Editor’s Page

Editor’s Page

Slowly, an intelligent opposition to the Bush administration’s domestic and foreign policies is taking shape. Not only from leftists: some thoughtful conservatives have begun to worry out loud about the ideological stridency and rigidity of their own leaders. There was plenty of stridency and rigidity on the left, too, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and a number of us at Dissent criticized the reflexive opposition of leftists who could not recognize or acknowledge what had happened on that fateful day. But opposition is necessary; we need to argue among ourselves about what form it should take and how it should be focused. What policies of the contemporary right is it most urgent to oppose? How should people committed to democracy, civil liberties, and equality deal with, join in, and resist Bush’s version of the war against terrorism? These are some of the questions we address in this issue of Dissent.

Gordon Lafer’s insistence that we fight on two fronts provides a kind of keynote. There can’t be any disengagement from the war against privilege and corruption, both of which are embodied in our current government. The Democratic Party has had great difficulty engaging in any compelling way-though the opportunity is there, as Harold Meyerson argues. By contrast, Bush and his friends seem never to have imagined that the war against terrorism required any halt to the aggrandizement of their own wealth and power. They claim to be interested in “homeland security.” Well, we should be interested, too; security is a good thing.

But it goes along with, and even depends on, homeland equality, minimal fairness, shared sacrifice, and a sense of solidarity. All this has commonly been, and should be today, the work of the left. We should be speaking to our fellow citizens (patriotically, as Michael Kazin suggests) about what is really necessary to make every American more secure.

What’s necessary undoubtedly includes police work, the core of the struggle against terror. We need to engage with that too, arguing that the police can do what they have to do within the constitutional constraints that preserve personal freedom and democratic opposition. John Rodden’s account of the FBI’s surveillance of Irving Howe in the 1950s suggests the silliness that police all too readily fall into; Harold Koh provides a model of liberal-left opposition with his critique of Bush’s military tribunals-acknowledging danger, insisting on procedural justice.

Just as there can be an egalitarian and constitutional “war” against terror, so there can be an internationalist “war” against terror. That, too, should be the work of the left, opposing imperial arrogance, as James Rule urges, while defending not only multilateral decision making but also-see “Junius” on the Internatonal Criminal Court-the multilater...


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