It might not be much less tenuous than a mere metaphor, but I can’t help but see recent events in Iraq as a lesson in one of the fundamental assumptions behind progressivism. Glenn Reynolds writes that President Obama “didn’t lose Iraq, he gave it away,” and then quotes this, from The Hill:
The White House on Wednesday expressed concerns that Islamic militants had regained a foothold in Iraq after an al Qaeda-affiliated group seized control of a second major city. …
Earnest said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” the instability could create a humanitarian crisis, with reports saying Iraqi security forces had fled both cities and thousands of refugees were seeking shelter.
To the extent that Nobel Peace Prize winning Obama actually cares at all about humanitarian crises around the world, it seems likely that he considered Iraq to have reached a stage in its development and thought that, if it didn’t march toward Western-style governance, at least it would hold steady at the level of civic enlightenment that it had achieved under American tutelage. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. Regression is possible — maybe even probable, where a society’s supports have been eroded.
In Iraq, the supports were easy to see, mainly consisting of the presence of U.S. military forces, but the principle appears wherever progressives have placed their destructive hands. One can see it in the apparent belief that business-type people will continue to produce no matter the taxes and regulations that government imposes… because that’s just what business-type people do.
One can also see it in social policy, where the only explanation for progressive policies (if they aren’t simply evil) is that their advocates don’t realize that a community doesn’t advance in a constant, progressive evolution, but rather each individual must develop into each advancing stage from the raw stuff of human nature. The human race doesn’t achieve the stage of liberté, egalité, fraternité like it reached the stage of opposable thumbs. We need the supports of traditions and institutions that shape the individual according to lessons learned from the past.
Update (11:27 a.m., 6/12/14):
Here’s Vice President Biden in 2010, as if to illustrate the point.