RUSH: I’ve got to start in sharing this Shelby Steele piece. “White Guilt and the Western Past — Why is America so Delicate with the Enemy?” He begins by writing, “There is something rather odd in the way America has come to fight its wars since World War II. For one thing, it is now unimaginable that we would use anything approaching the full measure of our military power (the nuclear option aside) in the wars we fight. And this seems only reasonable given the relative weakness of our Third World enemies in Vietnam and in the Middle East. But the fact is that we lost in Vietnam, and today, despite our vast power, we are only slogging along — if admirably — in Iraq against a hit-and-run insurgency that cannot stop us even as we seem unable to stop it. Yet no one — including, very likely, the insurgents themselves — believes that America lacks the raw power to defeat this insurgency if it wants to.
“So clearly it is America that determines the scale of this war. It is America, in fact, that fights so as to make a little room for an insurgency. Certainly since Vietnam, America has increasingly practiced a policy of minimalism and restraint in war. And now this unacknowledged policy, which always makes a space for the enemy, has us in another long and rather passionless war against a weak enemy. Why this new minimalism in war? It began,” Mr. Steele says, he thinks, “in a late-20th-century event that transformed the world more profoundly than the collapse of communism: the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority, political legitimacy and even sovereignty.
“This idea had organized the entire world, divided up its resources, imposed the nation-state system across the globe, and delivered the majority of the world’s population into servitude and oppression. After World War II, revolutions across the globe, from India to Algeria and from Indonesia to the American civil rights revolution, defeated the authority inherent in white supremacy, if not the idea itself. And this defeat exacted a price: the West was left stigmatized by its sins. Today, the white West — like Germany after the Nazi defeat — lives in a kind of secular penitence in which the slightest echo of past sins brings down withering condemnation.
“There is now a cloud over white skin where there once was unquestioned authority. I call this white guilt not because it is a guilt of conscience but because people stigmatized with moral crimes — here racism and imperialism — lack moral authority and so act guiltily whether they feel guilt or not. They struggle, above all else, to dissociate themselves from the past sins they are stigmatized with. When they behave in ways that invoke the memory of those sins, they must labor to prove that they have not relapsed into their group’s former sinfulness. So when America — the greatest embodiment of Western power — goes to war in Third World Iraq, it must also labor to dissociate that action from the great Western sin of imperialism.
“Thus, in Iraq we are in two wars, one against an insurgency and another against the past — two fronts, two victories to win, one military, the other a victory of dissociation.” Now, I’ll continue this after the break, but when I first understood the premise after reading this I thought, no way are we guilty. We’re not so guilty that we will lose a war. But if you continue to read Mr. Steele’s piece, you have to conclude that he’s nailed it. But I think it has to be pointed out that it is the left in this country, the left here in the world, who are guilty, and they have made their guilty into our problem, and it has become — it has almost transformed their guilt into a hatred of this country, or a blaming of this country based on their own self-loathing because of this guilt.
RUSH: Continuing now with Dr. Shelby Steele and his piece at OpinionJournal.com today, “White Guilt and the Western Past.” Now, stick with me on this, folks, as I’ll analyze this. This white guilt has a specific meaning here. I think, as I said before the break, what I would add to this is I think most of the white guilt is found on the left, and all kinds of guilt is found over our prosperity; guilt at our power; guilt at our superpower status. Now, keep all that in mind.
“The collapse of white supremacy — and the resulting white guilt — introduced a new mechanism of power into the world: stigmatization with the evil of the Western past. And this stigmatization is power because it affects the terms of legitimacy for Western nations and for their actions in the world. In Iraq, America is fighting as much for the legitimacy of its war effort as for victory in war. In fact, legitimacy may be the more important goal. If a military victory makes us look like an imperialist nation bent on occupying and raping the resources of a poor brown nation, then victory would mean less because it would have no legitimacy.
