The recent election showed a citizenry split almost equally down the middle between two apparent sets of approaches to domestic and international issues. But it’s not just the citizens of the United States who are polarized. It is also the world as a whole.
According to common wisdom Americans are supposed to fall into one of two camps.
Camp one: I believe in the use of unilateral force by the U.S. I believe Iraq was invaded to bring it freedom. I believe in fundamentalist Christianity. I believe in absolute truth. I believe in the U.S. as world boss. I believe in global capitalism. I am conservative. I am from a “red state.”
Camp two: I believe in multilateralism. I am an atheistic humanist. I believe globalism is evil. I believe Iraq was invaded for its oil. I believe the Europeans the source of the shining light of reason. I believe in relativism. I am a liberal. I am from a “blue state.”
Well here’s a shock to the whole world: I do not fit nicely into either of these camps. And I can’t possibly be the only one. But all around the country and the world, people are people. They like tidy answers, straight lines and easy answers:
The U.S. is evil.
The U.S. is good.
Europe is indecisive.
Europe is enlightened.
Honestly. That’s full-on retarded.
The only mental algorithm available today is apparently: if A, then B.
If I don’t believe that unilateral action should never be an option, then I must believe in U.S. hegemony.
If I believe in the necessity of individual responsibility, then I must believe Affirmative Action should be abolished.
Who made up these rules? Who decided to divide the world into two columns and then act as though those columns were logical absolutes? Well, as I said, people like easy answers and newspapers and television news editors and programmers are happy to provide them.
Here’s what I believe:
Prosecuting a war in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban was the right thing to do.
The prosecution of the war in Afghanistan was dropped when it became difficult.
The Administration was looking for a reason to invade Iraq. Bush had a family score to settle and his neo-con cronies were looking for a test case for their theories on U.S. power.
The Administration ignored any information that ran counter to their justifications for making war against Iraq.
The desire to find “cheap oil” was demonstrably no part of the equation. Anyone who thinks so is incapable of doing simple math. This was an ideological war, not an economic one, and certainly not one waged out of national self-interest.
The war was not waged with a good faith desire to bring freedom to the Iraqi people. If that had been the case, long-term plans, realistic logistics and sacrifice would have been part of the planning. It was waged to prove that the unilateral use of U.S. military force would be more effective in changing the world for the better and making it safer and that the U.S. alone was responsible for, and had the right to, determine which actions to take and which changes to make.
The avowed reasons for waging war against Iraq were obviously false: no weapons, no terrorists. Even if the Administration had been sincere about the “second-string” reasons for waging the war — freedom, self-determination, stability — this group of people was incapable of producing those results. This Adminstration is duplicitous, self-justifying, drunk on the entitlements of wealth and position, unused to sacrifice, incapable of long-term thinking, poor at organization and unsubtle.
Bombing the living daylights out of anyone who looks at us cross-eyed is not going to make the world safer. It is far more likely to scare the shit out of Americans than their enemies. (This fear is what allowed the Patriot Act to pass and, in part, what allowed Bush to be – barely – reelected.)
“Democracy” consists not just of mob rule but of checks on power and guarantees of the rights of minorities. Neither of which the Administration has the patience or vision to assist in creating.
Real economic freedom consists not simply of unregulated markets but also of guarantees to protect all the participants in it and to protect the environment and thereby the resources necessary to grow a functioning economy that not only accumulates wealth but also distributes it.
Short-sighted pro-globalists are attempting to foist all on developing countries around the world a kind of democracy the U.S. has never tolerated (mob rule) and a kind of capitalism we got rid of over a hundred years ago (unregulated). Globalism has become a kind of pseudo-religious faith. It is not incidental to the kinds of people who support it that it creates new markets, provides cheap labor and cheap resources.
Short-sighted anti-globalists’ gauzy dreams of Oaxacan shamans gathering herbs in the forest and everyone living in the middle of an Henri Rousseau painting is just that, a dream. “Indigenous” agriculture and handicrafts cannot take care of the burgeoning needs of the population of the developing world.
Europe, the font of international violence for two millennia, did not suddenly get religion and see the error of its ways. It exhausted itself. It’s like a smoker who gets hospitalized, quits out of necessity, then starts telling everyone else how they should stop and denying they ever smoked in the first place. Maybe nobody remembers, but when England and France and Germany were working their enlightened will behind the scenes in the Middle East before, during and after World War I, they laughingly dismissed Americans as sentimental for their “immature” moralizing on the rights of the oppressed to self-determination. Congratulations Europe, we learned how to play ball. We’re now doing things in the European manner so kindly shut the fuck up you hypocrites.
However powerful the U.S. is, for reasons of international amity, not to mention economics, as well as in the interest of building peace that lasts, our government needs to make every effort, all the time, to make as many of its moves as possible – not just military ones – in concert with the nations of the world.
Diplomacy and dialogue are not tools to be lightly dismissed when attempting to create a safe world. The threat of violence alone is not a threat, it’s terrorism.
The U.S. should not rule out all unilateral action in all situations. We’re a sovereign country and we have our own interests. Not to mention, under some circumstances, waiting for Europe, in particular, to coalesce around an emergency would be foolish, considering their response to the death camps in Bosnia and the current situation in the Sudan.
That while all violence is evil, not all war is avoidable. There have been times in the past when a war’s evil was less than peace’s. Left in peace, Germany could have finished its program to exterminate every single Jew, Gypsy, homosexual, communist, modern artist and physically and mentally handicapped person from the face of Europe.
That a government has a responsibility to shape the society as an instrument of the collective will of the governed. That opportunities should be guaranteed and safety and rights assured by the government.
That everyone has their own personal responsibility.
My point is simply this: You beggar the truth when you yield to the impulse to reduce it. Don’t let some hen-witted talking head, some thumbtack-dicked politician, some European blowhard or some home-grown hillbilly preacher delude you into thinking the unnerving but beautiful complexity of our world can be solved by a prefabricated slogan or one-size-fits-all posture.