all that aside, his observation about liberals is interesting and I want to focus on that.)
If compassion for the downtrodden is what altruism is all about -- and many liberals would tell you it is -- then why don't they care about the genocide that would happen in Iraq if America left? Why is there not a campaign to get America into Sudan the way we intervened in the Balkans?
Some might say that it's all politics. Iraq is Bush's war, a Republican war, and the Democrats hate all things Republican. If Al Gore were President, they would support Iraq as a humanitarian project.
I don't buy it. First, if Gore or Kerry were President, we would not be in Iraq. Second, even if we were somehow in Iraq with a Democrat President, the radical left would still protest. It would be like Chicago in 1968.
No, the explanation goes much deeper than that. Liberals are not being inconsistent when they want America to withdraw from Iraq. They are being perfectly true to their premises. Altruism is not primarily about helping the downtrodden, but about making the able sacrifice. Altruists are not motivated by love of the weak, but by hatred of the strong. Altruists do not want to help the disable live, but to make the able commit suicide.
All the talk about helping the poor and the weak is just rationalizing to disguise the naked evil of altruism's true purpose: sacrifice as an end in itself. They don't really care what practical results come from sacrifice, they just want to see the strong and the capable put chains on themselves -- chains that the power lusters could never put on the strong without the ideology of altruism. Altruism is an ideology of control and obedience; it makes people enchain themselves because they are told it is moral to sacrifice for the other, be it God, society, the planet or whatever.
The liberals do not accept the neoconservative altruistic justifications for American intervention abroad. They don't buy that we're sacrificing to bring democracy to the Middle East. Our war in Iraq is a package deal of sacrifice and national defense, and to the left the self-interested part of the deal is the most important. America, the strongest nation in the world, is asserting itself, defending itself abroad. This is selfish. Altruists cannot allow this to stand -- even it means the death of millions.
Is our tangled, confused mission in Iraq essentially one of sacrifice or self-interest? The left certainly thinks it is self-interest. Maybe they're right.