July 12, 2007


If we leave Iraq, do we lose for good? (Camille Paglia, Jul. 11, 2007, Salon)

[I] don't share your admiration of President Bush's post-9/11 speech about terrorism. His warning to the world -- "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" -- may please the ear with its syntactical symmetries, but it reveals a shockingly simplistic reading of geopolitics and indeed of life itself.

Since when did any nation -- even America, which I love -- become the dictatorial arbiter of morality? On what authority did President Bush, imperfectly advised by incompetent or mendacious underlings, divide the human race into those with us or against us? Who are we to demand or enforce such exclusivity and privilege? Why should our own self-interest take priority over that of all others? This is hubris, the excessive pride that both the Hebrew Bible and Greek tragedy warned against.

Ms Paglia is usually pretty good, but at the point where you're suggesting that everyone ought to get to define morality themselves you're not just not referencing the Bible or classic philosophy but no longer even discussing American reality. Hers is the sort of argument that libertarians make when they rage against Lincoln for waging the Civil War, that isolationists make against fighting Hitler and that the Left makes against removing Saddam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 12, 2007 12:53 PM

Why should our own self-interest take priority over that of all others?

Definition of a liberal - a person too high-minded to take his own side in a fight.

Posted by: Brandon at July 12, 2007 1:36 PM

Is this not a case of conflating "war on terrorism" (specifically islamic terrorism against America) and the Civil War in Iraq?

President Bush's post 9/11 speech about terrorism didn't assert the moral necessity of overthrowing Saddam did it. Anyway the regime change in Iraq was optional, and now that it is complete one can conclude that adequate time has been given for the new shi'a regime to defend itself, without making moral judgements either way.

Posted by: h-man at July 12, 2007 3:39 PM

The reason people like Paglia are free to mock our wildly successful Middle Eastern policy is just because of its brilliant indirection.

As Hanoi John Kerry pointed out during one of the late Presidential debates, the "Global War of Terror" makes no sense at all unless it is part of an existential struggle to sweep the spiritual jailhouse into the dustbin of history.

Now this reformation could be accomplished as was the reformation of Shintoism, but the human cost would be so dire as to make that Armageddon an eventuality earnestly to be avoided.

So the gentle way is to take the jailhouse down as we did that other expression of Hesperophobic paranoia, Communism. To wit, we shall convict our opponents of their civilizational incompetence, then let them reach for "restructuring" of their own will. Then, we hope, their will to progress, even though motivated in the present by their ancient hatreds, can lead them to cast aside their barbaric atavism. Then too late, they will find their walls crashing down about them.

But the mystery here is that the policy cannot be spoken of aloud, or the enemy may awake to the trap. So we must continue to speak publically of the "religion of peace," as in "Behead those who say that Islam is not the religion of peace!"

Think now. What we are seeing unfold fits the foregoing paradigm, and it fits little else.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 12, 2007 4:09 PM

I thought you were against fighting Hitler.

Posted by: Ibid at July 12, 2007 4:18 PM


Don't be silly.

Posted by: oj at July 12, 2007 6:54 PM

If you don't conflate them you don't understand them.

Posted by: oj at July 12, 2007 6:55 PM

I agree that it's silly, but I thought that your position was that it transduced our morality to fight Hitler unless we were also going to fight Stalin; otherwise we should just have armed them to fight each other.

Posted by: Ibid at July 13, 2007 9:40 AM

No, it wasn't immoral to fight Hitler though it was to then just leave Stalin in situ. No one intended to do more harm than good, so that result isn't significant in moral terms.

Posted by: oj at July 13, 2007 11:18 AM