Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Ran into a friend of mine the other day, an editor of Foreign Policy magazine (which you should all check out some time), and I relayed to him the contents of the libertarian-conservative conversation that took place last week. He said, loosely paraphrasing, that academics have such intense debates because the stakes are so low. Bada-bing.
Actually my friend's comments add something that is often so sorely lacking from our lives: perspective. That's not to say that such debates are meaningless academic exercises (well, not totally), it's just that we allow ourselves to be so totally absorbed by the political that we fail to take anything else into consideration.

Politics play such a crucial aspect of my life, and presumably all the lives of those reading this bit. It probably affects me more that anyone else because it enters into all aspects of my life: my job is political, I am currently working on a political dissertation, and now I am involved in various political blogs. At various points I have experienced political burnout, and have come close to saying, as Roberto Duran did a couple of decades ago, no mas. Enough with the political, it's time to move onto something else.

Of couse we can never completely avoid it, no matter how hard we try. Perhaps it's the Aristotilian speaking in me, but in the end it's all politics. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one. If the political is considered to be something more than merely governmental actions, then the political encompasses all facets of life. As such we are constantly facing political questions.

Even with as much conceded, it is nice to get away from the political every now and then. Thus writing about the Mets can serve as a cathartic experience. So, too, can television watching. Until of course one of your favorite shows offers up a profundity, even if they didn't quite mean it. This is my second season of watching 24, and the current season revolves around a terrorist plot (surprise, surprise) involving the kidnapping of the SecDef. They have broadcast his capture over the internet, and are threatening to try him for crimes against humanity, and then execute him. In tonight's episode, we see a Muslim woman watching this, and then commenting (again, loosely, from memory), "It makes it so difficult for the rest of us when our own people do these unspeakable things."

Well, the hair on the back of my neck rose as I was suddenly placed in the shoes of an Arabic person who must confront the terrible evil done by people in her name - if erroneously. What's worse is that, speaking as one who is quick to call for at least a limited amount of racial profiling, it reminds you that there are so many who are unfairly tainted by the savage action of so few. There are millions of loyal Arabics living in America, equally as sickened by any of us by the internet displays of beheading and any similar such activity. It's not that we weren't aware of that fact, but it helps remind us that there are those that must suffer the consequences of actions by those of similar background.

Does that mean we end all racial profiling? Of course not. Only an idiot watches a television show and then decides upon national policy based on that t.v. show. If anything it should make us more aggressively pursue those that do wish to cause us harm so that we can set things straight.

But it did get me to thinking about the millions of Arabic individuals who crave basic human rights, who crave the sort of human freedoms that we enjoy in these United States. The major conservative critique of the Iraqi war, and this is shared even by those who ultimately supported the war, is that you cannot spread democracy to this region. As a traditional conservative I sympathize with those who hold such views, and acknowlegde the difficulties with nation building exercises. I am not a neoconservative because I do not hold the belief that democracy is the answer to all of our problems. The conservative belief is that we need to build those institutions which build the respect for legal rights and institutions, and protect minority viewpoints, before we think about this ambiguous concept of spreading democracy.

Such thinking is not altogether wrong. But sometimes I fear we get into this mode that holds only western intellectuals can appreciate the merits of republican forms of government. But as folks at Iraq the Model and Liberal Iraqi have shown, westerners do not hold a monopoly on these concepts.

Yesterday the people of Palestine held a free and (seemingly) fair election. In three weeks, the people of Iraq will hopefully do the same. The men and women(what a concept, and achieved by the conservative neantherdals of the Bush administration I'll stop right now before I note more of the hypocrisy of the left) of Afghanistan have already done so. In not all cases will the results of such elections be satisfactory to us all here in the United States. Fair enough. But at least these people will have the option to pick their leaders. And hey, it's better than what the people of Cuba have as an option.

And that leads me to another rant. Sorry, but it bothers the soul. So many leftists decry the foreign policy of the United States as it relates to Central and South America. I will grant that we have not always been pristine clean. We have supported regimes coughPinochetcough that are less than pure when it comes to human rights. And yet the same people that make these obversations can be seen wearing Che Gueverra tee-shirts and the like. So let me get this straight. Murderous thugs responsible for the deaths of thousands are verboten if supported by the US, but if they are communists, all is well. Jay Nordlinger of National Review has done a magnificent job of covering Che chic, and I need not add much else. Evidently killing in the name of the "proletariat" is acceptable. All well and good, but I just wanted it pointed out that few conservatives support the murderous Pinochet regime. The same cannnot unfortunately be said of leftists of Castro (yay, Jimmy Carter), Chavez, and others. I suppose that as long as America hatred is part of the regime then all is forgiven, no matter how much blood is spilt. But keeping your Che shirts, after all he was a cutey. Oh, a cutey responsible for the deaths of thousands, but a cutey nonetheless.


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