“Europe would scorn. Conversely, if America suffered a military loss in Iraq but in so doing dispelled the imperialist stigma, the loss would be seen as a necessary sacrifice made to restore our nation’s legitimacy. Europe’s halls of internationalism would suddenly open to us. Because dissociation from the racist and imperialist stigma is so tied to legitimacy in this age of white guilt, America’s act of going to war can have legitimacy only if it seems to be an act of social work — something that uplifts and transforms the poor brown nation (thus dissociating us from the white exploitations of old). So our war effort in Iraq is shrouded in a new language of social work in which democracy is cast as an instrument of social transformation bringing new institutions, new relations between men and women, new ideas of individual autonomy, new and more open forms of education, new ways of overcoming poverty — war as the Great Society.
“This does not mean that President Bush is insincere in his desire to bring democracy to Iraq, nor is it to say that democracy won’t ultimately be socially transformative in Iraq. It’s just that today the United States cannot go to war in the Third World simply to defeat a dangerous enemy. White guilt makes our Third World enemies into colored victims, people whose problems — even the tyrannies they live under — were created by the historical disruptions and injustices of the white West. We must ‘understand’ and pity our enemy even as we fight him, [such as yesterday’s New York Times headline: “Saddam, Misunderstood.”] And, though Islamic extremism is one of the most pernicious forms of evil opportunism that has ever existed, we have felt compelled to fight it with an almost managerial minimalism that shows us to be beyond the passions of war — and thus well dissociated from the avariciousness of the white supremacist past.”
It all adds up to the fact that we are afraid to win because we think it’s wrong — and again, not talking about all of us collectively, I think where he has nailed this here is identifying the mind-set on the left, not just in this country, but around the world. We’re actually afraid to win, because there’s no question, folks, how many times during this war have you sat frustrated? We’re the United States of America. What do we need to put up with this insurgency and these IEDs and these car bombs? We could win this war inside of two weeks to a month, but we refuse to, and that’s why this piece is so important, because we do fight these things in a minimalist fashion, and all the while even while this is happening we are told what a bunch of brutes and how unfair we are by the leftists in this country, the Drive-By Media.
We still get hammered for the way we’re doing it. You can’t appease people. It’s like when you try to get along with the left, it never works. They take advantage of you. They think you’re a sap or a sucker. They think you’re exposing weakness. You can’t make them your friends. They’re not interested in that. Same thing here. We can’t make the world like us, but this is I think from which these comments from John Kerry and all this, “We’ve lost our standard in the world. We’ve lost our reputation.” Shelby Steele has nailed precisely why. These people are so self-loathing. They have such disrespect for their own country and its past.
Kerry in Vietnam, the whole Democratic Party in the civil rights movement which really was responsible for stopping integration early on in the period, with all the Democrat mayors and governors and sheriffs down there, and the senators who opposed the Civil Rights Act. “Anti-Americanism,” continues Mr. Steele, “whether in Europe or on the American left, works by the mechanism of white guilt. It stigmatizes America with all the imperialistic and racist ugliness of the white Western past so that America becomes a kind of straw man, a construct of Western sin. (The Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons were the focus of such stigmatization campaigns.) Once the stigma is in place, one need only be anti-American in order to be ‘good,’ in order to have an automatic moral legitimacy and power in relation to America.”
You come out and oppose your country as the Democrats have about Abu Ghraib, that gives them moral superiority. They’ve got the guts to understand our past sins and to say we are continuing to commit them and we need to stop, and it’s the evil George Bush who needs to be reined in — not Al-Qaeda, not bin Laden, not Saddam, and not Mahmoud.
“(People as seemingly disparate as President Jacques Chirac and the Rev. Al Sharpton are devoted pursuers of the moral high ground to be had in anti-Americanism.) This formula is the most dependable source of power for today’s international left. Virtue and power by mere anti-Americanism. And it is all the more appealing since, unlike real virtues, it requires no sacrifice or effort — only outrage at every slight echo of the imperialist past. Today words like ‘power’ and ‘victory’ are so stigmatized with Western sin that, in many quarters, it is politically incorrect even to utter them.” In fact, if you’re Madeleine Albright, you go out around the world and you lament the fact that we are the lone superpower in the world. It is guilt that inspires this and self-loathing and disgust for the country.
