Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tyranny and the Left's Failure of Imagination

I often ask anti-war protestors if it was morally acceptable for us to go to war with Nazi Germany, a country that had not attacked us and which posed no direct threat to our interests. There is no reason why we could not have, in the days after December 7, 1941, sent Joseph Kennedy to Berlin to tell Hitler that we had no interest in fighting him and were willing to break off our support of Great Britain if he would not try to stop us from fighting Japan, a country that did attack us. We spent billions of dollars and put several million American soldiers on the frontlines to fight an "unnecessary" war.
The thing that really gets me about the war in Iraq is that we have absolutely lost the moral argument. Most of the world and most of the Democratic Party looks at what happened in Iraq and sees America as the villains. That just buggles the mind: we invaded a country under the control of Saddam Husain, a brutal dictator, who had been our most prominent enemy for over a decade. This was a man who had no respect for human rights and who broke countless treaties. If you cannot go to war against Saddam then who on this planet are you allowed to fight a war with? This is not to say that it was a smart thing to go to war with Saddam. That is a separate debate.
After we defeated Saddam we set about reconstructing the country. This was no different then our occupations of Germany and Japan after the war, countries which we did far worse things to. As with the invasion of Iraq, the wisdom of our attempt to help put together a functioning government and country is not the question here. Whether our heads were in the right places or not, our hearts were. How is it that Arab terrorists can murder innocent Iraqi civilians and America gets the blame? The narrative we have seen after every attack these past few years is that this is an example of our failure. The dead civilians are added to the cost of our invasion and occupation. For all intents and purposes we might as well have murdered them ourselves. Most of the left in this country and most of the western world seems to have trouble telling the difference between trying to fight against tyranny and tyranny itself. They become the moral equivalents of each other.
I would suggest that the problem is that the left at a fundamental level is suffering from a failure of the imagination to truly appreciate tyranny. For the modern day left a tyrannical government is one that does things like not allow gay marriage, or abortion and keeps files on what books people check out of the library. This becomes a major problem when the left has to confront a real tyrant like Saddam. They do not have a word for a type of government acting above and beyond making stupid laws that interfere with people’s lives. As a result they cannot imagine such a thing existing. So Hitler and Saddam were tyrants and so is George W. Bush. Words like tyranny, racisim, bigotry and injustice nolonger have any meaning. As a fighting nineteenth century liberal I find that scary.

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