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Sunday, March 16, 2003

War as tikkun olam?

Thomas L. Friedman poses a provocative question:

What does Tony Blair get that George Bush doesn't? The only way I can explain it is by a concept from the Kabbalah called "tikkun olam." It means, "to repair the world." If you listened to Tony Blair's speeches in recent weeks they contain something so strikingly absent from Mr. Bush's. Tony Blair constantly puts the struggle for a better Iraq within a broader context of moral concerns. Tony Blair always leaves you with the impression that for him the Iraq war is just one hammer and one nail in an effort to do tikkun olam, to repair the world.

George W. Bush, fixated on "homeland security," has a much less lofty vision of the world. Repair is not one of his priorities; "homeland security" overwhelms everything else. Anthony Dworkin writes in the Boston Globe that Blair's vision has true liberal roots — something to keep in mind as we look for a Democrat to succeed Bush:

According to the historian Sir Michael Howard, formerly of Oxford University, Blair's outlook places him squarely in a particular British center-left tradition, that of the 19th-century Liberal leader William Gladstone. ''As against the Conservative Disraelian concept of mere national interest,'' Howard argues, ''Gladstone believed that British foreign policy should be based on a broader concept of international order which should also embrace the right of intervention in states that were misbehaving.'' Gladstone passionately attacked the Conservative government of the day for its failure to challenge the Ottoman Empire over its persecution of Christians in the Balkans. The use of armed force to promote an international order based not on national interest but on a law of humanity-this characterization of the liberal tradition perfectly captures Blair's quasi-evangelical sense of mission in the world. . .
"The world community must show as much its capacity for compassion as for force,'' Blair argued.

Sadly, because Bush has never seemed open to considering options, there will be even more need for repair in the world.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 16 March 2003 at 4:25 PM

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