January 22, 2005

The Speech Mischaracterized Round the World

I've been wanting to fisk an editorial in today's New York Times since last night/this morning, but I kept getting distracted by...well, everything. Stupid ADD.

Anyway, I finally decided to give it a shot. It's by Orlando Patterson, "a professor of sociology at Harvard," so you pretty much know that it's going to be full of moonbatty goodness. Let's take a look:

The Speech Misheard Round the World

Since 9/11, President Bush and his advisers have engaged in a series of arguments concerning the relation between freedom, tyranny and terrorism. The president's inaugural paean to freedom was the culmination of these arguments.

The stratagem began immediately after 9/11 with the president's claims that the terrorist attacks were a deliberate assault on America's freedom.

Last time I checked, killing someone counted as threatening their freedom.

The next stage of the argument came after no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq...

Other than sarin and mustard gas.

...thus eliminating the reason for the war...

Did you forget about violated U.N. resolutions, defiance of weapons inspectors, nuclear ambitions, aggression against other countries, support of terrorists and terrorist organizations, state-sanctioned rape and murder, and various other crimes against humanity, or are you just too lazy to build a decent straw man?

...and it took the form of a bogus syllogism: all terrorists are tyrants who hate freedom.

Oh, there's the straw man. Nice. Look, I'm sorry that your underdeveloped moonbat mind is too weak to comprehend anything more than a basic summary of any given idea, but at least try to make it sound like you're listening to Bush's speeches, okay?

It's not that all terrorists are "tyrants who hate freedom." The idea is that all terrorists are murderers who threaten the security of the U.S. and other countries, and therefore should be killed and/or brought to justice. However, as we'll see soon enough, many of them actually do hate freedom.

Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who hates freedom.

Not anymore. Now he's a prisoner who stands accused of numerous crimes against the Iraqi people and the world. Heh heh.

Therefore Saddam Hussein is a terrorist whose downfall was a victory in the war against terrorism.

You don't get it, do you? The problem wasn't that Saddam was a terrorist himself (although that certainly is true). The problem was his ability to give financial aid and weapons to terrorists, who would then use them against us, as well as his influence on the continuing violence in the Middle East. I guess "nuance" isn't in style anymore, since it apparently all boils down to whether or not Saddam had stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

When this bogus syllogism began to lose public appeal...

I wonder how it did that, considering it was never made in the first place by anyone other than people like you.

...it was shored up with another flawed argument that was repeated during the campaign: tyranny breeds terrorism.

If you look at the countries the terrorists are coming from, I believe you'll find some truth in that "flawed argument."

Freedom is opposed to tyranny. Therefore the promotion of freedom is the best means of fighting terrorism.

Once again, compare the number of terrorists being supported by tyrannical regimes to the number being supported by democratic regimes. I think you'll notice quite a difference.

Promoting freedom, of course, is a noble and highly desirable pursuit. If America were to make the global diffusion of freedom a central pillar of its foreign policy, it would be cause for joy.

"If?" "IF?!" This should be good.

The way the present administration has gone about this task, however, is likely to have the opposite effect.

Tell that to all the people who voted in Afghanistan.

Moreover, what the president means by freedom may get lost in translation to the rest of the world.

Especially if it keeps getting filtered through and distorted by the MSM.

The administration's notion of freedom has been especially convenient, and its promotion of it especially cynical.

I'm always amazed at the use of the word "cynical" to describe Bush's policies. If anything, they're overly idealistic, which would be the opposite of cynicism. But I guess the heroic liberal elites don't want to associate idealism with Republicans. It might make it harder to pretend that they have ideas.

In the first place, there is no evidence to support, and no good reason to believe, that Al Qaeda's attack on America was primarily motivated by a hatred of freedom. Osama bin Laden is clearly no lover of freedom, but this is an irrelevance. The attack on America was motivated by religious and cultural fanaticism.

Let's think about this for a few seconds. Osama bin Laden is a Muslim extremist, as are most of the terrorists we're fighting right now. They believe that the entire world should be Muslim, and that all who refuse are infidels who should be killed in a jihad. "Islam" means "submission," which is the opposite of freedom. They hate us because we refuse to submit. Therefore, they do, in fact, hate freedom.

