Peter Beinart has a cover story in the New Republic this week called "A Fighting Faith." Its thesis is simple: Democrats need to take the threat of Islamic totalitarianism more seriously. In fact, he says, "as long as that threat remains, defeating it must be liberalism's north star."

His piece has been linked approvingly by a number of people, mostly fairly hawkish sorts who applaud his call to purge liberalism's ranks of the MoveOn/Michael Moore "no blood for oil" crowd. Since I'm moderately hawkish and agree with much of what Beinart says, it would be easy to join in myself and leave it at that. But I think there's more to it.

The article is worth reading, but for those who don't click through here's the nickel version: in the late 40s Democrats fought an internal war that pitted the anticommunist Truman/Roosevelt wing of the party against the accomodationist Henry Wallace wing, which mostly thought that communism wasn't that big a deal. The Truman wing won, and Beinart thinks today's Democrats need to have the same kind of battle royal for the soul of their party. "Spreading freedom in the the Muslim world...can provide the moral purpose for which a new generation of liberals yearn," he says.

Maybe. But I've exchanged a couple of emails with Beinart about this, and I think he may have written the wrong article. His history lesson explains what happened, but not why, and in the end this makes his piece more assertion than argument. What he really needs to write is a prequel to his current piece, one that presents the core argument itself: namely, why defeating Islamic totalitarianism should be a core liberal issue.

The Washington Monthly: "LIBERALS AND TERRORISM."


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