There was a time when I was known as the liberal one. In high school I was even voted “class liberal” in our mock elections, having to settle for that over the more coveted “most likely to succeed” and “best body” titles.

Paul Wong
One for the road<br><br>Peter Cunniffe

Then there was a time I somehow became known as the conservative one amongst a group of college colleagues, my support of gun control, affirmative action, unions, abortion rights, nationalized health care, assisted suicide and environmentalism notwithstanding. Where did I go wrong? I think it was when I said I supported free trade and refused to condemn consumerism. There was even a little row over genetically modified foods.

But that was mere quibbling we could all laugh about before the subject of foreign policy suddenly came up. Then, bombs started to fall on Afghanistan and the sky started to fall on my more leftist compatriots. They said we shouldn”t fight because it would only create more bin Ladens. They started complaining about how we were just paying the price for not appreciating other cultures enough. They said millions of Afghanis would starve because of what we”re doing. And they pointed to civilian casualties as evidence our actions were wrong.

Of course, if our war really does create more bin Ladens, they”ll be bin Ladens without the money, organization, celebrity status, fundraising ability and Afghan government protection. We may not understand their cultures, but arguing we should turn the other cheek shows a remarkable lack of understanding of our own. It turns out that vastly more food is going into Afghanistan now than in any period before Sept. 11. And if someone”s really worried about bombs hitting innocent people, they should dedicate themselves to designing more accurate bombs. You”ll save a lot more lives doing that than protesting.

It”s also ironic to be told this is our fault for not understanding other countries by people whose day job is advocating cutting our economic links with them.

War isn”t always bad and peace isn”t always good. Reflexively adopting an anti-war stance is a rather conservative view of liberalism and an unrealistic one. Opposing a certain war for good reasons is admirable. Being anti-war generally is politically and morally illogical, not to mention dangerous, in our violence-plagued world.

It”s too bad some think that”s a conservative view. Campus “liberals” used to be at the vanguard of social justice. But after listening to them tell us we can accept terrorism and that bombing a demonstrably insane totalitarian regime makes us cold blooded murderers, what can they say they stand for except calling Americans nasty names?

What”s going on at the extreme left is almost as bad as what”s happening on the right. One side defends the killers of Americans, while the other casually dispenses with the principles that have defined Americans.

George W. Bush managed to move to the right of modern-day Torquemada, Rep. Bob Barr by setting up military tribunals because the U.S. justice system wouldn”t execute foreigners efficiently enough for his taste. John Ashcroft decided to end attorney client privilege for whomever he decides falls into his very broad definition of a terrorist suspect. And Bush then buried Reagan administration records that would likely make some in his administration look bad and maybe even look like war criminals.

C”mon Nader. Shrug and tell me there”s no difference who wins now.

The reason I”m so annoyed with far left types is that things could be going much more to their liking, and mine, if they were realistic. If they had voted rationally last year, Bush wouldn”t be classifying trade protesters as terrorists and I doubt Gore would”ve managed to out-conservative Bob Barr.

We now have a real injustice being perpetrated against terrorists and everyone else in the civil liberties that we seem to be losing by the hour. Those on the far left could have played a constructive role in the fight for our liberties, which, unlike the fight to save the Taliban, is winnable. But I fear they may have blown their credibility with the public at-large thanks to their shifting and continuously misinformed defense of those who hate us.

As it becomes ever more clear that those on the far left are unwilling to work with others to get outcomes closer, if not all the way, to their goals and are enamored of loony foreign policy positions, they are only marginalizing themselves. I won”t be so condescending as to say, “grow up already,” but they need to realize where they are placing themselves and that they are only making other things they care about worse and harder to change when they spend time banging their heads on lost and pointless causes. The way things are going, we may be looking at 21st Century Alien and Sedition Acts before long. It would have been nice to have my more leftist friends as credible partners in fighting them instead of having to rely on Bob Barr.

Peter Cunniffe can be reached via e-mail at pcunniff@umich.edu.

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