Second, while it may be implicitly true that all terrorists are tyrants, it does not follow that all tyrants are terrorists.

However, the ones who kill hundreds of thousands of their own people, pay off suicide bombers, and invade neighboring countries tend to fall into that category.

The United States, of all nations, should know this. Over the past century it has supported a succession of tyrannical states with murderous records of oppression against their own people, none of which were terrorist states - Argentina and Brazil under military rule, Augusto Pinochet's Chile, South Africa under apartheid, to list but a few.

Once again, nuance apparently doesn't matter anymore. I'm not an expert on any of the above situations, but I'm pretty sure they weren't the same as Iraq.

Today, one of America's closest allies in the fight against tyranny is tyrannical Pakistan, and one of its biggest trading partners is the authoritarian Communist regime of China.

It's called "foreign policy." Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, we're trying to set an example for others while taking action against those who create conditions under which change is impossible, and those who are the greatest threat to national security? Every country isn't the freakin' same.

Third, while the goal of promoting democracy is laudable, there is no evidence that free states are less likely to breed terrorists.

...No comment. It just wouldn't be worth it.

Sadly, the very freedoms guaranteed under the rule of law are likely to shelter terrorists, especially within states making the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule. Transitional democratic states, like Russia today, are more violent than the authoritarian ones they replaced.

The key word there is "transitional." Once they actually reach the state of freedom, terrorism declines. And keep in mind that a truly free state punishes terrorists, rather than rewarding them as Saddam and the Taliban did.

And even advanced democratic regimes have been known to breed terrorists, the best example being the United States itself. For more than half a century a terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan, flourished in this country. According to the F.B.I., three of every four terrorist acts in the United States from 1980 to 2000 were committed by Americans.

You're still missing the freakin' point: Free states do not approve of terrorism. Nobody has claimed that freedom eliminates terrorism completely, but in a free country, terrorists are more likely to be brought to justice, and less likely to be part of a culture that believes in murder as a way to achieve a goal. And I'll also mention, once again, that none of those acts were financed or rewarded by the U.S. government.

The president speaks eloquently and no doubt sincerely of freedom both abroad and at home. But it is plain for the world to see that there is a discrepancy between his words and his actions.

Unless "the world" means "leftist sociology professors," I kind of doubt that.

He claims that freedom must be chosen and defended by citizens, yet his administration is in the process of imposing democracy at the point of a gun in Iraq.

See, the problem is that the citizens of Iraq couldn't "choose" freedom under Saddam, because they would end up in a mass grave. The Iraqis are having elections soon, and then they'll get to choose their own way. The U.S. simply eliminated the thing that was keeping them from choosing freedom in the first place. And you're forgetting that a key part of Bush's philosophy is the idea that most human beings would choose freedom if given the choice, but other human beings, like Saddam Hussein, deny them that opportunity.

At home, he seeks to "make our society more prosperous and just and equal," yet during his first term there has been a great redistribution of income from working people to the wealthy...

Actually, there was a "redistribution of income" from the government back to the people who gave some of their income to the government in the first place.

...as well as declining real income and job security for many Americans.

And I'm sure it's all Bush's fault, right? It couldn't have had anything to do with that "recession" thing.

Furthermore, he has presided over the erosion of civil liberties stemming from the Patriot Act.


...Sorry. I just get really angry when people accuse Bush of taking away civil liberties and then provide...let's see here...no examples whatsoever to prove it.

Is this pure hypocrisy - or is there another explanation for the discrepancy, and for Mr. Bush's perplexing sincerity?

It could be that you're criticizing him for things he hasn't done, but that's just my opinion.

There is no gainsaying an element of hypocrisy here. But it is perhaps no greater than usual in speeches of this nature. The problem is that what the president means by freedom, and what the world hears when he says it, are not the same.

Once again, I find it odd that a sociology professor presumes to speak for the world in general.

In the 20th century two versions of freedom emerged in America. The modern liberal version emphasizes civil liberties, political participation and social justice. It is the version formally extolled by the federal government, debated by philosophers and taught in schools; it still informs the American judicial system. And it is the version most treasured by foreigners who struggle for freedom in their own countries.

