Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ObamaCare, Afghanistan and the question of liberal morality

Breathing a sigh of relief, the President is dusting off his salesman cap. ObamaCare seems to be on the mend. Some problems remain, but Healthcare.gov now appears pretty functional.

Yet the future of the Affordable Care Act is far from certain. As David Freddoso notes, Democrats are going to have a hard time getting past the ‘sticker shock’ that many Americans are experiencing with their new plans. After all, it’s hard to persuade a middle class family that they should be happy paying more for a plan that suits them less. There’s obvious political risk here. If common dissatisfaction becomes the norm, November 2014 isn’t going to be fun for Democrats.

Certainly, liberals are going to have to learn from this experience. They’re going to have to accept that good intentions and good policies are not the same thing.

Ultimately, ObamaCare’s difficulties didn’t flow from unfortunate circumstances; they flowed from the arrogance of self-assumed moral superiority. Consider our political discourse. Where conservatives often deride liberal philosophy as delusional, liberals often regard conservatism as implicitly immoral. Regarding ObamaCare, prominent liberals frequently claim that conservative opposition is racist, or motivated by a hatred for the poor, or just plain stupid, or really, really racist. Indeed, the Washington Post's Ryan Cooper has stated that opposing ObamaCare is ''morally wrong''.

Look, I’d be the first to admit that conservatives need to offer serious alternatives to ObamaCare. Nevertheless, liberals desperately need to buy a mirror.

Just reference the recent liberal record in Afghanistan and Iraq…

Iraq, January 2007. A nation on the verge of implosion. Every day brought new bombings and beheadings. Iranian provided explosives were turning armored Humvees into human grinders. Al Qa’ida was fracturing Iraqi society with a ruthless brutality. Then Bush ordered ‘the surge’. With time, JSOC and ‘The Awakening’, the surge dramatically reduced the bloodshed and created space for basic political reconciliation. Without it, Iraq would have almost certainly descended into an ethno-sectarian holocaust. In other words, a moral abyss. Yet, even when its dividends were becoming clear, liberals fastidiously opposed the surge. Not only that, just as the liberal base now gleefully defends Snowden as a great patriot, during the surge, those same liberal activists were happy to deride Americans soldiers as traitors. Consider the dichotomy of this worldview; celebration of a defection to a mafia state, treason by fifteen months military service in 120 degree heat. 

Opposing the surge, liberals offered two weak alternatives - abandon Iraq or ‘hope for the best’. Terrible human suffering had become an abstraction. At best, an uncomfortable reality to be pushed from the mind.

Then there’s Afghanistan.

The majority of liberals have long believed that Afghanistan is a unworthy cause. Nonetheless, whether embracing an inverted McNamara-esque number count, or an assumed self-righteousness, a far too casual faux morality is in play. We’re witnessing a new national security liberalismone defined by easy populism and devoid of moral anchor. A paradigm in sad distinction to the leadership of FDR.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that American military deployments are morally simple questions (nor that conservatives are perfect)But liberals must more honestly pay heed to American’s unique role in the world. While the Afghan President might possess the temperament of a five year old, the evidence also shows Afghanistan’s gradual movement towards stability. By calling for policy changes on the basis of the first consideration but ignoring the latter, liberals would greatly empower those who find justice in the hanging of children. I know they don't intend that, but it's exactly what will happen.

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