Thursday, April 08, 2004

Who Do We Think We Are?

Stephen Den Beste takes a critical look at a report on the atrocities committed by Saddam's regime. The facts of the report are not questioned, merely the author's belief that revelation of the atrocities would take the pressure off of Bush for the failure to find stockpiles of WMD. I respect Stephen particularly for his acknowledgement of his own naivety in having believed the same himself several months ago.

I have tried in the past, more than once, to understand the principles that drive both sides of the political divide in this country. Neither has proven entirely satisfactory, so here I go with another idea that shall satisfy just as much as the last times.

American hubris has been a favorite villain for decades. It has been a charge laid at the feet of the conservatives in our country by the resident liberals since the turn of the last century. In many cases, the charge sticks, the US government has in the past bent it's policies so that a select few could make profits, expanding their Liberty of Property, often in direct detriment to the Liberties of Property and Self of people in the way. That showed the old conservative hubris that the only interests in the world were American interests.

It was, and is, proper to protest such things, especially when they violated American ideals. In the War in Iraq, however, I believe that we actually are, for once, acting on our American principles. Granted, American interests are being served, and that we would not be acting unless they weren't. In this case, American interests and American ideals are congruent, and real good is happening for someone other than just ourselves.

Does this matter to the liberal opponents of President Bush? No. That is because they can only see that some American interests are being served and the fact that some people are being hurt and killed as a result. Whatever good is done, in this view, is thoroughly corrupted by the idea that Halliburton stands to make several millions of dollars in profits from the reconstruction. Its all about the oil, ya'know.

When you see this attitude in Americans, it shows a different type of arrogance. It assumes that the only evil that needs to be considered in the world is American evil. Any evil that happens is the result of past American hubris, and if America takes any action that is not utterly pure of motive, then we shall reap the whirlwind in some later time. America is responsible for Saddam Hussein having the power to do his evil, therefore America is to blame for all of Saddam Hussein's evil. Simultaneously, we can not act to remove him from power because to do so now may serve someone's interests to a greater degree than someone else's or may cause hurt to an innocent third party (most certainly an Iraqi).

The danger of this attitude is that it will paralyze the US from doing anything good for the world at all, because there is nothing the US can do that can not be spun as a benefit for some moneyed interest, real or imagined. The situation of Iraq is strange because Bush is unabashedly seeking to advance US interests by creating an Arab state that can serve as an example that the Islamic world can be improved through democracy and free market policies rather than through terrorism. The war in Iraq will not be won by the United States having more resources at the end of it all, but by Iraq having more resources and a better standard of living by the end of it all. Liberal objectors have themselves all turned around in knots, and far too many have opted to criticize the ultimate objective of American interests being served than the intermediate objective of Iraq become a freer and more prosperous place.

No comments: