Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Friday, January 21, 2005

On the Second inaugural

Very torn. On the one hand, the Wilsonian substance - that the United States should commit itself to the aid of any group, anywhere, that's struggling for liberalism and democracy against despotism - has been the core of my foreign policy beliefs for about the last seven years or so. (Yes, since I was seventeen. I was very precocious. Then came the Internet, and beer, and buffalo sauce, which caused me to fall somewhat back to earth.) All people, everywhere, have an inherent dignity, simply by virtue of their being human, and part of what that dignity means is that they have a right to be free from oppression. This doesn't mean that we have to intervene (militarily, or preferably, otherwise) in every instance; what it means is that our default stance ought to be support for such groups, and that we ought to have a darn good reason for doing otherwise. All people, everywhere, are our brothers, and we'll ultimately be called to account for what we do, or don't do, to help them.

That said, I kind of share Chris Suellentrop's concerns:
Moreover, the entire thesis of Bush's address is questionable. "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one," he said, because democracy is an elixir that will defeat fanatical terrorism. But were Timothy McVeigh or Eric Robert Rudolph driven to kill because America's democratic institutions failed them somehow? Bush's belief that an absence of liberty is the "root cause" of terrorism feels as simplistic as the belief of some of the left that 9/11 was caused by poverty. Although it's true that democratic societies do not historically go to war with one another, it's doubtful that democracy is sufficient to quell violence from nonstate actors.
(Emphasis added.) Now, I agree, generally, with the idea that the general absence of liberty, and for that matter the presence of widespread poverty, in the Islamic world exacerbates the problem of terrorism we're now facing. But the "root causes" of terrorism don't lie in the fact that the House of Saud isn't responsible to an elected legislature, nor in the unemployment rate in Aleppo. They lie, as do the origins of all the various forms of evil we're going to come across, millennia ago in the disobedience of our first parents in the Garden, and before that in the rebellion of the angels in Heaven. Parliaments and markets will never solve the problem of evil, and we're bound to be disappointed if we place our hope in them.

We ought to help those who struggle against tyranny because it's the right thing to do, not because global liberal democracy will usher in a millennial age of peace and goodness.