The Dispassion of Liberals

“If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. West and tall. We see further into the future.” —Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State (1998)

This is the same person who said at a Clinton campaign event, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” She later apologized for the remark.

Actually, she did not apologize for the remark, which she admits to having “uttered a thousand times to applause,” but instead apologized for using it in the context of a Clinton campaign event. “I absolutely believe what I said, that women should help one another,” she explained in an op-ed for the NYTimes.

But this retraction raises a very serious question, namely why she has not apologized for her role in causing the deaths of half a million women and children in Iraq. Does she still believe, as she told Lesley Stahl on 60 minutes (in 2001), that “the price was worth it”?

That’s the trouble with liberals. Noam Chomsky crystalized it well in his notorious debate (on Firing Line in 1969) with William F. Buckley:

A very, in a sense, terrifying aspect of our society, and other societies, is the equanimity and the detachment with which sane, reasonable, sensible people can observe such events. I think that’s more terrifying than the occasional Hitler or LeMay or other that crops up. These people would not be able to operate were it not for this apathy and equanimity. And therefore I think that it’s, in some sense, the sane and reasonable and tolerant people who share a very serious burden of guilt that they very easily throw on the shoulders of others who seem more extreme and violent.”

Chomsky’s point is essentially a restatement of C. Wright Mills observation in The Causes of World War Three (1959):

“The atrocities of The Fourth Epoch are committed by men as “functions” of a rational social machinery – men possessed by an abstracted view that hides from them the humanity of their victims and as well their own humanity. The moral insensibility of our times was made dramatic by the Nazis, but is not the same lack of human morality revealed by the atomic bombing of the peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And did it not prevail, too, among fighter pilots in Korea, with their petroleum-jelly broiling of children and women and men? Auschwitz and Hiroshima – are they not equally features of the highly rational moral-insensibility of The Fourth Epoch? And is not this lack of moral sensibility raised to a higher and technically more adequate level among the brisk generals and gentle scientists who are now rationally – and absurdly – planning the weapons and the strategy of the third world war? These actions are not necessarily sadistic; they are merely businesslike; they are not emotional at all; they are efficient, rational, technically clean-cut. They are inhuman acts because they are impersonal.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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