April 14, 2003


No Apologies (William Raspberry, April 14, 2003, Washington Post)
[T]hose who thought it was a bad idea for America to launch what was the moral equivalent of unilateral war on Iraq have nothing to apologize for. [...]

If the Iraqi people end up better off as a direct result of America's insistence on launching the war without the support of the United Nations, it won't be the first time that good outcomes have resulted from bad means. I don't doubt that there are some children who are healthier and happier than they would have been if they hadn't been stolen from their parents. Can't we wish the best for those children without condoning kidnapping?

Why can't those of us who thought the war was a bad idea (or, at any rate, a premature one) let it go now and just join in celebrating the victory wrought by our magnificent military forces?

A number of answers come to mind, perhaps the most important being: The war isn't over.

I accept that Iraq is probably over, save for a military mopping up and maybe a decade of rebuilding. But I can't dismiss two worrisome thoughts: First, that the loudly proclaimed justification for launching the war in the first place was Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, which have yet to materialize. Could it be that our leaders took us into war not believing what they swore to us was true?

And second: The neoconservative ideologues who brought us this war have spoken publicly and repeatedly about the need to go the rest of the way toward replacing all the Middle East dictatorships with democratic governments -- whether or not we are invited to do so.

Is Syria next? Iran? Egypt?

I'd love to see democracies in all those places. I just don't think my country should be using its unmatched military power to install them.

Though it's asinine to compare a perfectly legal war to a kidnapping, let's take the bait: would it have been morally wrong to kidnap Qusay and Uday from Saddam Hussein when they were young? Obviously not, and the notion that we should leave them in the clutches and wish them well marks the abandonment of moral responsibility for any but our selves--it is selfish individualism carried to its liberal extreme. The Democrats, as noted below, have taken to asking "how we can spend $80 billion to free Iraq when we can't find the money to pay for (insert your audience's favorite boondoggle here)?" Here's the more important question: how can we spend $2.25 trillion on ourselves when fellow humans like the Cubans, Koreans, Syrians, etc. suffer under brutal dictatorships that we could easily dispatch?
Posted by Orrin Judd at April 14, 2003 8:49 AM

Indeed, totaliaranism is fundamentally a plea for help.

"Help me, please help me" is the clarion call of tyrants.....

Why is it that liberals can't understand this?

Why does it take a George W. Bush to heed the call?

No wonder liberals are up in arms, etc., etc.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 14, 2003 9:25 AM


Posted by: Genecis at April 14, 2003 10:43 AM

I've been saving this from Bassam Tibi's

"Challenge of Fundamentalism" for a good


"No prudent observer of world politics would

deny that with the breakdown of communism

and the end of bipolarity the West has lost the

political factor that secured its unity for a

period of four decades from 1945 on. The Western

responses to the war in the Balkans have made

obvious the disunity of the West since the

fall of communism. During the cold war, peace

researchers and pacifists dismissed attacks on

communism as an instrument adopted by the

West to play down its own problems. Such

views might not have had a great impact in

North America, but they surely did in Western

Europe. Not only left-wing writers but also

liberals rejected anticommunism as unethical

and denounced critics of communism, whether

in Europe or the United States, as 'Cold War-

warriors.' The then-prevalent silence about the

expansive nature of communism was extended

even to human rights violations in the Soviet

Union and Eastern Europe. This silence was

practiced not because peace researchers

encouraged these violations but simply so

that international conflict might be minimized

in the name of peace. Do we see here an ominous

similarity between the West's approach to

communism then and its approach to fundamentalism


"It is most disturbing to observe the very

people who denounced criticism of the totalitarian

character of communism resorting to the same

tactic when required to think critically about

religious fundamentalism as a new factor in

global politics."

Tibi wrote this in 1999. I disagree with many

of the main arguments in his book -- especially

that there are many religious fundamentalisms

contributing to a "new world disorder"; I know

of only one -- but he nailed this part.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 14, 2003 10:00 PM

What unity? France bailed out of Nato. Hardly anyone helped in Vietnam. No one but Israel helped in Central America. Etc., etc., etc. The unified West is a myth.

Posted by: oj at April 14, 2003 11:21 PM

Thanks for the illuminating quote.

Currently, the posture of moral equivalence equates defending against attacks to the attacks themselves. This might be understandable if one holds the (warped but at least somewhat logical) view that all violence is wrong.

However, Tibi explains the shaky intellectual foundations of pseudo peace activists: how even protesting abuses by totalitarian regimes is, because it rocks the boat and thus undermines chances for peace (!?), equated to those same abuses it is intended to protest.

So that ultimately, totalitarian abuses are no longer even viewed as abuses, and totalitarian regimes must be defended and protected.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 15, 2003 2:20 AM

Distinguishing between the various human tendencies which can lead to totalitarian social or political structures would be helpful. The tendencies appear to be either religious, political or a combination of the two. They are utopian,universalist and materialist in nature. The current islamist radicalism is certainly totalitarian, politically, wishing to govern all of humanity under a sort of wahabbi type of islamic law. By nature, and like the marxist leninnist variety, it is universalist and thus, death to all who disagree.It is materialist due to its focus on perfection in the here and now.If one needed justification for war or diplomacy grounded on the threat of war, it seems this would be it. One detects the reasoning of the cold war Anthony Lewis or Tom Wicker in Mr. Raspberry's column.

I think we can safely say that they are/were wrong in their views.

Note to Harry:

On the one hand you seem to see religion as the source of much of the misery in the world, equating belief with fundementalism and intolerance. Are you saying now that christianity is the only faith worthy of the tag "fundementalist"?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at April 15, 2003 12:19 PM