Brother Hayward, I’ll see your James Burnham and raise you a Joseph Cropsey. In an essay included in Left, Right and Center, Cropsey dismantled Howard Zinn’s critique of patriotism, 42 years before Zinn wrote it:
“[Liberalism] envisions the natural fraternity of mankind. The liberal view is that man’s nature prepares him to live uncoerced in society. [It] aspires to the transcending of the nation, if only through the union of the nations. Rightly repelled by vain self-love, it is dogmatically blinded to just self-respect and conceitedly captivated by a priggish self-depreciation. Liberalism, which makes a by-word of pluralism and recoils from ‘absolutes’ however misunderstood, should welcome the diversity of nations, and their sovereign security upon which that diversity rests, as a valuable guarantee of the freedom of men to go their separate ways in the quest for justice or for the truth about justice. It must be conceded, however, that the highest good known to liberalism is not truth or even liberty itself, but fraternity and its alter ego, equality. Politically speaking, this has come to mean that the highest good known to liberalism is peace, or self-preservation.
“If it is narrower, it is also more human, surely more civil, to love what is near and similar, as such, than what is remote and strange, as such. [Patriotism will necessarily] be extinguished by the doctrine that exhibits it as offensive to peace, as an ignorant expression of ethnocentric bias, the neurosis of aggressive personality types, the posturing of the fatuous for the edification of the gullible, or the delusion of innocents seduced by schemers after wealth and power.
“The liberal view is consistent with itself in applying to domestic as well as to foreign affairs the dictum that trust edifies and absolute trust edifies absolutely.”
These observations appeared in an essay on “Liberalism and Conservatism.” They show that while pacifists like Zinn, Noam Chomsky or Cindy Sheehan make conservatives angry, they make mainstream liberals nervous. The problem is that the hard left follows liberalism’s premises to their logical conclusions. The soft left doesn’t, but only because it knows that proclaiming these conclusions would be, politically, self-annihilating. Liberals cannot explain what principled differences separate their position from Howard Zinn’s. And because they cannot explain that difference, they can only hope to stand far enough away from Zinn so that no one notices the resemblance.