Iran, Patriotism, and Globalism

January 8, 2020 Updated: January 8, 2020


Democratic former Sen. Joe Lieberman laments, in a Wall Street Journal opinion column, the lack of bipartisanship in foreign policy today. He wonders why the Democratic Party’s candidates and leaders can’t admit that “President Trump’s order to take out Qassem Soleimani was morally, constitutionally, and strategically correct.”

He notes that the late Iranian general created, supported, and directed a network of terrorist organizations that spread havoc in the Middle East. In addition to the brutality of the measures he orchestrated against Syrians, Iraqi demonstrators, and others, he was responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American soldiers and contractors in Iraq (some sources, though Lieberman doesn’t mention this, suggest he was behind the assault by Libyan terrorists on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi).

Lieberman also refutes claims that Trump acted illegally or unconstitutionally and points out the following:

“On many occasions President Obama sensibly ordered drone strikes on dangerous terrorist leaders, including U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki. He did so without specific congressional authorization, and without significant Democratic opposition. Mr. Obama also ‘brought justice’ to Osama bin Laden without prior, explicit congressional approval.”

But the problem is not just one of Democrats’ hyperpartisanship, bad as that is. The attribution of base and personal motives to the president, instead of examining Trump’s strategy, claims that the elimination of Soleimani was not part of a coherent strategy in the region (Lieberman shows that it was). The obsessive focus on Trump disregards the threat posed by Soleimani’s activities in Iraq and the fact that Iran has been at war with the United States for 40 years.

All these knee-jerk reactions and diversions are par for the course. They are typical of the Democrats’ refusal to accept the fact that they lost the 2016 election.

But there’s also the deeper problem the left has with patriotism, a tendency to oppose the policy of one’s own government regardless of the issue at stake. The problem is not sudden in its onset. But it is increasingly evident in the party’s leftward lurch and, for example, in the efforts to teach children to reject and repudiate their own country, its founding principles and values, and its whole history.

The New York Times’ bogus American history initiative, the 1619 Project, is a recent example. Thoroughly refuted by serious historians, the project builds on a wider effort—using control of textbooks, curricula, and the College Board and its Advanced Placement U.S. History Exam—to control the teaching of history in schools across the United States. The aim is to teach students not pride in their country, as previous generations have learned, but shame, guilt, and anger.

We should not be surprised, then, that The New York Times described the Soleimani-orchestrated attack on the Baghdad embassy as being carried out by “mourners” rather than militants, terrorists, or even protesters. It’s another all-too-typical case of a once-reputable mainstream paper’s reporting in a way—biased and anti-American—that used to be a specialty of the far left.

The Democratic Party and our cultural elites have become radical oikophobes—people who repudiate their own country and are increasingly anti-American as well as anti-Semitic. As happened with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in the UK, episodes like this will lead increasing numbers of voters to decide that the Democrats can’t be trusted to keep America safe.

Anywheres and Somewheres

The gap between ordinary people and elites in patriotic feeling is partly a matter of career, education, and opportunity. English demographer David Goodhart describes the key divide as one between Anywheres and Somewheres.

Anywheres are those whose education, skills, jobs, and attitudes incline them to adapt to life anywhere, to feel affinity with others of like background and education in other countries more than with their neighborhoods or communities of origin. They are inclined to a global, rather than a national or local view of the world, to transnational institutions and the elites who run them rather than to those accountable to the place and the country where they live. They’re uninterested in, even embarrassed by, faith, flag, and family. They dominate certain fields in technology, media, education, law, and politics. They live in big cities and university towns. They’re students or college graduates. They “value autonomy and self-realization before stability, community, and tradition.”

The Somewheres, by contrast, are less likely to have university degrees but more likely to be rooted in the place where they are, with closer ties to their neighbors. They care about the character and quality of their neighborhood and feel directly the pressures of immigration on the job market and local culture in a way that Anywheres don’t. They’re more likely to be socially conservative and patriotic.

Goodhart says that this divide between the Anywheres and the Somewheres is more important, culturally and politically, than traditional class-based splits between left and right.

The division maps well to political differences. In Britain, for instance, Goodhart found that the Anywhere/Somewhere divide was closely reflected in attitude to the EU and Brexit.

