Bill Scher, who blogs at Liberal Oasis and works for the Campaign for America's Future, sees a liberal menace in the Syria debate: the all-powerful ... um, Alan Grayson.
... While the Left has long been identified with the compassionate philosophy of pacifism, the debate over the past two weeks has shown a growing tendency on the Left to embrace the hard-hearted call of isolationism. If the isolationist trend continues, it not only makes Obama's immediate case for military intervention on humanitarian grounds a much harder sell, but over the long term it threatens the ideological underpinnings of liberalism itself.Yeah, and? An online petition to demanding the deportation of Piers Morgan garnered more than 100,000 signatures. A petition urging the U.S. government to build a Death Star by 2016 garnered more than 33,000 signatures. Signing online petitions is easy. No one takes them seriously.
A core tenet of liberalism is the belief that active government should take responsibility in alleviating or preventing the suffering of others. In turn, a liberal expressing pacifist opposition to a military strike in Syria would still accept responsibility for preventing genocide, and lobby for diplomatic and economic means to avert slaughter without risking the unintended consequences of violent force.
The Left's loudest spokesperson against a Syrian strike is Rep. Alan Grayson. His main argument is far colder: "This is not our problem."
Grayson's DontAttackSyria.com offers no alternative solutions, and instead frames a false choice between helping Syrians and helping Americans: "Our own needs in America are great, and they come first. The death of civilians is always regrettable, and civil war is regrettable, but no Americans have been attacked, and no American allies have been attacked." That petition language from Grayson has garnered more than 90,000 signatures so far.
But to Scher, Grayson is liberals' "chief spokesman for rejecting military force," and he's "making an amoral case." And since Scher apparently assumes that every last one of Grayson's 90,000 online signers is (a) a fellow liberal and (b) an opponent of any and all engagement in foreign affairs -- I don't know if Scher has noticed, but there are a hell of a lot of right-wing attack opponents out there, most of whom have Internet connections -- that means that the entire left is going isolationist and amoral.
I don't even know for sure that Grayson himself opposes all engagement with the world. Sure, he said, "This is not our problem." And yes, there's this:
Grayson even went as far as embracing Sarah Palin, telling radio host Ed Schultz, "I think I'm in agreement with Sarah Palin. She said, 'Let Allah sort it out.'"But that's just Grayson's act. He envies the ability of right-wingers to motivate followers with glib soundbites, so he responds with even glibber soundbites of his own. It's gotten him elected to a couple of terms in Congress (though there was one loss in there as well). But to treat this guy as some sort of Pied Piper of isolationationism is absurd. To assume he's even thought this position through is absurd.
Liberals have had a wide range of responses to this and other Obama-era foreign policy questions. Liberals cheered the killing of Osama bin Laden; liberal support for Obama endured, admittedly with quite a bit of grumbling, through drone strikes and a troop increase in Afghanistan and an engagement in Libya. On Syria, a lot of liberals are genuinely torn -- yes, chemical weapons are awful, but the solution seems likely to deal just as much death to civilians, though doing nothing seems callous, and, oh, wait, should we hope for a diplomatic solution now or is the U.S. being played by Russia and Syria?
But no. To Scher, we are all sheep blindly following Alan Grayson. And that's means we've lost our souls:
Grayson, with plenty of poll numbers at his back showing little appetite for military strikes, is gleefully ducking the problem of offering constructive alternatives. That's all well and good as a congressional backbencher. Presidents, however, have to worry about not just poll numbers today, but also the effects of policies tomorrow. Democrats who want to retain control of the Oval Office need to have a bit more to offer than what Grayson is serving.Take a deep breath, Bill. Alan Grayson is just one guy -- even if he is a mouthy, camera-hogging guy. And a few names typed into his online petition don't commit the entire left to moral bankruptcy for all eternity.
Furthermore, once you give up the essence of liberalism -- empathy for others -- you lose the underpinnings of all of your other liberal objectives. If suffering in someone else's country doesn't warrant our help, why should suffering in someone else's state or someone else's neighborhood?