Peretz is pulling no punches
I still subscribe to the New Republic. I'm both fascinated and, at times, frustrated by its split personality. Depending on the writer, the subject, and sometimes which way the wind is blowing on any particular day, it careens wildly from pro- to anti-Bush and back again, from hopeful about the war to pessimistic and then back to hopeful again.
But Martin Peretz has been consistent for some time now. Speaking as a liberal addressing other liberals, he writes what seems (to me, at least) to be common sense, telling them how they've gone off the deep end and sacrificed principles they used to hold dear.
Unfortunately, though, most of the New Republic's articles are available only to subscribers, so unless you are one you won't be able to read Peretz's latest article online.
But here's his opening salvo, which I think is spot on:
If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold--perhaps even somewhat reckless--instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids?
Peretz goes on to list Bush's accomplishments in potentially changing the face of the Middle East and helping to turn it towards democracy. One gets the distinct impression that it pains Peretz more than a little to have to say these things, and he certainly doesn't consider Bush perfect.
But it pains Peretz a lot more that most liberals are still unwilling to give credit to Bush where it clearly is due. Peretz writes:
Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history. Nothing about his past suggested that he harbored these ideals nor the qualities of character required for their realization....It is simply stupid, empirically and philosophically, to deny that all or any of this [the recent advances in democracy] would have happened without the deeply unpopular but historically grand initiative of Bush.
The article is long, and doesn't lend itself easily to summary. But here is Peretz's zinger of a conclusion:
One does not have to admire a lot about George W. Bush to admire what he has so far wrought. One need only be a thoughtful American with an interest in proliferating liberalism around the world. And, if liberals are unwilling to proliferate liberalism, then conservatives will. Rarely has there been a sweeter irony.