Let’s get this out of the way: I think it’s great that Sully et al. are so supportive of the twittering Iranian protesters and it’s quite possible that said protesters get some kind of psychological sustenance from it. But it’s important to distinguish between legitimate foreign policy and things your boss might do on St. Patrick’s Day.
The overarching goal is to see the birth of a democratic Iran, not to make ourselves feel good, or get in the way….That said, the liberal interventionist/neoconservative position is the easier one to understand, because it is the more human response.
But I think it’s important here not to mock, but to try to understand. One of the few things I’ve really learned about conservatives is that they often really do believe that clapping louder works (and what could be a more obvious example of clapping louder than wearing green ties?). It’s easy to imagine that the focus on clapping louder is really just a way of stifling dissent when a Republican is in power — and make no mistake, that aspect of it is a feature, not a bug — but I think that a lot of conservatives really believe the world be a much better place if everyone cheered harder for Jesus, for Reagan, for freedom. Remember, we would have won in Vietnam if not for the pesky war protesters.
This was driven home for me when I had a conversation with a local Republican official (whom I mostly respect) who told me that she’d vote for Hillary in the general but not Obama because of the flag pin stuff. I told her that struck me as typically conservative because conservatives believe more in symbolic gestures than in policy. She agreed and wasn’t the slightest bit insulted.
Don’t get me wrong, liberals like to clap louder too. But they’re much less likely to believe that they can get the rest of the world to clap along and might never have even entertained the possibility that doing so would lead to world peace.
Where does the faith in clapping louder come from? My feeling is that it comes from the notion that government policies are ineffective in the face of the power of culture, something Brooks yaks about all the time. Once you accept this (not unreasonable) idea, it’s a short step to believing that clapping louder is more important than action.
Update. Michael Berube has a good post dissecting the Brooksian “power of culture” stuff. Money line:
This just makes me want to lie down on top of the Applebee’s salad bar and never get up again.