Monday, May 21, 2007

A Dire Need for Clarity in the War Against Terror

The Moral Basis for the War on Terror

This is a must read for those who are disenfranchised with the Bush Administration's leadership in the War on Terror. Dr. Alan Keyes speaks plainly and curtly not only about the Bush Administration's mismanagement of the War in Iraq, but failing to properly articulate the moral imperitives that must drive this effort. Bogged down in nation building and imposing our values on others may look like the proper approach to securing peace, but at what cost? WE, the United States, who hold to the values of human life and the equality of human dignity, no matter what race, color or creed, must act in wartime in accordance to these values and come against those who do not. Keyes calls on us to simplify our strategy and clarify our moral vision. I've included here most of what he said. Please read what he has to say and let it sink in:

Moral understanding of terrorism

We get arguments that implausibly assume that we can, in what amounts to an historical minute, establish democratic practices in countries like Iraq or Afghanistan that have no culture of democratic self-government — or other arguments that assume that we can wish away the threat to our way of life by establishing "exit strategies" and timetables for troop withdrawals from Iraq. (This latter despite the fact that the conflict began on the fateful day that revealed our foes' determination and capacity to come to America to kill us.)

Though bad leadership, bad politics, and the media's appetite for battle scenes give the impression that we are engaged in a "war in Iraq," the fight against terrorism is more broadly focused on the Middle East because that region has been dominated by regimes that reject the foundational premise of democratic self-government in America — i.e., that God created man for liberty, not fanatical subservience. Feeling the absence of moral vision, some of our leaders have tried to focus on Islamic extremism as the wickedness against which we can galvanize our moral will. But we do not fight terrorism because it is Islamic. We fight Islamic extremists because they routinely practice terrorism.

Our fight is not about religious differences. It is a conflict of conscience between people of goodwill who, whatever their religion, believe that each human life has an equal and intrinsic moral worth determined by the Creator God, and people of evil intent who believe that their grievance, cause, or faith justifies methodical and systematic murder on whatever scale they choose.

This difference of conscience translates into differences in other areas, beginning with the conduct of war. Decent folks accept the idea that, in war, rules must be observed to prevent wanton killing. The others practice wanton killing so that fear dictates the rules. People who believe in the equal and intrinsic worth of each human life also reject the routine practice of torture, whether in making war or in law enforcement. And once they think it through, they realize that the equal and intrinsic worth of each human life requires governmental and political practices that respect the integrity of each human person, so that no one has the claim to own or govern another without their consent. This understanding is what connects the war against terror with the long-term effort to encourage democratic self-government.

Pursuing peace

If our leaders had properly articulated this connection in principle, we would realize that the challenge in Iraq and elsewhere is not to establish the outward show of self-government in the short term, but to work with and encourage those who are committed in principle to the understanding of equal moral dignity that is the root of its long-term growth and development.

With this in mind, there's one thing we could be sure of: no one connected with terrorism or tyranny (e.g., Saddam Hussein's government) can be an ally in our cause, or in the cause of peace and liberty in the world at large. This would apply as much to the terrorists who ply their wickedness in the name of the Palestinian people as it does to the Al-Qaeda types who murder in the name of Allah.

The governments, movements, and groups that we can validly deal and work with would have to be "de-terrorized," much as the parties and groups we worked with in West Germany after WWII had to be "de-Nazified" in order to be acceptable. Moreover, instead of cooperating in diplomatic efforts that claim the goal of peace without respecting its main prerequisite, we would insist on respect for the principle of equal and intrinsic moral worth as the first basis for mutual respect among human beings, regardless of their differences, and therefore the first step toward establishing real peace among them.

This would lead to some simple and straightforward policy goals. Oppose terror. Oppose torture and tyranny. Oppose all forms of political as well as economic enslavement. Encourage respect for innocent life. Encourage legal protections against torture and abuse. Encourage the institutions of self-government that provide the only reliable safeguard against political and economic enslavement. These goals are purposely stated in terms of stances and attitudes that we can take, not outcomes that we can impose.

One of the challenges of encouraging liberty in the world is to respect the fact that we can't make it happen for other peoples, and shouldn't try. By keeping this in mind, we would avoid the kind of implausible rhetoric that has too often characterized the present Bush Administration's statements about our goals and purposes in Iraq.

Since we have drawn the sword, our primary purpose ought to be to strike hard at the enemy, which in the aftermath of 9/11 means those who practice or abet terrorism. It's debatable whether our blow against Saddam Hussein effectively aimed at them, but there is surely no dispute that this is the proper aim of military action. Those who help us to achieve it, in Iraq and elsewhere, in effect demonstrate their opposition to terrorism, and help us to promote the alternative of respect for human moral worth.

But the aim of war is first to damage and defeat the foe. If in the process we help the Iraqis to take some steps toward a permanent regime of liberty, that will be a good thing. But it should not be our measure for the success or failure of our efforts.

Keeping terrorists at bay

When dealing with terrorists, the first achievement is to force them to make war instead of practicing terror; to prevent them from using their hard violence against soft targets in our country. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we have achieved this. We have forced war upon them, compelling them to fight our armed forces in a theatre well away from the innocent unarmed American civilians they would prefer as targets. In this case, it's surely true that the best defense lies in staying on the offensive. (This is something most leaders among the Democrats prefer to ignore. I guess they would rather score political points at home than keep terrorists at bay abroad. Of course, these leaders will win no political support from careful American voters once they realize that when Democrats say they will bring the troops home, what they are really saying is that they will bring the war home. I can see why our enemies would prefer this, but not why any sensible American would agree with them. Better that our armed forces fight terrorists in Baghdad than that our civilians die at the hands of terrorists in Dallas or L.A.)

Amen, Dr. Keyes.


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