One Person's Opinion
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Wednesday, March 19, 2003
A CLEVER WAY TO STIFLE DISSENT:
Some hawks have been forthrightly (and falsely) labeling doves as anti-American or pro-Saddam. (See, for instance, the recent criticism of the French.) But other hawks have a more clever and subtle way of doing the same thing. Here's David Frum, criticizing conservatives who don't toe the pro-war line on Iraq:
"The antiwar conservatives aren't satisfied merely to question the wisdom of an Iraq war. Questions are perfectly reasonable, indeed valuable. There is more than one way to wage the war on terror, and thoughtful people will naturally disagree about how best to do it, whether to focus on terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah or on states like Iraq and Iran; and if states, then which state first?
"But the antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation's enemies."
So, it's OK to criticize the method that Bush uses to make war, but if you criticize the war, you are making "common cause" with the "Islamists". It may surprise Frum and a lot of his ideological ilk, but many people don't agree with this war because they think it's bad for America, or bad for the world. These doves (and this probably describes the majority of doves in this country and in Europe) do not support radical Islamic fundamentalism, and do not intend to make common cause with the Islamists (many of whom themselves don't support Saddam Hussein's regime in the first place). Their criticism is just as valid and reasonable and "valuable" as the criticisms who those who support a war but believe that W has screwed it up royally.
In any event, in a democratic society, it is not the function of the governing party, or its supporters, to determine which speech is "valuable" and which speech isn't. It is enough that doves have their opinions and have the right to express them. If Frum thinks the doves are wrong on the merits (which he clearly does), he has the right to express that too. But it is an illegitimate debate tactic to imply that someone else's opinion is less "valuable" (rather than being less persuasive) than your own. In a pluralistic free society, all opinions have value.
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