We're All Defeatocrats Now

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In George Orwell’s Oceana, the wordsmiths at the Ministry of Truth conjure up new truths daily, as they purge unwelcome old truths from history with the help of the Memory Hole. Their efforts are constantly aimed at keeping the populace under control, confused and off-balance — "We are at War with Eastasia — Eurasia is our ally." "We are at war with Eurasia — Eastasia is our ally." Fear abides. The only thing citizens of Oceana have to hang on to is Big Brother — who is, mystically, the personification of the Inner Party — which, in turn, represents the best interests of the people of Oceana. Just ask the torturers at the Ministry of Love. Power is their love potion.

And just to make sure that no party minds begin to wander, the gang at the Ministry of Truth shares their rage in the daily Two-Minutes Hate, domestic opposition to Big Brother. The party needs the Two-Minutes Hate to keep even its members in line.

All this comes to mind as the neocons scramble to preserve the last shred of their credibility as the American people turn against their war and their lies. As all their other arguments for the war have turned up empty, the neocons now scream hatefully at their critics. Anyone who opposes them they accuse of advocating "defeat" in Iraq. Some of the more usual suspects actually preen as they wallow in their neologisms. The latest appears to be that the enemy of America is not Osama bin Laden, it is the "defeatocrats" — who currently happen to comprise a majority of the American people.

The charge is usually hurled with a vengeance, accompanied by an angry, unforgiving scowl. This primal scream is eerily reminiscent of the bitterness that flourished in the endless mutual screeds launched by Karl Marx and the other leftists (the "Left-Hegelians") of his generation. They all opposed the bourgeoisie, to be sure, but they saved their genuine, burning hatred for one another. No vulgarity was too vile to be employed in their constant attacks on their competitors on the left for supremacy in the ideological struggle for power. As Dostoevsky later observed, with these socialist atheists, "everything was permitted."

And so too, it appears, among the neocons. As the war winds down, they will undoubtedly continue to call their opponents names (many were once their allies, but never mind: neocons abhor permanent alliances — domestically, at least). When the curtain falls, the last of them will be manning the parapets and flinging his most potent remaining weapons — vulgar epithets.

This latest concoction — "defeatocrat" — deserves a brief moment of our attention. It constitutes a critical ingredient of a broader and rather coarse ideological sleight of hand that often surfaces on the left — in fact, it might be called a central feature of leftism. In the classic imperial fashion of the Pharaoh, of Caesar, of Louis XIV, of Stalin, of Mao, and of their favorite symbol, Hitler, the neocon ruler identifies himself with the nation, and so his personal defeat becomes indistinguishable from the defeat of the nation.

The logical observer who rejects the Dictatorship of Relativism will find refreshment in parsing this latest artifact of neocon Doublethink. Such investigation can refresh the sober mind wonderfully. When the neocons scream that ceasing Mr. Bush’s unconstitutional war would mean "defeat for America," they are propounding a logical fallacy, based on a false premise, namely, that "George W. Bush" is "America" — thus:

Major premise: Withdrawing from Iraq would be a profound and permanent defeat for George W. Bush

Minor premise: Bush is America

Conclusion: Therefore, withdrawing from Iraq would be a profound and permanent defeat for America.

Q.E.D.

Now we know better, don’t we? And so do the neocons. In fact, western man has known better ever since Socrates described tyranny as the tyrant’s nightmare imposed on the polis.

But today’s tyrant is not the polis. Since Socrates, the emergence of philosophy (and the attendant rise of logic, metaphysics, and ethics) is irreversible. While Pharaoh was indeed the embodiment of ancient Egypt, whose father was the Nile and whose children were divine, that mythical cosmos is worlds away from our constitutional republic. Like their royals Christian forbearers (until the modern period), our Founders understood all too well the fallen nature of man. They were careful to place stringent limits of power on every officeholder. They also recognized the Divinity as the source of our liberties, not as a characteristic of aspiring tyrants.

To continue with our Socratic reflection, consider: a ruler’s imagination has strayed so far from reality that his forays of power have led the republic into profound danger. Our Constitution’s authors were much more familiar with Socrates than the politicians of our current generation. Hence, many contemporary observers feign surprise, even horror, to discover that the Constitution accords to the Congress, and to the people, the legitimate power to curb the Executive’s forays in fantasy.

A solid majority of the American people have emerged from the fog of war propaganda to come to their senses. They now realize that it does not constitute a "defeat" of America to withdraw U.S. military forces from an imprudent and illegal war, and to restore the Executive to its Constitutional limits. Rather, it is a victory for the Constitution, the rule of law, and the rule of right reason by the virtuous people of Federalist 57, on whom the founders placed the ultimate authority for the legitimate exercise of government power.

However, it does constitute a defeat for this particular Chief Executive, if indeed he has invested all the remnants of his legitimacy in the triumph of his imaginings — even as they approach the intensity of the nightmare of Socrates’s tyrant. But, as another tyrant used to say, "let’s make one thing perfectly clear":

A defeat for Bush’s errant Iraq nightmare is not a defeat for America.

Just don’t tell Big Brother.

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