October 22, 2002

Fashionable hypocrites

Since the Vietnam War, it has been fashionable on college campuses and among many members of the international community to demand that America make morality and human rights, rather than self-interest, the basis of its foreign policy. The central dogma of these anti-war types is that it is wrong in all cases and circumstances for America to go to war and kill innocent people. I intend to show the shallowness of this position.

First of all, by hiding behind their pacifist slogans the anti-war forces abdicate responsibility for making tough moral choices. Suppose we topple Saddam Hussein, freeing Iraq from the fear, hunger, and death that have marked his rule. It may cost a few thousand civilian lives initially, but would save millions more in the long run. To a true lover of peace and human rights, the choice would be clear: get rid of Saddam. But anti-war people prefer to keep their hands and consciences clean, and disregard the possibility that the end may justify the means.

Of course, many people oppose war with Iraq because they do not think attacking it is in the best interest of our security. Fine, that is perfectly acceptable. However, all the hard-core anti-war types opposed attacking the Taliban just as vehemently as they oppose war with Iraq. It goes without saying that attacking Afghanistan was necessary to protect America, but apparently protecting Americans, the whole purpose of the American government, must never be done when it accidentally kills innocent people in other countries. It was fashionable, when we were driving the Taliban out of power and liberating Afghanistan from their brutal regime, to say America was just as bad as al Qaeda.

Anti-war activists also point out minor problems in this country as if they discredit us from being able to speak from any moral high ground. They point out that we execute criminals, that sometimes our police commit acts of brutality, that we did not sign the Kyoto global warming treaty, and that we abrogated the ABM treaty, which we signed with a power (the USSR) that no longer exists. These activists insist that the U.S. breaking a treaty or preemptively striking an enemy before it becomes stronger sets a bad example for the rest of the world. I suppose no country ever thought of breaking a treaty or preemptively defending itself before the U.S. existed.

The anti-war forces also question our leaders' motives. "No blood for oil!" they cry. Oil? Is it not true that the United States could have stepped into the role Britain vacated after World War II of controlling the Middle East, but declined to do so? We could have had all the oil we wanted then, and we could today if we invaded and conquered Saudi Arabia. Think about it: if this is a war of American aggression to secure oil, would it not make more sense to attack a country with much more oil than Iraq and no army to speak of? This logic has no effect on misguided anti-war types, who are convinced that America is bent on imperialist conquest.

I would have less of a problem with basing foreign policy on morality if the people demanding this were consistent about it. However, the anti-war forces focus only on the transgressions of the U.S. and its closest allies. The UN, countries in Europe and the Middle East, and liberals here in the U.S. constantly berate Israel and the United States about the Palestinians. There is an incessant drumbeat of complaints over the fact that Palestinians do not have their own nation, that they have to live under a curfew, and so forth. These same people raised nary a peep when Serbia was massacring and raping Bosnian Muslims. They do not care that the Chechens or Kurds or French-Canadians or Tibetans don't have their own state. They ignore instances of barbaric repression throughout the Third World that make Israel look merciful and generous by comparison. Few even know that civil wars in Sudan and Congo have already killed several million people in the past five years. Western Europeans pay no attention to the rampant anti-Semitism that is once again coming to plague their own countries. That's because the anti-war activists only claim to care about human rights as a means of criticizing the United States.

In a best-case scenario, the fact that the United States is the most free and just country on the earth would count for something. It would mean that the moral objections of countries like France and Germany, whose histories are rife with examples of state repression and belligerent aggression, could be disregarded. It would mean that the blood and sacrifices Americans have made ending slavery during the Civil War and defending freedom in two world wars and the Cold War, would entitle us to the benefit of the doubt. But that is too much to ask. Instead, other nations with bloodstained histories can call us evil for trying to protect ourselves. Frankly, if continental Europe and the UN are going to oppose our plans for Iraq based on their hypocritical moral preening, we would do well to go it alone in Iraq.