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Friday, February 14, 2003

How not to make the case.

American hawks are annoyed that the French, Germans, and Belgians — not to mention many Americans — share Joschka Fischer's exasperation with Bush's war plan. But Paul Berman notes that President Bush hasn't even bothered to present the case that America's war with "Muslim fascism" is Europe's war, too:

Bush has failed to present the current war and its impending new Iraqi front in terms of a democratic struggle against totalitarianism. He has failed to discuss in any serious way the moral aspect of the war, has failed to present the war as an act of solidarity with horribly oppressed Iraqis and other victims of Muslim fascism, has failed to show the humanitarian aspect of the war, has failed to present the war in the light of the long history of anti-totalitarianism. The president has failed, all in all, to present the kind of arguments that might enlist the enthusiasm of people like Fischer, not to mention the enthusiasm of people in the Muslim and Arab world.

"Excuse me, I'm not convinced," Fischer said. We should listen carefully. Maybe Fischer is not convinced because the Bush administration has presented a series of side arguments about weapons, U.N. resolutions, and dark terrorist conspiracies and has failed to present the main argument, which is the single huge argument that has always sustained the Western alliance. This argument is the one about totalitarianism. It is the argument that says: The totalitarians are dangerous to themselves and to us, and we had better fight them.

Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons may be the most dangerous course of all.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 14 February 2003 at 2:51 PM

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Bill Baar:

October 19, 2005 12:09 PM | Permalink for this comment

I thought Bush's AEI speech of Feb 26, 2003 laid out the Democratic Liberationist case. Agree that our National interests, and the belief in Democratic Univresalism are in accord or not, Bush was certainly making the case. There was no lying going on with Bush. I think few people Liberals grasped it at the time. It was so outside their frame of refrence they could not comprehend a comment like this from a conservative,

The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat. Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world. The current Iraqi regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. [my emphasis] America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq.
I called Bush a Jacobin on the Grinnell College listserv after this speech. It sticks in my mind for that reason as then I had to explain who the Jacobins were.

Anyways, the huge dilemma Bush has imposed on Liberalism was nicely summed up by Nick Cohen in The Guardian last Sunday in his column on Maryam Namaziem's award as Secularist of the Year for 2005,

After years of hearing this postmodern twaddle, Namazie flipped. Why was it, she asked, that supposed liberals always give 'precedence to cultural and religious norms, however reactionary, over the human being and her rights'? Why was it that they always pretended that other cultures were sealed boxes without conflicts of their own and took 'the most reactionary segment of that community' as representative of the belief and culture of the whole.

In a ringing passage, which should be pinned to the noticeboards of every cultural studies faculty and Whitehall ministry, she declared that the problem with cultural relativism was that it endorsed the racism of low expectations.
'It promotes tolerance and respect for so-called minority opinions and beliefs, rather than respect for human beings. Human beings are worthy of the highest respect, but not all opinions and beliefs are worthy of respect and tolerance. There are some who believe in fascism, white supremacy, the inferiority of women. Must they be respected?'
Namazie is on the right side of the great intellectual struggle of our time between incompatible versions of liberalism. One follows the fine and necessary principle of tolerance, but ends up having to tolerate the oppression of women, say, or gays in foreign cultures while opposing misogyny and homophobia in its own. (Or 'liberalism for the liberals and cannibalism for the cannibals!' as philosopher Martin Hollis elegantly described the hypocrisy of the manoeuvre.) The alternative is to support universal human rights and believe that if the oppression of women is wrong, it is wrong everywhere.

Liberal Religion and Liberal Politics can be different things for me, but there is a great struggle at hand and it spills over into both. God is not indifferent to injustice. One must chose. That I believe.

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