by Bruce Thornton
From the days of ancient Athens, the citizens of democracies have been querulous warriors. Key democratic institutions such as free speech and citizen control of the military ensure that ordinary people take an active interest in the progress of war, freely (and often loudly) offering criticism and demanding results. Such criticism typically expressed impatience with military and political leaders for not doing everything they could to win wars as quickly as possible. Yet as David Horowitz and Ben Johnson argue in their bracing analysis of American defeatism, the antiwar movements from Vietnam to the present conflict in Iraq represent something very different: criticism aimed at expediting not victory, but defeat.
Once a leader of the New Left, Horowitz has become the bête noir of the American Left through his books, speeches, and online magazine Front Page, where Johnson is managing editor. In Party of Defeat, the authors relentlessly expose the cant, hypocrisy, and suicidal self-loathing of what these days passes for progressive thought, which has corrupted the Democratic Party through its radical activist base and compromised America’s security. The Democrats’ attack on President Bush in the midst of a war, the authors conclude, is “the most disgraceful episode in America’s political history.”
On issue after issue—the alleged number of Iraqi children killed by sanctions, the inflated number of civilian casualties in the war, the looted Iraqi artifacts, the celebrity of Cindy Sheehan, the media exposure of clandestine intelligence-gathering programs, the attacks on General David Petraeus—Horowitz and Johnson document how the truth, and America’s security, were sacrificed to the ideology of radical activists, the partisan needs of the Democratic Party, and the liberal shibboleths of the mainstream media. Worse yet, America’s enemies took up these charges and incorporated them into their own propaganda (a frequent Al Qaeda tactic, as documented in Raymond Ibrahim’s The Al Qaeda Reader). For example, Osama bin Laden in a fatwa quoted epidemiologist and wannabe Democratic Congressman Les Roberts’s ridiculous toll of 650,000 civilian dead in Iraq—a figure 12 times the actual total by 2005. And the Iranian ambassador to the United States answered charges that his country was aiding terrorists in Iraq by alleging that “America had invaded Iraq on false pretenses” and was now making Iran the scapegoat.
Horowitz and Johnson draw a sobering conclusion: “The decision to attack the morality of America’s war effort has dealt a severe blow to the American cause. It has undermined American unity in the face of the enemy, profoundly damaged the clarity with which the war is understood, and diminished Americans’ ability to defend themselves.” In this important presidential election year, Party of Defeat is essential reading.
Bruce Thornton is the author of Greek Ways and Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide (Encounter Books).