Sounds an awful lot like what Bush is promoting.

But most ordinary Americans view freedom in quite different terms. In their minds, freedom has been radically privatized. Its most striking feature is what is left out: politics, civic participation and the celebration of traditional rights, for instance.

What? I'm confused here. Is he saying that these things have been taken away, or that nobody cares about them, or that they're no longer being defended...or...all of the above...?

Freedom is largely a personal matter having to do with relations with others and success in the world.

Which is fine in a nation that gives people freedom under the first definition.

Freedom, in this conception, means doing what one wants and getting one's way. It is measured in terms of one's independence and autonomy, on the one hand, and one's influence and power, on the other. It is experienced most powerfully in mobility - both socioeconomic and geographic.

It sounds like you're describing things like voting, free choice of career and education, etc. I still don't see why the two definitions are somehow mutually exclusive.

In many ways this is the triumph of the classic 19th-century version of freedom, the version that philosophers and historians preached but society never quite achieved. This 19th-century freedom must now coexist with the more modern version of freedom. It does so by acknowledging the latter but not necessarily including it.

It is not that Americans have rejected the formal model of freedom - ask any American if he believes in democracy and a free press and he will genuinely endorse both. Rather it is that such abstract notions of freedom are far removed from their notion of what freedom means and how it is experienced.

I see what you're trying to do! You're using a bunch of big words in the hopes that people will read it and assume that you're right without trying to figure out if those words actually mean anything! I'd hate to see the essay questions on your exams.

I still don't understand why we can't promote the first kind of freedom and let people discover the second kind once they're no longer being raped and killed by despots.

The genius of President Bush is that he has acquired an exquisite grasp of this development in American political culture, and he can play both versions of freedom to his advantage. Because he so easily empathizes with the ordinary American's privatized view of freedom, the president was relatively immune from criticism that he disregarded more traditional measures of freedom like civil liberties.

The fact that he hasn't threatened civil liberties could have something to do with that as well.

In the privatized conception of freedom that he and his followers share, the abuses of the Patriot Act play little or no part.

Once again, no examples at all. Look, Bush may walk around arbitrarily imprisoning and torturing Arabs and liberals in your fantasy world, but in the real world, the PATRIOT Act really hasn't changed much.

(There are times, of course, when the president must voice support for the modern liberal version of freedom. The inaugural is such a day, "prescribed by law and marked by ceremony," as he ruefully noted.)

I love the implication that Bush doesn't actually believe in that version of freedom, despite the fact that he's promoting it in a couple countries right now.

Yet while these inconsistencies...

WHAT inconsistencies? Did I miss some of your big, scary inta-ma-lectual words a couple paragraphs back?

...may not bother the president's followers or harm his standing in America...

...Especially since they don't exist anywhere but in the minds of moonbats.

...they matter to the rest of the world. Few foreigners are even aware of America's hybrid conception of freedom, much less accepting of it. In most of the rest of the world, the president's inaugural address was heard merely as hypocrisy.

Let's review: Because Bush supposedly doesn't believe in classical liberal freedom, it's not possible to bring it or any other kind of freedom to other countries, even though the entire argument to prove that he doesn't believe in freedom is supported only by hyperbole, rumors, and outright lies.

...Is it any wonder Republicans control the government? Holy crap.

For any neolibs reading this, allow me to summarize my view of what Bush is doing in foreign policy:

The United States has become the most powerful and prosperous country in the world by being the most free country in the world. Therefore, it stands to reason that if other countries were more free, they would be more prosperous as well, and the world would be safer. However, since some countries are controlled by murderous dictators who crush all dissent, it's necessary to eliminate them, often by force, in order to promote the freedom that leads to prosperity. In addition, because we were attacked on 9/11, we realized that being free doesn't make a country safe unless enough other countries are free that it's impossible for terrorists to get the support they need to commit mass murder against their fellow human beings. Due to these circumstances, we're engaged in a war to eliminate dictators, promote freedom, and make the world safer.

But that's just the way I see it.

Posted by CD on January 22, 2005 09:47 PM
Category: Fiskings
Semi-Intelligent Comments

< MTCloseComments old="10" >