National Commentary

Socially Engineering ‘The Right Nation’

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The duty of overdosing every week on Sunday morning “blab shows,” as I am fond of calling them, has become a more enjoyable experience with the addition of Christiane Amanpour as the host of ABC’s “This Week” and Fareed Zakaria with his own “GPS” show on CNN. They join Bob Schieffer of CBS’s “Face the Nation” in my Top Three.

The duty of overdosing every week on Sunday morning “blab shows,” as I am fond of calling them, has become a more enjoyable experience with the addition of Christiane Amanpour as the host of ABC’s “This Week” and Fareed Zakaria with his own “GPS” show on CNN. They join Bob Schieffer of CBS’s “Face the Nation” in my Top Three.

Amanpour, who spent her childhood in her native Iran, came to anchor “This Week” last March after 27 years as an international correspondent for CNN.
Last Sunday, in keeping with her pattern of excellent topic choices, Amanpour focused her hour on the troubling issues associated with the “wounded warriors” among the two million Americans who have served military purposes in Iraq and Afghanistan, often with three or more tours of duty, over the last decade.

The problems go far beyond physical injuries, such as the loss of limbs, to lasting, damaging psychological impacts, such as “post-traumatic stress syndrome,” whose symptoms can often stay hidden only to erupt years later.

Then there are economic and related displacement factors that have already left thousands homeless. The problems are overwhelming, and the U.S. is far behind being able to address them.

President Bush wouldn’t allow the media access to Dover Air Force Base to witness the arrival of slain soldiers in their flag-draped coffins, fearing it would reflect negatively on his unprovoked, unjustified invasion of Iraq. But facing the difficult images and realities of the true cost, in human terms, of the decade-long military ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan is terrifically sobering, and for that reason, all the more important.

For his part, Zakaria is a veritable child wonder among wise national and foreign affairs commentators. Born in India, a naturalized U.S. citizen with a Ph.D. from Harvard, he’s only 46 and an editor-at-large for Time magazine and the author of two major tomes, “The Future of Freedom” (2003) and “The Post-American World” (2008).
He takes time out from penetrating interviews with interesting guests on his “GPS” show to offer his personal opinions, which are reasonable and carry weight.

It was curious to me, however, that he went out of his way recently to recommend a book by two writers for the British weekly The Economist: “The Right Nation,” by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (2004). Both authors are Oxford trained, have worked for The Economist from bureaus in the U.S., and have written three other books together.

“The Right Nation” was written in the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election of 2004 and concludes that President Bush’s re-election that year “added a powerful new piece of evidence that the Right Nation (i.e. conservativism – ed.) is “the ascending force in American politics.”

Why offer such a perspective in 2010, after the election of President Obama in 2008 seemed to refute the conclusion of this book? How can they account for Obama’s election while contending that the rightward shift of the country is hard-wired into its future?

Moreover, the book makes no mention of the egregious domestic social engineering that dominated the late 1960s and 1970s, and played a pivotal role in the nation’s shift from progressive, liberal values through the “War on Poverty” era of the mid-1960s to the self-centered, selfish values of Gordon Gecco’s famous “Greed is Good” speech in the 1980 film, “Wall Street,” and the election of Ronald Reagan that year.

From the 1950s on, a covert domestic counterinsurgency war was declared on an entire generation of progressive-minded young Americans mobilized to fight for civil rights, as documents from the Church Committee hearings on the CIA revealed in the mid-1970s. It included introducing LSD and other drugs on 40 U.S. college campuses and the promotion of massive anti-social-concern currents, such as the “human potential” and “sensitivity training” movements and “sex, drugs and rock-and-roll” alternatives to struggles for economic and social justice.

Consciousness was turned from outward social justice to inward personal “needs,” and it worked in key strata of progressive activists. As a result, the nation steered from the “left” to the “right” in the course of a single decade.


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at nfbenton@fcnp.com

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