11 March 2007

The longing for defeat

There's an odd and disturbing meme floating around the world of ideas these days. I can't prove any specific individual is guilty of embracing it, but it is definitely out there. I'm talking about an attitude of not only believing that defeat and disaster are inevitable, but even seeming on some level to want it, to long for it, to feel disappointed at the prospect that it might be averted.

An example from the left is the Iraq conflict. For quite some time now it has been an article of faith among many on the left that an American defeat in Iraq is inevitable. That belief, if that is as far as it goes, is a perfectly respectable position, and whatever logical arguments can be made for it deserve sober consideration. However, as more and more signs appear that the tide in Iraq is turning in our favor (see for example here and here, and recall this and this, and the links near the end of this posting), the response very often is not to treat them as grounds for hope, but rather to reassert the defeat-is-inevitable stance in an increasingly frenzied manner, reacting with agitated contempt and even anger to any suggestion that victory in Iraq might be achievable after all. It's impossible to avoid the feeling that these people hope we will lose in Iraq, and would be frustrated and disappointed if we won.

An example from the right is the demographic situation in Europe and Russia. A whole pundit mini-industry has sprung up around the idea that the low native birth rates in those regions, and the high birth rates among their immigrant Muslim minorities, mean that they will inevitably come to be dominated by Islam in a few decades (time frames ranging from fifty years down to as little as twenty years are commonly cited). The loss of one-half of the Western world, plus a closely-related civilization which also happens to have the largest nuclear arsenal on Earth, to the Islamists would indeed be a catastrophe of staggering magnitude. Yet the hard evidence doesn't at all support the idea that any such thing is going to happen -- the numbers simply don't add up, and in Russia at least, Islam is dying out, not growing. Yet although all these statistics are easily accessible to anyone, the demographic-doom theme is ubiquitously asserted with vigor, and sometimes even with a certain unmistakable air of satisfaction.

Some people just have a weird fetish for wallowing in gloomy pessimism, but it's hard to avoid thinking that much uglier motives are at work here. I suspect, for example, that the intense hatred for President Bush harbored by many on the left has reached the point that they would rather see the American mission in Iraq fail than succeed if the latter meant that Bush would get credit for the victory. I suspect that the strong commitment of many American conservatives to Christianity causes them to draw some gratification from the idea that the highly secular and post-Christian societies of Europe and Russia are doomed to decline and extinction, whereas the prospect of those societies surviving permanently and vitally is a disturbing challenge to their world-view.

To the extent that such motives do exist, they are despicable. Whatever President Bush's faults -- and they are many -- an American who wants his country to lose a war (while he is of course entitled to his opinion) cannot be considered a patriot or entitled to any respect. And for all the backstabbing behavior of some western European governments and the contemptible anti-Americanism of so many of their people, we need them to see the light, not be lost forever to the darkness -- no one who gloats at the thought of Europe declining into oblivion can claim to be a champion of Western civilization.

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