Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Freedom Delusion

Relapsed Catholic links to an excellent David Warren article on freedom. According to Mr.Warren, "There is no price too high for human liberty, and those who dispute this are, and deserve to be, slaves." I agree with that statement wholeheartedly; the trouble is, people like Mr. Warren and myself, as well as others in the west, make the mistake of projecting our fundamental devotion to freedom onto people to whom freedom means very little at all. This is the fundamental flaw of the neocon project. Neoconservatism, or genuine interventionist liberalism, bases itself on the belief that the desire for freedom is innate to all of humanity. I am beginning to suspect, however, that freedom is a supreme value only in our western, judeo-christian tradition. In much of the rest of the world, it seems to me, people prefer hatred to freedom. Many would much rather kill a few Jews than live in a democracy.

I supported, and continue strongly to support, the war in Iraq. But, unlike many neocons, I do not do so through entirely idealistic motives. I do not believe freedom is innate in Muslim culture; I am, as of yet, rather skeptical. But if there is to be freedom, the best chance for it is in Iraq. The way I look at it, I guess, is that Iraq is the Muslim world's last and best chance to embrace and nurture freedom. If it fails there, I think, that's the end of that, and we will all know where we stand. In other words, I support the war because I think it's worth a shot, because we owe them everything in our power to help them get it right, before we wash our hands of the region.

I am not a big fan of the French (though my fellow Hungarian Jew Sarkozy is cause for great optimism), but, say what you will, they know how to revolt. Their history is one of almost constant revolutions, both minor and major; one barely has a chance to digest the filet mignon before the barricades are being manned yet again. Meanwhile, here in America, we started an incredibly bloody revolutionary war over stamps and tea. We later fought the bloodiest war in history, the Civil War, over some fairly abstract ideals. Yet, in the Muslim world, where problems are a little more acute than debates over the finer points of the Federalist papers, next to nothing. Their tyrants put French and British kings to shame, and their people do nothing. Live free or die? Not likely. You can take my life, but you can never take my freedom? As if. Sure, every few months some college kids might protest, but protesting is just what college kids do, nothing ever comes of it. It really seems to me that the overwhelming majority of the people in these countries do not love freedom, and are rather indifferent to it. Sure, they might claim to want it, and they may indeed prefer it in theory, but they are absolutely not willing to fight for it, not willing to die for it in the least. Mr. Warren and I might agree that freedom is invaluable, but we should not make the mistake of believing that applies to other cultures.

I want to be clear that I am not making the multiculturalist argument for respecting oppresion in other cultures. I firmly believe that Muslim treatment of women is monstrous and barbaric. But I am also beginning to believe that it can never be changed, that they can never be shown the light. We should do all we can to give safety and shelter to Muslim women, but we should not waste any more of our time in trying to change Muslim men. You and I might think that freedom is invaluable, but to all too many of them, freedom seems to be dirt cheap.

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