Andrew Sullivan has certainly changed his tune over the past few years, turning from libertarian/neo con sympathizer to small c Conservative with some very liberal tendencies. His thoughtful posts on both domestic and foreign politics are a must read for Americans confused with the complex dynamics of the changing world, and his increasingly sophisticated views should be looked at as a template upon which more nuanced debate can be built.
Recently, Sullivan has immersed himself in the ongoing turmoil in Iran, and his writing exemplifies his evolving views. He ends the year with an insightful article on our relationship with the Muslim world, and more importantly our arrogant belief that their struggles are anything but their own:
What we have to understand – and what I have come belatedly and
painfully to grasp – is that our collective narcissism can be an
obstacle to successful statesmanship. In blunter terms: This is not about us.
In so far as we have made Iran about us, we have added mountains to the
landscape of human misery and pain. This is a struggle for the Iranian
people, a long, brutal, bitter struggle. We should do all we can to
support them, without the neocon grandstanding that actually helps the
regime rather than hurts it. But we have to understand our limits.
Sullivan’s post is littered with some fanciful meanderings about ‘hope’ and ‘values’ and a rather naive belief that the US is genuinely concerned about fixing the country, but the essences of his analysis is correct. The inner workings of Iranian society is its own business, and our recent adventure onto Arab lands is a painful reminder of it. Sullivan writes about the shifting balance of power in the region, the inevitability of a weapons build up, and an increasingly dangerous but game changing relationship with Israel, and reminds Americans that if we are to avoid war, we must move on from the Bush era of violent militarism and the neo con belief that our values can be bulldozed onto foreign civilizations:
We can panic and construct a Leviathan so powerful and invasive it will
in the end destroy our freedoms, or we can hang in, do all we can to
defuse ideological and theological tension, construct more effective
means of defense and security, and outlast the Islamist wave even
through what will be its many outrages and offenses.
Sullivan is of course forgetting that the Muslim people are trying to do the same, to outlast the unipolar world where America and capitalism reigned supreme, and resources are taken and not paid for. But his thinking represents a shift in the intellectual classes; an acceptance in mainstream political circles that the game has changed and multi lateralism and diplomacy must prevail if we are not to slide into the abyss of never ending war.
It is a hugely positive sign that a man who supported George Bush and his extremism can change his thinking so dramatically, choosing facts over ideology, and humanity over blind allegiance to country.
Sullivan’s work on deconstructing the American Right has also been hugely helpful. Disgusted with the Bush Administration and its failure to live up to true conservative values, Sullivan has relentlessly attacked the rabid Right and provided a clear alternative to knee jerk nationalism and childish jingoism. By doing so, Sullivan also began to question the fundamentals of his own beliefs, acknowledging that free market capitalism has structural flaws, and accepting the dangers of American exceptionalism.
Sullivan is almost a liberal, but his internal debate still rages on, and that is why his blog is so compelling to read.
He is the blogosphere’s star, and rightly so. His relentless work provides the backbone of discourse on the web, and without him it would be a far duller place.
Here’s to another 10 years.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.