Jim Henley, Oliver Willis, Atrios, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden say they are not bothered by protesting the specter of war in Iraq alongside some extremely disreputable characters. Tacitus and Greg Wythe say they should be.
I’d like to come out foursquare in Jim/Oliver/Atrios/Patrick’s corner, but there’s the inconvenient fact that I bashed Christian conservatives awhile back for working with various rogue regimes in the United Nations to push their anti-sex agenda (see here, here, here,and here). How can I dismiss allying, however loosely and narrowly, with a bunch of brutal-dictator-loving jerks like A.N.S.W.E.R. on a cause I support when I decry allying with brutal dictatorships on causes I oppose? How close must your association be before you’re guilty by association?
I think we know that in the real world, just about any cause that one might consider worthy of support is going to also be supported by some unsavory groups and individuals. We also know it’s good politics to attack causes we oppose by tying their mainstream supporters to their undesireables, however dirty our own hands might be on this score.
It’s easy to say that one’s cause is sufficiently worthy that it swamps any negatives generated by unsightly sympathizers. It’s easy to say that your alliance with whichever thugs you’re yoked to is strictly limited to this one crusade for righteousness. Even goons can be pointing in the right direction, and when they are shouldn’t they be put to good use?
Of course, when dealing with people who have their own agenda, it’s hard to say they you’re not helping them, they’re just helping you. Can you be sure they’re not building on this achievement? Do you really know that you haven’t made them a teeny bit stronger? How far do you have to advance that worthy cause if the answer to either of these questions is No?
I don’t know. I really don’t. I believe that the antiwar marchers were right and the Christian conservatives were wrong, but I know that I’m standing on rhetorical sand. I want to draw a line, but if I do it’ll look more like the coastline of Norway than it will the Colorado/Arizona border.
I oppose this war. Had I been in DC, I’d have been marching. I can’t help it if bad people marched, too. In the end, I do believe that opposing this war is the greater good and that any aid given to the likes of A.N.S.W.E.R. is unfortunate but of secondary concern. I don’t believe the conservatives at the UN can make that claim. I just don’t think I can defend both positions.
UPDATE Max has a pretty clear conscience, too. Patrick, in my comments, thinks I’m bending too far backwards to be fair, and that I’d get no such consideration in return. He’s very likely right.