February 22, 2007

Life in the big city...

I recommend, for the stimulating of clear thought, this TechCentral piece, By Lee Harris, So, Did America Overreact to 9/11?:

...The inmates of any jailhouse know that even mildest acts of aggression must be instantly and firmly challenged. If you are a newcomer and another inmate demands that you give him your candy bar, the worst thing you could possibly do would be to try to put the incident into perspective. You cannot say, "Well, it's only a candy bar, after all. No big deal," because, in this context, your candy bar is a big deal. It means everything. If you hand it over on demand, then you have also handled over your dignity. You have thereby informed not only the inmate making the demand, but all the other inmates watching you give into his demand that they too can all walk on you at any time. They too can take from you anything you have. They too can make you their flunkey or slave.

Of course, in defending your candy-bar, you may have to risk your life. But it is absurd to say that you are risking your life "only" for a candy bar when you are in fact risking it to maintain your autonomy and independence. The danger in such a situation is not overreaction, but, paradoxically, the failure to overreact.

The same principle applies to groups, tribes, and nations. If any group wishes to preserve its dignity and autonomy, there will be times when it is forced to act like the inmate defending his candy bar. In terms of a cost analysis, this kind of "overreaction" will seem utterly irrational. Is the candy bar really worth risking your life over? But to you, the refusal to take this risk involves a loss that cannot be measured by statistics—namely, the loss of your status as an independent moral agent that others will be careful not to push around or walk over...(Thanks to SeeDubya)

The blunt fact is, the Planet Earth is currently a rough neighborhood. So, simply because of the way things are, we have to act like people in a bad neighborhood do, just to keep trouble to a minimum. The rule is, if you let yourself be bullied or pushed around, you will bring on yourself much more trouble. If you do not allow small slights to pass unchallenged, then you will be respected and left alone.

(It's a normal fact of life in the big city, that you don't want to brush against people on the street as if you don't see them. That's how to get in a fight fast. Because that's how people test others in the rough parts of town. A friend of mine once got in a fight because his newspaper touched another guy's head on a crowded bus. And I once almost had a fight when I paused on the sidewalk in someone's path.)

We in the developed West have caused the War on Terror, by consistently doing the wrong things. By allowing ourselves to be bullied without responding strongly. We have taught the terrorists that terror tactics work. We have taught them that we are weak and indecisive. We have taught them that they will be rewarded if they hurt us—that we will give them things they want.

So, am I saying that Christian Charity does not work in the real world? No, not at all. What I am saying is that giving the other inmate the candy bar is NOT Charity...because in fact you are teaching him that extortion works, and teaching him to despise you. It would be far better to fight—beat him up if you can—and then reach out to him and try to make him a friend.

And, by the way, this is in general what America stands for. We were at our best and smartest when we flattened our enemies in WWII, and then helped them to rebuild and form free democratic polities. Germany, Japan, Italy...anybody been attacked by those guys lately? (And also applicable here is that France and Britain had iniated the war by giving up various candy bars to Hitler—that "pacifism" killed 50 million or so people.)

And that is exactly what we are attempting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is exactly analogous, on the political plane, to Christian love.

And the fascinating thing to me, the question of questions, is why this has aroused so much hatred. Such instant opposition. Particularly on the left.

It is really interesting to remember that, in early 2002, Bush was already getting hostile probing questions from the press (who are almost all on the Left) about Iraq. Before anyone in the administration had even brought the subject up. I'm thinking that, unconsciously, they knew that this was the rotting log that was going to be turned over. And they were very worried, because they were the bugs that were going to be suddenly scurrying to get out of the bright light!

Iraq was (and is) the big test. Bush was going to say, "OK wise guys, you claim to be anti-fascist. Help us remove the worst fascist tyrant of our times. You claim to be humanitarian; here's one of the most brutalized countries of the earth needing our help. You claim you are not anti-Semitic; stand with us against against a monster who was paying bounties to Jew-killers. You claim to care about a certain group that's been denied a homeland; here in the Kurds we have a far bigger group denied a homeland..." (I could go on for a long while with these. You get the picture.)

And the fact that Iraq has been more difficult then anticipated does not in the slightest bit mitigate or excuse the fact that our leftists and fake-pacifists have failed their big test.

Posted by John Weidner at February 22, 2007 6:10 AM
Weblog by John Weidner