The Left’s Struggle With Freedom In The Middle-East

James Taranto of Best of the Web noted an incredible exchange between Jon Stewart, who’s adored on the left, and former Clinton aide Nancy Soderberg. The reason I call it an “incredible exchange” is not just because Stewart seems to be grasping and acknowledging the shockwave of freedom that Bush got started in Iraq, but because Soderberg is so forthright in admitting that she hopes that freedom fails in these countries because it’ll be good for the Democrats politically (Emphasis mine)

Stewart: This book–it talks about the superpower myth of the United States. There is this idea, the United States is the sole superpower, and I guess the premise of the book is we cannot misuse that power–have to use it wisely, and not just punitively. Is that–

Soderberg: That’s right. What I argue is that the Bush administration fell hostage to the superpower myth, believing that because we’re the most powerful nation on earth, we were all-powerful, could bend the world to our will and not have to worry about the rest of the world. I think what they’re finding in the second term is, it’s a little bit harder than that, and reality has an annoying way of intruding.

Stewart: But what do you make of–here’s my dilemma, if you will. I don’t care for the way these guys conduct themselves–and this is just you and I talking, no cameras here [audience laughter]. But boy, when you see the Lebanese take to the streets and all that, and you go, “Oh my God, this is working,” and I begin to wonder, is it–is the way that they handled it really–it’s sort of like, “Uh, OK, my daddy hits me, but look how tough I’m getting.” You know what I mean? Like, you don’t like the method, but maybe–wrong analogy, is that, uh–?

Soderberg: Well, I think, you know, as a Democrat, you don’t want anything nice to happen to the Republicans, and you don’t want them to have progress. But as an American, you hope good things would happen. I think the way to look at it is, they can’t credit for every good thing that happens, but they need to be able to manage it. I think what’s happening in Lebanon is great, but it’s not necessarily directly related to the fact that we went into Iraq militarily.

Stewart: Do you think that the people of Lebanon would have had, sort of, the courage of their conviction, having not seen–not only the invasion but the election which followed? It’s almost as though that the Iraqi election has emboldened this crazy–something’s going on over there. I’m smelling something.

Soderberg: I think partly what’s going on is the country next door, Syria, has been controlling them for decades, and they [the Syrians] were dumb enough to blow up the former prime minister of Lebanon in Beirut, and they’re–people are sort of sick of that, and saying, “Wait a minute, that’s a stretch too far.” So part of what’s going on is they’re just protesting that. But I think there is a wave of change going on, and if we can help ride it though the second term of the Bush administration, more power to them.

Stewart: Do you think they’re the guys to–do they understand what they’ve unleashed? Because at a certain point, I almost feel like, if they had just come out at the very beginning and said, “Here’s my plan: I’m going to invade Iraq. We’ll get rid of a bad guy because that will drain the swamp”–if they hadn’t done the whole “nuclear cloud,” you know, if they hadn’t scared the pants off of everybody, and just said straight up, honestly, what was going on, I think I’d almost–I’d have no cognitive dissonance, no mixed feelings.

Soderberg: The truth always helps in these things, I have to say. But I think that there is also going on in the Middle East peace process–they may well have a chance to do a historic deal with the Palestinians and the Israelis. These guys could really pull off a whole–

Stewart: This could be unbelievable!

Soderberg:—series of Nobel Peace Prizes here, which–it may well work. I think that, um, it’s–

Stewart: [buries head in hands] Oh my God! [audience laughter] He’s got, you know, here’s–

Soderberg: It’s scary for Democrats, I have to say.

Stewart: He’s gonna be a great–pretty soon, Republicans are gonna be like, “Reagan was nothing compared to this guy.” Like, my kid’s gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.

Soderberg: Well, there’s still Iran and North Korea, don’t forget. There’s hope for the rest of us.

Stewart: [crossing fingers] Iran and North Korea, that’s true, that is true [audience laughter]. No, it’s–it is–I absolutely agree with you, this is–this is the most difficult thing for me to–because, I think, I don’t care for the tactics, I don’t care for this, the weird arrogance, the setting up. But I gotta say, I haven’t seen results like this ever in that region.

Soderberg: Well wait. It hasn’t actually gotten very far. I mean, we’ve had–

Stewart: Oh, I’m shallow! I’m very shallow!

Soderberg: There’s always hope that this might not work. No, but I think, um, it’s–you know, you have changes going on in Egypt; Saudi Arabia finally had a few votes, although women couldn’t participate. What’s going on here in–you know, Syria’s been living in the 1960s since the 1960s–it’s, part of this is–

Stewart: You mean free love and that kind of stuff? [audience laughter] Like, free love, drugs?

Soderberg: If you’re a terrorist, yeah.

Stewart: They are Baathists, are they–it looks like, I gotta say, it’s almost like we’re not going to have to invade Iran and Syria. They’re gonna invade themselves at a certain point, no? Or is that completely naive?

Soderberg: I think it’s moving in the right direction. I’ll have to give them credit for that. We’ll see.

Stewart: Really? Hummus for everybody, for God’s sakes.”

It’s encouraging to me to see a lightbulb start to come on for someone like Stewart over the war in Iraq: that sort of, “I didn’t support the war, but now I think we just may be on to something really big here” line of thinking.

This is a positive development, especially compared to Soderburg’s “I would like to be happy for these people but it’s bad for the Democratic Party if these people become free” reasoning.

Sadly, from what I’ve see from the left-side of the blogosphere, I think that the Nancy Sodenburgs on the left far outnumber the Jon Stewarts. Let us hope that will not always be the case…

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