The result—and the response to it of the Anywheres in and out of Parliament—was foreshadowed in a 2011 poll that asked the question whether the respondent agreed with the statement: “Britain has changed in recent times beyond recognition, it sometimes feels like a foreign country and this makes me uncomfortable.” The poll found that only 30 percent disagreed, while 62 percent agreed.

The referendum vote was closer, with a Leave win of 52 percent over Remain at 48 percent. By the end of 2019, positions had hardened against the parties that, for three and a half years, had been obstructing implementation of the referendum result they had promised to respect. The conservatives won a stunning majority and put an end to efforts to remain in the EU.

A similar divide is evident in the result—no less surprising to experts and Anywheres—of the 2016 election in the United States. And in the horrified, vitriolic, and sometimes violent reaction of the Anywheres, the Democratic Party has doubled down on its contempt for what was once its working-class base.

The party moved ever further to the left and embraced identity politics and sexual liberalism, including an extreme pro-abortion position that became a litmus test for anyone aspiring to leadership. Democrats became increasingly hostile to Israel and open to anti-Semitism, and came to regard religious liberty, enshrined in the First Amendment, as “code” for bigotry and hatred.

Such a division also expresses itself in a different attitude to loyalty, including but not limited to loyalty to one’s country. This is one of the key value differences social psychologist Jonathan Haidt finds between conservatives and liberals. Haidt shows why most working-class people are conservative, and how, in so being, they’re not acting against their own interests, as liberals think. They’re supporting their moral interests and the values they cherish of loyalty, duty, and piety. They don’t trust leaders who treat such values, and those who hold them, with contempt.

Oiks and Patriots

Another way of understanding the issue is that of conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton. In this context, he has popularized the term “oikophobia” to mean repudiation of the natural feeling people have for their own home (“oikos” in Greek), a sense of place, of belonging.

Like differentiation from parents, oikophobia is almost inevitable as a stage of adolescence, but it persists in liberal or leftist feeling that scorns patriotism, however gentle, as backward and bigoted.

As Scruton observes, one can be an Anywhere in Goodhart’s sense—as he is and I am—but still have a strong sense of place and a longing to belong. In such cases, home is discovered, perhaps after many years of wandering, before one settles down. The response to such an odyssey is likely then to be a heightened sense of gratitude to the place where one settles.

The response of the oiks, as Scruton calls them, to the failure of the majority to vote as they told them they should, is fury at their stupidity, along with a refusal to accept and respect the result of the vote, even when they had promised to do so.

Problems and Choices

The knee-jerk reaction of the Democrats to anything Trump does or fails to do, even in confronting a deadly danger from a brutal and relentless enemy of the United States, has two problems.

The first problem is that making it all about Trump, his assumed motives, and presumed character flaws prevents any serious bipartisan discussion of the situation in the Middle East and what the United States can or can’t reasonably do about it. Given the situation the country faces, what are the options, the alternatives? It becomes impossible to have such a discussion when we make it “all about us.”

David Goldman, the economist, strategic expert, music critic, and theologian who writes for Asia Times under the name Spengler, offers a brief but brilliant example of the kind of analysis that we should be discussing.

He says that Trump took a calculated risk that “probably represents the best of a set of bad alternatives.” We should be discussing the risk and what the alternatives were and are, regardless of who is in the White House, not arguing about Trump’s risk-taking propensities or his personality.

The second problem—that denouncing the patriotism of a large part of the electorate doesn’t pay—is well described by the distinguished American legal scholar and political philosopher Robert P. George.

In this Facebook post, he is talking about the British Labour Party’s failure to learn the most basic lesson from its catastrophic election defeat last month. But the point applies no less to the Democrats:

“Newsflash: Allegedly working class parties that get taken over by Woke professionals and business executives, left-wing college professors and students, faux ‘social justice’ (e.g., abortion and sexual liberation) activists, population controllers, cultured despisers of religion, and people who identify the past with nothing but evil and propose cultural revolution rather than reform or renewal, lose working class voters—and national elections. They then blame the working class people whose values they hold in contempt.”

Paul Adams is a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Hawaii and was a professor and associate dean of academic affairs at Case Western Reserve University. He is the co-author of “Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is” and has written extensively on social welfare policy and professional and virtue ethics.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.