Thursday, September 12, 2002
# Posted 1:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While the day is only half over now, I don't expect to find much more consolation than I already have. The only thing that has made me feel better is just looking at the flag and knowing that others are doing the same.
While it wouldn't be fair to expect the nation's editors and columnists to repair with words what done with force, I was nonetheless disappointed by what the NY Times and WashPost had to offer.
The one silver lining for the day was Tom Friedman's column. While the bulk of it was taken up with an excessively cute (dare I say Dowd-esque?) anecdote about Friedman and his rabbi, the column ended with a clear and powerful message about how to win the war on terrorism:
"Our only hope is that people will be restrained by internal walls — norms and values. Visibly imposing them on ourselves, and loudly demanding them from others, is the only viable survival strategy for our shrinking planet."
No matter how many military victories we score, terrorism will not end until there is a generation in the Muslim world which rejects the call for jihad. Mind you, this assertion does not reduce the necessity of demonstrating our resolve on the battlefield. Until there is a new generation, we will have no choice but to defend ourselves with force.
However, the long-term objective of changing how the Islamic world thinks cannot be achieved with force alone. Nor can it be achieved through economic development. While force and development may enhance our prospects, what we must ultimately demonstrate is our moral superiority. And that entails bringing democracy and human rights to the Middle East.
As such, President Bush's column in the NYT is nothing less than disturbing.
After numerous vague references to "great-power rivals", "international order" and the "balance of world power" that call to mind the amoral realpolitik of Henry Kissinger, Bush finally addresses the issue of democracy and human rights. Strangely, he first insists that he is dedicated to promoting democracy in Russia and China. Later on, he adds that "America will also take the side of brave men and women who advocate human rights and democratic values, from Africa to Latin America, Asia and the Islamic world."
What could such a vague statment possibly mean except that the United States is much less concerned about promoting democracy in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia than in Russia and China? While one could not expect Bush to name those regimes as targets for the euphemistic process of "regime change", he at least could have said that the absence of democracy is the cause of terrorism and the spread of democracy the only cure.
Maureen Dowd took her usual swipes at Bush and Martha Stewart.
The WashPost led off with a column by Francis Fukuyama from which I expected great things.
After all, it is Fukuyama who has reminded us time and again that the Cold War was a war of ideas which the United States won because the ideas of democracy and capitalism proved superior to the ideas of totalitarianism and communism. Instead, Fukuyama resorted to the sort of Kissingerian realism that pervaded Bush's article in the Times. According to Fukuyama, it is the sheer might which the United States possesses that scares other nations. In fact, "Americans are largely innocent of the fact that much of the rest of the world believes that it is American power, and not terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, that is destabilizing the world. And nowhere are these views more firmly held than among America's European allies."
Such a materialistic approach fundamentally fails to explain, however, why Europe supported the war in Afghanistan but is against war with Iraq. Perhaps that is why Fukuyama hedges his bets (and contradicts himself) by then asserting that Europeans, in contrast to Americans, "tend to believe that democratic legitimacy flows from the will of an international community much larger than any individual nation-state."
The rest of the columns in the Post, as well as its editorial are not noteworthy. However, if one has an axe to grind with moral relativists, one should take a look at George Will's column. That said, all the best on this sad day.
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