After Iraq, The Left Has A New Agenda: Contain America (Jonathan Rauch, May 23, 2003, National Journal)
Unless you live at the bottom of a well, you’ve probably noticed that 9/11 and Iraq have had a transforming effect on the American Right. The short formulation is that so-called neoconservatism has triumphed. In 1999, Republicans bitterly opposed U.S. action against a rogue state in Central Europe; in 2000, their presidential nominee ran on an inward-looking, reactive, "humble" foreign policy. All of that is history now. It is hard to find a conservative who does not believe, as the neocons do, in robust and pre-emptive American action against tyrants and terrorists.
That change is, I believe, a watershed, akin to Democrats’ side-switch on civil rights in the 1960s and Republicans’ switch on budget-balance in the 1980s. In the rush to notice neocons, however, another transformation has been overlooked. A new kind of leftist agenda has emerged from 9/11 and Iraq, one that both mirrors and inverts neoconservatism, and one whose implications seem just as profound.
To understand "neoleftism" (as I might as well call it), consider an ostensibly odd fact: Many neoleftists saw not failure for their side in the fight against the Iraq war, but success.
Success? Even though the Left’s street demonstrations around the world failed to stop the war? Even though the quick victory and Iraqi celebrations seemed to vindicate neocons’ predictions? Well, yes. Here is how The Nation, which is to the neoleftists something like what Commentary once was to the neocons, put it in an April 7 editorial:
"If we are present at the creation of a new American empire, we are also present at the creation of another superpower — the largest, most broadly based peace and justice movement in history, a movement that has engaged millions of people here and around the globe."
President Bush’s arrogance and aggression, in this view, have catalyzed the truly international sort of activist network that the Left has long dreamed of. At last the globalized economy faces a globalized Left, one that can come together at the speed of e-mail to oppose corporate power — and American power.
Where’d they go? We kept hearing about how the millions of marchers represented a new movement–where are they? What do they want? What’s next?
Aren’t they in fact just a reactionary force that can be mobilized once in awhile to try and stop something they don’t like? In what sense are they a constructive, forward-looking force?