“For the West, ‘might’ can never be right. And victory, when won by the West against a Third World enemy, is always oppression,” is always going to be called oppression. “But, in reality, military victory is also the victory of one idea and the defeat of another. Only American victory in Iraq defeats the idea of Islamic extremism. But in today’s atmosphere of Western contrition, it is impolitic to say so,” and dangerous to proceed. Now, this is profound. Let me read it again. “[M]ilitary victory is also the victory of one idea and the defeat of another. Only American victory in Iraq defeats the idea of Islamic extremism. But in today’s atmosphere of Western contrition [and guilt], it is impolitic to say so,” and even accomplish it.
“America and the broader West are now going through a rather tender era, a time when Western societies have very little defense against the moral accusations that come from their own left wings and from those vast stretches of nonwhite humanity that were once so disregarded. Europeans are utterly confounded by the swelling Muslim populations in their midst. America has run from its own mounting immigration problem for decades, and even today, after finally taking up the issue, our government seems entirely flummoxed. White guilt is a vacuum of moral authority visited on the present by the shames of the past. In the abstract it seems a slight thing, almost irrelevant, an unconvincing proposition.
“Yet a society as enormously powerful as America lacks the authority to ask its most brilliant, wealthy and superbly educated minority students to compete freely for college admission with poor whites who lack all these things. Just can’t do it.” We need the victims. The left needs its victims in order to continue to promote this guilt, show that we’re still committing these sins.
“Whether the problem is race relations, education, immigration or war, white guilt imposes so much minimalism and restraint that our worst problems tend to linger and deepen. Our leaders work within a double bind. If they do what is truly necessary to solve a problem — win a war, fix immigration — they lose legitimacy. To maintain their legitimacy, they practice the minimalism that makes problems linger. What but minimalism is left when you are running from stigmatization as a ‘unilateralist cowboy’? And where is the will to truly regulate the southern border when those who ask for this are slimed as bigots? This is how white guilt defines what is possible in America. You go at a problem until you meet stigmatization, then you retreat into minimalism.”
He’s exactly right, folks. It’s a brilliant, brilliant piece. He has nailed it. This is again Shelby Steele: “White Guilt and the Western Past,” at OpinionJournal.com today. “Possibly white guilt’s worst effect is that it does not permit whites — and nonwhites — to appreciate something extraordinary: the fact that whites in America, and even elsewhere in the West, have achieved a truly remarkable moral transformation. One is forbidden to speak thus, but it is simply true. There are no serious advocates of white supremacy in America today, because whites see this idea as morally repugnant. If there is still the odd white bigot out there surviving past his time, there are millions of whites who only feel goodwill toward minorities.
“This is a fact that must be integrated into our public life — absorbed as new history — so that America can once again feel the moral authority to seriously tackle its most profound problems. Then, if we decide to go to war, it can be with enough ferocity to win.” Amen, bro! This is just a grand-slam home run. He is essentially saying we’re not committing sin. There may be the lone bigot out there who’s outlived his time, but the vast majority of Americans have no desire to practice the sins of the past, to be discriminatory and so forth. We’ve moved beyond it, and yet nobody wants that to be stated because there are too many people who benefit from the idea that we’re still like we were in the 1800s and all the way through the 1960s and ’70s.
There’s an entire industry in fact that has cropped up to maintain that mind-set within as many groups of people in this country as possible. So I would urge you to follow the link to this. We’ll link to it at RushLimbaugh.com. You can find it now at OpinionJournal.com, because in this piece he has explained so much of the left’s attitudes and the effect that they have had and continue to have on the country. People have asked me my entire sterling career, “Can you explain liberals to me? How can somebody be one?” and it’s not possible to explain it in brief. There are many facets and characteristics, but I’ve always told people that at the foundation of it is guilt, guilt over so many things.
I just never had the intellectual power to express it as powerfully here as Shelby Steele has. You really need to read this, folks, and absorb it. It will explain why we’re not doing anything about immigration, because we’re afraid what people are going to say about us. We’re afraid to succeed. We’re afraid to do what we know is morally right because we’re afraid of the stigmatization of our past being attached to present day activities. We’re afraid to actually go out and fight a war and win it or deal with a problem like immigration and solve it because of the ramifications of what will be thought of us, what will be said of us by the left not only in this country, but around the world.
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