Someday all the former isolationists, these strident libertarians, who have suddenly seemed to have grown a global conscience these last few weeks and started to really, really care about the civil liberties of the Iraqi people are going to realize the position they’ve gotten themselves into. We progressive liberals have long said that the suffering of others around the world matters. And they’ve historically said, "So what? I’ve got mine."
But now their party line has changed, and they may to have to concede that, despite being the right thing to do, despite being a success, this war in Iraq was justified with disingenuity. Or else they can stick to their current story, that having the largest, most powerful army in the world raises certain obligations for our country. And I hope they do. I hope they keep saying that our continued safety in the future requires seeing to the freedoms of people around the world.
I hope that involvement becomes our policy. I hope that we go to the Congo. I hope we go around the world, first stopping genocides and massacres and ethnic cleansing, then preventing famines and mass starvation, and finally ensuring each of the other civil liberties we take for granted here in the United States. I really do hope that we stay on an interventionist course when it comes to the liberties of those in the developing world.
I’m not holding my breath, though. If there is moral outrage at the way that Saddam treated his citizens, then libertarians and conservatives who preached against intervention in other potentially dangerous areas of conflict have to admit that they were being selfish in the past when they advocated not getting involved in righting those wrongs. The standard line about Afghanistan, before Iraq was on the public radar, was that these people were newly outraged, shocked at the way women were treated by the Taliban. Well, fellas, women aren’t treated much better in most of the world. We better start increasing funding for our army.
The right way to do this, of course, is to set consistent standards. I suggest strong economic sanctions against any country which doesn’t extend the right of suffrage to all adults in their society. And we’ve set a precedent of military action against any government that’s not democratic, right? What’s the threshold to justify invading a country? Funny that conservatives and libertarians who aren’t willing to spend a dollar on taxes for NPR are willing to spend American lives for free radio in Iraq. But I’ll count my blessings, and I’d gladly give up Car Talk if it means that we’re going to help sub-Saharan Africa establish itself as a global player. I don’t own a car anyway. Maybe someday America’s great love for the world will even extend to the poor people of France, oppressed by their backwards government.
Think about the implications of our course of action, and there’s tremendous possibility. As I explained before when talking about progressives’ effects on social change and politics, we’re winning. As improbable as it seems, circumstance has forced the Bush administration to do brave, important things in the face of injustices being foisted on the world. And the backwards right and selfish libertarians who used to stand in the way finally understand the moral imperative of helping the world gain its rights when you’re as privileged as we are. The small core of conservative leftists, who are reflexively against anything but the status quo, have been largely rendered impotent, and we’re none the worse for their loss. So there is an opportunity forming for the first world to spend huge percentages of its collective GNP liberating the third world. I hope it happens.
Not that there aren’t challenges, of course. Like the disingenuity of current U.S. foreign policy. Though they can no longer admit it, since this is the most recent of their justifications, and therefore the one that stuck, the Bush administration never wanted to have "the right of people to live in freedom" as being sufficient to justify American military involvement in other countries. But let’s take them at face value, and at worst case we’re calling their bluff. At best, we free the world. Fortunately for us, the initial assertions about WMD didn’t pan out. So let’s take the Big Lie, that we care for the freedoms of all people around the world, and just make it true, by acting on it and believing in it.
Unfortunately, the libertarians who used to be the guard against blindly accepting Americans being killed or loosing freedoms on account of Big Lies seem to have fallen asleep or been wooed into complacency. Few of these bastions of civil liberties seem sufficiently concerned that American citizens are being held without charge and without trial. But even these abuses that can be pointed out are in far smaller numbers, and of far smaller scope, than in past wars. That alone is cause for hope.
So clearly, challenges remain. But I have faith those will be resolved. Until then, here’s hoping that the rest of the world holds the Bush administration’s feet to the fire, and counts on them to continue liberating people around the world. Let’s topple every statue. It’s the right thing to do.