At first glance, the title of this new book by Guerrilla News Network founder Stephen Marshall, looks like another rightwing rant against liberals. Even using the graphic images of a donkey and elephant could lead one to believe this is a Republicans vs. Democrats book that is trying to tap into the 2008 election book market. However, you’d be terribly wrong on both accounts. Marshall’s book is an important contribution for those serious about wanting to analyze the contemporary political camp of those who refer to themselves as liberals.
I have friends outside the US who ask me, “How the hell do the American people put up with what the US does around the world?” There are numerous contributing factors to our “inactivity,” but the main reason is that those who call themselves liberals allow it to happen. In some ways, this is exactly what Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The New Liberal Menace in America is all about. Marshall begins his book with a critique of the liberal intelligentsia, particularly those who used to be radicals, but now stump for empire. Marshall discusses Thomas Friedman, the New York Times writer who has done more than most to wed US military expansion to US corporate markets. Friedman’s most famous comment on this relationship is “the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist…McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
The mentality that Friedman articulates here is quite liberal or in economic terms neoliberal. The New York Times is considered a liberal newspaper and Friedman is seen as a liberal in the media world, despite the fact that he stumps for Empire. The difference between the liberalism of Friedman and the current Neo-cons in the White House is merely a difference in tactics.
In addition to Friedman, the author looks at liberal scholars such as Michael Ignatieff, Paul Berman, Todd Gitlin, and Christopher Hitchens. The sections dealing with Gitlin and Hitchens are particularly interesting since Marshall was able to interview both of them. Gitlin, a former president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the 1960s became a staunch defender of empire in the 1990s by supporting the US interventions in places like Kosovo and Afghanistan. Hitchens has been even more rabid in his defense of US imperialism, even defending the current campaign in Iraq with Marshall recounting for readers a debate between Hitchens and British antiwar MP George Galloway on the US occupation of Iraq.
There is one chapter of the book that discusses the US bombing of Kosovo and how that war was framed as a form of humanitarian intervention. In fact, as Marshall points out, all of the major US military actions of the Clinton administration were marketed as a form of humanitarian intervention – Somalia, Haiti, Serbia, Kosovo, and even the US-led economic sanctions on Iraq. What the liberal establishment in the US advocated and still advocates is a tactically different type of intervention. Marshall says that the liberal establishment calls for multilateralism and the appearance of exhausting all means of diplomacy first. The ultimate goal is to expand and control markets, what is often referred to as globalization, but what the liberal establishment calls neo-liberalism. The author cites Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity as saying of the neo-liberal project:
“It’s basically economic colonialism. No one use the colonialism word, but instead of just taking over countries, we have a better way. We just do in and have free markets. Whether we are trying to sell our products to their citizens or mine their resources, we need to be in that country for some reason and therefore we’re going to talk about free markets and free trade. But what’s really going on is we want our countries to get rich in your country.”
In the last section of the book, Marshall takes a closer look at the role the Democratic Party has played in recent decades within the liberal establishment. The author interviews several political strategists, but more importantly looks at the history of people like Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Marshall also provides readers with some background on the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a group that for all practical purposes runs the Democratic Party. To shed light on the politics of the DLC the author provides excerpts memos from the 2004 election. DLC leaders Al Fromm and Bruce Reed state in a memo entitled The Real Soul of the Democratic Party, “the great myth of the current Howard Dean cycle is the misguided notion that the hopes and dreams of activists represent the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.” The DLC used this memo and others to solicit funds to help defeat Dean in the Democratic Primaries.
Another example of the influence the DLC is the backing that the DLC gave to Senator Joe Lieberman in his bid for re-election in 2006. Lieberman lost the primary, but won the general election as an “Independent,” mostly because of the support of the DLC. In May of 2006, DLC leader Marshall Wittman told the Los Angeles Times that Lieberman’s primary “is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party because it will have repercussions for the 2008 presidential campaign and whether centrists will feel comfortable within the Democratic Party.” One of the main financial backers of Lieberman’s campaign was Barack Obama’s political action committee. Thus, the timing and scope of Marshall’s book can be an important tool in sifting through all the populist and progressive rhetoric of the 2008 election.
Stephen Marshall, Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The New Liberal Menace in America, (Disinformation, 2007).