Saturday, November 26, 2011

Progressivism: War is Opportunity

It may seem odd that self-styled 'progressives' are eager to see their nation engaged in war. Isn't that opposed to the very sense of humaneness which progressivism allegedly espouses? Yet progressivists reliably seek war for their nations, and barring war, seek 'the moral equivalent of war' - as in 'war on poverty' or 'war on drugs' or 'war on disease,' etc. To explain this paradox, it must be remembered that the goal of progressivism is social engineering - to take control over the individual's life, and over the community's life, and allow an aristocracy of experts to shape society, utterly apart from the will of the individual, or the expression of the majority of voters. Thus we see President Woodrow Wilson, and his Democrat party, eager to push America into World War One. The question isn't whether or not it was the right thing to do; the question is why did they do it. War gives the government the excuse to exert more control over society than would normally be tolerated: roused by a national cause, people submit to rationing drafts, curfews and limits on the freedom of speech. The progressives
supported the war enthusiastically, even fanatically (the same goes for a great many American Socialists). And even those who were ambivalent about the war in Europe were giddy about what John Dewey called the "social possibilities of war."
The war was valuable to progressives, not because they had any interest finding justice for Europe, nor because they even cared which side of the war America would back, but rather because it would allow them to manipulate American society here at home, in the name of a war in a distant land. Progressives
ridiculed self-described pacifists who couldn't recognize the "immense impetus to reorganization afforded by this war."
Wilson explained that, although he was "an advocate of peace," he saw that "there are some splendid things that come to a nation through the discipline of war." Dewey recognized that the war would give an opportunity for the progressivists to force Americans
"to give up much of our economic freedom ... we shall have to lay by our good-natured individualism and march in step." If the war went well, it would constrain "the individualistic tradition" and convince Americans of "the supremacy of public need over private possessions."
America's entry into World War One, in 1917, was motivated by opportunism: the progressivists in the Democrat party saw that, in the process of placing the nation onto a wartime footing, they would have chances to engage in social engineering on a grand scale. They didn't care much about what was happening in Europe, or why; they knew that a war was a crisis, and a crisis is an opportunity for those who will exploit it.