Ed Driscoll

Nation-Building Flows From The Barrel Of A Gun

Yesterday, I linked to Frank Rich’s column titled, “The G.O.P. Stalinists Invade Upstate New York,”and noted:

But a paradox emerges: does Rich consider “Stalinist” a good or a bad thing? From Duranty copping a Pulitzer by shilling for Uncle Joe himself, to Pinch Sulzberger backing the NVA because “It’s the other guy’s country” to, just last month, Thomas Friedman pining for Communist China, it’s certainly hard to tell.

I wish I had remembered this item as well, from Thomas Friedman in 2000, and amazingly enough, still online in the Times’ archives:

Yup, I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering him in the name of the U.S. government to turn over Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart.

These days, when not praising totalitarian Cuba and China, Friedman has taken to calling President Obama’s efforts to radically reshape the U.S. economy “nation-building” — a word whose traditional meaning that certainly fell into disfavor in the offices of the Gray Lady for most of the naughts:

I am convinced that this kind of nation-building at home is exactly what Mr. Obama is trying to deliver, and should be his unifying call: We need universal health care because it would strengthen our social fabric and enable our businesses to better compete globally. We need to upgrade our schools because no child in 21st-century America should be left behind and because we cannot compete for the best new jobs without doing so. We need a greener economy, not just to mitigate climate change, but because a world growing from 6.7 billion people to 9.2 billion by 2050 is going to demand more and more clean energy and water, and the country that develops the most clean technologies is going to have the most energy security, national security, economic security, innovative companies and global respect.

But to deliver this agenda requires a motivated public and a spirit of shared sacrifice. That’s where narrative becomes vital. People have to have a gut feel for why this nation-building project, with all its varied strands, is so important — why it’s worth the sacrifice. One of the reasons that independents and conservatives who voted for Mr. Obama have been so easily swayed against him by Fox News and people labeling him a “socialist” is because he has not given voice to the truly patriotic nation-building endeavor in which he is engaged.

Obama has had at least one self-admitted Communist on his payroll in the form of Van Jones, as well as the Mao-quoting Anita Dunn and Ron Bloom. But perhaps one reason why Friedman puts scare quotes around the word “socialist” in the above passage is that Friedman is too enamored of the real thing, and Obama, even with his radical efforts, doesn’t go anywhere nearly far enough, fast enough to satisfy the Timesman in his heart of hearts.

Related: “America’s elite is broken.”

Related: The great Anthony Daniels (who frequently writes as Theodore Dalrymple) on “The Costs Of Abstraction”:

My little collection has led me to the conclusion that the Soviet Union was valued by contemporary intellectuals not for the omelette, but for the broken eggs. They thought that if nothing great could be built without sacrifice, then so great a sacrifice must be building something great. The Soviets had the courage of their abstractions, which are often so much more important to intellectuals than living, breathing human beings.

Read the whole thing.